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Album Reviews : Avarin – Requiem

By on August 8, 2011

I have to admit, I am not the most prolific reviewer in such a formal setting but I do try to sink my teeth into forward-thinking music that breaks the trends, especially locally. This brings me to Avarin. The band have played a small number of shows around Sydney and Canberra since their inception in 2005 and have begun to really come into their own after recruiting ex-Transcending Mortality singer Mike Zoias into the personnel. Firstly, I may as well get to it as I am sure it will plague their reviews for the future (and I use the term plague in irony). This is the album fans of Transcending Mortality have been waiting for – sporting 3 ex-members of the band and a similar enough aural aesthetic and vibe to ‘The Last Horizon’ and ‘The Mirror’s Eye’, I know at least I’m happy and I comfortably predict I won’t be the only one.

The album’s general tonality is that of a rawer edge than what is usually expected from Progressive Metal in todays extremely polished market of souless technicians. Avarin’s music speaks to fans of Fates Warning, Alice in Chains, Coheed and Cambria, Black Sabbath and fans of dark, mysterious and gripping musical worlds, and not in some elvish tongue like the name may suggest to some.

The record opens with the band’s first single ‘The Unwilling’ for which they have released a very professional video not regularly seen within the Australian scene. A surprise to me was the murky guitar arpeggios that open this song that almost sound like they could have found home on a Rituals of the Oak vinyl. After this sombre introduction to the band, the listener is transported away by gritty rhythm guitars and a thumping rhythm section provided by Nathaniel Smith and Steven O’Farrell, who are enviously tight in both the recorded and live settings. Although I am deeply touched by Zoias’ vocal delivery which makes me feel as though I am surrounding a smouldering campfire listening to stories of ancient wisdom, I believe he is the primary element of Avarin’s music that may separate some listeners as he is not simply a cookie-cutter clone of the top dogs in melodic metal. I urge listeners to sit with it and enjoy the journey that this great singer has to offer an open-minded metal fan.

Pushing on past the anthemic starter to this work is the upbeat rocker, ‘Turn of the Tides’ formerly ‘Make Me Believe’ on the bands debut EP ‘Omniscience’. The song is interesting enough and an interesting departure from the original version of the song that it will please old fans and new. Keep an ear especially out for the dual leads of Jonathan Talon and James Draper which make many tasteful appearances throughout the entirety of this record.

‘Shadows and Miracles’ and ‘By Her Grave’ take the band through some more emotive grounds whilst still maintaining the grooving and epic nature that I have come to expect of Avarin. As a songwriter and musician myself, I am impressed with the maturity of dynamic variation Avarin have come to develop in their music. I especially love the clean guitar passages which often allow the frontman to express in a much more timid and beautiful manner, which is definitely a testament to Zoias’ experience as a singer and performer.

‘The Black Rose’ is a gloomy and sumptuous track that alludes to a time in between the releases of ‘Awaken The Guardian’ and ‘Perfect Symmetry’ by the above-mentioned Fates Warning. Avarin are very proficient in finding the perfect melodies to soar above their monolithic riffs which makes repeated listens increasingly enjoyable. This track bears no exception.

‘Burning Sun’ is one of the older tracks that Avarin have been playing for a while and for that reason, I feel as though some of the magic has disappeared in it for me. I feel as though some greater variations in texture could have made this a more promising track, maybe I need to give myself a bit of a break from this track.

Both ‘A Shade of Doubt’ and ‘Requiem’ could have been tracks for the Transcending Mortality album that never was with powerful and effective harmony and power. The piano that closes the album is simply beautiful and quite possibly my favourite element of the CD. Perhaps the band will experiment with this more in the future as I think it could be that missing ingredient that turns this band from being a great band playing great songs into something more.

‘Requiem’ is a great debut effort by this Sydney-based band and I hesitate not in recommending it for many listens. Australia is releasing some blinding Progressive efforts this year and this proghead isn’t going to stop listening.

For fans of the delicate and the heavy, the aggressive and the beautiful – this could be one of the best things you’ll listen to all year. 9/10

Band: Avarin
Album: Requiem
Year: 2011
Genre: Progressive Metal
Origin: Sydney, Australia
Label: Independent

Track listing:
1. The Unwilling
2. Turn of the Tides
3. Shadows and Miracles
4. By Her Grave
5. The Black Rose
6. Burning Sun
7. A Shade of Doubt
8. Requiem