REVIEW: Avatarium – Death, Where Is Your Sting

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AVATARIUM is, for all intents and purposes, a supergroup that has emerged from the depths of CANDLEMASS, SOEN, and TIAMAT, with its members coming thus from. Originally as a side project of CANDLEMASS’ bassist and songwriter, Leif Edling, AVATARIUM has quickly entered into the doom metal realm of darkness, where moody riffs slow down the speed of metal music. AVATARIUM is an innovative addition to the genre, as they have brought a mixture of bluesy vocals, acoustic guitars, and the typical sorrowful doom ambiance. I do not know if it is the talented masterminds from different bands within this ensemble, or the sweet-yet-fierce presence of Jennie-Ann Smith on the vocals, but AVATARIUM really has got something to give to this dusky side of metal music. The band started out their career with their homonymous debut album “Avatarium” (2013) and after three records in between, “Death, Where Is Your Sting” (2022) has come into their repertoire. It is not a coincidence that this last piece has been released during the gloomiest time of the year, when days get shorter and darkness prevails in what is the anteroom of winter, becoming a good accompaniment for the transition of seasons.

The record starts with “A Love Like Ours,” which functions as a sweet lullaby accompanied by an opening cello sound that introduces the listener to the slowly-paced notes sung by Smith. The song is a mixture of melancholic echoes and powerful riffs that puts you in a moody state of mind. This contrast of resonances throughout the song, embodying its name very well, the vocals are gentle and the guitars are forceful, creating a perfect blend for a love song. “A Love Like Ours” is followed by “Death, Where Is Your Sting,” with a more melodic ambiance that cheers up the listener while playing energetic guitars with some verses that say, “Did you come to dig my grave?,” thus inviting us to immerse ourselves in a world where sorrow is celebrated. This second song is indeed interesting, as its cheerful feeling contrasts with mournful lyrics that talk about the veil between life and death – fair play to give a lovely face to the inevitable changes in life, but that is the aim of doom metal after all: showing the human lamentation and embracing it.

In a more wicked background, “Stockholm” takes over the soundtrack by incorporating aggressive riffs and a chorus that sings in unison with Smith’s leading voice. This is one of the most outstanding songs from the record, mixing a melancholic doom feeling with strident musical energy. The riffs are heavy and the voices are harder than in the previous songs, transporting the listener into a nighttime scene in a busy city – perhaps Stockholm itself? Next up comes the contrasting “Psalm for the Living,” working as an interlude to the second section of the record. This track appears as a brief melody that lowers the intensity at the right time. With an acoustic sound, some calm vocals, and a few riffs popping up here and there, this song becomes one necessary interim as one of the most peaceful tunes on the album.

Next on the tracklist is “God Is Silent,” which is quite a surprise with its vibrant guitar solos. The song plays tricks on our ears by starting with a serene keyboard intro, followed by strident guitars that make us wonder whether we are still listening to an AVATARIUM record or if we’ve suddenly come across a heavy metal song. Once Smith’s voice takes over the lead, we enter a doom piece that smashes our ears after the previous slower songs, completely changing the game. The melody is then topped off by incorporating a guitar solo alongside a continuous seesaw of drumming beats and riffs that fade away as the song reaches the end. “Mother Can You Hear Me Now” is then a gentle prolongation of the record, as it is mainly made out of slow guitar jingles and drumming knocks tied with feminine voices that invoke reminiscences of a childhood memory, perhaps a lullaby. This is a poetic piece in its soundscape, mixing both melancholic voices with sensory guitar solos at its very end; similar to “God Is Silent” but with a technique closer to the acoustic side of metal music.

Contrary to the previous piece, the following “Nocturne” is a punch of stamina with an opening of rapid guitars that come along with solos that take the lead, contrary to most of the record’s songs where Smith’s voice is the main character. By its name, it is easy to expect “Nocturne” to be the darkest track of the repertoire, but contrary to expectations, it turned out to be a very energetic melody, more of a rock ‘n’ roll track blended with the melancholic feeling of doom metal. Nonetheless, “Nocturne” was an enjoyable surprise and a much-needed contrast to the overall melancholic vibe of the record. After all, it does not hurt to change the ambiance within a record every now and then. It’s easy to imagine this song showing up at AVATARIUM’s live shows as a final track to prolong the stamina in the crowd. Last but not the least, “Transcendent” closes everything as an instrumental outro. It starts at a slow pace, followed by aggressive guitars and drums, and concludes with an acoustic guitar serenade that disappears little-by-little until the record becomes silent. Concluding the album with an instrumental piece lowers the energy and works as a farewell to the whole masterpiece that is “Death, Where Is Your Sting.”

If the aim of this album was to attract the attention of listeners by putting them in a trance of calmness and strength, AVATARIUM have succeeded in their goal. The record intertwines contrasting sounds that altogether create an ambiance that can go from a blues melody to a heavy riff or a gloomy sonic doom metal passage, and more in between. “Death, Where Is Your Sting” maintains the dark and quiet essence of doom metal without monotony; on the contrary, it uses a variety of aural resources to keep our ears awake, resulting in a good soundtrack for the changing of seasons in the depths of winter, or whatever season your mood may be in.

Written by Hector Sanchez

TRACKLIST

  1. A Love Like Ours
  2. Death, Where Is Your Sting
  3. Stockholm
  4. Psalm for the Living
  5. God Is Silent
  6. Mother Can You Hear Me Now
  7. Nocturne
  8. Transcendent

LINEUP

Jennie-Ann Smith – vocals

Mats Rydström – bass

Lars Sköld – drums

Marcus Jidell – guitars

Rickard Nilsson – keyboards

Leif Edling – songwriting

LABEL

AFM Records

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