AVATARIUM — Avatarium

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AVATARIUM - Avatarium cover
4.14 | 23 ratings | 5 reviews
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Album · 2013

Filed under Doom Metal


1. Moonhorse (9:06)
2. Pandora's Egg (6:09)
3. Avatarium (8:10)
4. Boneflower (5:25)
5. Bird of Prey (6:37)
6. Tides of Telepathy (7:11)
7. Lady in the Lamp (6:57)

Total Time 49:35


- Jennie-Ann Smith / Vocals
- Marcus Jidell / Guitars
- Leif Edling / Bass
- Carl Westholm / Keyboards
- Lars Sköld / Drums

About this release

Released by Nuclear Blast Records, November 1st, 2013.

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Candlemass was a fairly early band to the doom metal scene, debuting all the way back in 1986. The band had quite the lineup, though the member that would go onto be known for his involvement in other projects was bassist Leif Edling. Edling has dabbled in a few different facets of the metal circuit, such as when he worked with progressive metal band Abstrakt Algebra on their 1995 album, however he stayed mostly within the confines of the doom metal style. After a long, nine year stint with Krux, Edling went on to form one of the more highly regarded doom acts of the recent era, Avatarium, in 2013.

Before their debut, all Avatarium had released was a three-track EP in 2013 titled Moonhorse, whose title track and 'Boneflower' would end up in the debut in the same year. So it's safe to say Avatarium was relatively fresh as an outfit going in. A rather well-marketable aspect of the band was indeed their female vocalist, Jennie-Ann Smith, as female fronted doom acts were and are few and far between. Avatarium had shown a lot of potential as a band and, being on the already rather prolific record label Nuclear Blast, were set on the fast track to greatness.

As much as this album is heralded as fantastic, I can't say I can exactly replicate that opinion. Don't get me wrong- the music's okay. Pretty damn okay, I would hasten to say. But that's just it- it's just okay. A problem I've always had with Avatarium as an outfit is their overwhelming mediocrity, sounding less like something unique and more like the more derivative moments of Candlemass in the 90's. Avatarium's debut is replete with overbearing guitar solos, powerful drumming, and energetic musicianship-- but it's just not interesting to me. The album also has a sort of sludge vibe that's hard to pin down and when infused with their already established sound, only sort of turns out sounding half-baked and phony. I have a feeling that Avatarium is meant to be a sort of product of all the groups Edling was a part of during the 80's - 00's, combining the prog of Algebra, the crushing doom of Candlemass and Crux, and a bit of sludge influence as a finish. To some it might sound good but to me it just sounds disgustingly average. The musicians are great, they have a lot of skill, but their finished product was just not nearly as impressive as I expected it to be.
Doom metal with female vocals seems to have become a full-blown bandwagon of late, but Avatarium are a very welcome addition to that bandwagon. Jennie-Ann Smith's are capable and dramatic, and the musical backing by the rest of the band reminds me a lot of early Candlemass, say circa Nightfall, perhaps with a few more hints of heavy psych here and there to keep things hopping. I admit that it's not the most groundbreakingly original package in the world, but it is very, very good at what it does, and Avatarium deserve as a result to be considered in the front rank of this particular trend in doom metal.
An album I can’t get enough of lately is this eponymous debut from Avatarium, a fairly new band but not lacking in experience with members coming from bands such as Candlemass, Royal Hunt and Tiamat. On their website they claim to be influenced Jethro Tull, Rainbow, Blue Oyster Cult and Black Sabbath. The latter is the most obvious as the emphasis is on doom metal with some sixties psychedelic touches thrown in here and there.

While on a musical level there’s no shortage of talent with each musician turning in a fine performance, their secret weapon is Jennie-Ann Smith whose gorgeous voice suits the music perfectly. She can certainly summon up plenty of power when it’s required but she’s refreshingly not a screamer and proves to be a versatile performer being equally adept at handling the melancholic quieter moments.

Seven songs in total with some of the heaviest riffs I’ve heard in recent years, made all the more effective by some effective use of light and shade. Opener Moonhorse is a magnificent statement of intent, alternating between slow brutal riffing and coming right down for the vocals. It shifts through a few changes including some blistering guitar solos before ending just breaking the nine minute mark. If any song was a benchmark to show what this band is all about and capable of then this is it. The good news is that most of the rest is of equal quality and largely in a similar vein though there’s some deviation through the more commercial sixties vibe of Boneflower with its lush melody. In fact strong melodies are prevalent throughout, not just in the vocals, but also on a musical level including Marcus Jidell’s excellent solos with some fine slide work thrown in for good measure.

