avatariumThe creative forces behind this veritable super-group from Sweden consist of Leif Edling (Candlemass) and Marcus Jidell (Evergrey) to name the founders of the band but also the incredible talent of Jennie-Ann Smith on vocals whose tone and delivery will make you sob. The bands self titled debut in 2013 stood testament to the pristine musical prowess that blew most of its competitors in avant-garde doom metal into the recesses of a giant black hole never to be heard of again. I’m sure Mr. Edling himself would agree that Jennie-Ann’s vocal performance was what set that album so far apart from other female fronted metal albums and still does today as I listen to it again for the zillionth time before giving the new release a whirl. So as the end of 2014 approached it appears that those creative forces has taken a little step, self-evaluated and decided to branch out, go back to some old records and see what made them tick and the end result is this lengthy EP “All I Want” which boasts two new tunes and three live songs from their Roadburn 2013 appearance which was the bands second only ever live show.

Starting with the title track the song retains that doom like atmosphere and catchy vibe that was inherent on the debut, but add to it the multi dimensional percussive elements and you can determine what the band was listening to in preparation for this release. With such credentials on offer within the band, branching into newer more experimental guises is a risk but when your ears are challenged to their limits with exceptional song writing and arrangements the consequential listening experience is exemplary as the relatively short opener is over in the blink of a cosmic eye. Jennie-Ann’s voice is so sublime, embracing the listener with her soft tones and addictive melodies the tune is relatively commercial and absorbs itself into your psyche effortlessly and added to the percussion this 60s and 70s styled tune is vibrant and etches indelibly into your mind and leads to the contrasting “Deep Well”, the second new offering. Beginning with a lead vocal and gentle guitar melody the song is a psychotropic doom rock extravaganza. The pace is slow, not funereal though, just deliberate and highly focused for emphasis on all parts of the song, as the song drops into a momentary lead piece very like debut album Rainbow. As the tune transforms its tone to more traditional doom heaviness the vocals career off into their own dimension, taking you along with them. Parts of the tune mid way are bluesy, kaleidoscopic in terms of the sonic transformations that occur, the song is opulent, lavished in a wealth of creativity as that Blackmoresque guitar lead filters in once again. Beautifully played the track is exquisite.

Second part of this release has the three live tunes from Roadburn 2013 which begin with “Pandora’s Egg” as the electronic sounds added to the introduction give way to the recognisable guitar hook and Jennie-Ann’s vocals. Differing slightly to the studio version the song eventually comes across as heavier, darker and steeped in despondent melancholy; your skin will crawl. “Tides Of Telepathy” continues the live tunes and once again the tune is different embellished with more keyboards than expected the song is epic, a throwback to old school rock and metal where self indulgence was seen as the norm though the tune sticks to its original format, but just sounds fresher, revitalised and re-imagined for the live environment. Drawing heavily on the vocals the song is behemothic, enveloped in keyboard elements the tune resembles more closely the second of the newer tunes on the EP than its original studio predecessor. Closing the trio of live offerings is “Bird Of Prey” one of the best off the debut album and is far closer to Candlemass than most of this project is, but that said you cannot deny the way the vocals are so entrenched into the fabric of the song that I would dearly love to hear Jennie-Ann sing all of the Candlemass back catalogue for a reworking, her voice really is that good and so suited to the material. However I digress, as “Bird Of Prey” develops once again the song is decorated with keyboards and I just adore that bluesy rock guitar lead style, it is passionate, powerful and poignant to the point of heart sheering intensity.

Stop gap releases or EPs can be viewed as collectors material only but that is plain wrong here and whilst both new songs may end up on the sophomore full length to miss out on hearing them now would be outright criminal and added to that the live tunes are stupendous and different to the studio versions.

(9/10 Martin Harris)