Avatarium -The Girl With The Raven Mask
Born in 2013, presumably on a cold, stone slab in a medieval castle, Avatarium is the creature given life by former Candlemass brain (in a jar?) Leif Edling and guitarist Marcus Jidell who offered to help out one cold winter. Exploring a mutual love for the classics – Rainbow, Sabbath, Tull and Blue Oyster Cult – Stockholm based Avatarium drop in some pop influences and stir in some great 60's vibes to create a wonderfully lumbering but simultaneously graceful beast.
The Girl with the Raven Mask is their second full length - last year's All I Want EP sandwiched in-between the two - and is filled with all the trademark operatic bombast you'd expect from all the aforementioned influences and delivers a mouth-watering, gothic style epic that is hard to put down. So pull up an ornate armchair, light a candle and sit back. Like Ebeneezer Scrooge you are about to receive a visitation from not three but eight aural ghosts, each with a different haunting tale to tell.
The album's titular song leads the way with an almost punk power-chord assault containing a deep rooted pop hook that harks back to Black Sabbath's Paranoid in it's ability to immediately grab your subconscious and plant it's demon seed there. It's a lyrically strong and up-tempo number that relinquishes none of its doom atmosphere.
Tracks like The January Sea take a more progressive route, swirling effortlessly around varying tempos and drawing enormous power from it's use of massive chord stabs welded tightly to the keys of Carl Westholm and Jennie-Ann Smith’s incredible vocals.
With an intro straight out of a Tarantino dark western, Pearls and Coffins is a tragic love song. Packed with drama, it again makes the most of atmospheric 60's sounding keyboards and Jennie’s vocal is outstanding. It's a wonderfully crafted piece and a wonderful example of musical storytelling.
The circus of horror melody of Hypnotized rolls into town nicely into a whirling catchy chorus of gargantuan pop styling. At mid-point it transforms into a frenetic solo spot from Marcus Jidell that brings to mind Ritchie Blackmore at his fiery, tempestuous best. Continuing the Blackmore comparison, meant as the highest compliment, the Eastern rhythms of Ghostlight and the way the snake-charmer bansuri melody entwines with the guitar line bring to mind The Gates of Babylon by Rainbow. Again the guitar solo in this is mesmerising and used to startling effect, serving the song brilliantly.
This is a stunning album that uses many musical influences and styles, proving that doom is where you find it. Although Leif Edling’s past endeavours are firmly imprinted across this release it is the outstanding musicianship from everyone involved that makes this essential listening. The Girl With The Raven Mask is addictive. Once on your CD player, or on your turntable, getting it off again would be like wrestling the heroin off William Burroughs. So, good luck with that.
Words: Paul Cooke