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Many were growing weary of all the botched comeback attempts that went on amongst the old guard of metal in the late 90s and early 2000s, but the one that Candlemass had with Messiah Marcolin managed to bear fruit that wasn’t rotten to the core, and this live offering is the first of 2 solid releases that would mark a short lived, but basically successful reunion. It may be partly due to genre similarities between the two and one having an obvious influence over the other, but every time I contemplate the results of this reunion I end up comparing, or more appropriately contrasting it to the one that Black Sabbath had with Ozzy and the lone live release that that one produced. They are both structured similarly and take that “stick to the classics” approach to a live show, but the divide between the quality of performance between the two is essentially night and day.
The most obvious contrast that develops here is the gap in quality of both singing and showmanship between Marcolin and Osbourne. Although Messiah does show some signs of tiring at various points throughout the performance, he is able to maintain his composure and carry each tune successfully without creeping flat a half a second after he hit’s the note. His voice is highly expressive, with a vibrato almost wide enough to rival Placido Domingo, but avoids being too squeaky clean and occasionally gets throaty when called for. There’s not a lot of time wasted talking to the audience in between songs, which is always a positive for a live recording, but Marcolin is also able to encourage audience participation without coming off as pretentious or asinine in the process.
For the most part the songs are faithful reconstructions of their respective original versions, differing somewhat in how much the lead guitar parts are elaborated and the occasional altered drum fill. It doesn’t come off as a lifeless karaoke affair the way Sabbath’s “Reunion” did, but it does appear as thought the band was playing it a little bit safe in their performance practices here. Some of the songs are a tiny bit shorter than their studio versions for the simple fact that fadeouts are cut short, or in the case of “Mirror Mirror”, “Samarithan” and a couple others, because the euphoria of being on stage probably caused the songs to be played a little faster. This isn’t a huge issue, as these songs are punishing in their heaviness, but the live atmosphere definitely gives a lot of these songs a slightly happier atmosphere than they are in their studio incarnations.
The highlights on here are pretty obvious, as in this environment the band seems to do better with shorter and catchier songs. “Dark Reflections” has plenty of the heavier trappings of the doom style, but its more up tempo and galloping nature makes it an easier song to get into live, especially when audience participations is in play. “Bearer Of Pain” is basically the same story except for it’s even faster and Marcolin really throws himself into this one, pouring a ton of expression into every note held more than ¼ of a second. The one really great performance that runs sort of contrary to the trend of the album is the closer “Solitude”, which basically brings on the glory for being a great song and forcing audience participation at every juncture. Marcolin doesn’t attempt any of the higher end screams that Johan Langquist committed to the original recording, but his performance is otherwise flawless, bring a sense of dimension to a song that is heavily reliant on a dark atmosphere that is often lost on live recordings.
Although there isn’t a whole lot of variance in the song selection between this live release and the one done in 1990, this is definitely the better of the two as you get more out of it. Not only are there more songs in terms of quantity, but the renewed vigor that the band exhibited at this time upon reforming definitely shows through on their various performances. Even if it had not have led to an eventual solid studio album with new material, this album alone would stand as proof positive that the short-lived reunion with Messiah was an era of accomplishment beyond simply giving a farewell tour. If this band is on your radar, or any of the other non-stoner metal bands that were strongly influenced by Sabbath, this is something that should be checked out.