Avatarium - Avatarium (Nuclear Blast)

Emotionally draining yet exhilarating in equal parts; In short, a masterpiece.
Release Date: 
31 Oct 2013 - 11:30pm

Another day, another record company-proclaimed ‘supergroup’.  This time, it’s Swedes Avatarium being touted as the next collection of metal super-beings here to save the day, on the back of bassist Leif Edling’s undeniable Candlemass pedigree and, well, little else in terms of legend statuts, it has to be said.

That’s to take nothing away from the all too gargantuan talent displayed by guitarist Marcus Jidell (operating a long way from home spiritually from his usual home in Evergrey), singer Jennie-Ann Smith, keyboardist Carl Westholm (who featured in one of the late nineties versions of Candlemass alongside Edling) and timekeeper Lars Skold of Tiamat reknown – but ‘supergroup’ does seem to be pushing the credulity a little.

But that’s enough griping. Luckily, Avatarium – the album – is easily more than the sum of its sometimes lauded parts. A sprawling, epic piece of work (for which the now all-too-often-applied tag doom is simply not sufficient as a descriptor), it straddles the worlds previously associated with Edling in his capacity as one of the leading archetects of latterday doom,  of crushingly depressive heavy metal and spritely, playful early seventies psychedelia and progressive rock. The result mix is a heady one indeed, but it isn’t one that’s going to have you off your feet and activating your iPhone lighter apps at first listen. The likes of the title track and the languorous, crawling Tides of Telepathy demand repeated listenings to truly unveil the full weight of their glory, not to mention a deal of patience. But if you are willing to invest that time, that effort, then in return Avatarium will reward you with much, much more than the usual doom album.

This has much to do with Smith, who puts in a truly masterful performance dripping with mystical chanteusery. Whilst rarely raising her presence much above a seductive croon, she easily matches the power being unleashed by the rest of the band, holding her own as Jidell in particular pulls every trick out of the bag in a compelling display of classic metal axework. At his best when recalling the glory years of Deep Purple/Rainbow alumnus Ritchie Blackmore during some truly memorable soloing, Jidell is only marginally the second star of the show here; However it’s really the songs that stand out most here. As the doom scene becomes more saturated almost by the day by hairy arsed chimps who think a velvet jacket and some flares constitute understanding what the whole thing is about, the glorious likes of Lady in the Lamp – truly one of the songs of the year, in any form of metal or hard rock, a stunning return to the halcyon era of the first couple of Rainbow albums where somehow Smith manages to conjure up a vocal of Dioesque majesty -  -remind us of just how powerful, how emotional, this music can be when performed properly, by masters of the art. Splendid stuff.