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The Girl With the Raven Mask
Release Date: 10/23/15
For those coming late to the party, Avatarium is a project that turned into a band from Candlemass’ mastermind Leif Edling. The band took Doom Metal fanatics by storm in 2013 when their Jethro Tull, early Dio, Trouble, Cathedral, and Candlemass inspired sound coupled with the powerful vocals of newcomer Jennie-Ann Smith. For their second opus, The Girl With the Raven Mask, Edling and co. pick up the pace a bit while more clearly defining the band’s incense inspired dank basement intentions.
The album’s opening certainly speaks to this idea very well. The title track kicks off the album with its psychedelic fuzz-laden swift guitars and Smith’s commanding vocals. It’s probably the most up-tempo song the band has recorded and conveys the idea that the band are far from a one-trick pony through its Dio-esque storytelling. This moves into the much heavier and sludgier “The January Sea.” The almost eight-minute epic is about as grandiose as they come, even stepping into prog territory a bit with its wonky organ work and acid-trip guitars. It’s all capped off by Smith’s flowing and versatile vocal work, which is distinctly feminine sounding but also tremendously commanding. When she sings, you feel like you have to listen to what she has to say. In many ways, these songs are polar opposites, but together they prove that the weak links in Avatarium’s music are few and far between.
Other highlights include the also up-tempo “Run Killer Run,” which has the same flare for early Heavy Metal that the title track has and features some MONSTER drumming. “Hypnotized” takes its name very seriously, boasting a sound that is akin to a horror movie centered on a decrepit amusement park manned by evil carnies. The album’s closer, “The Master Thief,” is a semi-jam-induced tune that lets the band’s more avant-garde elements shine and will really get old school Candlemass fans all jazzed up.
While the album isn’t perfect, it’s a step sideways for the band when it seemed pretty obvious that they weren’t going to do anything outside of the box Edling is known for. In my opinion, this is something that die-hards will probably hate that about it, but it’s what I dig the most about it.
Reviewed by Mark1340