Sunday, March 3, 2024

Review: Avatarium – The Girl In The Raven Mask

Avatarium are a doom five piece out of Sweden, home to many bands such as Grand Magus, Ghost, Witchcraft, Krux and of course Candlemass. The last two being relevant here, with bassist Leif Edling the bassist behind those names being a founder of Avatarium. Joined by drummer Lars Sköld, Carl Westholm on keyboards, and couple Marcus Jidell on the guitar with Jennie-Ann Smith on vocals.

‘The Girl In The Raven Mask’ is the second album release from the band, with a 12” debut ‘Moonhorse’ released in 2013 followed by the first CD/double LP ‘Avatarium‘ the same year, and a second 12” release ‘All I Want’ in 2014. ‘The Girl In The Raven Mask’ proves they are reliably consistent, and not just in releases, but writing abilities too.

Opening the album with the title track, the first noticeable thing is the speed, this is no typical doom track with an upbeat stomping tempo. Doomy guitar and bass tones are all over it with a beautiful fuzz feel, a great organ sound from the keys, and then the raw power of Jennie-Ann’s vocals. All combined make for a belter of an opening track to grab the attention, and although it might not be what fans of doom are searching for in a doom band, they certainly had me sucked in from then on in.

Avatarium ‘The January Sea’ follows on, in a more traditional doom way, slow paced, heavy and full of musical prowess. Westholms keyboard talents are much more prominent and atmospheric in this, complimenting some superb, dynamic playing on the guitar and bass. Altogether they have what already feels a stand-out track for an album, but it is brought to a new level with the vocal skills being displayed all over the song. Smiths vocals display her raw abilities to use her voice to perfectly display all kinds of emotion across the it, something that happens throughout the album. With a great range at her disposal, she uses so much control to push it to its full use with plenty of heart and passion. Two songs in and I find it very hard not to fall in love with this voice.

Pearls and Coffins’ feels very much like a travelling song, very open and something very suited to walking a metaphorical dark road leaving everything behind, or sipping on a glass of whiskey while the world burns around you. This is one of the more mellow tracks but what it has in mellow it paves over what I can only describe as the feeling of the weight of your world on your back. By the end of the song I almost wished smoking was never banned in pubs, I really wanted to be at a dimly lit bar, a smoke filled haze and sitting by myself with a bottle and this playing, a real hard feeling feeling song which showcases all their talents without any showing off.

By the time you reach the next track ‘Hypnotized’ your at the half way point, and this continues with a blend of the previous two songs, a fitting title by this point as I really feel hooked on the soul behind the vocals, which by ‘Ghostlight‘ has started to soar.

The real talent in a musician I find is to know when to play, and when not to. All in this band seem to nail this on the head, with real simple silences and small nuances which give that extra layer that some bands just lack, this isn’t something you can teach, its just something you have in you. ‘Ghostlight‘ is the epitome of that.

By the time you get to the last 8 tracks on the album ‘The Master Thief’, it almost feels like an album that would fit a much darker Las Vegas hotel restaurant. The album plays fluidly and masterfully my all the musicians behind the instruments, and Jennie-Anns voice really feels like the icing on the cake. It all feels like there is more behind each and every single part of the songs, and by the time it finishes I don’t feel the need to go find anything else to listen to, but rather find myself wanting to sit with nothing playing and soak in everything about what I just listened through. By this point I have completely fallen for the vocals, over the years we have had many female front women, from operatic styles to the full on death metal growls, but as far as singing goes, this is something special. No woman in our metal World so far in my opinion has brought this much soul into their work, so you can imagine my joys to find out that in a few weeks they have a one off gig while on a small tour across Europe in London on November 22nd, hopefully I can make it and see a lot there, I can only imagine it will be small venues like that played for so long.

Ash Crowson
Ash Crowson
RAMzine Senior Contributor - Guitarist, photographer, geek, gamer, full on metalhead and allround barfly, if i'm not at work, a gig or studying for my degree, you'll find me at the bar! A fascination with second world war history and military aviation. All with a very dry humour to round me off!

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