Review: Avatarium – 'Hurricanes And Halos'

With the ‘Doomfather’ Leif Edling delivering new material with The Doomsday Kingdom earlier this year, his connection with Avatarium is now represented by co-writing credits, backing vocals, and guidance. There’s still ‘doom’ threaded throughout the third album from the Swedes, but their sound has evolved more down the classic rock route, and by classic rock, I mean classic Rainbow/Deep Purple/Dio. If you regard ‘Rising’, ‘Stormbringer’, ‘Holy Diver’, and ‘Last In Line’ as some of your favourite albums, Avatarium are for you. The heavy Hammond organ from Rickard Nilsson plays a prominent role in the Avatarium sound. Any album is better for the inclusion of some Hammond, but mashed with the riffs from Marcus Jidell and the warm, dreamy vocals from Jennie-Ann Smith, it truly finds a home. Eight tracks spread out over forty-odd minutes, ‘Hurricane And Halos’ is the sound of a band beginning to find the path that suits them best. It’s old school, but good old school. It’s epic and expansive, but at the same time, quite subtle. Even when they spread their wings on the nine minute beauty ‘Medusa Child’, it never becomes self-indulgent. Serving as centrepiece for the album, the track is a stunning mix of crashing rhythms, mountainous riffs, and some of the strongest vocals I’ve heard this year. So many twists and turns throughout the shortest nine minutes I’ve experienced, but special mention has to go to the creepy child vocals mid song. They were totally unexpected and quite unnerving… especially if you’re listening to it late at night through headphones. It sounds as if the butchered girls from The Shining are whispering in your ear! Before that, the listener is treated to ‘Into The Fire – Into The Storm’ (with a neat line of Blackmore-esque riffs from Jidell), ‘The Starless Sleep’ (a stunning running mate to Ghost’s ‘Square Hammer’), and the Zeppelin-tinged ‘Road To Jerusalem’. The latter features a mysterious, arabic vibe that flows out of the speakers as Smith delivers a quiet, understated vocal performance. One of only two tracks not to have Edling’s name in the credits, it’s trippy and organic with magical qualities. ‘The Sky At The Bottom Of The Sea’ is all about the Hammond, a pivotal part of Avatarium’s sound. It is simply massive. Jidell unleashes some stunning guitar fireworks that will have you scratching your head, wondering why Blackmore has once again gone with Mostly Autumn on the Summer tour. The other non-Edling co-write, ‘When Breath Turns To Air’ is another showcase of Smith’s versatile vocal range, as she slows it down to a slow, bluesy torch song. The closing duo of ‘A Kiss (From The End Of The World)’ and the instrumental title track will knock your socks off. A perfect example of how important the running order on an album is; bludgeon us with the crushing doom of ‘A Kiss (From The End Of The World)’ before allowing us the chance to recover with the brooding lament of the title track.    ‘Hurricanes And Halos’ is a strong, confident third album, one that should gatecrash many end of year best album polls. I’ll say it again, scratching my head why Blackmore has once again gone with Mostly Autumn. No disrespect intended, but Avatarium would be an incredible opener. Available now through Nuclear Blast Records Review: Dave Stott]]>

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