without Internet Explorer,
in 1280 x 960 resolution
Many people cite the (first) departure of notorious diva Messiah Marcolin as the end of "classic" Candlemass, perhaps not realizing that the band released 3 albums in the 1990's, all of which are worth tracking down. This album still featured all of the classic lineup, minus Marcolin of course, but the sound is a somewhat drastic shift from what previous albums sounded like. Some would say that Candlemass departed from their strong Black Sabbath influences, but these people have obviously not listened to Tony Martin-era Black Sabbath. In fact, I would go as far to say that this album is a response to Sabbath's "Headless Cross." The sounds are indeed very similar, and the result is not as bad as one might think.
New vocalist Thomas Vikström is also reminiscent of Tony Martin, perhaps a bit more operatic. He hits some very high notes and overall does an excellent job. Plus he doesn't ruin any of the songs by overusing vibrato like Marcolin did. Lars Johansson really steps it up in the lead guitar department. He fills every song with an extended neo-classical solo and isn't afraid to shred it up either. This is probably his best performance on any Candlemass album.
The guitar riffs are not as heavy or crushing as they were in the past, but they are still excellent. The heaviness is replaced with a catchy quality that make the songs quite memorable, especially in "The Dying Illusion" and "Temple of the Dead." There is also a drastic increase in the presence of keyboards, but thankfully they do not detract from the music for the most part; a notable exception being the keyboards in the intro to "The Ebony Throne" which sound like they come from an episode of Scooby Doo. The epic atmosphere of previous Candlemass albums is still present, culminating in the excellent "Where the Runes Still Speak."
It's hard to find anything wrong with this album. The quality of the songs dips a bit near the end but there is no outright filler. The keyboards are a bit much from time to time, but generally are acceptable. On some versions, there is something called the Sjunger Sigge Furst EP added to the end of the album, which is of no interest to anyone reading this review unless you like hearing covers of Swedish folk songs of the 1950's (trust me you don't). Some versions also include a live DVD on a separate disc and, while hardly essential, still is fun to watch every once in a while. I enjoy listening to Vikström sing the Marcolin songs; he's not half bad, dare I say even surpassing Marcolin at times?
Despite the change in sound, this is still an album that is worth owning. There are some very enjoyable songs on this album and Lars Johansson's outstanding soloing is icing on the cake. Unfortunately, at least in the United States, this album is a bit harder to track down, but it is definitely worth the money. Sadly, the band would break up shortly after this album, and after an Abstrakt Algebra album, Leif Edling would reform Candlemass with a bunch of unknowns before the classic album reunited in the early 2000's.
After the departure of Messiah nobody wanted to pay attention to Candlemass anymore. The fan-base had always in mind that without the "fat-guy" Candlemass could not exist. They were wrong! I can't refuse that Messiah is the best singer they had ever had, but this doesn't mean that Thomas Vikstrom had no value. He is really a very good singer with a rather power metal/heavy (not operatic) voice which is different to that of Messiah, but it is still great and technically perfect. He has also a lot of passion and emotion to support the difficult task to wear Messiah's shoes.
Apart from the new singer, another new element is the addition of few keyboards that wisely serve the band's purpose to create atmosphere. The rest of the players (the classic line-up of musicians, with only Messiah out) are well-known for their good chemistry, so they didn't disappoint me. The group's direction remains epic doom, but with a bit more emphasis to the word "epic", than "doom". The lyrics are about mythology (mostly pagan, not only christian!) or romantic metal themes with nostalgia about the thrills of the past, or insecurity for humanity's future.
There are times that you can find some power metal influences, without sacrificing the band's gloomy, dark and doom image. It is not only about songwriting (this record had first been written for Messiah's voice), but mostly about the singer's vocal style.
If it hadn't been for the band's past with Messiah, this album would have been considered a classic. It has everything: killer riffs, strong songwriting, a nice singer who suffered the Messiah-syndrome of both fans and critics and a very good production that offers us the possibility to enjoy all players giving the 100% of their efforts.
The band was also willing to step forward. And suprisingly they did it! They nearly abandoned the christian themes, embracing pagan romanticism, they became more atmospheric, the whole concept makes you feel that you are part of an epic story of the past travelling in time (especially in tracks such as "Where the runes still speak", or "Temple of the dead"), being at the same time darker than ever (though less dynamic), they added keyboards...
The similarities between this album and the previous stuff are not so many, but suprisingly it remains Candlemass, thanks to the musicians who remain the same and in good shape. Only after Lars' and Mappe's departure the Candlemass sound becomes unrecognisable, until their return.
Conclusion: Be open-minded and you will realise that it's a KILLER!
Let’s be serious here, folks – by 1992 Candlemass, with the defection of two tremendously talented singers, had changed drastically. Sure, Leif was still there as he’s always been, but this was a different Candlemass. In strictly “Candlemass terms” Chapter VI is a strange disappointment. However, if you forget about what Candlemass is supposed to sound like you’ll find an all-too-neglected little slice of solid power doom.
Brought in for the unenviable job of following a legend was Mr. Thomas Vikstrom, a rather unknown back then. As it turns out, Vikstrom has a great voice and is technically rock-solid. The only problem is, the man is much more geared towards power metal than doom (check out his great work on the latest Stowmwind disc), something Leif apparently understood since some of the material on Chapter VI leans heavily toward the power side of “power doom”. Regardless, Vikstrom will always be known as the guy who replaced Messiah for one album, and he actually did a damn fine job.
I’ll skip a track-by-track analysis since ErikG already has that covered below, but I do have to mention a couple of numbers. The second track, titled “Julie Laughs No More”, is the best example of the “not Candlemass” material. Speed it up a bit more and you’d have something that could slide right into a Stratovarius album. Again, not traditional Candlemass, but it’s still a good song. The real winner, though, is “Where the Runes Still Speak”. Seriously, this thing just crushes everything in its path like an out-of-control cement truck. Easily a candidate for the best thing Candlemass ever recorded, the song contains a mindblowing performance from Vikstrom. Even if you’ve heard some of the other songs on here and hated them, give this one a try. It’s that good, just about worth the price of the CD by itself.
Otherwise things are ship-shape, really. Production’s in line with their past works, and Edling still has it in terms of writing and riff playing. The bass and drums are about as expected, meaning solid but unspectacular. Candlemass have quite a history, and their post-1989 stuff often times is wholly dismissed as not being worthy of the band’s name. That may be so for some of the later albums, but give Chapter VI a try before forgetting it. It’s not Nightfall by any stretch, but for what it is – that being old Candlemass fused with some power metal – it’s very good.