Sweden’s Avatarium started as yet another in a long line of projects by doom metal wunderkind Leif Edling (of Candlemass fame), with the focus more on the melodic side of doom channelled through the sultry vocals of Jennie-Ann Smith. It was a bold move, but one that has paid off with their recordings thus far; that said, there has always been something missing that has kept their records from being great and not simply good – whether that was down to song-writing, performance, production or a combination thereof is difficult to pinpoint, but it seems as though they have found their groove with their new album, ‘The Fire I Long For’.
The first three tracks are easily the strongest on the album, the band hitting hard early on to make as much impact as possible. Opener Voices is a psych-doom gem with its atmosphere-clad epic fireworks, all pushed higher and higher by Smith’s huge vocal range and swelling guitar and organ solos. Rubicon is quite possibly the finest song on the record, mostly down to the heavy, fuzzed out bass, Smith’s incredible voice (again), the hookiest chorus imaginable, and a 70s metal injection that really hits home in the riffs. Lay Me Down takes things down a notch, its almost commercial hard rock vibe balanced with earthy country-isms and THAT DAMN VOICE AGAIN! She has always been the focal point in the group, but damn, if she hasn’t taken everything to a higher plateau throughout the album and used every nuance of her talent available.
The rest of the record is built around strong tracks that, although not in the same league as their three predecessors, are still solid and offer satisfying listening. Edling left the band in 2017 but has continued to contribute his songsmith skills to remain involved and has penned a few of the tracks here, and it seems as though his leaving has allowed the band to spread their wings in many departments. Both the guitar and organ leads serve to heighten every peak, and the rhythm section lay an exemplary valley with doom-soaked weight and mastery, all of which add up to a band working together to create something quite special.
Avatarium have hit the ball out of the park with this one by writing shorter, punchier songs that get to the point without unnecessary decoration or foible, and those infectious choruses are an absolute winner that will win the majority of fans over. Edling should be proud of what he created, this band producing the prime example of the evolution of the stately doom genre and finally coming into their own with ‘The Fire I Long For’. Long may it last.