Sunday, 1 December 2013

Review; Avatarium - Avatarium

Track Listing;

1. Moonhorse
2. Pandora's Egg
3. Avatarium
4. Boneflower
5. Bird Of Prey
6. Tides Of Telepathy
7. Lady In The Lamp

Avatarium is the new side project featuring Candlemass bassist Leif Edling. Formed less than a year ago, the band (completed by singer Jennie-Ann Smith, guitarist Marcus Jidell, keyboardist Carl Westholm and drummer Lars Skold) has already created quite a buzz in the Metal Universe, with the new self-titled album getting a few great reviews that I've seen thus far. So, naturally I thought I'd turn my ear to it myself.

A huge, booming Doom Metal riff opens the record's first song 'Moonhorse' in a strong fashion, showing off a very tight and well suited rhythm section. Keyboards create a background atmosphere, bringing an ethereal quality. It's just as you're used to this direction that the heaviness dissipates, replaced by an acoustic guitar and Jennie-Ann Smith's vocals. With lyrics that seem to speak of an innocent child's imagination or daydreams, the overall picture is painted beautifully, like the audio equivalent of a watercolour. Immediately, I find myself drawn to speak of the purely fantastic vocal abilities on show. A deep, bluesy tone is delivered both delicately to begin with, like a lullaby. However, Jennie-Ann is more than capable of belting it out with sheer power that does nothing to falter her tone or range. Leif has done well to bring this singer to the band. I must say, towards the end of the song, and frequently through the rest of this record, she reminds me of the late, great Ronnie James Dio!

'Pandora's Egg' continues in a similar fashion; underlying clean guitars let the gentle singing set a melody before the heavy, Sabbath-worshipping riffs lead to more powerful vocal dynamics. The lead playing of Marcus Jidell suit the band well and are flamboyant enough to save the whole sound of the band being bogged down within the somewhat simple and sometimes restricting boundaries of Doom Metal. There is almost a classic rock feel weaved between these songs. In fact, the song 'Avatarium' with its darkly mystical sense of melody, fantastical theme and massive chorus, seems slightly reminiscent of Dio-era Rainbow. The hidden hero of this band already seems to be Carl Westholm, whose very tasteful use of the keyboard gives the songs a sense of majesty and fullness.

'Boneflower' changes things up a bit, with slightly faster pace in the verses and a haunting, ghostly vocal performance. The song has a few twists and turns, with the almost psychedelic keyboard break and the dramatic shift in tempo between the verses and the chorus. It's a well placed song that clearly displays that Avatarium's music is not forged with a formula in mind. Everything feels more organic than that.

The songs never span less than five minutes, with two breaking the eight minute mark, but they don't feel long. There's enough going on within each song to captivate the listener's imagination and demand attention, whether or not the listener even realises it! There's plenty in each song that is catchy enough to get stuck in your head four hours, and the chorus of 'Bird Of Prey' is a prime example. It is safe to say that the star of the album is Jennie-Ann Smith, though the band as a unit functions impeccably, each musician perfectly complimenting what the other does.

The intro for 'Tides Of Telepathy' is played over a marching drum line. After which, the grandiose combination of the bass-heavy rhythm section and the soaring singing come back again in the now-standard fashion. 'Lady In The Lamp' on the other hand, opens with a very beautiful slide guitar, and then gives way to the arpeggios and vocals, with a very bluesy lead pleasing the ear. Hell, it's all very pleasing to listen to. No doubt, Metal fans who are just in the music for punch-in-the-gut heaviness and violent or angry lyrics barked by a hairy lunatic would disapprove, but this is an album with a real artistic vision that transcends Metal to some degree. There is a lot on this record to appeal to many different tastes. Simply great music, is possibly the best way to put it. Larger than life and beautiful, this is easily one of the best debuts I've heard all year. I can't wait to see how things go for Avatarium.

Rating: 9/10

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