Interview: AVATARIUM
Title: No need to follow any trends

As a profoundly interested listener of their 2015 album „The Girl With The Raven Mask“, one could even guess that the Swedish band would be more likely to go further into the past.

And Avatarium fulfill these stylistic expectations now with the third long-player „Hurricanes And Halos“. Again, the typical, very special Vintage Doom Metal is offered, fascinatingly theatrical and epic-visionary set in scene.

That the band founder and Doom Metal godfather Leif Edling paused with the Swedes for health reasons for a while, has not weakened the quality of the new album.

Not only Rickard Nielsson's impressive organ, organically seething and often spooky, reminds in massive manner at the great (occult) Rock era of the 1970s.

Even vocalist Jennie-Ann Smith celebrates with bluesy-nostalgic devotion the purest psychedelic time journey.

I talk to guitarist Marcus Jidell.

How do you feel now, after having completed these new collection of (often wonderful Uriah Heep’ish) songs?

„I feel very happy and proud of what we achieved here. And speaking about the Heep, we really wanted to have a lot of organ on this album and Rickard Nilsson really played a lot of amazing stuff. I always loved the idea of one guitar and one organ playing together making one big and heavy sound.“

Is Leif fully recovered hopefully from his burnout? How much affected his health situation the work for the new Avatarium album?

„No his not fully recovered yet but I think he’s getting better and better. Leif has been pretty busy with the Doomsday Kingdom lately and I think that band means a lot to him and I’m also very happy to be a part of it. Leif wrote 6 songs for the Avatarium album and me and Jennie-Ann 2 songs. Since Edling’s not playing live with us we decided to use Mats Rydström that plays live with us on the album. Mats really lifted the album with his amazing bass playing and feel. I think we now with Rickard and Mats have a band with a unique sound and style taking the legacy of Avatarium to a new level.“

What is the most important fact for you on the new release of Avatarium?

„I hope that people will love the album as much as we do and hopefully we can tour much and play live. I think the songs get even better when we play live actually and all of us are eager to go out and meet the fans and see their reactions for the new songs. Since we have recorded 3 albums now we can really put together a great set list.“

What still drives you most to play in these band?

„Being able to express myself and to explore new thoughts, feelings and sounds I guess. Philosophical thoughts are sometimes easier to dig into trough music and sounds and I am very interested in finding out the different sides of the human mind, the dark and the bright. We all have darkness in us but it’s how we deal with it that matters.“

The new album sounds kind of even ‚older‘, and even more organic as the previous one… fits again perfect to the songs itself. It has been recorded once more in the Ghostward Studio in Gröndal, Stockholm by David Castillo. Please report about your collaboration with David there and about the most relevant as well as interesting things!

„I really wanted to get a organic sound and we put a lot of effort in this. I actually think that the biggest reason for the great sound is the band itself, Lars plays better drums then ever and Mats bass playing is like a young John Paul Jones. We had 2 Leslies plus a big Marshall stack rigged for Rickard’s organ so that we could really get a big and heavy organ sound. I also have some new cool tricks for my guitar sound to get it loud,raw and heavy. Jennie-Ann can sing trough anything and it will still sound like gold, she’s one of the greatest singers around in my book. David is a great technician but I’m the producer and captain of the ship when we record since I have a very clear vision about how I want the album to sound. Having a great studio with a very skilled tech like David makes everything much easier of course but at the end of the day it’s all about the songs and the performance of the band. I really think that organic sounds is what’s up now in 2017 and you see more and more bands understanding the importance of keeping the human touch in the recording process and to not edit things for “perfection”. Music is of course not about just repeating things but to get inspired by the good stuff and then take it in to your own time and give it your personal flavor.“

Be so kind and describe the main musical character of the new album with your very own words!

„Powerful, energetic , emotional, heavy, dark and poetic.“

The vocals of Jennie-Ann fitting one more time simply perfect to the material in each facet. Be so kind and tell about the work with her.

„To work with Jennie-Ann is very simple since she really knows how she wants things. She always has a vision about how to interpret and portray the lyrics. She’s probably the best musician in the band and has an amazing feel for music and adds the jazzy and bluesy touch to our music that makes Avatarium what it is.“

How was the work with the newly recruited bass player Mats?

