Swedish based doom act Avatarium unleashed their awesome self-titled debut back in 2013, and here they are two years later with the Nuclear Blast/Metalville Records follow-up The Girl With the Raven Mask. Led by Candlemass legend Leif Edling on thunderous bass guitar, the band also features vocalist Jennie-Ann Smith, guitarist Marcus Jidell, drummer Lars Skold, and keyboard player Carl Westholm. Like a head on collision between Candlemass, '70s era Rainbow, and The Jefferson Airplane, the Avatarium debut was a complete monster of a release, hinting at not only doom but also epic metal, prog, psych, folk, and jazz, but this latest release takes things even further, signaling a band that seemingly no longer wants to be seen as just a side project.
Kicking off with the uptempo title track, the band launches into some sizzling Dio era Rainbow classic styled metal, complete with soaring vocals and plenty of Ritchie Blackmore inspired soloing courtesy of Jidell. "The January Sea" features mammoth doom riffs and glorious Hammond, with Smith simply wowing with her emotional vocals, and the proggy "Pearls and Coffins" allows Westholm's Hammond to take center stage alongside pastoral acoustic guitar and crunchy electric. The band mixes folk, psychedelia, and doom for the haunting ""Hypnotized", filled with eerie keyboard effects and scorching lead guitar work that recalls Blackmore as well as Uli Roth, and the massive "Ghostlight" lumbers along with mean intent, with enormous doom riffs and Deep Purple/Uriah Heep styled Hammond swells over which Smith dazzles with her angelic yet powerful voice. That beloved medieval gallop that Rainbow were so good on their first few albums pops up on the manic "Run Killer Run", and "Iron Mule" again pairs doom with majestic, epic, and melodic heavy metal with just a hint of prog & psych. Smith brings up images of a young Grace Slick as well as Ann Wilson on the Hammond soaked closer "The Master Thief", a dramatic, moody slice of progressive doom that draws this excellent album to a masterful finale.
Certainly not your run of the mill, traditional doom record, The Girl With the Raven Mask offers up plenty of variety, incredible vocals, and sizzling musical arrangements. With a pedigree of acts such as Candlemass, Tiamat, Evergrey, Royal Hunt, Jupiter Society, Krux, and Carp Tree, the members bring a wealth of experience to the table, and the results really show. As monumental as their debut was (and the two EPs they've released as well), this one takes things to another level. Easily a contender for album of the year folks!
See more about this release on our recent YouTube show!
1) Girl With the Raven Mask
2) The January Sea
3) Pearls and Coffins
6) Run Killer Run
7) Iron Mule
8) The Master Thief