Leif Edling. If you’re in the hard rock and heavy metal community and don’t have a clue of who that is, then you need to do your home work. But for you who havn’t done your metal home work, I can tell you that Edling isn’t just the guy who started doom metallers Candlemass, he IS Candlemass – he’s the song writer and pretty much runs the show in that camp. Now, even though Edling is a really nice guy, I must admit that Candlemass were never my thing. Yes, I love Black Sabbath, Edling’s biggest influence, but Candlemass were always too much doom for me. Besides, their singer Messiah Marcolin might have had a sharp image, looking like a monk, but his voice really annoyed me. Things got a little better when Thomas Vikström (Therion, Talk Of The Town) replaced him for the underrated Chapter VI (1992) album, but my favourite episode of Candlemass was with the Robert Lowe fronted band that released Death Magic Doom (2009) and Psalms For The Dead (2012). The line up that tours now, their final tour, has Mats Levén (Therion, Yngwie Malmsteen, Treat, Swedish Erotica) on vocals and in my opinion, they have never sounded as good as they do now. Such a shame that they call it quits when a new album with that line up is the only proper thing to do. Levén is, of course, the singer for two of Edling’s side projects, the brilliant Krux (three albums) and the one album only Abstrakt Algebra (well, there was another album recorded, II, but that didn’t see the light of day until 2008). As a musician and song writer, Edling is one productive gentleman and has besides Candlemass, Krux and Abstrakt Algebra he also released a solo album. And now he’s back with yet another band in the wake of Candlemass’ demise – Avatarium.
For us Swedes, Avatarium holds quite an interesting line up – besides Edling on bass he has recruited guitar virtuoso Marcus Jidell (Evergrey, Royal Hunt), Lars Sköld (Tiamat) on drums and Jidell’s wife Jennie-Ann Smith on vocals. The line up also holds Jupiter Society’s Carl Westholm on keyboards. I write “for us Swedes” because I’m not sure how many outside of Sweden are that familiar with who Jidell and Sköld are. Smith is new even to us. The thing with Edling’s projects is that it’s running the risk of being somewhat predictable, we all know what he likes and it comes across in his music. Doomy, heavy and hard is the way they all has turned out and it only takes one look at this album cover and the name of the band to realise that that will be the case here as well. But what makes this more interesting is that for the first time ever, Edling has brought in a female vocalist. That alone will change the way outcome of this album, because no matter what, a female voice will always change the outcome. One thing that haven’t changed, though, is Edling’s way of writing songs. Heavy and doomy, yes, and long pieces of music – this album only contains seven songs, but there is stuff on here that is a bit unexpected, not only the female vocals. “Moonhorse” is an epic nine minute masterpiece that starts out with some heavy doom riffing, but goes into an almost folk-ish territory with acoustic guitars in the verses and there are some “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath”-like riffing in the middle. Smith totally rules here. What an amazing voice – and what a fantastic tune. “Pandora’s Egg” is a killer, very heavy and doomy, but still very melodic, the title track is just brilliant, at times it sounds almost proggy, but to me this is how a female fronted Abstrakt Algebra could have sounded and “Boneflower” is just amazing and this is the closest to a pop song you’ll ever hear come out of Edling’s pen. It’s still very heavy and Sabbath-like, but very catchy.
“Bird Of Prey” is just breathtaking, all doomy, but everything in this song is so catchy, from the riffs to the melody and I find myself humming this long after I stopped listening to the album. “Tides Of Telepathy” turns from very uncommercial doomy to catchy within the song without actually getting commercial and finishing tune “Lady In The Lamp” is an amazing ballad, kind of like a heavier “Temple Of The King” by Rainbow. The end guitar solo is just brilliant. I love this album! In my opinion, this is best effort from Edling yet and if I was to decide, he would keep Candlemass going with this band on the side when Candlemass aren’t busy. But if he’s serious about putting Candlemass to rest, I’d advice him to make this his main priority. The production is in your face, heavy and still very easy (in a good way) on your ears. Edling has managed to both keep true to the heaviness and doom and evolve in new directions without straying away from his sound. Also, Jennie-Ann Smith is mind-blowing – what a voice, both beautiful and clean, but with a pinch of raspiness and lots of attitude. Find of the year? That might just be the case. I’m impressed by the whole thing. Not being the biggest doom-fan ever, I am totally blown away by this and I like that feeling. This is an album that should satisfy both Candlemass fans and generate some new ones that might not be fans of Edling’s other bands and projects. This is an album that won’t leave my playlist anytime soon.
Jon Wilmenius (9/10)
02. Pandora’s Egg
05. Bird Of Prey
06. Tides Of Telepathy
07. Lady In The Lamp