AVATARIUM — Hurricanes and Halos

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AVATARIUM - Hurricanes and Halos cover
4.10 | 13 ratings | 4 reviews
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Album · 2017

Filed under Heavy Psych


1. Into The Fire / Into The Storm (4:14)
2. The Starless Sleep (4:47)
3. Road to Jerusalem (5:48)
4. Medusa Child (9:00)
5. The Sky at the Bottom of the Sea (5:25)
6. When Breath Turns to Air (4:46)
7. A Kiss (from the End of the World) (7:14)
8. Hurricanes and Halos (3:32)

Total Time 44:46


- Mats Rydström / Bass
- Lars Sköld / Drums
- Marcus Jidell / Guitars, Backing Vocals (#2,3,5)
- Rickard Nilsson / Organ
- Jennie-Ann Smith / Vocals, Backing Vocals (#2,3,5)

Guest/Session Musicians:

- Edit Dyberg / Vocals (#4)
- Michael Blair / Percussion
- Leif Sundin / Backing Vocals (#1,3)
- Stefan Berggren / Backing Vocals (#5)
- Anni Sundqvist / Backing Vocals (#5)
- Alvin Dyberg / Backing Vocals (#4)

About this release

Format: CD
Label: Nuclear Blast Records
Release date: May 26th, 2017

All songs except tracks 3 & 6 written by Leif Edling.

Thanks to adg211288 for the addition and Nightfly for the updates


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Specialists/collaborators reviews

By today’s standards Avatarium are pretty prolific being onto their third album in four years. Founder member and main songwriter Leaf Edling, suffering from ill health in recent years, is taking more of a backseat roll these days handing over bass duties to new guy Mats Rydström. He has however written most of the songs.

If The Girl With The Raven Mask saw the band taking a step away from the more pure doom direction of the first album then Hurricanes and Halos sees them almost abandoning it entirely. This may not come as good news to some people but Avatarium have still delivered a quality piece of work. Whilst it was already there on the last album the sound is much more retro 70’s hard rock no better demonstrated on opener Into The Fire/Into The Storm. Fans of Deep Purple should lap it up with impressive organ work from Rickard Nilsson. There’s plenty of diversity on the eight compositions with the band also injecting blues and pysch elements with no shortage of melody. The two songs not written by Edling, Road To Jerusalem and When Breath Turns To Air, certainly aren’t inferior in any way and not out of place, showing the band can have a future without him, the former being particularly impressive. Medusa Child might slightly outstay its welcome dragged out with a slow build at the end but overall weak moments are few and far between. The Sky At The Bottom Of The Sea gallops along nicely with a Uriah Heep Easy Livin’ vibe and When Breath Turns To Air is at the opposite end of the spectrum being a slow blues piece. A Kiss (From The End Of The World also has a Uriah Heep feel and probably the albums heaviest moment with its slow insistent riff.

As always, the playing is of a high standard, the newer direction perhaps lending itself better to the expressive and soulful vocals of Jennie-Ann Smith. Marcus Jidell once again shows what a class guitarist he is both on rhythm and lead abandoning the crushingly heavy riffing of the debut for a fuzzier retro sound.

As good as Hurricanes And Halos is I still find it the weakest of their three albums so far but this is no reflection on the quality here, simply a mark of the strength of the first two. However, anyone not happy with the direction the band are heading in these days and wanting more doom can always go and check out Leif Edling’s latest project The Doomsday Kingdom.
The current "occult rock" scene is a musical subgenre based not on musical features, but on a witchy aesthetic; as such, bands working in this field can crop up in all sorts of different (but related) subgenres, such as doom metal (especially traditional doom), hard rock, and heavy psych.

Furthermore, it's not uncommon for a group to start in one part of this territory and drift to a different one over the course of their careers; Blood Ceremony did it, and now Avatarium have done it, with their latest album completing the transition from Candlemass-esque trad doom to heavy psych that was begun by the preceding Girl In the Raven Mask.

