WORDS: Perran Helyes
During a recent period which has generally been a pretty exciting time for the genre with creative triumphs from bands new and old peppering the release schedule, AVATARIUM lit up the doom underground in 2013 with their self-titled debut, the colossal songs of CANDLEMASS legend Leif Edling topped off by the incredible singing voice of one of the finest frontwomen to emerge in years in Jennie-Ann Smith. Continuing that momentum with the promising All I Want EP last year, second record The Girl With the Raven Mask now shows they’re not intending on stalling any time soon.
With a band like AVATARIUM it’s easy to forget that some of the moments with the most potential to be truly great are faster and more up-tempo than what they’re usually known for and they prove this right out of the gate with the title track. It clatters forward with heaps of direction and purpose, easily hitting the standard they’ve set thus far with muscular riffing and dramatic vocal lines, while following track The January Sea takes the foot off the accelerator and slowly rolls forth with dense crushing power. As with their debut AVATARIUM prove themselves on this record to be a dynamic proposition, handling various tones and feels with skill.
Run Killer Run is another heavy-hitting rocker, while Pearls and Coffins sees them embracing more 70s-esque colours, with shades of blues and a full blown organ solo bringing to mind DEEP PURPLE‘s most stirring moments. Carl Westholm in general certainly makes his presence felt on the keyboards, gelling with Edling from his appearances during the CANDLEMASS days and accentuating the riffs perfectly like on closing track The Master Thief where his thick chords add an extra dimension of heaviness. The mid portion of this album meanwhile perhaps possesses the most underlying creepiness, Ghostlight seeming to float along in a distorted haze while the bizarre melodies of Hypnotized almost lean towards the carnivalistic.
The band yet again are very well produced, with an organic feel coupled with utmost clarity. The guitar tone is slightly fuzzier than on the debut but it still leans far more towards the solemn epic doom of Edling‘s more famed band than the likes of Sleep or Electric Wizard. The drums are robust and defined, each component of Lars Sköld‘s kit given enough punch to effectively carry proceedings along with Edling‘s throbbing bass, while the extra textures of the keys and crucially Smith‘s voice are placed at just right the right level in the mix. Essentially sonically AVATARIUM have just the right sound to effectively convey their level of songwriting, which is consistently high.
If there’s any criticism is that it does seem to lack some of the truly magical moments found on their debut; the roaring stop-starts of Moonhorse or the imposing and at points petrifying Boneflower dwarf what is offered here. But across the board AVATARIUM maintain interest and continue to prove why they’re one of the shining new lights in doom. If Edling continues to place most of his efforts into this outfit and CANDLEMASS are creatively laid to rest, AVATARIUM are frankly a more than worthy successor. For all the acclaim it did receive AVATARIUM‘s debut was slept on by too many; it may not quite hit the same heights but it’d be a real shame if that were to happen here too.
The Girl With The Raven Mask is set for release on October 23 via Nuclear Blast Records.