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While I enjoy pretty much all Candlemass, there's something about this record that gets my dick harder, my neck sorer than all the others. The absence of knobhead Marcolin? The tendency towards spacier soundscapes? The bigger riffs? The drugged, hopeless dark atmosphere of the whole thing? The fresh way it constantly references Sabbath without being shit/derivative? Well, it's not hard to rationalise my love for the album.
The absence of Marcolin's probably the biggest plus, personally. Always tended to view him as a self important ass-bandit which is reflected in his vocal delivery; and while I normally loathe Ozzy impersonators Bjorn's really solid and deliver in pretty much every song, Cyclo-F being a bit of a cringe inducing exception. Droid's full of great vocal lines, and the quiet, haunting delivery of Tot (probably my favourite song here) brilliantly fits the uncharacteristically quiet, sombre verses. The dude doesn't blow my mind and isn't technically awesome but he gets the job done in every single song and never sounds out of place, never does crap songs about Samaritans or Seven Silver Keys, so on. So it's less "he's great" and more "he never sounds like shit"? Well, yeah. Dude is consistently solid...
...Which is good because the way I've always viewed Candlemass and most doom in general is that you're generally ignoring the vocals for the huge ass riffs and vast, crushing atmosphere, and here that's delivered with aplomb. The whole thing's far closer to Sabbath (might be the vocalist) than most Candlemass is, although it's still a good deal darker and more visceral than the forefathers' work. Obvious Electric Funeral influence in almost every riff; not a bad thing! Things do a get a bit close to plagarism with Elephant Star's "hey guys we think Symptoms of the Universe has a cool main riff", but no big deal; if you're gonna rip off a riff you might as well make it a really good one. So many good riffs and guitar work here in general; Droid's catchy as hell main riff, the lost-in-space drift of Tot, the slow crusher that's Galatea. Far moreso than ever before the band is content to take things down to very deep, quiet tones- I think they're really good at it. Arguably a bit simpler and more stripped back than most Candlemass, but still, quality.
The whole thing just sounds really natural and un-forced; it sounds like what Candlemass wanted to do at the time. Even the drum solo in Cyclo-F fits?! Plus, the new (well, I assume it's new, I haven't heard Dactylis) found infusion of spacey synth times, the occaisonal tendency to drift among the stars on seas of delay just fits so naturally, so well into their sound. I really dig the way Candlemass approached the increased spaciness; it's not always subtle (Droid) but everytime it's really noticeable it's to the obvious improvement of the song. It's one of those experiments where you really have to wonder why they didn't follow up on it? Because it works and it works damn well, this pitch black atmosphere full of the primal emptiness of outer space.
Overall it's just a really good album. Easy to lose yourself in. As good if not better than most of their works with Marcolin and Lowe; deserves listening to and buying if you're not a cheap bastard.
While Candlemass may always be remembered for housing vocalists such as Messiah Marcolin and Robert Lowe in their ranks, they were one of many bands that kept pushing through the 90's and giving the die-hards left some good quality material. This particular album is one of the three released during this time period and is the last to feature guitarist Mats Ståhl, drummer Jejo Perkovic, and vocalist Björn Flodkvist. It's also the only Candlemass album to feature a keyboardist in the form of Carl Westholm and was what paved the way for a reunion of the band's signature line-up.
Musically, this album features the band's familiar tempos and but focuses on a different aspect of doom metal than what the group is usually known for. The atmosphere is incredibly dark, the riffs are incredibly slow and packed with sludge, and there appears to be more of a "jamming" feel on here in comparison to other Candlemass efforts. There is also an incredibly spacy feel to the album with this tone being reinforced by the spooky keyboard efforts and strange song titles.
As many listeners (and the booklet's liner notes) have pointed out, Black Sabbath is the most dominating influence on this album's songwriting and band performance. "Tot" has a foreboding feel similar to that of "Black Sabbath," the driving "Elephant Star" is similar to "Symptom Of The Universe," and "Arx/NG 891" has some shades of "Electric Funeral" in its atmosphere. While this could have turned out horribly and shamefully derivative in the hands of a lesser band, Candlemass executes its tributes in good taste and adds in a lot of unique elements to keep things interesting.
