Murder, betrayal, battle, and the fate of a nation on the line. Is it the Game of Thrones spin-off? Nope, it’s The Legend of Avatar Country, a featurette from Swedish metal band Avatar. The people in a dystopic land languish and suffer under the despotic rule of EDM. The populace is robbed of their energy to power the raves of the rich and powerful. Their only hope lies in the tales of a far off land where freedom and metal flow like water. A land ruled by a just and superhumanly powerful king. The land of Avatar Country.
Based on the concept album Avatar Country, The Legend of Avatar Country is like a live-action episode of Metalocalypse. Over the top action and imagery are paired with a thundering metal onslaught. The metal epic is so wild you might forget the whole thing sprang out of a joke. Guitarist Jonas Jarlsby added the word “Kungen” (King in Swedish) to his social media account. The devoted fan base heaped praise upon their new monarch and built a mythology around him. The tall tales flew back and forth between band and fans until the group synthesized the concept into (arguably) one of their best albums. And with such a strong idea at their disposal, they could not help but create a fun, if uneven, movie. The Legend of Avatar Country brings their concept album to vibrant, pulsing, and brutal life.
The band has a reputation for being funny and charismatic, and when compared to say, Glen Danzig or Dave Mustaine, they are mercurial and fun. Compared to Michael Nyqvist or Beat Schlattler, they look a bit like amateur theater. I imagine they might be better actors in their native language. However, emoting in English is not one of their strengths.
“…their only hope lies in the tales of a far off land where freedom and metal flow like water.”
The quality of The Legend of Avatar Country varies wildly. At its best, the visuals are reminiscent of the work of Robert Weine, while at its worst, it reminds you of your friend who just got pretty good at Adobe after effects. Director Johan Carlen, who often collaborates with the band, creates an over the top, cartoony, fever dream. However, he spent most of his creative energy on the musical portions of the film. The bits in between feel precisely like the bits in between. The story and dialogue serve little purpose other than to get us to the next music video.
But it is a lot of fun. There is an infectious sense that everyone involved is having a wonderful time and it translates to the screen. A frantic “Let’s put on a show” energy sweeps you up and glosses over the more glaring issues. Don’t get me wrong, if you hate metal, you will not enjoy The Legend of Avatar Country. But if you enjoy metal or strange cinema this might be for you. The film is a throwback to those fun, weird, and wild midnight movies of the past such as Rocky Horror Picture Show, El Topo, Female Trouble, and the like. It’s a film that is outside of our reality but stays true to its own internal logic. And, again, it’s just fun.
The Legend of Avatar Country isn’t going to win a Gulbagge. However, it will entertain the band’s fan base and anyone who would like to spend a small bit of time in a fantastic realm fighting alongside a mighty king for the cause of freedom and heavy metal.
"…a throwback to those fun, weird, and wild midnight movies of the past..."