REVIEW: AVATARIUM – “Hurricanes And Halos”
With expectations reaching sky-high, Sweden’s rising stars Avatarium return with their latest long player for Nuclear Blast records. Brainchild of Lief Edling of Swedish doom metal legends Candlemass, the band was founded in 2012 with SOEN guitarist Marcus Jidell. The band is rounded out by vocalist Jennie-Ann Smith, Bassist Mats Rydstrom, Drummer Lars Skold and Keyboardist Carl Westholm. In five brief years Avatarium has released two EP’s and two critically acclaimed albums.
With a sound that mixes the classical doom riffing of early Black Sabbath and the energy/inventiveness of Mark II era Deep Purple with softer Blues tones it’s not hard to see why they have risen so fast and far. The real talent in Avatarium’s songwriting is the ability to pay homage to late 60’s vibes and sounds, while at the same time creating a thoroughly modern update of truly classic heavy rock.
The album opens with the riffs and organ bursts of “Into The Fire-Into The Storm”, before Jennie-Ann Smith soars in with a clean melodic chorus. From “A bat out of hell” to “A Griffin in flames” the lyrics are reminiscent of epic 70s fantasy imagery, thankfully leaning towards Rainbow and Stormbringer rather than Dungeons and Dragons. “The Starless Sleep” follows a similar groove, with a the sound firmly rooted in classic rock rather than traditional Doom Metal – think a modern, superbly melodic sound build on the firm foundations of Uriah Heap.
“Road To Jerusalem” really opens the record up, with a smoldering almost psychedelic guitar groove, before an acoustic prog vibe develops. Although it marks a slight shift away from the more catchy and polished gothic melodies and heavy riffs of earlier songs like “Boneflower” its still a satisfying sound that will surely reward repeated listening.
“The Sky At The Bottom Of The Sea” lands just the right side of a late 60’s sound, with the heaviness coming not only from the guitars but from the,distinctly Deep Purple sounding, blast of Hammond Organ. Those were days when one guitar solo per song just wasn’t enough. Thankfully, Jidell has the skill and, more importantly, the taste to craft melodic solos that add, rather than distract from the song. When combined with Jennie-Ann Smith’s singing about “Lighting”, “Mountains” and “Underground lakes” it is gloriously old-school without feeling contrived or re-hashed.
In a genre where even the old masters (Blackmore, Hughes) wont take it easy and repeat themselves, Avatarium impress by the sheer craft of their songwriting. Penultimate track “A Kiss (From The End Of The World)” is a perfect example in point starting off with Jidell’s haunting;y beautiful acoustic blues picking that channels early Peter Green, the song kicks into full-blown guitar and Hammond organ led assault, before drifting into the cosmos on Jidell’s intertwining guitar solos. This is music that has been well crafted and lovingly recorded and it shows.
The album ends with the almost regal melancholy of the title track “Hurricanes and Halos”, a rising and falling guitar instrumental that slowly drifts off and away. Faults are few and minor: considering the effort that went in to modernizing a classic sound and genre, it might have been nice to pair it with a similarly modern or distinctive album artwork rather than a slightly generic vinyl design ( I can’t imagine Sweden is lacking in talented gothic artists! ),but that’s really a matter of personal taste.
Avatarium deliver a very satisfying, old-school album that invites the listener on a journey of epic fantasy and sonic pleasure. Perfect for fans of classic heavy rock, “Hurricanes and Halos” adds yet another gripping chapter to the story of a band that have built an impressively consistent body of work in a fairly brief time.