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AAA Music | 14 October 2019

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AVATARIUM – Moonhorse

| On 29, Oct 2013

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How many synonyms for “gorgeous” are there? Because I feel that I may well exhaust all of them writing about Avatarium’s single ‘Moonhorse’. This band are near enough a Scandinavian metal supergroup, featuring talent sourced from Candlemass, Tiamat, Everygrey and, judging from the vocals, worlds beyond the veil of this one.

Initially, you’ll be forgiven for thinking this is another of the 70s copyist bands floating around at the moment: Sabbath-y guitars, Hammond organ, etc, etc, in a swirling, malevolent riff that crashes into the listener’s ears with savage force. But then it all swoops back gracefully to a beautiful acoustic guitar waltz, decorated with airy, dreamlike keyboard sighs. And all this is to allow the truly captivating vocals to shine. And shine they do: pitch-perfect, with an emotional, delicate tug to them that plays havoc on the heartstrings. And the lyrics are almost too good to belong to this decade – a real narrative story, told in character, with a real sense of conviction. In lieu of a chorus, we get reprisals of the heavier intro section, with plays as a perfect counterpart to the shimmering gossamer of the verses.

Both sections build in intensity and effect, subtly growing in complexity and power. Meanwhile the lyrics too become devastatingly powerful, as the character of the child asks its mother about life after death. This breaks the window separating the heaviness from the story, and the riffs and vocals combine to a glorious effect. Middle Eastern-inspired scales and immense guitar/keyboard oceans of sound erupt from glacial silence, and the vocals soar proudly above them, easily matching the other instruments. After another hushed verse, the instrumentalists break into an intense wig-out that is almost reminiscent of Rainbow, especially in the sobbing blues-glissando guitar-work, however stamped with an individual voice rather than being simply a good copycat.

The fadeout does feel like somewhat of a cheating cop-out given the sublime musicianship and songwriting displayed here, however it is nearly impossible to fault this otherwise. Nine minutes of darkly sublime fairytale bliss, and quite possibly one of the best songs you’ll hear all year.

Katie H-Halinski