Avatarium have produced a real winner here and as I’m a bit late picking up on it, it being released in 2013, hopefully I won’t have too long to wait for album number two.
Avatarium (2013) is the self-titled debut album by this Swedish doom metal act, who are near enough a supergroup; featuring the musicians Leif Edling (Candlemass), Lars Sköld (Tiamat), Marcus Jidell (ex-Royal Hunt) and Carl Westholm (ex-Candlemass) as instrumentalists, while the line-up is completed by a newcomer to the metal scene, vocalist Jennie-Ann Smith.

Female fronted doom metal, particularly if it also has a psychedelic influence, seems to have been a thing of recent years with bands such as Blood Ceremony and Jex Thoth making names for themselves. But where the recent efforts from those bands have veered more towards their psychedelic rock side, Avatarium enter this scene bringing more crushing doom metal riffs and leave their psychedelic side to be heard only in undertones. What makes the album really special though is not the four guys who've already made names for themselves, mostly in doom metal bands, but Jennie-Ann Smith's vocals. This lady's voice is beautiful, but in a way that doesn't detract from the dark atmosphere of the doom metal genre. She also has a bluesy vibe to her voice and her performance is made even more superb by the lyrics, which have a poetic quality to them.

Avatarium is a captivating release right from the opening track Moonhorse. Despite this being one of those albums that doesn't ever drop or even fumble the ball I have to say that Moonhorse, the first song I heard from them, may just be my favourite from the release. It's a difficult call to make when you also have tracks like the self-titled song and Bird of Prey to choose from, but Moonhorse exemplifies everything about the Avatarium sound in such a perfect way, gearing the listener up for the six tracks that will then follow. These further tracks don't do an awful lot to vary the formula, but it's clear that Avatarium have found a winner here, with evidence suggesting that could have made an even longer album than this and still pulled it off. The most different track of the seven would be the closing Lady in the Lamp, because it focuses more fully on Avatarium's lighter, 70's influenced side before reintroducing some metal elements towards the end, resulting in a perfect dramatic closing for the album.

It's always bands and albums like Avatarium that surprise me the most as a metalhead. I came to this album based on the hype it was generating and not because of the rather glaring Candlemass connection since, believe it or not, I'm almost entirely ignorant of that legendary doom metal act's work. The reason for that is doom metal rarely appeals to me, although I do tend to enjoy the recent female fronted acts I mentioned earlier in this review, Avatarium being the latest to find their place in my collection. Still, the point is I came to Avatarium with little to no expectations and they've blown me away. This is the sort of late in the year album (that I didn't hear in full until early 2014) that for me came out of nowhere and upset my top 5 albums of 2013. It is, in fact, one of only two albums of its year to (at the time of writing at least) earn a perfect rating from me. It really is that good. Ignore it at your peril.


(Originally written for Heavy Metal Haven: http://metaltube.freeforums.org/avatarium-avatarium-t3295.html)
Kev Rowland
This may be a brand new band well under a year old, but Leif Edling (bass, Candlemass, Krux) has brought together some tried and trusted musicians along with a ‘new’ singer. When Leif needed to demo some new songs, Marcus Jidell (guitar, Evergrey, Royal Hunt) offered to help out. Of course they needed a drummer, so in came Lars Sköld (Tiamat) while Carl Westholm (Carp Tree, Jupiter Society) provided the keyboards. So with all that musical muscle all they now needed was a singer, and in Jennie-Ann Smith they have found someone who can more than cope with whatever the guys throw at her, whether that is Sabbath style Doom or something more reminiscent of Blue Öyster Cult.

The result is an album that is firmly grounded in the Seventies, and although it certainly contains doom elements it isn’t what many may expect of a band put together by Leif. There is a soaring beauty to some of this that sounds as if it is more influenced by Nightwish than Candlemass, while there are definitely some progressive elements at play as well whiel this is first and formost a symphonic metal album with lots going on. The guitars can really hit like a sledgehammer, with plenty of brute force, but then at other times they are restrained and refined while Carl allows himself to come to the fore sparingly, but when he does it is to great effect.

The first few times I played this album I really wasn’t sure about it, as it is bringing together loads of different influences and mixing it up and couldn’t say if it was working or not. But, the more I have played it the more I have enjoyed it, as it is a real grower. Well worth discovering.

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