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Avatarium - The Girl With The Raven Mask (2015) - Review

Band: Avatarium
Album title: The Girl With The Raven Mask
Release date: 23 October 2015
Label: Nuclear Blast Records

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

In the last couple of years we really can't say that there is a shortage of female fronted doom metal bands influenced by 70s and 80s sound, and in my opinion most of those bands are just some boring copy+paste Black Sabbath, Pentagram, Candlemass, Saint Vitus,... imitators, just some of them are worth something more than just being kind of a bad comfort for all those nostalgists after the vintage riff. One of the bands that stands out from this mass are certainly the Sweden based doom metal/rock band Avatarium, a band which was formed in 2012 by Candlemass bassist Leif Edling and ex-Evergrey guitarist Marcus Jidell, and enthused the doom metal fans already with their debut EP Moonhorse in 2013, which was soon followed by well acclaimed self-titled debut full-lenght. The second EP named All I Want then followed last year. I must also expose that the line-up consists of Tiamat drummer Lars Sköld and an amazing singer Jennie-Ann Smith, the formation is then completed with keyboardist Carl Westholm, who's also known from before as being a part of Abstrakt Algebra, Candlemass, Krux,... Now Avatarium are back with their sophomore dark titled album, The Girl With The Raven Mask, which is an upgrade of their sound, but at the same time also just a continuation of the philosophy and atmosphere they have created on their previous releases.

Those of you who are familiar with the band already know that Avatarium's sound is mostly based on the vibe of Rainbow, Candlemass, Black Sabbath, Blue Öyster Cult, Led Zeppelin, but yet there's present kind of a dark melancholic feeling and modern heavy doom metal energy. Still Avatarium are mostly keeping their sound safe within the borders of the genre, but at the same time with use of some psychedelic, bluesy and progy elements make it a bit more dynamic as it could be otherwise. If it wouldn't be for such a vocalist like it is Jennie-Ann Smith, the songs wouldn't sound so very atmospheric and flowing, she really shines with her highly emotive, soothing, yet powerful voice, especially in the tracks where the band reached kind of a captivating catchy vibe like in the mesmerizing "Pearls And Coffins" or in the smooth doomy semi-balladic masterpiece "Iron Mule", where the best elements of early/mid era Candlemass are perfectly combined with Rainbow's flow from Rising. The band should be credited for creating some stunningly haunting melodies, but also when the pace gets a little bit upbeat and groovy, for example in the opener "Girl With The Raven Mask" or in the "Run Killer Run", Avatarium shines, because they are able to keep their sound dense, yet heavy and dynamic. There's always present a huge dose of melancholy and darkness, especially because of the vintage organ sound that deepens the already rich atmosphere in a marvelous way, but at the same time reminds me to Deep Purple and again to early Rainbow.

The fantastic old-school guitar riffs and leads, Leif's almost trademark bass lines and heavy drum kicks are raw and add a dose of ugliness and evilness to the whole thing, just listen for example to the slowly evolving and crushing doom extravaganza of "The January Sea" and "The Master Thief", tracks where the best elements of 70s and 80s doom tradition are nicely blended with early Cathedral vibe, yet some bluesy guitars add kind of a hypnotizing sinister smell. The band here and there experiments with some psychedelic elements and disharmonies, best noted in the rather jittery "Hypnotized", and I'm pretty much positive about that because with this approach Avatarium only showcases how much of versatile musicians they are.

The Girl With The Raven Mask is a solid and very well produced album that shouldn't be missed by any doom metal and as well by any 70s hard rock fan. The band was able to serve with eight tracks that enthuse with the organic raw sound which is nicely embraced with sophisticated more modern compositional elements and recording techniques. The result is a highly captivating, sometimes almost epic soundscape. Still I believe that Avatarium are an unit of musicians who could, if they only want, serve with even more fascinatinating and most of all more original things. The future will tell, but after all I'm sure that some songs out of this album will be on my playlist for a long time.

Review written by: T.V.
Rating: 8/10