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Avatarium: 'Hurricanes And Halos'
Released 26th May 2017 (Nuclear Blast)

ian sutherland
Words: Ian Sutherland


Swedish retro Metallers Avatarium created a stir back in 2013 with their self-titled debut album. Masterminded by Leif Edling from Candlemass and guitarist Marcus Jidell, it took the doomy edge of Candlemass, added some classic rock twists and the unique voice and style of Jennie-Ann Smith and created something which was old yet also very new.

The Candlemass influence was all over that first album but the follow up 'All I Want' EP and 'The Girl With The Raven Mask' album eschewed that doomy vibe and replaced it with a seventies style groove, full of modern twists and turns but with Hammond organ sounds and an attitude which reflected back to more free, less genre bound music making.

Nowadays Edling no longer plays bass with the band and is involved in a song writing and mentoring capacity alone This means that a proper group feel which has been developing for some time is now fully present and this makes 'Hurricanes And Halos' both the most important Avatarium album to date and also the best.

Bass player Mats Rydstrom has brought a real dynamic presence to the band and along with drummer Lars Skold ensures that the rhythmic rock that the band is built on is both solid and imaginative. Organist(note not keyboard player) Rickard Nilsson is a large part of the Avatarium sound now and those Hammond organ style tones are one of the reasons you will see the word seventies popping up when the band is discussed. However while it may be associated with those halcyon days, the reason that sound was used for so long by so many great bands was it is a dynamic and if you'll pardon the pun genuinely organic sounding instrument and the playing here is exemplary.


Adding more magic touches is guitarist Marcus Jidell. I was very, very impressed with his playing when I saw the band live earlier this year and he is just as impressive here. There are lots of nice riffing and subtle touches but when he gets to play lead and show all his craftmanship and skills, it's quite stunning. Of course vocalist Jennie-Ann Smith is quite capable of adding her own magic too. In a committed and emotional series of performances she takes control of every vocal melody and in her trademark seemingly breathless yet powerful style she wrings every emotion out of the songs she can muster.

Oh and what songs! From the pacy riffing and dual soloing of opener 'Into The Fire-Into The Storm' through to the unusual, thoughtful style of the closing instrumental title track there is so much variety and quality to savour. There's the plethora of hooklines worming their way into your brain on 'The Starless Sleep', the slowly developing burn of 'Medusa Child' and the haunting beauty of 'When Breath Turns To Air' featuring a vocal performance that will give you goosebumps. They even get apocalyptic on 'A Kiss(From The End Of The World)'but never has doomsday sounded so good.

This is a fabulous album already, but one I think I'm just starting to discover. There are layers in these songs which I have not yet worked my way through. I will look forward to doing just that though. Avatarium have made an album which is both retro and right now and in doing so have created something unique which no one else did then or is doing now. They're in a genre of one and I'm sure that's just how they like it.

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Check out more of Ian Sutherland right here.

15th May 2017


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