Friday, November 27, 2015

Review of Avatarium's Girl With The Raven Mask

Avatarium may be masterminded by Candlemass bassist Leif Elding but their second full-length album continues to prove their worth as more than a mere offshoot. While the opening title track has a chug reminiscent of “Black Dwarf” and songs like “January Sea” and “Ghostlight” have their share of massive riffs, they generally avoid traditional doom structures. The songs’ quieter segments tend to feature sparser percussion, the vocal lines feature quirkier phrasing, and the mood is based on disorientation rather than melancholy.

In addition, the band appears to be taking as many cues from 70s prog rock as it is from their doom brethren. The competition between Carl Westholm’s keyboards and Marcus Jidell’s guitars channels the classic Lord/Blackmore dynamic when they aren’t giving the material a psychedelic touch. “Pearls And Coffins” also stands out for its folk balladry while “Hypnotized” and “The Master Thief” showcase smooth jazz swings.

But like the bulk of Leif Elding’s projects, the vocals are what give Avatarium its strong character. Jennie-Ann Smith’s performance shows more personality than any of her peers in the doom scene as she offers sophistication,“Immigrant Song” style wails on the title track, and even some ham when the situation calls for it. It is especially impressive when one considers her lack of previous experience and makes one wonder where she was when Nightwish was holding auditions…

Overall, The Girl With The Raven Mask is an album that is tricky to pinpoint but ultimately rewards a patient listener. The slowness may put off prog fans and its borderline carnival atmosphere is atypical for doom, but the songwriting talent comes through with multiple listens and the vocals make for an enjoyable companion. The band may reach a little further to pull that true classic out of them but there’s no telling how much stronger this one will turn out to be in time.

“Girl With The Raven Mask”
“Pearls And Coffins”
“The Master Thief”

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