AVATARIUM — The Fire I Long For (review)

AVATARIUM — The Fire I Long For album cover Album · 2019 · Doom Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
4.5/5 ·
adg211288
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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Bosh66 wrote:
1 year ago
On order :-D
666sharon666 wrote:
1 year ago
I actually really liked the last one, but it's the only one I didn't put five stars on. This one is great. And good to see you reviewing again, Adam.

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