REVIEW: AVATARIUM – “The Girl With the Raven Mask”
Swedish band Avatarium’s self-proclaimed genre is ‘heavy, dark and poetic’, while most people dub them ‘doom metal’ due to founding member/bassist Leif Edling’s Candlemass fame. In their new album ‘The Girl With The Raven Mask’, the band successfully merges this ‘heavy, dark and poetic’ sound with traditional elements of doom metal. Avatarium doesn’t stop there – the band continues to push their boundaries with forays into rock territory.
The opening title track is a straightforward, quick song with simple riffs, backbeat drumming, and soaring vocals. Jennie-Ann Smith delivers an uplifting vocal performance on this track and on the whole record as well; her clean vocals seem to add a mild, optimistic tone to an otherwise dark sound, and this contrast works well in Avatarium’s favor. The song “Pearls and Coffins” is full of this contrast as the melancholy in her voice seeps right through the mix. This song, much like the other songs, has Gothic-infused attempts at realism in its lyrics, adding to the dark nature of the sound.
“The January Sea” is a song that exemplifies the “shifting time” feel used by the band, often making the difference between anthem-like choruses and groovy, faster bridges noticeable. This way, the band sticks to common time signatures, but assigns different feels and divides notes differently in a way that ensures these contrasts work well. Lars Skold’s drumming shows this –quicker sections are dealt with using powerful backbeat patterns, and slower parts with toned-down playing.
The role of the keyboard, played by Carl Westhom, is also important as it highlights sections of songs differently, allowing the listener to transition between these changes smoothly. There are some bluesy keyboard solos too, as seen on “Pearls and Coffins”. Marcus Jidell on guitars picks his battles perfectly, sometimes choosing to play basic chord progressions to highlight Smith’s vocals, and more often than not laying down groovy riffs and memorable solos.
“Run Killer Run” is another fast song, and with the low guitars, Edling’s bass playing shows up to complement the pace the band deals with. His playing is fairly audible and lends an important hand in solidifying upbeat grooves. The album progresses quickly despite the 7-minute average length of each track, but it gets a tad underwhelming towards its end.
Avatarium casually brings together a typically upbeat genre and a traditionally slower one into a solid album full of feel shifts. ‘The Girl With The Raven Mask’ takes some of the trademark qualities of doom, like low guitars and minimalistic drumming for example, and molds them into a more complete sound, dotted with quicker sections, haunting solos, and memorable riffs.