Candlemass
King of the Grey Islands


4.0
excellent

Review

by Steerpike USER (24 Reviews)
October 16th, 2007 | 29 replies


Release Date: 2007 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Candlemass team up with Rob Lowe of Solitude Aeturnus for one of their bleakest albums yet.

The common belief in music is that anytime a singer is rotated out of a band, they can’t be good anymore. Not really a belief actually, it’s more of a meme. While there are certainly examples to support such an idea, there are just as many to contradict it. One notable example of the latter is Candlemass.

They’ve gone through multiple vocalists in their time with mixed results, though the classic voice was always considered to be the operatic vibrato of Messiah Marcolin. Despite having a face like a catcher’s mitt with eyes and a white-boy ‘fro so huge one had to believe he had a whole colony of elves living in it, Messiah had a superb voice and compelling stage presence. His “mad monk” persona fit in perfectly with the epic themes and soundscapes of early Candlemass.

Messiah departed to work on his project Memento Mori, but later rejoined the band in 2003 for one last album, a self-titled LP that turned out to be one of their most diverse. Of course, he then left again in 2006, leaving Candlemass looking for a new singer.

Now, one may be thinking that this could very well mean the end of Candlemass. After all, a classic vocalist departed so they can’t possibly be good anymore, right?

Wrong. Enter vocalist Rob Lowe of Solitude Aeternus. Rob provides a great departure from the quaking howls of his predecessor. The best way I can describe him is a cross between Ronnie James Dio, Daniel Heiman, and an H.P. Lovecraft protagonist. Forsaking the refined, Classical elements of Messiah, Rob instead has a raspy wail that bespeaks madness and despair with every pained note.

One thing that you may notice about King of the Grey Islands is a departure from much of the religious symbolism that marked early Candlemass. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still there in songs such as Devil Seed and Demonia 6, but as the title of the album would suggest, there is a stronger focus now on legends, myths, and dark tales. In particular, suicide is a pervasive motif throughout the lyrics made clear in songs such as Embracing the Styx.

The characteristic lumbering riffs and gibbering solos are still there. Though the album has less diversity to it than the previous self-titled album. This is perhaps the only true flaw to the album, but it sometimes comes with the territory of doom metal. It’s the crushing repetition and bleakness that the atmosphere hinges on. Not to say that there aren’t some interesting moments that break up the monotony. Embracing the Styx and Man of Shadows for example include some highly unusual breaks midway through the songs.

The overall feeling of depression and madness is what truly marks this album. Rob’s voice shifts seamlessly from dirge-like mourning to be desperate screams again and again, and he shows equally diverse emotional facets. He plays the mad tyrant in Emperor of the Void as adeptly as he does the bloodthirsty bogeyman in Destroyer and the sailor of the damned ship Clearsight.

The emphasis on fantasy is something that’s always helped Candlemass stand out, creating an entire mythos of doom and despair. Rather than using introspection, lyricist Lief Edling’s specialty is in allegorical tales to convey his themes. King of the Grey Islands is certainly no exception. And while not technically a concept album, one could make a case for it being highly thematic. After the gloomy acoustic Prologue, the band kick straight in to Emperor of the Void describing the titular king. The last lines of Embracing the Styx make vague references that seem to tie back to this opening song. One begins to see further connections throughout, creating a Lovecraftian mythos within the album.

King of the Grey Islands recalls Ancient Dreams and Nightfall era Candlemass particularly well in tracks such as Of Smoke and Stars, which is one of the stand-out tracks on the album. Embracing the Styx and Devil Seed showcase the classic sound as well, without sounding like rehashes of earlier material.

While not Candlemass’ strongest release, it does represent a positive new influence. The band obviously still have a lot of good material left in them, and the addition of Rob Lowe to the mix brings about a new dimension to the music, which may bring about a lot of great music in the coming albums.

If you’re a doom metal fan looking for a new album, I highly recommend this. However, if you are new to Candlemass, I would recommend buying Nightfall, Ancient Dreams, or the self-titled first before getting into this. Fans of Solitude Aeternus will want to check this out as well.

Recommended Tracks

Destroyer
Embracing the Styx
Of Smoke and Stars



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user ratings (111)
Chart.
3.8
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
Tyler
Emeritus
October 16th 2007


7926 Comments


I really dislike the vocals on this album. Rob Lowe is okay in SA but I don't really like him here.
Great review though. I'll vote.

Wizard
October 16th 2007


19644 Comments


Good to see you reviewing some metal again Steerpike. Well written review but I can't say Ive ever enjoyed these guys or this album. I will check it out again since you seem to notice something about it that I didn't.

