“Hurricanes and Halos”

By Dr. Abner Mality

“Hurricanes and Halos” is about as laid back as you can get and still be called metal. Ordinarily, that would mean a trip to the recycle bin, but this album is so well crafted and played that it becomes quite mesmerizing. It’s composed of equal parts doom metal, prog rock, blues rock and gentle psychedelia. Avatarium seems to handle each component equally well, which is no small feat.

Candlemass’ Leif Edling is no longer a band member per se, but his songwriting influence here is still very strong. “Into the Fire, Into the Storm” is a deceptively lively opening track…a driving hard rocker like a more restrained Candlemass. Attention is immediately drawn to the husky, bluesy female voice of Jennifer-Ann Smith, who is a refreshing change from the “precious” sounding divas of many doom and Gothic metal bands. “The Starless Sleep” has more doom leanings but oozes with classy melody. The differences of Avatarium appear on “Road To Jerusalem”, which is almost but not quite a ballad. The psychedelic and acid rock guitar work of Marc Jidell here is outstanding and way above many other similar bands.

“Medusa Child” and “The Sky At The Bottom of the Sea” are very 70’s influenced tunes that merge hard doom riffs with mellow and almost hippie-ish breaks.  “When Breath Turns to Aid” is a gentle and mysterious ballad that is truly haunting. This is not music for headbanging, but better suited to stargazing and contemplation.  “A Kiss From the End of the World” is another mixture of progressive and psychedelic  elements that drifts and meanders through hazy realms. The album ends with the title track, an odd ambient instrumental that is rather bewitching.

Avatarium have created something rather unique here. Those expecting a repeat of Candlemass or Gothic rock clichés will be disappointed but for a session of “head music”, this is quite intriguing.