Candlemass – Candlemass Review

Originally written by Nin Chan

Do you recall the days before you became a full-fledged metal aficionado, before you became a know-it-all with a sizeable amount of disposable income (and/or an expansive disc drive)? When you had to save up your lunch money to pick up a metal record, each of which brought you unspeakable amounts of pleasure and excitement? When you were forced to give the record the time it deserved, giving each cassette enough plays to memorize each and every note. Now I defy you to remember the last time you allotted that much attention to a heavy record. Maybe my attention span has suffered with age, maybe I’m just a jaded bastard talking out of my ass, but VERY few records have tickled my interest quite enough to warrant a permanent position in my rotating playlists. It gives me IMMENSE DELIGHT, then, to report that the new Candlemass transports me back to an age where I had absolutely no interest in listening to anything else, my juvenile consciousness fully mesmerized by the genius of a lone recording.

How does one go about reviewing a band that has meant so much and been the catalyst of so many fond memories? Candlemass has, from the first time I heard “Solitude” at a cousin’s place, provided the soundtrack for many moments of anguish. Somehow, it was comforting to think that there were other individuals who empathized with my plunges into crippling depression, and who could cohere it with elegant brilliance. Fans know, the first four Candlemass records remain to this day among the most poetic summations of melancholia epic metal has ever seen, translating agony into intelligent dirges of pure funereal DOOM. While their later Messiah-less works, by many pundits’ standards, failed to recapture the magic of the first four efforts, they introduced a power metal minded dimension that developed parallel to Messiah’s sublime new outfit, Memento Mori, extrapolating the driving moments on Ancient Dreams and amplifying them within a more succinct format. To summarize this record would be quite simple- it is a synthesis of both Candlemass’ mournful doom leanings and the abbreviated classic metal punctuations of the Tomas Vikstrom era, all orchestrated by the ingenious mind of one Leif Edling and catalyzed by the stratospheric theatrics of Messiah Marcolin.

“Black Dwarf” opens the record in a rousing, hot-blooded fashion, recalling maybe “The Dying Illusion” , “Gallows End” and “Dark Reflections” with its dark, bludgeoning grittiness. It is immediately apparent from the first note that Messiah Marcolin’s voice hasn’t aged like, say, Rob Halford’s, radiating the same boundless dynamism and dramatic depth that we last heard on Tales Of Creation. Snarling and seething through the 5:43 piledriver, Messiah manages, with scant effort, to sound simultaneously malicious and majestic, hitting guttural bellows and astral wails without sounding forced or strained. “Seven Silver Keys” adopts a dramatically different angle, a substantially moodier number firmly entrenched in Leif’s more typically pensive and somber moments. Cue in the tasteful, scorching solo that intersects the weeping, lumbering  chords. GENIUS! “Assassin Of The Light”? Can you say “Well Of Souls”?!?!? WUARGHHH!!

Now that I’ve wiped the foam off my mouth, allow me to further elaborate on the ingenious songcraft in a melodramatic and barely coherent fashion. “Copernicus” is a thorough exploration into the Iommi and Butler playbook, plundering the diabolical depths of Sabbath’s black-hearted soundscapes. “The Man Who Fell From The Sky” is a black-hearted instrumental in the fine tradition of “Into The Unfathomed Tower”, all meandering, whispering leads, ponderous, sustained, repetitious chords and gutwrenching conviction. Then come the opening chords of “Witches”, cascading, truncated staccato picked shards of guitar and double bass that usher in what truly turns out to be the finest song on the record and arguably one of the foremost accomplishments in Candlemass’ catalogue, period. Shifting flawlessly between speedier sections and contemplative, brooding passages for the first 02:16, they move seamlessly into a crunching classic metal passage that recalls Trouble circa Run To The Light. Blistering solo, back into the main riff, verse, hook and….arguably THE riff of the fucking year!!!! Bare, simplistic, meaty, absolutely CRUSHING, the tugboat riff that closes this track is worth the purchase all on its lonesome, affirming the lifechanging, stomach churning potential of the almighty RIFF!

The production here is TOP NOTCH- the guitar tone is indescribably warm and sonorous, the drums rich and profoundly musical. Highs are ethereal, mids are fluent, lows are hulking and malevolent, each nuanced note resonating with astounding clarity.

Forget everything I’ve said about any other record this year. Ignore, if you will, my assertion that Slough Feg’s “Atavism” is the best record thus far, because as monumental and as consummately developed as that record is, Candlemass easily outdoes anything 2005 has exhumed to this point. In so many ways, this is the record that should have followed Ancient Dreams, yet in many ways it is more sophisticated than even the most acclaimed Candlemass record, drawing ideas from each of its momentous records and funneling them into a cohesive, streamlined, staggeringly focused effort that shames all the derivative doom bands that have formed in their wake. Swallow The Sun? PTOOEY! Morgion? Give me a break, Leif Edling singlehandedly makes ALL of these troupes seem haphazardly amateur (and has since Nemesis). This is doom metal at its artistic apex, exemplified by the undisputable sanseis of the genre. Act now and buy the digipak version- the packaging is superb and you get a great bonus track- “Mars and Volcanos”. THE best comeback record of the past few years and THE album of the year as far as I’m concerned….forget all the crappy two-bit doom outfits plastered all over your favourite publications and BUY THIS NOW, it might awaken the same nostalgic urges in you too.

Posted by Old Guard

The retired elite of LastRites/MetalReview.

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