Avatarium - All I Want - (6.5/10)
Published on November 13, 2014
Avatarium shocked many a doom fan last year with their self-titled debut, a heavy-as-balls yet bluesy-as-balls metal album that bore more than a simple 1970s hard rock grin of Rainbow and Blue Öyster Cult inspired songwriting, but also a resounding exclamation of a Joni Mitchell-meets-Adelle vocal performance from the beautiful and supremely talented Jennie-Ann Smith. When it comes to mixing genres and pulling it off brilliantly, few other examples come to mind than that album, which is why I was excited to hear of the band’s new EP, All I Want.
But maybe I set the standard for all follow-up material too high, which means the quality on the debut is simply too insurmountable, perhaps to a fault. Indeed, while I wasn’t expecting to be blown away in the same manner I likewise wasn’t expecting a lukewarm reception. By this point, then, it is easy to automatically pile on the praises, such as the continued stylistic diversity and the always gorgeously cadenced, bluesy voice of Jennie-Ann Smith. But then one also has to see through the ephemeral haze of cigarette smoke and realize that, quite shockingly, there is an overarching, inescapably pressing sentiment of “been there, done that” going on that belies, if not signifies, the mere (but impressive) fact that Leif has been writing, more or less, the same stuff for over 30 years.
A prime example would be the self-titled opening track, which has more in common with “Dancing in the Temple (of the Mad Queen Bee)” off Psalms for the Dead than anything with the Avatarium moniker. While not necessarily a problem, the sad part is that Smith’s beautiful voice is forcibly contracted as she tries to fit in all her lines within a limited amount of time, which makes the track seem hurried and offbeat. The next new song, “Deep Well,” also bears some resemblance to “Lady in the Lamp,” which in turn sounds like “Rainbow Eyes,” which I can’t decide is a continuing respectful nod or simply a slightly lazy dip in inspiration.
Characteristic of Leif in all the right ways, All I Want is also a little self-plagiarized and therefore uninteresting to stand on its own. Even mixed into a greater fold of surrounding material the two songs would stick out for all the wrong reasons, which has me slightly worried about the following LP the band is sure to release within the next year. I never would have thought that the dreaded “sophomore slump” would ever befall the great Leif Edling but as this EP so strongly suggests that seems to be where Avatarium is headed.