Candlemass have a long and storied history as one of the world’s most well-known and influential doom metal bands, but that’s a story for another time.
The group is the brainchild of bassist and writer Leif Edling who has been the common thread throughout the entire career of Candlemass and its multiple incarnations. However, the self-titled album that kicked off the reunion of the formerly defunct band has restored the classic line-up. Leif of course remains on the bass, along with operatic tenor Messiah Marcolin, guitarists Lars Johansson and Mappe Bjorkman, and drummer Jan Lindh.
Candlemass is primarily inspired by early-career Black Sabbath, so it’s no surprise there is a very heavy, classic metal tone throughout the album. However, this self-titled album is perhaps the band’s most diverse recording in their entire career. The old album with this line-up, classic though they may have been, followed the same basic doom metal formula. Leif has always had a fascination with dark fantasy imagery, and it always pervaded his writing themes, though on this album he tries to mix up the approach a bit more.
There are still classic fantasy themes expressed in songs such as Seven Silver Keys
, and Assassin of the Light
. But he also opens up a little with stranger stories such as in Born in a Tank
But on to the approach I mentioned. Songs such as Assassin of the Light
, Seven Silver Keys
, and The Day and the Night
are indicative of the band’s early career, utilizing a lot of very moody, dissonant riffs that are primarily made up of single-note melodies instead of chord progressions. However, the most notable difference is Messiah’s voice. He now uses the full range of his voice and adds a little snarl here and there where appropriate. He still uses his soaring vibrato wonderfully, but the emotional depth of his vocals has increased greatly in the intervening years.
However, these songs are not suggestive of the content of the entire album. After a brief atmospheric intro, the album launches into Black Dwarf
, which has a stronger classic metal feel to it. Jan Lindh shows off a few Black Sabbath-esque fills to compliment the lumbering riffs, and Messiah frequently harmonizes with himself to create an eerie vibe.
is one of the highlights among these unusual numbers. It starts out with similar riffs that you would expect, but much busier drumming. When the verse comes however, the bass and guitars become soft and distant the first time around. Messiah’s voice is also much softer, just a little above a whisper. The chorus is a return to the heavy form, but the verses with their plaintive, almost anxious gentleness building up in strength with each passage create an atmosphere that is really what doom metal is all about.
is also the first of three epic-length tracks on the album. The second is Spellbreaker
and the third is The Day and the Night
Another nice touch of variety is an instrumental titled The Man Who Fell from the Sky
placed half-way through the album. The riffs are classic Candlemass and the melodies very other-worldly and menacing.
Born in a Tank
is another anomaly for Candlemass. It’s very Black Sabbath-esque, and seems to bridge the gap between the more classic style songs and the experimental ones. The chugging riffs threaten to drown out Messiah at times, giving a rather creepy vibe to the whole song.
As for the classic-sounding tracks, Assassin of the Light
are the most indicative of Nightfall-era Candlemass. The riffs are very sinister, even evil-sounding and Messiah and the guitars often follow the same melody, giving an oppressing sound to the music that only really seems to work in Candlemass’s particular style.
Another of the highlight songs of the album is The Day and the Night
. It opens with a drawn-out intro that’s only one guitar and Messiah’s vocals, creating an atmosphere of insomnia and sleepless anxiety. The melodies lumber like a sleepwalker drifting through the waking world in blindness. A harmonized interlude makes way to a queasy riff that provides the backdrop to a wah-drenched, gibbering solo. It fades out to Messiah’s moans, “I’m lost in the dark,” creating a wonderful parting for the album.
Overall, this is an album that does what a doom metal record is supposed to do: use moodiness and a strong atmospheric sense to create a feeling of oppression and depression as opposed to the approach many extreme metal bands take in which they try to bludgeon the listener with a wall of noise for heaviness.
Not that I dislike those sorts of bands, mind you. But one has to admire the elegance and tact it takes to create a doom metal album. And herein Candlemass have accomplished that. I don’t think I’d call it their best album, but it certainly is their most diverse yet, and perhaps their most impressive when you compare how far each of the individual members have come.