„He and Lars are the foundation of the band and what can I say that I didn’t say earlier in this interview? He is the kind of musician that brings life to a song and makes a good song even better.“

Jennie-Ann and you have been involved in songwriting this time, which was certainly exciting and interesting. What is there to tell? 

„Leif Edling has asked us many times to write more music since we did “Deep Well” on the “All I Want” EP , that song is actually one of the most popular songs when we play live. The lyric of ‚Road To Jerusalem‘ is a metaphor for trying to find salvation and how you when you travel the journey of life needs to be aware of the dangers that surround you. It’s very easy to make wrong choices that can affect your whole life and I guess you’re never really safe. I think we create our heaven or hell on earth so I try to make the best of the one life I got. I guess we have to accept that we all have darkness in our minds that’s want to be fed and it is up to us to not feed the beast inside and to strive for the light and for the good in life.“

How long was the songwriting in total for the new material?

„This time we started in the studio the whole band. Leif showed his songs and me and Jennie-Ann showed ours. We recorded the riffs and sketches ruffly and then we went to the rehearsal studio and arranged the songs, for a few weeks, and worked on them until we felt ready to go back and record the album.“

Even more organ arrangements this time, great! Was that planned this way? What do you like most on the organ sound?

„Rickard Nilsson is probably Swedens best organ player so listen and enjoy my friends. You get big powerful and aggressive style combined with very sensitive, psychedelic and jazzy stuff on this album. Rickard has a very soulful style that really gets me week in the knees and he truly lifted the album with his amazing feel and flawless technique.“

Mastered by Jens Bogren - he truly conjured an comfortable warm, very organic sound. Your opinion about it?

„Yes I’m very happy with the master. It sounds big, punchy and warm. The way I like it.“

Which noteworthy small differences to the previous album(s) are waiting now for the curious listeners?

„Avatarium are carrying on where we left on the last album and you’ll get more up-tempo songs and more psychedelic stuff combined with Jennie-Ann’s soulful and powerful vocals. The dark, heavy and poetic side is of course still there, like it always will.“

Last time Michael Blair was guest percussionist. Any guests this time?

„Michael Blair contributed with his amazing skills once again on this one. He is such an amazing musician with a lot of knowledge from old times but also with a curiosity and a enthusiastic/youthful way of looking upon music.“

What’s your very own personal view about the ‚Occult Vintage Spirit‘ of the new release?

„It’s what we do and I actually don’t reflect that much about it. We always try to make music that we like and have no need to follow trends. Avatarium is our window where we can explore all sides of the human mind and spiritual and occult things as well.“

Is it allowed to ask you deeper about special musical influences which found a way into the new songs? Still bands as Mountain, Rainbow, Black Sabbath, Blue Oyster Cult, Crosby, Stills & Nash and Led Zeppelin? It still seems to be so…

„Well all this bands are big influences of course. When you listen to these old recordings and know how recording techniques worked back then you understand how extremely skilled they where as musicians and this is really what has inspired me the most. So we always try to record live and to be in great musical shape to be able to do one takes and not loose the feeling. It’s like with classical music actually, you need to be in great shape to be able to play flawless and be able to be emotional and soulful. It’s the small differences that makes it you know.“

Which are your favorite bands out of that great time in the late 60s/early 70s?

„Mountain. Crosby Stills and Nash and Black Sabbath.“

„Hurricanes And Halos“ - what is behind the title?

„We’re always working with lights and shadow in Avatarium. Life is never black or white you know. If you can’t admit your dark sides you’ll never be able to fully find the bright ones I guess and maybe that’s a little bit of what the title is about. But… listen to the albums lyrics and you might find your own picture of the title.“

I've seen the lyric video for „Into the Fire/Into the Storm“ … it seems to deal with typical rebellion of the youth against Satanic Freemason-Government, or?

„“Into the Fire/Into the Storm” is about fanatical people using religion or politics as an alibi to go out and do horrible things. If you are making other people “evil” and dehumanize them it’s much easier to do this. As long as people exclude other people we will have this situation and unfortunately the future doesn't look that bright at the moment. I still hope that some day there will be peace on earth though, maybe some day it will happen.“

© Markus Eck, 05.05.2017

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