It’s the time of year when I start making lists, but I never finalize them until the first week of January because of albums like this one. A reader recommended Avatarium, and I honestly had received a promo for the album a couple months ago. I wasn’t thrilled by the artwork, for some reason, and so it went to the bottom of my backlog, but I am so glad that I was prompted to resurrect it. Death, Where Is Your Sting is a gorgeous and dark experience.
Avatarium comes to us from Sweden. The band was originally founded by legendary Candlemass bassist Leif Edling. He is no longer with the band, so the current lineup is Jennie-Ann Smith on vocals, Marcus Jidell on guitars, Andreas Habo Johansson on drums, Mats Rydström on bass, and Daniel Karlsson on keys.
There aren’t many bands like Avatarium. They are a doom rock band. The doom genre is dominated by metal, death, and even darkwave expressions of that downtempo sadness I love so well, but it is rare to find a doom rock band who has such a classic sound. I love how dark and shadowy Avatarium sounds, foreboding but somehow also rich and accessible.
I would say that there is a shroud of dark spirituality around this album. It obviously takes a cue from biblical language, but it weaves that into a blackened tale of sorrow and midnight encounters. It is a rich and Romantic sort of album in that way, full of love beyond the grave and divine reflections.
Much of this is achieved through two things. First, Jennie-Ann’s vocals are pretty unique, tinged with poetry and lament. That doesn’t really define her performance, though, because she can really sing and has quite a range that she isn’t afraid to use, even in a doomy setting. Second, the use of violin is timed perfectly, creating eerie sensations. The album, then, can feel just as spine-tingling as it is heavy, just as proximate and emotional as it is rocking and thrilling.
The album is 45 minutes in length with 8 tracks. For me, that’s a sweet spot. It makes liberal use of that time, too. The opener “A Love Like Ours” is an instantly likeable song with haunted vibes and feelings of deep desire. The single and title track comes next, and it is more of a midtempo ballad, but I love its gait and imagery. Another single, “Stockholm”, follows with its very grim impression imbued with doomy and gothic darkness.
The rest of the album follows with the same level of quality. I love the eerie ballad “Psalm for the Living”; another single “God Is Silent” for its heavy, menacing, and piercing flair; and “Mother Can You Hear Me Now” for its classic rock feel and folk aesthetic. The last two songs are some of my favorites. “Nocturne” is a profoundly macabre track lyrically. I wouldn’t call it horror necessarily, though, because there is a sense of familiarity and ownership within it that makes the song feel strangely beautiful and affectionate. The final track, “Transcendent”, is an instrumental piece with some heavier moments and overall an ambient and luminous feeling. It doesn’t float along, per se, but does ground itself in acoustic guitar playing as it trades back and forth in a loud/quiet dynamic. It’s a great ending.
My first experience with Avatarium is overwhelmingly positive. This album has grit and honey, silkiness and weight, emotion and detachment. It has a wide range of sounds and expressions, all backed up by a fantastic doom rock foundation. I’m going to be listening to this one for some time.
Find Avatarium online: