AVATARIUM — Hurricanes and Halos (review)

AVATARIUM — Hurricanes and Halos album cover Album · 2017 · Heavy Psych Buy this album from MMA partners
4/5 ·
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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.
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Nightfly wrote:
more than 2 years ago
This is pretty much what i was expecting. My own copy is on the way at last from Amazon so I'll look forward to having a good listen soon.

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