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Avatarium - Avatarium

Avatarium – CD Review


CD Info
Nuclear Blast
7 Tracks
English Lyrics

I’d heard some Avatarium before I received this album to review. I’d noted how many metal writers had ranked it in their best album lists for 2013. This would clearly be an exceptional debut album.

Accordingly, I strapped myself into my office chair before winding up the volume and starting Avatarium. It didn’t help. My chair instantly enjoyed the music so much that it floated us both up to the ceiling. When we floated down again after the album had finished playing, my chair asked me: “Can I marry Jennie-Ann Smith?”

That won’t happen. Much as I am enchanted by the notion of Jennie-Ann as furniture-in-law, the rest of the band would have to give her away. Not in my chair’s wildest dreams will they do that. She is gold.

Avatarium is a new band. Its members, however, are seasoned and highly esteemed musicians, ranked among the world’s best in their respective specialties.

The concept for the band and its adventurous style of music was born in the mind of Lief Edling early in 2013. Lief has composed and played bass for top doom band Candlemass and also for Krux. His idea, so stunningly realized on the debut album, was not much less than the reinvention of doom.

Marcus Jidell, guitarist for the prog metal bands Evergrey and Royal Hunt, offered to help Lief work on a couple of demo songs. They were joined by Lars Sköld, drummer for Gothic metallers Tiamat, and Carl Westlholm, keyboard wizard for prog metal and neo-prog bands Jupiter Society and Carptree.

I’ve mentioned seven bands in the collective résumés of the four guys in Avatarium. Of those bands, I happen to love… let me count… yes, seven of them. How could I not love Avatarium?

And then there’s Jennie-Ann. According to rumors started in my one-man office, the guys couldn’t find anyone like her on Earth. They used a trans-dimensional warp, engineered by Ronny Lahti, to bring her here from a parallel universe ruled by music, not by physics. Ronny Lahti? He is the sound magician who engineered Avatarium. Please take a double bow, Mister Lahti.

So, from the diverse metal and prog backgrounds of the band members, the compositional inspiration of Lief Edling and top-class arrangements and engineering, Avatarium has emerged as an album that slots into the broad genre of doom but offers so much variety in pace, style and delivery that it should have much appeal in other major areas of metal and metal-influenced prog. It’s so good that it warrants comments about each of its seven tracks.

1. Moonhorse
Within the first minute you’ll hear how much this isn’t any ordinary doom album. The first song opens with a riff that would make Sabbath proud. About 40 seconds later, in comes an ethereal, proggy overlay from the keyboards. Then, at 59 seconds, Jennie-Ann and acoustic guitar melt you with the sweetest folk rock. As the song develops, its style and structure become as unpredictably varied as the intertwining branches of a tree.

The thought-provoking lyrics, sung with crystal clarity, are achingly poignant and poetic. They are complemented towards the end of the track by a guitar solo so charged with emotion that the tiny hairs on your hair will stand up. “Moonhorse” closes with a marriage of folk and doom accompanied by a symphonic glow from the keyboards.

2. Pandora’s Egg
The opening of this song is like such a gentle caress that all your furniture and your garden will want to marry the whole band. Avatarium introduces soulful, bluesy variations before building the music into atmospheric doom, than switching to old-style doom backing as the prelude to another iridescent guitar solo. Just hear those finely calculated bass guitar lines, and the drumming mastery that suggests Lars Sköld has a musical IQ of 210. The instruments are so deftly matched to each other that they must all have the same parents in the supermusic universe where Jennie-Ann was created.

3. Avatarium
The title track is entrancing. “So many voices inside my head,” sings Jennie-Ann as she describes her fantasy creation, her Avatarium, a mystical mental destination. There is only one voice in my head, the voice of Jennie-Ann, and it can live there for as long as it likes. From that “fantasarium” the music spreads out to embrace a remarkable interweaving of funeral doom and blues. That’s how I hear it. I suspect this album is going to evoke many types of reactions in different listeners.

4. Boneflower
This is the track that is going to knock the socks off symphonic dark metal fans. It is irresistibly catchy. It is a strong candidate for Earworm of the Year. I found myself humming the tune on the way to buy bread and milk. As soon as I got home I had to play it again to learn the words, which at my age is impossible, but fun to try. We have to get some commercial stations to air this song. It would surely have huge cross-genre appeal.

5. Bird Of Prey
Avatarium – the band, not the imaginary place – salutes the hard rock and metal of many eras. I was half-expecting to hear a cover of the Uriah Heep song from 1970. This is a totally different and original song. I bet, though, the band would cover Uriah Heep darned well.

Hey! They released a teaser EP a couple of months before this album. It includes an acoustic cover of Sabbath’s “War Pigs”. Find it on Bandcamp.

6. Tides Of Telepathy
What sounds like the drums in Ravel’s “Bolero” steers the music towards… Gothic blues? Maybe it’s avant-garde prog built around a doom metal structure. The second half of the song reprises the style of “Boneflower” but with ’70s-style wow-wow guitar.

7. Lady In The Lamp
The album opened with a child’s wondering about the possibilities in the world. It ends on a sorrowful note, with the adult trapped inside a prison made of glass and exposed to her fate. This extremely moving finale could be pure prog. Doleful keyboards phase in a crescendo of mournful guitar and singing that left a lump in my throat. Ah, music that makes you want to cry. Lovely.


Score: 10 / 10

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