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Metal/Prog Metal CD Reviews

Candlemass

Candlemass

Review by Mike Korn

Reunions are getting to be a dime-a-dozen in the metal world these days, but occasionally they bear worthy fruit. The recent comebacks by Judas Priest and Exodus would be good examples of returns that worked, but this new record from the legendary Swedish doom metal band Candlemass is the best yet. It has been 15 years since the line-up on this record has worked together. That version of the band was almost single-handedly responsible for injecting life into the modern doom metal movement with classic albums like "Nightfall" and "Ancient Dreams". No band since Black Sabbath has had such a profound effect on the doom scene.

The self-titling of this record and its almost laughably minimalist cover say one thing: this CD is nothing but Candlemass - no gimmicks, no hype, just the goods. And oh, how they deliver! The CD is so solid in every single aspect...from the flawless production to the superb performances to the tremendous songwriting skill evident in every note...that it actually does what Candlemass' previous classics did not: elevate the band to a status on a level with Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Metallica.

This version of Candlemass is slightly faster and more aggressive than what we've heard in the past, but the core sound is still there and there's more than enough slow paced doom and mournful feeling to satisfy the long-time fans of the band. In addition, the record should attract many newcomers as well. There's something so heavy but classy about "Candlemass" that it is thrust to the status of instant classic. Do not pass this monumental recording up!

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2005 Year Book Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Black Dwarf
This is one of the best heavy metal songs ever. Don't believe me? Crank it up and get totally carried away by the surging power of the incredibly simple but catchy riffing mixed with the god-like vocal melodies of Messiah Marcolin. This track is quite aggressive by Candlemass standards and just absolutely devastating! The heaviness of the chorus is indescribable. Hear and believe, is all I've got to say!
Seven Silver Keys
This song is more like the doomy Candlemass we remember; and what a great, sorrowful dirge this is. Again, simplicity is a key to the song's success. It's not dopey two-chord rock but something dark and primal. The song reminds me of the great epic tracks from the band's "Ancient Dreams" opus. The guitar soloing from Lars Johansson is exquisite...a superb doom metal track!
Assassin of the Light
"Crushing" is the best way to describe the opening avalanche of power riffing here, which soon switches gears to a mildly up-tempo Oriental feel. The verse then hits you like a lead weight, accompanied by forceful drumming. What makes this track exceptional is the slow, "drifting" riff in the mid-section. Over the top of this majestic motif we hear some tremendous guitar soloing and beautiful singing from Messiah. This is mesmerizing classic metal at its best.
Copernicus
We return to a doomier mode with this lengthy tale of astronomy and mystery. There is an enigmatic feeling to this track, with its very low-key, almost subliminal verses. Even Messiah's vocals are noticeably creepier. When the heavy guitar comes thundering in, it sounds twice as heavy in contrast to the softer bits. There's a bit of a "Black Sabbath" (the song more than the band itself) eeriness here, but merged with the epic feeling that only Candlemass can conjure. The abrupt ending I think could have been better, though.
The Man Who Fell From The Sky
This instrumental is a heavy, chugging piece of rifferama with some moody guitar work floating over it. I hate to keep beating this dead horse, but this band is just so brilliant at putting together simple but effective riffs. The song is not the album's bestl, yet it will still linger in your mind.
Witches
This cut has just about everything you could want in a Candlemass song. There's a real cool bouncing groove to the verse and the chorus really reminds me of the one for "Ancient Dreams". The song is actually more complex than most Candlemass material, switching tempos and riffs with great ease but never sounding forced in doing so. The stalking panzer-like crunch that ends the cut is killer! This is second only to "Black Dwarf" as the CD's best track and that's not by much.
Born In A Tank
The band's more aggressive stance again comes to the fore here, as this blasts out in a similar fashion to Sabbath's "Children of the Grave". Damn, these guys just do not stumble a bit! This is fist-pumping head-banging red zone heavy metal that takes no prisoners!
Spellbreaker
Along with "Seven Silver Keys", this is the most "classic" sounding track on the record. It's a deliberately paced crusher with that vaguely Middle Eastern feel, similar to material on "Nightfall" and "Ancient Dreams". Parts of it pick up the pace a bit, but it is classic Candlemass doom. Messiah's vocals are drenched with emotion, especially when he yells out "The mother of life is a whore!"
The Day and the Night
I really think "Spellbreaker" would have made a better end to the album proper than this track, but this is not a bad cut at all. It is very simple doom based on an elementary riff pattern. It starts in mysterious, underplayed fashion before the guitars come crashing in. The sound here is extremely heavy but this one comes across as a bit monotonous to me and not as thought out as the other tracks. There's a very good solo from Lars, though.
Bonus Track
I couldn't get the title to this one, but I know it is the band's own composition. Perhaps it is something from one of the obscure non-Messiah Candlemass albums of the 90's? At any rate, it is a short, punchy number with a rocking feel to it, showing the band doesn't always have to do a ponderous epic to impress.
 
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