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And finally here it is…the long awaited first live output by doom giants with the amazing vocals of Robert Lowe in front of the mic. What does this has to offer? To put it lightly and simple: a good concert but not the ultimate live offering I have been waiting for. I am going to tell you why I took 15 points out of 100 and why I even gave it a lower score than the other guy.
There is absolutely nothing to discuss about Rob’s performance. He has been, is and most likely will be the best singer this genre has to offer. Granted, the classics ‘Solitude’, ‘A sorceress pledge’, ‘At the gallows end’ do not reach the rank of the originals on this album but the rendition of these is quite good. Nevertheless, it is actually here where the points go down but more on this later on. On the bright side (if you can say that for Candlemass) is the interaction between Rob and the crowd, he encourage them to sing the choruses, he talks to them which is really nice. You can see he loves the stage.
The production is ALMOST stellar. Unfortunately the guitars are too buried in the mix and you can tell this by listening to both the audio and watching the DVD. You can hardly listen to Johansson’s solos because of the power of the bass and drums. The vocals are on top and they sound crisp and powerful but mostly, desperate and angry. What I like the most is the crystal clear sound of the album as a piece. As the other guy appointed, this live audio cd resembles a studio album with unpolished production and I agree. Sadly, some of the mistakes on this department really decrease this from being what I had waited for.
There is no point summarizing the songs. Any Candlemass song is great although I am not bond to ‘Samarithan’ (from this set list). ‘Kill the King’ is mmm…well, a great song, let’s face it but I honestly don’t like what they did here. It is a good cover but it lost its rock vibe due to the rendition. Either way, why would they pick up this song? Sorry, but I hate Rainbow and all those 70’s rock bands (a friend of mine’s fault). It is a pity we miss songs from the spectacular ‘Candlemass’ album from 2005, beginning with ‘Black Dwarf’ but it is a ‘blessing’ to listen to ‘Bleeding Baroness’ and ‘Hammer of doom’ with its Sabbath-esque slow & doomy riffs. ‘Emperor of the void; is a kick ass fast song with really high screams from Rob. ‘If I ever die’ is what I think the best performed song here since it resembles the original SO much!
Now let me tell you what I think screws this up from getting a higher score: 1. The guitars (as mentioned above) are too low in the mixing. The solos can hardly being heard not to mention the slashing rhythm sections. 2. This takes me to (so far my favorite song from the band) ‘At the gallows end’ where the powerful main riff is completely buried. It is really sad because this is the perfect opportunity to head bang again after ‘If I ever die’ but you cannot hear the riffs. 3. There is a mistake on ‘A Sorcerers pledge’ around 9:20min. mark where they lose time because the drummer went ahead one microsecond, thus for about 5 seconds they are lost. Too bad because it is an amazing song and being this is kind of slow music it is a shame that more than 20years later they lose track. Sorry but I needed to really appoint this because I know all bands make mistakes on stage but never thought I’d listen to this with these guys. 4. The guitar solo from ‘Solitude’ with its original desperate feeling and reverb used completely LOST everything with Johansson’s performance here. He played entirely different so it doesn’t go with this song. It is really sad but he MUST have played the way it was original conceived and played. I know within the digipak version of ‘King of the Grey Islands’ they re-recorded it using Rob’s vocals but I haven’t heard it, so I guess they changed the guitar solo. In any case, they totally screwed an otherwise superior and anthem doom song.
Perhaps I am being too picky and punishing too much but hey, I am a fan and I am purchasing all the albums and I was eagerly waiting for this live cd. I love the approach of the band and I love the daylight open concert more than the other night smaller concert. Even so, I am taking 5 points for every single mistake I found (which are 4) because as an experience it is quite good. Nevertheless, with so many albums on their back catalog I am missing some other songs from Ancient Dreams or Tales of Creation but I guess this is due to this being a multi festival and not just their tour so I am not punishing that. Candlemass’ curse carries on!
Swedish doom metal masters Candlemass offer up a live séance-like effort of live proportion in its recent release Ashes to Ashes. It’s an hour-long somberness that delivers exactly what you might expect from a band of the Candlemass echelon. Recorded at the Sweden Rock Fest last year, Ashes spreads out over the plains (of your room, no doubt) like a caustic shroud of thick hellish smoke.
I know it’s the ultimate sacrilege to say it, but here goes: I prefer Robert Lowe to Messiah Marcolin all day long. Maybe it’s the lack of total theatrics in Lowe’s delivery; in fact, yeah, that’s pretty much it in a nutshell. I loved Lowe’s work in Solitude (Aeturnus) and for me his vocal is akin to Lee Dorian, Eric Wagner and Ronnie James Dio in that it just soars effortlessly, painlessly without need for over-exuberance or pretense. When he sings it’s just that, a vocalization conducive to the underlying music and it’s a perfect fit. He handles both old and new songs with relative ease, as well he should being a seasoned veteran himself.
The band is on, man, flawlessly plowing through new soon-to-be classics like “If I Ever Die” and “The Bleeding Baroness” with all of the tenacity of an eighteen-year-old boy at Glamourcon. The production is sharp and full, adding a lush layer of bass accordingly as you take in a terrific mix of guitars and drums happily co-existing. There’s of course ample respect paid to the classics in the Candlemass arsenal as well, including emotionally dismantling versions of “Solitude”, “At the Gallows End” and one hell of a cover version of Rainbow’s “Kill the King” - the last three live albums I reviewed that were this resonating were the Onslaught and Exodus records. The crowd sounds somewhat enthusiastic, but it’s hard to really gauge it from the audio portion, but it doesn’t matter since Candlemass was there to provide the ultimate down experience in the most uplifting manner possible.
When I hear Ashes to Ashes it doesn’t even sound like a live album so much as an under-polished studio album, which is pretty good considering how many bands can’t seal the deal in a live setting. It all seems too easy, but with great talent comes the bosom of comfort ability. I am glad Candlemass is still kicking around the doom tunes for as long as they have now. These upstarts in the doom genre can use a blueprint from which to build, and Candlemass is the design.
(Originally written for www.MetalPsalter.com)