No lie — this album might have been my highest anticipated album for 2017. Avatarium’s prior album, The Girl With the Raven Mask caught me by surprise, and I fell completely in love with this band. For anyone not familiar with Avatarium, I’ve often described them as Jefferson Starship passed through a Candlemass filter and fronted by Dreamboat Annie-era Ann Wilson.
With The Girl With the Raven Mask firmly falling into my list of the best albums released in the last five years, can Hurricanes and Halos live up to my own inflated expectations?
To be perfectly frank: no, it doesn’t. TGWtRM was a near-perfect mix of doom and 1970s prog/occult rock with dips and valleys taking the listener through a variety of emotions. Hurricanes and Halos, on the other hand, minimizes the doom elements considerably, and takes the album into more of an occult rock direction.
Once again, Jennie-Ann Smith is the highlight of the album. Opener Into the Fire / Into the Storm is a faster track and lets her voice soar a bit before the more subdued (but no less emotive) The Starless Sleep and Road to Jerusalem. The first two tracks have minor doom elements, but definitely lean closer to ’70s psychedelia, while the third is more of a slow mood piece.
The closest Avatarium come to TGWtRM is A Kiss (From the End of the World). This seven-minute epic is a jazzy, yet moody beast which gives Ms. Smith plenty of room to showcase her various vocal talents. It’s definitely the high point of Hurricanes and Halos.
On the flip side, the nine-minute Medusa Child is probably the low point. While it contains some chunky doom riffs, the song itself can’t decide where it wants to go and tries going everywhere. Emotive jazz vocals are interrupted by children’s choruses, and the whole song feels twice as long as it needs to be.
Aside from this one track, the album moves at a pretty good pace. Running just under forty-five minutes, there is plenty here to enjoy without the album overstaying its welcome. I do question ending on a three-minute, somewhat bland instrumental piece, however.
Hurricanes and Halos is not a bad album by any means. In fact, it’s a good album that shows Avatarium in fine form. Following up The Girl With the Raven Mask was going to be an uphill battle, and while I don’t think Avatarium reached those highs, Hurricanes and Halos is still a solid entry in the band’s catalog. If you have any affinity for throwback-style metal, give this a listen. Just don’t expect it to unseat its predecessor.