Digging: Ash Borer - Cold of Ages

Tyler
Emeritus
October 16th 2007


7926 Comments


Candlemass rules, I just don't think Rob's voice is right for the band. I'm not really a fan of his voice in general though.

Jom
Staff Reviewer
October 16th 2007


2711 Comments


Alex, this reminds me of your 'Cheer Up, Emo Kid' photograph... except this time, replace that with 'Congratulations, You're Approved!' because the goofy smile and double thumbs-up holds just as much weight as the 'Cheer Up...' text.

NemesisDivina
October 16th 2007


141 Comments


as adeptly as he does the bloodthirsty bogeyman in Destroyer


I think you want to bold Destroyer.

Great review Steerpike. I'm gonna pick this album up soon enough.This Message Edited On 10.16.07

Steerpike
October 16th 2007


1861 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Fixed the typos and errors. Always a few that slip through.

This seems to be another one of my opinions that I'm going to feel very lonely in.

Shattered_Future
October 16th 2007


1541 Comments


I didn't really like this one too much, and not cause Rob Lowe was in it (he's a fantastic singer). I just didn't like the music at all.

Slaytan
March 4th 2008


1186 Comments


I remember hearing this album a while back. The music was good but the vocals were meh, for me anyway.

moltenlava
May 16th 2008


312 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I do not know what is going on in Metal the last few years, but I feel that many of these long-established acts are releasing material that is on par with their best stuff. This last Candlemass album is close to being my favourite by the band, second only to Tales Of Creation. I also feel that the last Electric Wizard was incredible, along with the new Testament and Exodus. A truly great time for Classic Metal.

This Message Edited On 05.16.08

Willie
Moderator
May 16th 2008


16149 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I had forgotten that SA's vocalist had done vocals for these guys too. It's time to track this album down.
Also, it's a little late to comment on, but the review was good too.

Digging: Mors Principium Est - Dawn Of The 5th Era

moltenlava
June 30th 2008


312 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I listened to this thing last night and I'm berry impressed. This should be held up and exalted as a prime example of how a concept album should flow and function. The album is brilliant in its pacing from one song to the next, and, most importantly, each individual track stands on its own merits. AND, even furthermore, the majority of the tunes here are memorable....even hummable. For a Doom album, this one is relatively accessible, even to those who never even dabble in the Doom. A little dab of Doom'll do ya, I've heard said. But, I can't reiterate this sentiment loudly enough: This recording is awesome. It works across the board, and, on two or more different levels. And, it pulls these feats off without compromise. I'd advise to check it. Solitude Aeturnus also put a winner out a couple years back with 'Alone'. Not as good as 'King of the Grey Islands', but, hey, close enough.



jrowa001
June 30th 2008


8750 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

this album is good, but moltenlava, you have to get Nightfall for Candlemass's best album

moltenlava
June 30th 2008


312 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Better than 'Tales of Creation'? I don't think I've ever heard 'Nightfall' before.



jrowa001
June 30th 2008


8750 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Nightfall is normally stated as their best or their album Epicus Doomicus Metallicus. personally i havent heard Tales of Creation yetThis Message Edited On 06.30.08

moltenlava
June 30th 2008


312 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I'll have to look into that one. Especially now that I know it has a fancy Latin-derived title to it. lol. I mentioned Solitude Aeturnus' 'Alone', but failed to note that both, that recording, along with Candlemass' Grey Islands share the same vocalist. And, a great one at that with Rob Lowe.



jrowa001
June 30th 2008


8750 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

their original vocalist is better imo.

this is off topic but i noticed you wrote a soundoff for SUE's Mental Torments. get their last album Anima, it is a million times better than MT

moltenlava
June 30th 2008


312 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Yeah, I do keep hearing that it was a significant jump. It's funny how you can be so into a debut recording by some band, and then that group re-emerges with something even better and you forget about the first one in a heartbeat. lol. All forms of measurement are 'relative', completely dependent on what you're measuring it against. That's why it irks me when someone disses a deserving recording by some major band, while, if that same album was in a lesser band's discography it would be hailed as the best thing that other band has ever done. There should be ONE, universal standard applied to ALL.



lucazade22
December 4th 2008


532 Comments


Good at first but gets boring really quickly.

Willie
Moderator
January 8th 2009


16149 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

So I finally looked into this band. I got this album and "Chapter VI". Chapter VI was crap with bad vocals and boring music... this was awesome. I really like Rob Lowe's vocals on this and in general. Are there other albums by them similar to this or that have Rob on them?

Tyler
Emeritus
January 8th 2009


7926 Comments


Get Nightfall. Different vocalist than Chapter IV and it's most commonly recognized to be their best. For Rob, get Solitude Aeternus. I really don't dig Rob though, his voice is way too puny for me. Though I will say SA's cover of "Heaven and Hell" is amazing.



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