PHOTOS + REVIEW — Avatar w/ Veil Of Maya & Orbit Culture at Jannus Live 2023

Avatar w/ Veil Of Maya & Orbit Culture • May 19, 2023 • Jannus Live — St. Petersburg, FL • Photos by Randy Cook —


Review by Randy Cook

Avatar | May 19, 2023 | Jannus Live, St. Petersburg, FL

There was a little bit of everything for the metal fans in attendance on Friday, May 19, 2023 at Jannus Live in St. Petersburg, FL. Avatar, a Swedish heavy metal band, formed in Gothenburg in 2001 brought their “Dance Devil Dance” tour to the courtyard of my favorite outdoor venue. Support on this killer bill included Veil of Maya, an American metalcore band formed in Chicago, Illinois, in 2004, and Orbit Culture, a Swedish melodic death metal band from Eksjö, formed in 2013.

I arrived solo knowing I had friends who would arrive later. Once I got in the venue I immediately texted my friend who said his arrival was not until probably closer to when Avatar was due to play. I mentioned how there is an early arriving thick crowd, so I would not wait too long to get down here in case the show sells out. Orbit Culture hit the stage at 7:30 PM and this was my first time seeing them live. I was only familiar with the songs of theirs that I had heard on the SiriusXM Liquid Metal station and had liked what I had heard. From their very first notes I thought to myself “Holy sh*t these guys are heavy!” They have some absolutely neck breaking crushing breakdowns that made me question if this was the same band I had heard on Liquid Metal. The band was very engaging with the crowd and they played a very solid seven song set that set the tone for the rest of the evening. While they did not play the songs I was familiar with from Liquid Metal, which some people might grumble over, but to me it helps expands the depth of what I have heard from them – they were definitely way heavier live than what I expected.

Next up was Veil of Maya. Surprisingly for the in between set music, as I am chatting with a couple of the other photographers in attendance, my ear picks up that unusual music is being played. We all look at each other perplexed then realize that the crowd is loudly singing along to a Backstreet Boys song. Is this not a crazy heavy metal show? The volume of the crowd reaches a loud roar and then the next song that comes on is a System of a Down song and normalcy seems to return, until the next song is from 4 Non Blondes which the crowd sang along to as well. Strange things were afoot at the Jannus courtyard this evening.

Veil of Maya is a band that I have heard of and I know I had heard some of their music on Liquid Metal. I had not ever seen them live but going into the show, I see the word ‘metalcore’ and I know that we in the audience, are in for some serious headbanging. They hit the stage to an explosion of heavy brutality. While I am a huge fan of the heaviness, vocals are really tough to understand and this was another set that I emerged from afterwards not understanding a single word vocalist Lukas Magyar put his heart into singing for us. That is awesome in its own right but I will say I noticed one of the photographers in the photo pit mouthing every single word each time I saw him. I laughingly have to share that after my time in the photo pit and when I was in the crowd, in between songs I heard a lady say to the person standing next to her “…the drums are so overpowering it sounds like Bam Bam is up there…”. The band played a twelve song set and left us ready for the main event.

Headliners Avatar took the stage to a very loud reception from the crowd. Band members sort of creeped out from partitioned sections between showers of sparks, giving off their expected creepy vaudevillian look and feel. Opening the show with the title track of their latest same titled release, ‘Dance Devil Dance’, lead vocalist Johannes Eckerström, immediately commanded the stage with his charismatic presence. My time in the photo pit went by in a flash and the next thing I know I am immersed in the crowd and captivated by the visuality and the sounds of the show happening in front of me.

This was my second time seeing Avatar and honestly over the years I had not kept up with the newer releases. Going in I was really hoping that this show was going to get my ass back in gear and get them back in my listening rotation and I can say for sure after the fact that this is a given! The band played an eighteen song set of pure brilliance. My friend did arrive in time and over the recent years, he, his wife and I have attended many concerts and I had never seen her up and dancing for any show before as much as she was for this one. The musicianship in this band is beyond stellar and the song construction is heavy, yet melodic and infectious sounding. Guitarists, Jonas Jarlsby and Tim Öhrström, both wail with barrages of heavy riffs and effortless solos. Bassist Henrik Sandelin and drummer John Alfredsson provide a very tight rhythm section that lays the foundation for every head in the crowd to be nodding along to the rhythm.

It was not until the song ‘Colossus’ that I recognized anything, but I had certainly liked what I had heard up to that point. The band’s stage presence is mesmerizing, and the animated and haunting facial expressions of Johannes as he effortlessly transitions between melodic lines and aggressive screams are hard to take your eyes off of to focus on anything else happening on stage. After the fact, my friend described the show by saying he ”Witnessed one of the greatest vocal performances and shows of my life!”

The main part of the show concluded and after the first encore song, Johannes teased us that the band had two more songs for us this evening, when someone in the crowd asked for ten more, he playfully ran off the stage saying since we asked for that many we would get NONE! He returned to the stage and introduced the song ‘Smells Like a Freakshow’ which then they segued into the gateway song that got me into the band, ‘Hail the Apocalypse’. It was an amazing show and to quote my friend again I suggest to everyone out there to “Go see this band. Go see this band. Go see this band!”

Avatar Set List:
Dance Devil Dance
The Eagle Has Landed
Valley of Disease
Chimp Mosh Pit
Scream Until You Wake
Bloody Angel
For the Swarm
Puppet Show
When the Snow Lies Red
Do You Feel in Control
Black Waltz
Let It Burn
A Statue of the King
The Dirt I’m Buried In
Smells Like a Freakshow
Hail the Apocalypse

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