THERE comes a time when the end of days is predicted, when pestilence, war and hunger rampage through a ravaged world. Such days are yet to have their revelation not rapture; but until the harbingers of the apocalypse are in hand in the shape of Avatar.

On Thursday, 12th June the carnival of chaos in the shape of the Swedish circus metal act rolled through Belfast's Oh Yeah Centre, in an all-ages gig promoted by The Distortion Project.

But before the revelatory rhymes of Avatar, auguries from the bowels of dead goats predicted much cod horror in the shape of Little Miss Stakes. Luminescent paint, masks and fake flames brought forth their Northern Ireland take on the dark punk metal of Misfits and Wednesday 13.

Awful sound plagued their set, and at times vocals and melodies were lost in the mix. However, the band could also do more with their songs to bring a sharper sound to bear. And, if you're playing up the character of the masked madman fronting a cod-horror outfit, stay in character when introducing songs or trying to build a relationship with the audience.

That said, what does scream out from Little Miss Stakes is the potential to develop further with the right guiding hand. The basis of a band is being built, and stronger foundations now need to be created, with the likes of 'Dr Frankenstein' solid ground to work with.

Solid ground slipped away from the anticipating audience, as Sinocence roared on to stage with the anthemic 'Long Way Down'. Shortly to celebrate 13 years as a band, that experience and drive was evident as it shocked and awed some of the younger members of the crowd.

And, it was halfway through the second song, 'Occam's Razor' that the sound settled down and those in attendance realised that they were bearing witness of heavy metal in its purest form.

Despite the cramped stage and heat, Sinocence kept on delivering, causing spontaneous headbanging, horns being raised and joyous clapping.

'Metal Box' and 'Monster...' drew welcome applause and Sinocence not only warmed up the room for the headliners, but also won new fans amongst the teenagers.

Avatar do not need to work on their craft; their unique sound melds the molten intensity of metal and the circus stylings, with the skill of an alchemist working in  a booth at a funfare where only the wary dare tread.

From opener 'Torn Apart' to 'Queen of Blades' it was a high energy, high tempo set; their recent tour of America has brought the vision of the band to heady heights.

Eckerstrom's is the ringmaster for the rapture, a make-up clad master of the three-ringed circus - he at point lapping up the acclaim for his singing, while the second ring has simply outstanding guitars of Jarlsby and Ohstrom; all rounded up by Sandelin (bass) and the compelling character of Alfredsson (drums) lurking like angry rhythmic beats.

Eckerstrom's vocal range from clean to growling is a feature, the make-up and his massive mouth (no seriously, he could swallow a cow whole with that gub!) painted with a smile that hints of joy and doom.

Title track of their most recent release, 'Hail The Apocalypse' brought those at the Oh Yeah Centre close to fever pitch in an already hot and sweaty room.

Closely followed by the threat of 'What I Don't Know' the shape of the evening was clearly being laid down as their latest release allowed Jarlsby and Ohstrom to weave intricate patterns in an aural landscape that hinted at a wasteland, but brought light into a world of dark.

The banter in between songs of Eckertrom was as well rehearsed as any mad leader of the masses into damnation. From the bonding of metalheads together as a global family to an equality statement about those little people who want to regard other humans as sub-human through to references to Belfast his schtick is clichéd but with a knowing nod to the audience.

image 'Vulture's Fly' was a highlight of the set, while 'Let It Burn' was, to coin another cliché, incendiary. Rounding off the main part of the show with 'Tsar Bomba's' breakneck pace, the encore of 'Smells Like A Freakshow' and 'Queen of Blades'; brought the curtain down on the show, with an invitation to meet the band at the merch stall.

Avatar are not to everyone's taste, particularly with Eckerstrom's take on Rob Zombie meets Alice Cooper style, but it is a fair bet that after Avatar round off their festival dates they will be ready to gain more momentum and build further on theira growing fanbase.

Hallowed cries from within the carnival are not those of souls lost in the abyss, but the screams of delight. Had more people attended the event, then it is sure that the screams would grow ever louder; and should Avatar once again return to these shores they will attract a bigger adulatory crowd.

Review by JonnyPictures courtesy of Metalplanet.

Authors: Jonny

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