metal talk
Avatarium: Podium De Flux, Zaandam, Netherlands

ian sutherland
Words and Pictures: Ian Sutherland
19th October 2017


Swedes Avatarium are often labelled as doom Metallers since they started life as a side project for Candlemass bassist Leif Edling.

The eponymous debut album certainly showed some doom roots but with guitarist Marcus Jidell and singer Jennie-Ann Smith exerting their influence more and more, the band's sound has expanded into a sub-seventies modern retro rock explosion of ideas and commitment.

On stage in the cosy Podium De Flux in sleepy Zandaam, their music swells until it is almost too big for the room.


Jidell's magnificent, atmospheric playing is a joy and mixed with the iconic sounds supplied by organ player Rickard Nilsson and the superb, dazzling bass runs from Mats Rydstrom, it gives them a unique soundscape, reminding you of musical glories past while somehow remaining fresh and modern.

Up front their willowy blond singer hasn't spent her life steeped in Metal and it shows, with a fresh and unique vocal approach plus stage presence all her own, no clich├ęs to be found here. Smith is all her own woman and we all know it.


The songs ranging from the bombastic 'A Kiss (From The End Of The World)' to the atmospheric guitar/vocal beauty of 'In My Time Of Dying' and the epic anthemic Metal of the song that gave them their name is hugely varied but always fascinating.


This is a band firing on all creative cylinders right now and the crowd here felt that and responded to it. Right before the show MetalTalk caught up with guitarist Marcus Jidell:

MT: Your third album 'Hurricanes And Halos' has been out for a few months now. Are you happy with the reaction to it?

MJ: Yes I'm really happy. The reviews have been extremely good. You are always a little worried when you release a new album but we always need to follow our hearts and do what we need to do. I'm always happy though when people understand what we're doing.

Every album that we do is moving forward in a direction. If you listen to the first album and then listen to 'Hurricanes And Halos' you can see in what direction we're heading in. I always had this sound that we do on 'Hurricanes And Halos' somewhere inside my mind but I could have said that for the previous albums too.

Well the first album we just did, you know but what I'm trying to say is that I'm very happy about that album but it's ten months since we recorded it now I'm starting on this tour to get new ideas about how the sound on the next album should be. We're talking about it and that's one good reason to do a tour, as a band we can talk and feel what works, what doesn't work, whatever.

MT: What is the song writing process for Avatarium? How do you put the songs together?

MJ: When myself or Jennie-Ann or Lief write a song the basic ideas are there then the band kind of develops them. I have tried different ways of writing music but I have learned a lot from Lief because we have been working so closely now. I think it's good to have the concept and most of the song ready and then together you can shape it and make it complete.

It's extremely important that all the band get to have input. On 'Hurricanes And Halos' we met in the studio and we introduced our songs to the band direct, everyone was there so Mats could try his bass lines directly and Lars with his drums. Everybody could put their own personal feel into it.

Rickard, our organ player is an old friend of mine and I know he's such a great musician and has such a great feel for music. We started to listen to the songs and played the demos and we just had a very good understanding. That made everything better, he's the kind of musician I always wanted to work with.

I think he and Mats are the reason the album sounds like it sounds. They bring even more of what I want. They have no limitations as musicians but they play what serves the song.

Who are your own personal music influences?

I like Mountain a lot, Deep Purple really mean a lot to me, because of how brilliant musicians they were back in the seventies. Then there's all the blues guys and the jazz guys, Miles Davis and so on.

There's so much music around but as a rock band, Deep Purple and Black Sabbath, if I had to choose three it would be those two and Mountain. The Gillan years are my favourite so far as Deep Purple goes.

How many of the new songs are in the set on this tour?

The problem was that we wanted to play all the songs! Everyone in the band is very proud of the album and wanted to play this song and that song. I think we play five songs from it, something like that.

Are there any of the songs which you particularly enjoy playing live?

'The Sky At The Bottom Of The Sea' is a cool song, it's a tricky one to play right. Maybe that's my favourite but that's the one that's been most difficult to get right. We also do a twelve-string thing actually. That's actually maybe my favourite song of the show.

'In My Time Of Dying' is not from the latest album. It's just me and Jennie-Ann and I like when we do it. I always wanted Avatarium to be like that, to bring dynamics, to be jazzy, to be emotional, I like to bring that in. Then when we play a song like 'Moonhorse' it's heavier, I like that mix, to me it's probably influenced by orchestral and classical music which I always liked. It can be so quiet then everyone comes in blam, and I really like that!

You are doing this headlining tour in Europe now. Do you have a strategy or a plan as to where you will tour next?

We don't have any kind of masterplan. Our booking company is German and they set up this tour and asked us if we wanted to do it. We also have a German record label so that area is important for us. We love what we do and we want to play as much as possible but we don't play so much live.

In a perfect world we would play much more but due to the circumstances we have right now we can't do it. Hopefully in the future we will tour more as this tour has been amazing.

When we see how people react every evening when we play, I never experienced audiences like this. I feel there is something different here so we just need to play more live.

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Check out more of Ian Sutherland right here.

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