Avatarium – Behold the Dark…In Paradise

Sunday, 1st December 2013

On the other line all the way over in Sweden, Leif Edling was in the throes of moving to a new house, a task that everyone knows is one of exhaustion, impatience, and unease. Once Edling informed DR of the situation, we fully expected to hear background sounds of tape and bubble wrap during our chat, but thankfully, Edling gave us his full attention, even with all the commotion in not only his domicile, but his musical life as well. (This anecdote was spurred by a 2010 conversation we had with Therion’s Christofer Johnsson, who was so behind on preparing for a tour that he conducted an interview while packing his belongings. Distraction city!)

Edling now has the tri-band responsibility of his long-standing and legendary Candlemass, his fun doom side-project Krux, and the band in question, the freshly-formed Avatarium. Avatarium is Edling’s new outfit, combining the literal doom characteristics of C-Mass with 70’s rock influences, all the while the bluesy, mystical female vocals of Jennie-Ann Smith cast a spell. Their self-titled debut is a winner across the board, with Edling’s trademark metal riffs and lush acoustic guitars making it a listening necessity for those who have followed the man’s storied career. And plus, Smith is a female vocal force in the making…

So here’s the undisputed Godfather of Scandinavian doom and DR, chit-chatting away from Avatarium’s formation to Candlemass circa 2013, which according to Edling, is as fun as its ever been. Read on and learn something…

Dead Rhetoric: You put Candlemass to bed at least in terms of doing new albums, so, how long has something like Avatarium been in the works?

Leif Edling: Not for long. It wasn’t supposed to be a record like this. I was just going to do something on the side. I didn’t know if it was going anything or be a band…a year ago, I had three or four songs, and I didn’t know what to do with [them]. The plan was to release something really underground, but people got a hold of the demos and things just escalated from there. [laughs] Here we are with an album and a really good response. Hopefully, and I spoke to Nuclear Blast today, we think we’ll sell some units. I’m very happily surprised. [laughs]

Dead Rhetoric: You’re a songwriter at heart. Is it hard to turn the songwriting switch off?

Edling: Yeah, actually you are quite right in that. After an album, I’m quite dead for a few months and after ten months or a year…I’ve been doing it for 30 years. To me, I relax with it; it’s therapy. I can watch TV with a guitar with me on the sofa and I play on co-pilot while watching a film or DVD. It’s really difficult to switch off. On the other hand, it’s not really that demanding – I can write riffs for years. [laughs] It’s the thing from when you have a riff and you want to make a song out of it. That’s hard and is what takes time.

Dead Rhetoric: When you wrapped the songwriting for the last Candlemass, did you think it was possible you’d never release another actual album again?

Edling: Oh, no. Absolutely not. I still have Krux on the side as well. I was pretty clear about someday in the future I would do something again. Maybe not Krux, but something with somebody else or maybe another solo record or whatever. I have no plans now. To start the Avatarium was kind of therapy for me and it grew. The whole thing just grew from when I started to demo with Lars [Skold, drums] and Marcus [Jidell, guitars]. After we got Jennie on board…I can’t say it blew out of proportion, but the thing started to roll and it became something I didn’t expect. Next year, we’ll do a lot Avatarium gigs and we already have a lot of Candlemass gigs lined up, so I guess it’s going to be a busy year. [laughs]

Dead Rhetoric: Some of these riffs…they are certainly Candlemass-esque. Is it like second-nature for you now?

Edling: Yeah. I think the difference is that I’m pretty sure I can write an album every month if I wanted to, but then you have the quality control of things. I just want to record and have stuff that is really, really, really good. I can write 200 riffs and use one. Those riffs, of course you can hear I wrote some of the riffs on the record. Of course you can do that. You can hear that, but at the same time, I’m really pleased with those riffs and I don’t think they’re the standard cliché formula riffs. It’s like you have to have quality control in the songwriting process.

It will take me a half year or nine months to make an album, that’s just the time it will take. You will have to write songs and they need to come out good, then have the quality control. I cannot turn out an album in three months and jam things together; it wouldn’t work for me. It took us nine months to do this album. That’s what it takes, I think. The end result was pretty good and I’m pleased with it. If it takes one year, or two years or even four years like Def Leppard to make an album…it’s always the end result that counts.

Dead Rhetoric: The acoustic component of the album is fantastic. Are you a prolific acoustic guitar player?

Edling: I play a lot of acoustic guitar at home. I’m not super-good at it. I can work my way around an acoustic guitar if nobody else is listening. [laughs] The first song I wrote was “Moonhorse” and I’m very proud of how it came out. I wrote the verse on the acoustic guitar and I worked the harmonies and chords for a week. At the same time, I listened to a lot of early hard rock stuff. I listened to early Uriah Heep, early Alice Cooper albums, and early Jethro Tull albums, so I called it my “Jethro Tull song.” If you think about it, it could be Ian Anderson singing. It’s his trademark chords, but I’m really pleased with how it turned out with Jennie’s voice.

Dead Rhetoric: I really like Jennie’s voice, while we’re on the subject. With a lot of female singers, they tend to blend together, but she has her own personality. What was it like working with a singer like her?

Edling: She was fantastic. We were looking for a male singer for Avatarium, but we couldn’t find one; it was really difficult. Then Marcus said we should try his girlfriend out – now they are married.

Dead Rhetoric: That’s good. It’s always tricky when you have a relationship in the band.

Edling: And a stable one. [laughs] Jennie came down the studio and she tried to sing the“Moonhorse” verse and it took about 20 seconds and we were like “Oh my God!” She nailed it in the first take and it sounded fucking marvelous. It’s a joy to write stuff for her because she’s got that bluesy voice and she’s a little bit jazzy. To me, she’s like a female Robert Plant or something like that.

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