I'm ashamed to say that Swedish doom pioneers Candlemass seemed to fall off my radar after their 2005 self-titled "comeback" album, which featured their reunited 'Nightfall' era lineup and was characterised by some of their best songwriting in years... not to mention a career-best vocal performance from the ever-awesome Messiah Marcolin. Marcolin left shortly after touring commitments for said release and, for whatever inexplicable reason, eleven years have passed by before I find myself dipping into Candlemass' doom aesthetic once again, with their new four track EP, 'Death Thy Lover'.
So, what's changed in eleven years? Well, stateside singer Robert Lowe took over frontman duties after Marcolin left, although parted company with the band himself in 2012. He was replaced by renowned and prolific Swedish vocalist Mats Levén, who occupied the frontman slot only in a live session capacity until 2015, at which time he became Candlemass' new permanent singer. And what an acquisition he is! I've always been an admirer of his vocal capabilities, although he fits into the Candlemass vibe to perfection, and the evidence is here to be heard on 'Death Thy Lover'. Levén doesn't have the operatic, histrionic range of Marcolin or his vocal grandeur but, overall, his voice and range is a tad more expressive, and his vocal phrasing adheres to the classic Candlemass idioms. Like I said, the perfect fit.
With this EP touted as a celebration of "30 years of Doom", I guess that's true if counting from the 1986 release of Candlemass' debut album, 'Epicus Doomicus Metallicus', rather than their formation. And it's a fitting celebration of their doom prowess, as the songwriting, performances and production on 'Death Thy Lover' are a fantastic listen and wonderfully conceived re-assertion of the band's doom hegemony. No other band on the planet makes doom sound as sublime or melodically infectious as Candlemass and the four tracks on this EP are no exception.
Opening with the title track, the guitar arpeggios on the intro sound ever so reminiscent of Rhapsody of Fire's 'Ad Infinitum', the epic opener to their 'From Chaos to Eternity' album. So much so, that I keep expecting the deeply resonant tones of the late, great Sir Christopher Lee to begin some sort of concomitant narration. Not so, of course, and, fortunately, the track develops on its own original terms after this initial burst of familiarity, and it progresses nicely with a diversity of both mood and tempo shifts over the course of its seven minute duration.
'Sleeping Giant' is classic Candlemass through and through, although the sighing type noises that can be heard pre-chorus and on the song's outro are a little suspect. Presumably, they're supposed to represent the song's titular character, on the verge of snoozing, but actually sound like an old man struggling to pleasure himself. The Swedes turn up the doom quota on 'Sinister N Sweet' for another winner. In fact, the music seems to get doomier and doomier as the EP progresses, eventually descending into instrumental slow-burner 'The Goose' to close the EP, as the mood sombres so much that the music becomes completely enshrouded by a dark veil of moribund sonics, and the tempo slows to the pace of a sloth.... but what a great tune! Doom at its finest!
'Death Thy Lover' is, overall, an incredibly strong EP, and with Levén now permanently in Candlemass' ranks, the future looks bright (or should that be doomy?!) for this legendary Swedish act. What have I been missing out on for the past decade?
DEATH THY LOVER
Review by Mark Holmes
3rd June 2016
1) Death Thy Lover
2) Sleeping Giant
3) Sinister N Sweet
4) The Goose
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
"No other band on the planet makes doom sound as sublime or melodically infectious as Candlemass and the four tracks on this EP are no exception."