Avatarium - The Girl With The Raven Mask

Avatarium - The Girl With The Raven Mask

(CD/LP, Nuclear Blast, 2015)

When AVATARIUM released the “Moonhorse” EP in 2013, I thought that Mr. Leif Edling was putting up a project just to fill the void caused by CANDLEMASS’ silence. I mean, having a female singer cannot be Doom Metal, right? "Wrong" is the correct answer and this was underlined with the amazing “Avatarium” LP which started making this project look more like a proper full-time band. And the good things kept coming in the form of the “All I Want” EP which also made it clear that the band was willing to keep building on the momentum gathered by the first two releases. So, without waiting much, the Swedes released “The Girl With The Raven Mask” and made me look silly for not including it on my end-of-the-year-best-of list because it’s an amazing collection of songs.

And not only that, because even though AVATARIUM is in theory a new band, the musicians involved in the lineup had or have been working together for quite some time. I guess the only one who hasn’t crossed paths with the rest of the gentlemen is Mrs. Jennie-Ann Smith who - by the way - is one of the main reasons why “The Girl With The Raven Mask” is a fantastic album. The Theremin sounds open the gates with the album’s title track and let the Doom-heavy riff to invite you for some intense headbanging skipping entirely any warming-up period. Jennie sings with an incredible confidence and with a timbre that fits the music like a higlhy-crafted tailored suit. I guess, the live shows and the minimum breaks between studio releases helped the most to put the pieces to this traditional Doom Metal puzzle in the right place. Still, the really good stuff hide behind the slower tempos where the lyricism meets the most expressional vocals, creating something most original despite the fact most of it is based on already known golden-recipes. “The January Sea” mixes the type of the heaviness every band with Leif on the lineup possesses with more amazing vocal melodies that will haunt you from the first spin especially during the chorus. The song builds the tension by switching tempos with sing-along melodies and an underlining epic atmosphere which I am sure will whisper the name of CANDLEMASS as it visits the “Epicus Doomicus Metallicus” era. Just follow the riff and the string bend to see where goes and you’ll instantly know I am right. By the way, the Hammond sounds build another connection with Leif past and obviously I am referring to his KRUX works. Be careful though because one should not consider this as another ‘sounding-like’ project but an alive and breathing band with a personal or even unique character.

“Pearls And Coffins” is one of the album’s finest moments with amazing guitar leads, more Hammond tunes and an occult atmosphere in the rhythm section that brought an ANCIENT VVISDOM occult flavor in my mouth, especially through the percussion. The first solo coming from the keyboards (or is it Hammond?) is fantastic carrying an almost '70s breeze which I am sure will be welcomed with eyes closed. Still, the album is not all about slow to mid songs and perfect examples are “Ghostlight” where the wailing singing and the Eastern-sounding riffs will rock your socks off before letting the faster and guitar-groovy satisfy your headbanging thirst. After all, the simplest guitar-chords can have a huge impact, especially if they are tuned low. The almost Jazz-y drums (I hold the hi-hat responsible for this) in “The Master Thief” offer an awesome twist as this song slowly creeps out of the mist with Church Organ-esque melodies and hard-hitting (but ton-heavy) rhythm before putting once again the vocals on the spotlight to deliver another stick-to-mind lyric lines; yeah, try not to sing-along “The master thief - the great deceiver”.

I have no idea how AVATARIUM can compete themselves after releasing two great full-lengths with “The Girl With The Raven Mask” holding the pole-position in this imaginary race. I really hope that this band will continue producing music and - why not? - incorporate more music elements while taking advantage of the wide vocal range of this most talented singer. Is it too much to ask for a US tour?

PS: The band covered LED ZEPPELIN’s “In My Time Of Dying” and it’s just a shame that it was used as a bonus and not as part of the tracklist because it fits perfectly the album’s atmosphere.

“We're all downing in the January sea
Some in their dream homes, and some somewhere at sea”





01. Girl With The Raven Mask
02. The January Sea
03. Pearls And Coffins
04. Hypnotized
05. Ghostlight
06. Run Killer Run
07. Iron Mule
08. The Master Thief


Leif Edling - Bass
Lars Sköld - Drums
Marcus Jidell -  Guitar
Carl Westholm - Keyboards
Jennie-Ann Smith - Vocal