10 Years of Black Waltz (Avatar Album Review)
Last week marked the ten year anniversary of when Swedish metal masters Avatar released their "Black Waltz" album. They've dropped a few new singles lately, and I'd been wanting to go back and listen to some of their older works, so the tenth anniversary of "Black Waltz" was the perfect excuse to do so! I think I can speak for most Avatar fans when I say that this album is iconic, and contains some of their best work! Bare with me here as I go track by track.
It starts off with one of their lesser known songs, but it's no less of a banger. "Let Us Die" has some really interesting sounds in it, like some sort of muted distortion on the guitars. The drums in this song are also super prevalent, when it seems like they usually take a little more of a backseat. Such a good song that definitely deserves more airtime.
After that we get one of their more known songs which still makes it into their setlist today, "Torn Apart". This song is so heavy and raw and I guess it makes sense why nobody talks about the song before it. It's got such killer riffs and absolutely insane vocals, and that beautiful slow interlude halfway through. Definitely one of my favorites.
After that we get a couple underrated songs, "Ready For The Ride" has some beautifully done technical guitar work. It's so fast and precise. It really shows the skill of the band as musicians. "Napalm" has a such creepy vocals! We get what sounds like a chorus from the pits of hell, and Johannes sounding even more like he was possessed than usual, but we also get some beautiful almost ballad like sounds from this song too. It flip flops seamlessly between heavy and soft, but none of it is anything less than badass. This is something I feel like this band has mastered in a way many groups can't achieve.
The switching between soft and heavy is especially prevalent in this next one, the title track, "Black Waltz". Definitely one of their better known songs, and for good reason! It's so good! Those funeral-esque waltzy riffs, the multiple tempo changes, the whispery vocals in the middle backed by carnival-esque sounds, that beautifully soft ending, it's just so good!
Then we get the absolute mayhem that is "Blod". This song is probably the heaviest one on the album. The deep riffs with some squeals, it's just insane. Those with Johannes screaming the entire time, and even a killer guitar solo, all comes together to create a fantastic banger that I'm honestly surprised more people don't talk about. This song is painfully ignored and never talked about.
Then we get another one of my favorites, "Let It Burn". This song not only has some amazing guitar and bass work, but Johannes shows some of his best vocal work on this song. It really shows his range. He goes from his haunting singing, to some crazy growls and screams, and what I can only call operatic screeching. It's so high pitched, but he's still got so much power and sound behind it, but it's still got that sorta gritty quality to his voice. To this day, in some of their new releases, he surprises and impresses me with his vocals. They're still getting even better.
After that we get "One Touch", which while it is a great song, it's often forgotten, probably since it's sandwiched between "Let It Burn" and "Paint Me Red". I absolutely love the guitar solo and the vocals in this song. But it doesn't wow me as much as some of the others.
After that we get an interesting one. "Paint Me Red" was a song that flew completely under my radar until I saw them live in 2019, and I was like whoaaa what was that? The chorus is so beautiful, and that guitar solo.... if you haven't heard this track, you're seriously missing out.
Then we get to what's actually my favorite of their songs. "Smells Like A Freakshow". I mean what can I say? It's got such a good beat, is catchy as hell, has some beautiful tender moments, and is also super heavy. What else could you ask for? Well how about that side show from hell music video? It's so visually interesting and exciting and illustrates the music so well. I absolutely adore this song.
The final, and also longest, track on this album is "Use Your Tongue", which has some really different elements in it like a tambourine, a harmonica, a slide guitar, and some other things which are very different than their usual sound. It's also got some really interesting layering on some of the vocals. Also some farm animal sounds? I think they just wanted to see how long they could make the song last, and it's honestly funny.
Over time they've definitely grown as musicians, and blow me away with every new release. But this album threw stuff at me I'd never heard before, and the fact that now ten years later they're still able to keep true to the roots of their sound, but continue to make things fresh and new and fun is a feat in itself. I absolutely love these guys, and this album is one I've had on rotation since I was in high school. It's definitely still one of the best albums of the past ten years, and I love it. ~Gangis
Image credit: Album cover for "Black Waltz" by Avatar.