Review Summary: Avatarium spins their wheels with a path ahead of them that feels uncertain.
Leif Edling, best known for his work with doom metal titans Candlemass
has been ambling around within the heavy music world for more than two decades now since the success of his early albums with his doom metal counterparts in the 1980's. Ever since the first major Candlemass disbandment in 1994 that followed a poorly received line-up change in the vocalist spot, Edling's output has been fairly hit or miss ever since, unfortunately ticking a disproportionately large amount of boxes in the miss column. He's managed to co-pilot a handful of halfhearted records with a few Candlemass reformations and splits over the years all while sprouting some more experimental side projects (anyone remember Abstrakt Algebra?). However, despite his best efforts, he never quite managed to recapture the greatness of his early work, try as he may. Avatarium was finally the group that saw him returning to his former glory and writing truly interesting material. The self titled 2013 release had massive, monolithic, dark and heavy riffs that felt alive
. Coupled with Jennie-Ann Smith's powerful voice, Edling had finally struck gold again writing the best record he's been on since Candlemass' fourth record, 1989's Tales of Creation
Riding high off of a successful and well received debut full length, where does that leave this young doom band with its veteran engine a year later? Avatarium is largely in the same groove they were with the two new songs being offered here in addition to three lives tracks that are seemingly tacked on for no real reason other than to pad out the run time. This quintet has taken a noticeable step to the side on the title track of this EP with some psychedelic rock flavor that wavers on the verge of eccentric but comes as a somewhat welcome experiment that breaks some new ground for the group. With the new territory though also comes a bit of a misstep unfortunately with a sound that feels not fully realized yet and still in its formative stages. They also revisit the softer side of the self-titled record with the second track, with some success.
The leading title track kicks off with a basic groovy riff that has a bit of an Eastern flair to it showing some initial promise for the tune, but it wears thin after being recycled for a majority of the four minute song. Smith's voice is as powerful and ear-bending as ever, but the looming darkness, magic and the atmosphere that made their last album so great is noticeably missing in action. There's a decent tune rattling around in there somewhere, but instead it just meanders through its repetitive structure for the most part. The psychedelic break performed by percussionist Michael Blair offers some reprieve from the monotony that could have been explored further to the songs benefit, but sadly it's not as strong as anything on their prior record.
Second to bat is the only other track to offer new material on the record, the slow burning and brooding "Deep Well" which sees Edling and company being more patient and calculated in their approach on this song. This six minute doom ballad ditches the psychedelic flair and strikes a nice melancholic atmosphere utilizing a bright yet crunchy guitar tone and heavy plodding structure reminiscent of tracks from the previous album like "Lady in the Lamp" and "Bird of Prey". Towards the back half of the tune, acoustic guitars are laid over an epic guitar solo that slides around the fret-board with confidence and purpose against a floating, minimalist keyboard driven background. It shows Avatarium exploring their softer side once again with some killer vocal melodies and large reverb drenched riffs which lets a little of their charismatic darkness creep back into the fold that was so ever-present in their previous material while still feeling fresh.
Rounding out the remainder of the album are several live tracks from last year's self-titled record which show the band being as consistent, emotive and heavy on stage as they are in studio. There's a bit of keyboard play from Carl Westholm that wasn't on the album versions of the songs, but aside from that it's not a different enough listening experience to make this must-hear content.
All I Want
is a decent little EP that is sure to interest previous fans of the group, but it won't do much to garner new supporters. There's some semblance of a will to progress and evolve here, but it's not quite fully realized yet regrettably. Hopefully this effort will serve as a stepping stone for Avatarium and drive them towards greater things on their next full length, seeing them follow up on that brief foray into the psychedelic with more fervor and vigor. It wouldn't by any means be a bad thing either if they made a record that follows the blueprint of their debut, but they'll need to recapture some of that darkness and heaviness that these two new tracks are severely lacking.