In particular, Rickard Nilsson joining on organ seems to have taken the band down a decidedly Uriah Heep-esque direction - especially audible on The Sky At the Bottom of the Sea - as well as enabling explorations of a sort of doomy proto-prog as on the extended workout Medusa Child. If you ever wanted to know what Candlemass would have sounded like if they had a top-notch female vocalist and had taken their lead from Uriah Heep instead of Black Sabbath, I guess you now have your answer: they sound damn good.
Swedish band Avatarium were founded as a doom metal project by Candlemass main man Leif Edling and produced a fairly well received self-titled debut album in the style in 2013. With follow-up The Girl with the Raven Mask (2015) their sound began to diversify and take on stronger heavy psych traits, though it was still dominantly a doom metal record. Since then there has been a major change in the Avatarium ranks as Leif Edling stepped down from recording and performance duties, though he still wrote the majority of this, their third full-length album, Hurricanes and Halos (2017). Keyboardist Carl Westholm has also departed. Mats Rydström (Abramis Brama) has joined as the group's new bassist while Rickard Nilsson handles organ duties.

Judging from the sounds to be heard on Hurricanes and Halos it's impossible to not look back at The Girl with the Raven Mask and now see it not as much as an album bringing an evolution to Avatarium's early doom metal sound but a transitional album working towards a near complete reversal of all the elements that have characterised their music previously. Though still regularly present yet used in strict moderation, the doom metal riffs now have a much more background role in the music, with the guitars more often bringing a psychedelic fuzz to the table, making Hurricanes and Halos much more the rock album than the metal album. The one thing that has remained unchanged is the underlying influences of (especially seventies) progressive rock that have subtly been there since their debut, though they're a little more out in the open with the overall change in genre.

Avatarium won't be the first modern doom metal band to take such a route. Canada's Blood Ceremony did a similar thing between their own second and third albums Living with the Ancients (2011) and The Eldritch Dark (2013) and were ultimately a stronger band for it. Based on Hurricanes and Halos I'm less sure that the same path was the right choice for Avatarium, as I don't find this album to have as much impact on me as a listener as either of their previous ones. Some albums grow on you once you've given them a few listens, but unfortunately this isn't one of them. It certainly has its moments of brilliance though, such as the opener Into the Fire/Into the Storm and later on A Kiss (From the End of the World), a song which still features some quite prominent doom metal elements. It is, overall, a very pleasant album with many things to praise, not least Jennie-Ann Smith's vocals and some emotive lead guitar from Marcus Jidell, particularly during the album's softer parts.

That Hurricanes and Halos ultimately comes across as a step down from two excellent releases is of course a disappointment, but on the positive side Avatarium have once again delivered an album that is different to their previous ones which is more than a lot of artists do. While I don't think it's worked out as well for them this time as it could have done it does make me interested to hear if they can keep such a pattern up. It also remains to be seen how Leif Edling's departure will affect the band in the long run. He seems to be sticking around as their mentor for now and wrote all but two of the songs on Hurricanes and Halos, but he does have his new project The Doomsday Kingdom (which also features Marcus Jidell), who released their self-titled debut earlier this year in a more familiar traditional doom metal style (and for my money is the better of these two albums), which I assume will be his focus now short of Candlemass going back on their statement about Psalms for the Dead (2012) being their final album.
Kev Rowland

Although the band was only formed in 2012 by Soen guitarist Marcus Jidell and Candlemass chief Leif Edling, the guys are already back with their third album. The label describes them as where Black Sabbath meets soul and The Devil’s Blood meets Old School Rock, but they’re wrong. Produced by Marcus Jidell himself, while David Castillo (Katatonia, Bloodbath, Opeth) recorded and mixed it in the famous Ghost Ward Studios, and mastering undertaken by Jens Bogren (Soilwork, Sepultura), here we have an album that was probably a little dated forty-five years ago. What we have here boys and girls, is classic Uriah Heep, with Rickard Nilsson’s Hammond Organ linking with Marcus Jidell’s guitar in a way that is so very reminiscent of Ken Hensley and Mick Box, while Jennie-Ann Smith is different in her approach to the great David Byron, but channels him alongside her Maggie Bell approach.

This is warm, it is heavy, it is comforting and to someone my age also incredibly familiar in its approach. Those first five Heep albums were all classics in their own right, and this should also be judged in the same vein. The absolute standout is “Medusa Child” which twists and turns in many directions during its nine-minute long journey, even bringing in some children singing, while the guitar moves between leaden Iommi-style soundblasts into lighter territory, diving and swirling so that the listener isn’t always sure what is going to happen next. It almost seems as if a few different songs have been taken to pieces and then thrown back together as one, but it works incredibly well. Overall, this is a really enjoyable album, one that any fan of Seventies rock combined with Sabbath doom and a great production would do well to seek out.

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