Hurricanes and Halos
Nuclear Blast Records/Universal Music Australia
Reviewed By Andrew McKaysmith
Avatarium feature one of rock and metal’s great modern guitarists in Swedish maestro, Marcus Jidell. That doesn’t mean one can’t be objective when listening to Hurricanes and Halos for the purposes of a thorough review, however it does mean that Jidell's performance will be at the centre of the review that you are about to read. I am sure you can already guess what my initial thoughts are on the album as Jidell is singularly responsible for the six-string work heard throughout Hurricanes and Halos.
I’ll start the review of the album by mentioning that Avatarium is yet another vehicle for Lief Edling, the mastermind behind Candlemass. There is a veritable ecosystem of rock and metal surrounding the man that really can’t be ignored. When I spoke to him earlier on in the year regarding The Doomsday Kingdom and their outstanding eponymously titled debut, which also features Marcus Jidell I might add, I was thrilled at his overall attitude to music and his general demeanour. He saw so much value in talking to an aspiring journo across the globe that we could have spoken for a lot longer than the allocated 20 minutes. You may be wondering why that’s important… well, attitude is everything.
I could be wrong but from what I can gather, Edling has stepped out of Avatarium for the time being, yet I can hear his and Jidell's fingerprints all over Hurricanes and Halos. When I spoke to Jidell about this very release he confirmed my overall impressions of Edling were correct. He has a great attitude, a can-do spirit, and is the type of bloke you just want to work hard for. That explains a great deal of why this release, along with just about all others involving Edling can be appreciated no matter your preferred genre or style of metal.
Let’s get back to Jidell. The third track on the album is the atmospheric "Road to Jerusalem", it is an album cut that is all dust and bones. Avatarium vocalist, Jennie-Ann Smith, performs in the grand tradition of Janis Joplin (husky, full of emotion) and her vocal slides across the aural landscape created by Jidell's restrained soloing in ‘Jerusalem.
The fourth track is an album highlight, the first half of "Medusa Child" offers an excellent chorus underpinned by some sinister children’s voices. The rest of the track is an ode to precisely why I really enjoy Jidell's playing… coming across like the eerie cousin to Coroners version of The Beatles masterpiece, "I Want You (She’s so Heavy)".
Cats like Yngwie and Stephan Forte from Adagio know how to fill a space with notes and they are damn good at it. A performer like Jidell works in the outer edges, creating rich contrasts that only really become apparent after repeated listens. Its great headphone music for those that want to get away from reality.
Jidell can also wield an axe with deft precision. Check his solos throughout "The Sky at the Bottom of the Sea". Jidell's solos are more Adrian Smith than Dave Murray (or Jannick…) but they also contain an entirely original DNA strand borne of a deep understanding of the reason the recorded output from Gary Moore, Hendrix and Jimmy Page will continue to influence generations well into the future.
I’ll backtrack at this point and suggest that while the album's first two tracks are designed to draw the listener in, they are more immediate than the rest of the album. Both "Into the Fire/Into the Storm" and "The Starless Sleep" are reliable openers and more for the casual listener. Those of you who eventually get into an album as a package will know what I am talking about once you have listened to the all songs as a unit.
Hurricanes and Halos works mainly due to Jidell's outstanding performance. I have avoided being overly descriptive of the type of metal on display throughout the album as I really do implore readers to give the album a chance via streaming services out there today so you can make up your own mind if its worthy of your time. Personally, as a musician, and a musician whose deep appreciation for guitar playing is centric to my deep love of metal and hard rock, I am grateful that Marcus Jidell is among us and producing excellent metallically enshrined hard rock.
With Jidell, every tone, choice of guitar and amp, speaker cabinet, effect, and choice of string gauge used to record any part of any album he appears on will be well thought out and selected for a specific reason. I love that.
More from Avatarium
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