posted on 10/2011 By:
Ava Inferi is a group that fits comfortably within the ‘gothic metal’ genre without succumbing to irritating Hot Topic-style quirks and commercial weaknesses. Created by songwriter and guitarist Rune Eriksen (ex-Mayhem, Aura Noir, Nader Sadek), Ava Inferi is a darkly atmospheric project that seems to come into its own with each new release. Blood of Bacchus (2009) was in no way a failure, but it lacked the compositional depth and charm that I knew Ava was capable of. Their latest album, Onyx, is by far the strongest in their catalogue, and it sets an eerie Halloween (not Helloween) vibe with effortless grace steeped in melancholy doom. Listening to this record on a cold autumn night will have you feeling as though you’ve travelled swiftly into winter.
The lyrics don’t add any particular innovation to the music, but they’re certainly enough to sustain a prevailing aura of despair. While the words could never be mistaken for poetry, even critical listeners will find solace in Carmen Susana Simões’ gorgeous vocal delivery. Her voice is hauntingly ethereal, with the strength and depth so many singers of the genre severely lack. She serves as a nocturnal siren, a fragile glow of moonlight illuminating a path of nightmarish darkness. Along with Simões’ clear capabilities as a frontwoman, Onyx also sounds absolutely fantastic, courtesy of mixing and mastering genius Dan Swanö. Rune Eriksen’s irreplaceable songwriting contributions are also at the forefront of the entire album, and each track is well crafted and enveloped with signature sadness.
The album opens with the title track, and layers of effects are brought in almost immediately. The operatic vocals soaring high over cavernous riffs in the beginning reminded me a bit of a gloomier Therion, in the best way possible. The instruments fuse beautifully with the vocals, and touches of whispers and sinister laughter give the song a ghost story of a narrative. Echoing guitars and simple, effective, percussion are the core strengths of “The Living End”, which is also the only piece on the album to feature male vocals. They add an incredible juxtaposition reminiscent of Orphaned Land, and I would love to hear Ava explore this dimension of sound on future recordings. The album loses a bit of heaviness due to the positioning of the drums in the mix, but the emphasis on guitars, effects, and vocals is enough to sustain the aura Ava is striving for.
While it’s undoubtedly an enjoyable and evocative release, Onyx has a few weaknesses. Tracks like “A Portal” fail to inspire, and seem to be riding heavily on formula and repetition. That said, there are so many clichéd compositional devices in the gothic metal genre that I’m grateful to Ava for holding fast to a sense of creativity in their work. “((Ghostlights))” is proof that quiet, sparse arranging does not necessarily need to fall stagnant, and it’s a compelling piece that uses minimalism to its advantage. Still, the predominantly slow pace that prevails throughout Onyx proves tiresome at times, and focus wavers after a few drawn-out tracks.
What the album lacks in dynamic quality, it more than makes up for with sheer sonic beauty. The closer, “Venice in Fog” is a heart-wrenching dirge for the ages, with layers of woeful guitar cascading around ghostly vocals. By combining funerary misery with dramatic delivery, Ava Inferi has solidified a place for themselves amongst the gothic/doom metal elite, and proven their magnificent potential.
Register to post comments.