Strong pop melodies and Doom metal are not usually words you would associate side by side, but with Avatarium’s second album this can be applied. The five-piece from Stockholm, Sweden, possess longstanding member, main songwriter and bassist Leif Edling of Doom pioneers Candlemass. Like Ghost, who has injected their doom sound with A.O.R influences, Avatarium have also looked further afield to inject non-rock influences, bringing a pop sensibility to proceedings. They have successfully thrown into the melting pot Black Sabbath, The Skull, Rainbow, the Walker Brothers, and other late 1960’s theatrical pop. Bizarre as it sounds, it works.
Jennie-Ann Smith’s strong vocals immediately grab your attention. She is able to utilise various singing styles to glorious effect. From the powerful opening title track she is not only able to compete with fierce doom style riffing but win. In contrast, she adds light and shade to the majestic doom power ballad and standout track ‘Pearls and Coffee’. She swoons with despair on the theme of romantic disappointment and the song has a strong Walker Brothers theatrical style pop melody. It’s grandiose and elegant in the musical arrangements and also in the band’s execution.
Not to forget that ultimately this still has doom has a starting point there are many fine bone-crunching riffs throughout, like in the complex arrangements and dramatic ‘Hypnotised’, but Jennie’s hauntingly melodic delivery interspersed with Carl Westholm’s piano and keyboards brings to it a lightness of touch.
Big power chords first greet you in ‘Ghostlight’ but by the end it takes a progressive rock left turn while still maintaining the stirring element of their sound. ‘Run Killer Run’ is Ronnie James Dio era Rainbow and is the most straightforward rock number on offer. It is when they again venture into expansive song writing territory they excel; ‘Iron Mule’ is broad in its vision and scope, and hints of Mountain’s ‘Nantucket Sleigh Ride’ can be heard.
Not to take anything away from other members of the band and their input, because the playing throughout is impeccable, but Carl Westholm’s keyboards and the vocals of Jennie-Ann Smith are the tools which catapult their sound to uncharted waters in the world of doom and therefore pushes its limits and boundaries. Special mention should also go to producer Marcus Jidell’s splendid crystal clear and punchy production.
Avatarium have upped the ante to make an impressive and vital sounding album. If you are a fan of Ghost’s melodic injections into doom’s enormous powerful riffing template, then this album may be worth checking out.