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Candlemass - s/t 4.5/5

Reviewed: 6-10-05


1. Black dwarf
2. Seven silver keys
3. Assassin of the light
4. Copernicus
5. The man who fell from the sky
6. Witches
7. Born in a tank
8. Spellbreaker
9. The day and the night
10. Mars and volcanoes

As the sands of time ran out on 2004, metal scribes around the globe recorded the most eagerly anticipated metal events of 2005. Not surprisingly, Judas Priest's 'Angel of retribution' topped many of those lists. Not mine. Sure, I was looking forward to the return of the Priest, but the reunion CD for which I was the most amped in 2005 was and is unquestionably that of Candlemass. Rightfully hailed as the undisputed gods of classic doom metal, the Swedes recorded 3 dazzling masterworks of doom perfection in the 80s. After the mad, afroed, Count Chocula-munching monk, vocalist Messiah Marcolin, departed the Candlemass camp in 1991, founder/bassist Leif Edling cobbled together an array of successive, inferior lineups which periodically released inferior product over the next dozen years. When the classic line-up reunited in 2002, doomed hearts skipped a few beats. After a number of memorable gigs (including the Bang Your Head Festival in 2002 and the BW&BK fest in 2003), however, the reunion fizzled and the band members went their separate ways, seemingly forever. Media reports suggested that the band was deeply fractured over creative and personal issues, and that the schism appeared irreconcilable. Then hell froze over, as the band patched up their personal differences long enough to record a new, eponymous CD of brand-new material.

Was it worth it? The answer screams resoundingly affirmative within 2 minutes after popping the CD into the player, as the relentlessly chugging opener "Black dwarf" sends a wrecking ball slamming into the glass houses of the unbelievers. With a main riff somewhere between the faster parts of "At the gallow's end" and Trouble's "The temptor" (you know the "Watch for temptation/for he is there" part), this track is a real hammer. I hope Candlemass open with this song in every live set they ever play from now on. The remaining 9 tracks are the answer to every Candlemass fan's prayers, as the band tear through a selection of pure, slow, heavy stompers ("Copernicus", "Seven Silver Keys"), inspired chugging tunes ("Born in a Tank", "Mars and volcanoes"), epic monsters ("Witches", "Assassin of the light") and even a pulverizing instrumental ("The man who fell from the sky"). Every song is exceptionally well crafted and teeming with some of the heaviest riffs known to man, but the tempos and feels are sufficiently varied to prevent boredom from ever creeping into this 58 minute monolithic doom workout. Marcolin's distinctive rich vibrato has simply grown stronger and better over the years, and Edling has honed his songwriting abilities to a razor-sharp edge. Meanwhile, riffmasters general Mappe Bjorkman and Lars Johansson deliver the goods in a big way with what I believe to be their finest guitar performance to date.

I've heard that creative tension can be good for bands who aren't named Metallica. If this CD was written and recorded in a climate of dissension and tension, I shudder to think how good it could have been if Candlemass had gone "Some kind of monster" on us. I know of no higher praise to bestow upon a doom metal CD than to state that it could fit comfortably alongside 'Epicus doomicus metallicus', 'Nightfall' and 'Ancient dreams'. Candlemass's "white album" may be a small step down from the peerless godliness of 'Nightfall', but it is absolutely on par with the other 2. I cannot think of a better doom CD to have been released in this millennium, and would be stunned if Solitude Aeturnus and Trouble can even approach the brilliance of this work in their forthcoming releases. In the words of S.A.'s John Perez, we are all truly doomed!




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