3 of 3 thought this review was well written
Candlebox was a band that came together in the early '90s Seattle music scene and combined hard rock with angst-filled lyrics. Thus, they got labelled a grunge band just like pretty much everything else from Seattle at the time. The fact remains that they were a pretty typical classic-rock band with all their feet firmly planted in the blues, especially those belonging to lead guitarist Peter Klett. This meant that they were more readily accepted by mainstream audiences and led to the sale of over four million copies of their self-titled debut album as well as credit/blame for the genesis of the whole post-grunge scene.
This is a somewhat unfair assessment of the band though. Yeah, they probably jumped on the grunge bandwagon just like everyone else, but they never really sound like they want to be a grunge band. Underneath the grungy exterior lies a lean and hungry sounding hard rock band that probably wouldn't sound out of place on the sunset strip in the mid-late '80s. "Blossom", "Mother's Dream" and "Cover Me" are probably the most obviously grungy songs on the album but while a lot of other songs on the album also utilise the whole soft/loud dynamic, in most cases the riffing pushes the songs closer to Skid Row's territory than Nirvana's. The clean guitar riffs on "Change", which was the lead single from the album, dont do a very good job of hiding Candlebox's primary influences. "Rain" would fit perfectly on the set list of any local dive bar's friday night band. The band also sounds pretty inspired when it rocks out on "Don't You" and "Arrow" which feature some highly headbangable, and truly timeless, hard rock riffage punctuated by some classic guitar-soloing. The biggest song off the album, "Far Behind", managed to distill all these elements into the ideal early 90s hard rock song.
The guitar work on the album is somewhat derivative, but solid and occasionally inspired and rarely gets boring. Scott Mercado's drumming is also solid and powerful and just varied enough to keep things interesting. The bass is sadly mixed too low to be made much of. This brings us to vocalist Kevin Martin. Like the rest of the band, he rarely brings anything new to the table, but he's good at what he does. He has an ideal rock voice. Great range and power with a good amount of grittiness and without ever sounding like he's screaming himself hoarse even when he does unleash his scream. However, it's his singing that contributes most to the general homegeneity and facelessness of the music. He only seems to have two modes; laid-back undersinging during the quiet parts and rampaging over-singing during the loud parts. While this might work a couple of times over the course of an album, it wears thin when it happens on almost every single song. Also. his meandering histrionics aren't attached to memorable melodies very often and even when they are, clunky lyrical phrasing sometimes gets in the way of making the hooks truly catchy.
Despite these drawbacks, Candlebox is still an enjoyable album that shines when the band manages to get their formula right and isn't especially bad even when the band doesn't. The band might be considered grunge but their sound is appealing to hard rock fans in general especially those with a soft spot for bluesy '70s and '80s rock.