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'The Girl With The Raven Mask'
(Nuclear Blast)
Release Date: 23rd October 2015

Ian Sutherland
ian sutherland


Swedish Doom Metal newbies Avatarium created a lot of interest when they appeared almost out of nowhere with their debut album in November 2013. Their mixture of a seventies style doom vibe with the ethereal, folky vocals of Jennie-Anne Smith and some period keyboard stylings made for an unusual sound and a compelling album.

Having pushed the boundaries further with the 'All I Want' EP in 2014 they have now moved on from sticking to the sub-Sabbath riffing and in 'The Girl With The Raven Mask' have created an album which reeks of seventies style yet is somehow not outdated or the simple result of plagiarism.

'Pearls And Coffins' is a fine example of what I mean, more dominated by Hammond organ sounding keyboards than guitars and full of atmospheric vocals in both the foreground and the background. It seems to develop into a full on jam session in the middle but all the musicians hold it together and it ends up being a very effective song which sounds like all the great seventies rock icons but at the same time like none of them.

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'The January Sea' does have an echo of Sabbath in the deep, heavy riff but Smith's sweet vocals in the quiet sections take the song somewhere else entirely. 'Ghostlight' follows along on similar lines but shows again that this band have a great sense of what dynamics can do in a song to give it real atmosphere.

It's not all slow and heavy though, 'Run Killer Run' is an up-tempo rocker driven along by a cool, buzzy guitar riff and the title track opens the album in a hurry although I'm not sure the band sound comfortable playing at such a high tempo.

'Iron Mule' is really more where they are at home, the slower beat giving the guitar, keyboards and vocals room to breathe and add the life to the song writing.

Elsewhere 'Hypnotized' starts off with an almost jaunty groove before making its way through a maze of changes of pace and atmosphere while 'The Master Thief' is epic doom all the way but with that twist of melody and originality that these guys bring to the party.

I can't think of any other band around right now who sound quite like Avatarium. I'm old enough to hear echoes of loads of different bands from the seventies in their sound but they don't sound exactly like any of them.

I love their mix of styles, of old roots replanted and to a younger audience they may even sound completely fresh and new. All I know is that this is a cracking album that is here now and should be relished and enjoyed on its own merits.

Line up:
Leif Edling: Bass
Jennie-Ann Smith: Vocals
Marcus Jidell: Guitar
Lars Sköld: Drums
Carl Westholm: Keyboards




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