Hunter Gatherer

Hunter Gatherer

“Honesty keeps getting refined with each album,” Avatar vocalist Johannes Eckerström tells Apple Music. “Each one peels away another layer of bullshit from us.” It’s that incremental truth-seeking that propels the Swedish metal band’s eighth full-length, Hunter Gatherer. While album cuts like “A Secret Door” and “Wormhole” feature contributions from Slipknot vocalist Corey Taylor, lead singles “Colossus” and “Silence in the Age of Apes” stand as propulsive anthems concerning humanity’s struggles with the relentless march of technology. “For the most part of our existence as a species, we lived as hunter-gatherers,” Eckerström observes. “That seems to have been what we were hardwired to be by nature. But as we have evolved, we have slowly made our civilization more and more complex. We’ve created a way of life that is completely detached from where we came from. This album very much tries to deal with what it means to be human right here and now, with all our shortcomings and all the damage that we do.” Below, Eckerström takes us through the keenly observed dystopia of Hunter Gatherer. Silence in the Age of Apes “It’s definitely one of the songs that is thematically closest to the title of the album. We can't go climb trees and call ourselves monkeys and think things will be fine again. There's only forward. The future is coming and things are speeding up. Our imminent destruction is accelerating. We now have to start outrunning the clock to reach a better future before everything collapses. That sense of urgency and that need to accelerate and trying to outrun destruction—lots of the emotion of the song comes from there.” Colossus “I read about this project where some scientist wants to recreate a fully functioning human brain inside of a computer—like a simulation. That's fascinating. Then I start to think that if we are to succeed with that, if something behaves exactly like a human brain, well, it must be a human. We must have created life as we know it, as we perceive it within ourselves. There's a sense of existential dread that came with that realization. We’ve named the song after the Colossus of Rhodes, one of the Seven World Wonders. This would be our world wonder—this Frankenstein's monster Colossus that we tell to arise. It's one of those scary things in the murky waters of ethically questionable science.” A Secret Door “This song has a whistling melody that was inspired in part by Ennio Morricone and in part by a Swedish guy called Björn Olsson, who is basically an indie-pop fellow that has done a lot of light, pleasant summery tunes with whistling on them. And we got Corey Taylor from Slipknot to do the whistling. Thematically, it’s about all hope being lost. It does move more in the plane of relationships, when things might look really dark but you try until the bitter end and see something crash and burn completely instead of giving up along the way. Or like going out to the front line of battle knowing you’re going to die there. But you’ve chosen your hill to die on, which would be the secret door that you keep hoping for, the way out of the situation.” God of Sick Dreams “I had a string of very vivid apocalyptic nightmares for a while. In the dream, I'm in an apartment and I look through the window at a city, and purple lightning starts to strike the ground and these weird glowing spheres are coming up, and there’s the sound of an explosion and poof—everything that was within the sphere is just gone, like the world is going away bit by bit. I’m there with my niece and I pick her up in my arms to run away, thinking I have to find someplace safe. I run downstairs in the apartment building but there’s no place to go—and then I wake up. More than anything, I think it’s a song about facing yourself, because ultimately, those images were created by me. I am the god of my own sick dreams.” Scream Until You Wake “This one deals with a sense of being lost. In the verses I'm spitting out all kinds of questions and being desperate. So I guess it's about that feeling of being completely lost in your life, in the grand scheme of things but also in this smaller perspective, and desperately looking for a way out and begging for help. Again, it goes into the realm of nightmares, and then hoping that the cure will be that if you scream loud enough maybe you'll wake up.” Child “This is a bit more out of left field for a metal song, but the story that came into my head when I heard the instrumental for the chorus was about an affluent family in the late 1800s or early 1900s, a time when a woman speaking up or being upset or being depressed—being anything except obedient—would be deemed hysterical. And the treatment for this at the time would have been lobotomy. So it’s a story about the slow destruction and suffocation of this woman. Her child is the witness to all of this and deals with it in the way that children deal with and process life—through play. The child understands that what is happening to the mother is deeply wrong, but its pain is never acknowledged, its questions are never answered.” Justice “‘Justice’ deals with certain thoughts and feelings you have when you end up doing this kind of angry and aggressive album as an adult. Having lived from teens to young adulthood into what I guess would be considered adulthood, somewhere along the way there have been attempts to maybe want to fit in, to face the world with good intentions. But you feel it backfire and now you’re spitting at conformity again, finding your own voice and acknowledging there’s no need to conform. There’s nothing to be gained by trying to fit in, and there is no reason to be quiet about the ugliness, because that is not how change will come to the ugly side of things.” Gun “This song took seven years to write. Most of it existed seven years ago—the main piano part and the four lines of lyrics starting with ‘You give a boy a gun.’ But finishing it was a big challenge, because through various attempts you suddenly would hear drums coming in and an electric guitar and it would turn into a power ballad, like, ‘Oh, it’s Bon Jovi now. Let’s throw it away again.’ So it took us seven years to understand something that you learn over and over again when working on music: Just let it be what it is. So it’s a vulnerable song about vulnerability, and as such it was the hardest song to sing on the album, because there’s the musical challenge of wanting things to sound nice and then there is the conveying of the emotion that sadness is. And we are ugly when we cry.” When All But Force Has Failed “This is the biggest case of finger-pointing that I've done in lyrics ever, probably. If I’m going to express anger over certain things wrong in the world—if I'm going to put that out there—then I have to be willing to hold myself accountable as well, and us accountable as a band. Because if you want change in the world, you have to deal with the ways you participate in the things that are right and the things that are wrong. So hence the two initial lines are ‘Bird carcass with a belly full of plastic, one more year and I'll be a millionaire.’ It’s about how we participate in the destruction while at the same time allowing ourselves to be pissed off at people who participate even more. But you have to hold yourself accountable.” Wormhole “When I first heard the riff for this, I thought, ‘Oh wow, this is exactly what I feel like if I wake up in the middle of the night and have to go puke.’ So this song called for a certain type of release, but not too pretty. Lyrically, it is about facing the truth and how we hope to not do it alone. We were not quite finished with the song when we entered the studio, so we sent it to Corey Taylor—a metal icon and one of the great voices of our generation—who offered to lay down a track or two. He came up with the pre-chorus melody, which helped us flesh out the song.”

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