AVATARIUM — The Fire I Long For

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AVATARIUM - The Fire I Long For cover
4.32 | 7 ratings | 2 reviews
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Album · 2019

Filed under Doom Metal


1. Voices (4:51)
2. Rubicon (4:38)
3. Lay Me Down (4:50)
4. Porcelain Skull (5:03)
5. Shake That Demon (3:43)
6. Great Beyond (5:34)
7. The Fire I Long For (5:06)
8. Epitaph of Heroes (6:56)
9. Stars They Move (3:17)

Total Time 43:58


- Jennie-Ann Smith / Vocals
- Marcus Jidell / Guitar
- Andreas ”Habo” Johansson / Drums
- Mats Rydström / Bass
- Rickard Nilsson / Organ

About this release

Nuclear Blast
Released 22nd Nov 2019

Thanks to Nightfly for the addition and adg211288 for the updates


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Specialists/collaborators reviews

Kev Rowland
Between the second and third album both Leif Edling (bass) and Carl Westholm (keyboards) left Avatarium, being replaced by Mats Rydström and Rickard Nilsson respectively. Then between the third and this the fourth, released towards the end of 2019, drummer Lars Sköld also departed to be replaced by Andreas ”Habo” Johansson, leaving only guitarist Marcus Jidell and singer Jennie-Ann Smith as founding members. I really enjoyed the third album, although some fans felt they had moved too far away from doom and into the early Seventies style they had been playing with on the second, but no-one can say they have continued down that road, as stylistically this sits between their self-titled debut and ‘The Girl With The Raven Mask’. There have been changes in the line-up, yet the band have pulled themselves together and have gone back to their roots – all of which is somewhat strange given that the first two people to leave were both from Candlemass so one might have expected the doom to have gone with them.

We still get the Seventies-style songs where Jidell and Smith show they can do something different, yet they also bring the doom. Leif Edling actually contributed three songs to the album, and he and Jidell continue to work together in other areas, he just isn’t playing with the band. Jidell says the album “is emotional and it will always have those dark elements in it, it is all about light and shadow”. Adds Jennie-Ann: “Leif’s artistry, wilfulness and supreme songwriting is a great inspiration. We have a heritage to take care of but also a responsibility to propose growth and development for our music.” They have certainly done that, as this album contains some of their finest songwriting and performances to date, mixing the doom with dark gothic elements and early Heep. There is a Hammond passage on “Porcelain Skull” far heavier than most guitars ever manage, although Jidell does his best to match it.

Commercial, timeless, accessible yet stretching boundaries, this is doom for the 21st century which has its roots very firmly based on two great British bands from fifty years ago, as they take the best bits of Black Sabbath and Uriah Heep and turn their legacy into their own.
Founded by Leif Edling of Candlemass renown, Avatarium burst onto the doom metal scene in 2013 with their EP Moonhorse and self-titled debut album. Heavy as hell, lyrically poetic, and above all else just damn good, the debut album cemented the band's reputation and proved that they weren't just riding on the name dropping of member's previous work. Second album, 2015's The Girl With the Raven Mask, brought some changes to the band's sound. It wasn't as heavy, though still clearly rooted in doom metal, but more psychedelic influenced. That was exactly what made it so good though: Avatarium did not feel the need to immediately re-hash what worked so well the first time around.

Then Leif Edling left the band. And their sound changed to be much less doom metal based and more firmly rooted in (heavy) psychedelic rock and progressive rock. Yet this was actually quite the paradox, because Edling had still written the majority of third album from 2017, Hurricanes and Halos, even though he didn't play one note on it. So it was obvious that the change in direction away from doom metal hadn't been the result of line-up shifts. Now, Hurricanes and Halos is still pretty fine album, but for this reviewer's money it doesn't get as many revisits as the first two Avatarium records. Which is why I'm happy to say that with fourth full-length The Fire I Long For, Avatarium is back on track. Doom metal is in again.

This could be seen as a double edged sword of course. The first three Avatarium albums, while the general lack of doom metal may have proved a disappointment to many on the last one, had the great benefit that Avatarium had effectively reinvented themselves every time around, but not so much that they alienated fans completely. And while The Fire I Long For brings another change, it's much more of a change back opposed to changing into something new. The album quite comfortably sits alongside The Girl With the Raven Mask in terms of style. Which means that it's pretty psychedelic, with plenty of doom metal riffs, but none that are as crushingly heavy as those found on the debut. As is usual for an Avatarium record, there is also some softer material. Avatarium is one of those rare metal bands that is actually very good at doing softer material though (they are members of a very exclusive club where they keep company with prestigious metal acts like Blind Guardian and err, I can't actually think of another one, that's how exclusive the club is!), so that shouldn't put newcomers off, while returnees will know what to expect.

While we've established that for the first time that a new Avatarium record may not feel as fresh in context of their catalogue, The Fire I Long For does have two things going for it that make it a step up from Hurricanes and Halos. Firstly it's doom metal again as I've pointed out and while Avatarium proved a quite competent heavy psych act on Hurricanes and Halos, they're an exceptional doom metal act. This is the genre they started off in and it's the genre that they shine in. Doom metal, especially the psychedelic influenced kind as Avatarium play, seems to be tailor-made for a singer like Avatarium's Jennie-Ann Smith as well.

That isn't the second reason by the way. The actual second reason is that the song-writing is that much more memorable this time around. There sadly just aren't many details that I can recall about Hurricanes and Halos after some time away from it, except for the excellent opening track Into the Fire / Into the Storm. This isn't true of the first two albums, where hooks flood back without requiring a revisit, no doubt because there's only so long I can go before those albums pull me back. And as for The Fire I Long For, there are already several tracks that have infected me, not least the title track, Voices, and Rubicon. While it is still early days yet, I can't foresee a future where it doesn't go into rotation at least as much as the first two records.

A return to form all round and to be cliché, this was the album I longed for after the last one. Regarding which I have not meant to be disrespectful to in this review despite some comments that even when positive no doubt read as barbed. I quite like Hurricanes and Halos. It's one of those albums I enjoy when I do play it, but I rarely crave it. On the other hand I just love Avatarium, The Girl With the Raven Mask and now The Fire I Long For as well. It's a doom metal highlight for 2019.

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