Swedish female fronted doom/rock outfit Avatarium have just dropped their fifth album Death, Where Is Your Sting. Question is: can they hit five homeruns in a row?
The answer to the question posed there is simple: yes, they can. Death, Where Is Your Sting, like all four albums before it, is an absolute triumph. Having once started out as a side project by Candlemass founder and bassist Leif Edling, the band has really found its own entity in the past few years and is continuing to do so. Moving away from the Candlemass brand of doom but never quite eschewing it, the band has increasingly been incorporating influences from other genres, ultimately infusing their music with classic rock, folk and a subtle hint of prog. Every album since there self-titled debut from 2013 has been both an improvement and a refinement of their sound, and Death, Where Is Your Sting is no exception.
There isn’t a dull moment on Avatarium’s fifth, with one highlight following another until the last notes of Transcendent die down. Over the course of just forty-five minutes, the band once again showcases what they’re made of, switching from vicious Mercyful Fate-like riffing on the uncharacteristically heavy Nocturne to soft, eerie balladeering on Psalm for the Living. The ghost of Candlemass is still present in the doom-y riffs found all over the album, but Avatarium is always one step away from going full doom.
Stealing the limelight once again is Jennie-Ann Smith, Avatarium’s powerhouse vocalist and leading lady, as always elevating the already stellar material to a whole other plane. Listen to the meandering acoustics in Stockholm for example, where she sounds more fragile than ever before, and compare that to the impressive pipes on God Is Silent. Jennie-Ann could sing the phonebook and still make it captivating. She can sell a song and sell the story it tells. Stockholm, by the way, might be the real highlight on Death, Where Is Your Sting, with the ghostly Psalm for the Living and the amazing Mother, Can You Hear Me Now coming in in close behind it. But as said, there isn’t a bad moment to be found here. Whilst at first I was slightly disappointed in the closing instrumental Transcendent, even that song has grown on me over the course of a few of weeks.
It’s sometimes hard to review an album that’s essentially flawless, trying not to overdo it when it comes to superlatives. The problem with Death, Where Is Your Sting is the same as with Avatarium’s previous work: it’s so damn good. The running time is lean so it never sags under its own weight, the production is crisp and to the point and the entire band just shines. It’s one of those albums that get better and better with more listens, like a fine wine. Some moments that don’t quite work on your first run, like Transcendent in my case, are sure to grown on you in time, and in those succinct forty-five minutes, Death, Where Is Your Sting just flies by and the repeat button will be beckoning. Album of the year then? We’ll see in a few weeks. It’s a definite, encompassing highlight in any case and well worth checking out.
Label: AFM Records
Buy it here: https://shop.afm-records.de/avatarium/
- A Love like Ours (05:29)
- Stockholm (06:42)
- Death, Where Is Your Sting (05:22)
- Psalm for the Living (04:23)
- God Is Silent (06:06)
- Mother, Can You Hear Me Now (06:09)
- Nocturne (05:49)
- Transcendent (05:23)
- Jennie-Ann Smith – vocals, organ, piano
- Marcus Jidell – guitars, piano, cello, keyboards
- Mats Rydström – bass
- Andreas Habo Johansson – drums, percussion
Review by Ralph Plug