Welcome Back: Avatarium

Better known in her native Sweden as a singer in the worlds of jazz and blues, Jennie-Ann Smith was a newcomer to metal when she joined Avatarium in 2013.

Led by Candlemass legend Leif Edling, the Swedes have a new album, The Girl With The Raven Mask, and a debut UK show in London this month. We spoke with Jennie-Ann about her blues roots and the unerring power of heavy metal…

Was the move from jazz and blues to metal easy for you?

Jennie-Ann: “Oh, I think so. This is my first entry into hard rock, but growing up in the 80s in Sweden I heard a lot of that stuff. I’d say this crossover is a happy one. If you track down what the guys in Black Sabbath, Deep Purple and Rainbow were listening to all those years ago, you’ll find they were fans of jazz and blues. So we’re going back to the roots in this band and I feel very at home.”

Is life on the road in a metal band different from your other experiences?

“When I’m there onstage it’s so emotional and there’s a real connection with the audience. It’s very powerful. I remember the very first time we played live, I walked onstage and there were all these big, tough guys in the front row and they were crying! I’d never experienced that before. I was stunned. I thought, ‘Should I hug them now?’ Ha ha ha!”

How would you describe Avatarium’s evolution between the debut album and the new one?

“I wasn’t that involved on the first album and we didn’t really know what the band would become, but this time I’ve been so much more involved and I think you can hear that. Leif brings in the songs and then I work on the arrangements with Marcus [Jidell, guitarist and Jennie-Ann’s husband]. Then we drop the bomb on Leif! Ha ha! He’s been quite surprised a couple of times, but he’s a great musician and very open-minded. I know he liked what he heard.”

What does the album’s title track mean to you?

“I’ve met girls that wore ‘raven masks’ in my life. It’s a poetic song that opens up my fantasies about what’s going on behind the mask, but also about how damaging it can be to not be in touch with your dark experiences. Sometimes we need those masks in life, but it’s not always helpful to keep them.”

Are you excited about playing your first UK show this month?

“We’re very excited. The crowds at our shows have been amazing. It’s been very loving, and I wasn’t prepared for that!”

*The Girl With The Raven Mask* is out now via Nuclear Blast. Avatarium play the Underworld in London on November 22

Dom Lawson

Dom Lawson has been writing for Metal Hammer and Prog for over 14 years and is extremely fond of heavy metal, progressive rock, coffee and snooker. He also contributes to The Guardian, Classic Rock, Bravewords and Blabbermouth and has previously written for Kerrang! magazine in the mid-2000s.