The band's performance is also quite solid and goes along with the album's loose nature quite nicely. When taking the Sabbath influence into consideration, it is needless to say that the guitars are almost always running the show. While the riffs sometimes lack variation, they are always solid in their plodding nature and the solos provide some decent touches here and there. Flodkvist also puts in a decent Ozzy Osbourne impression though his somewhat nasally tone keeps him short of the Wino levels of success. I also like how the drums appear to be more prominent than usual and are given a nice chance to shine in the midst of "Cyclo-F."
I also found the lyrics to be pretty intriguing with most of them being about as odd as their titles would suggest. Most of the songs seem to center around themes related to fantasy and science fiction though "Cyclo-F" throws out an incredibly sarcastic set of rhymes that seem to play off the classic doom metal stereotypes. They even manage to bring in a William Blake reference for the opening lines of "Arx/NG 891."
While this isn't on the same level as some of their more famous efforts, this is a pretty solid slab of doom metal worth checking out for anyone who calls themselves a fan. It may actually be a good introduction to the band for unfamiliar listeners that already enjoy classic Black Sabbath and should be a great bonus for those that have already been initiated.
My Current Favorites:
"Droid," "Tot," "Elephant Star," "Arx/NG 891," and "Cyclo-F"
Many fans of the classic Messiah era will be deeply disappointed. The only surviving member of the old good times is Leif Edling, the music direction is more psychedelic doom (with no epic doom elements), the new singer is completely different to Messiah (he sounds like a successful clone of Ozzy), the new guitarist has an experimental (though still doom to the core) style that has no relation to Mappe's classic riffs and Lars' thunderous solos, the production is rather "modern" featuring FX and atmospheric parts and the overall impression is that only the name remained and we have in fact a diferent group using the same moniker.
However, Leif respects the legend of this group better than any other. He didn't use crap in order to exploit the name of the band, but top material as always. He wanted to pay a tribute to his most beloved group of the past Black Sabbath with an album which have the most influences derived from the classic BS stuff. He also hired a vocalist that he sounds like the twin brother of Ozzy with a rather electric, atmospheric (and a bit stoned) voice.
When I first heard this record I supposed that it was something like Black Sabbath rip off, with a bit more depressive mood. Indeed, "Tot" for example have the same structure as "Black Sabbath": Bell's tolls and the sounds of the rain as an indroduction, slow-tempo horror-like singing at the middle and it ends with a monstrous guitar explosion. There were times that I wondered if I was listening to Candlemass, or Black Sabbath's debut or Vol. 4, with some more modern sound. But after listening to it more than two times, I started to recognise also the space rock influences that made this album so psychedelic. Sometimes the Hawkwind-Sabbath combination makes this album sound more stoner than doom.
Any novelty? The lyrics! They are so psychedelic and mad that if you read them, without listening to the music you may think that they are pessimistic nonsense. But they fit the album's mood, a total confusion both musically and lyrically, that creates an unique atmosphere, a very dangerous experimentation that only mr. Edling could make under a legendary name without being humiliated by the result.
In conclusion, this is the album that Black Sabbath sould have released after their reunion, but they never did it. But it doesn't matter. Their tradition is being continued even under the name Candlemass!
Candlemass without Messiah Marcolin? Can such a thing even exist? It can, and it is proven in this monster of an album. Candlemass truly delivers with this much more modern sounding doom metal style. As much as we would all like our beloved bands to keep on churning out the same exact album with the same exact sound over And over, it simply cannot happen. Candlemass departs from the epic sounding tones of their majestic first four albums and simply sounds over all inspired with this release. It could be said that this is not only one of Candlemass’s greatest albums, but truly at the peak of the whole metal movement.
The album opens with “Droid”, as soon as it starts you know that only a band as amazing as Candlemass could have such a killer melody and guitar and bass tone. The vocals are not opera style, so for all of you that bitch about Messiah's vocals, you will have to check this guy out, he fits the band perfectly. Next comes “Tot” a somber song, the rain and church bells at the beginning set the atmosphere, this song could be called a semi-ballad, melancholic lyrics pour out of the speakers, but then like thunder monstrous guitar riff and church bell brake the silence.
Next comes the fast paced “Elephant Star” one of the heaviest tracks, you can immediately hear the Black Sabbath influence, a great rocker. “Blumma Apt” is has a very groovy guitar riff that exclaims, “Get a bong and smoke me!” I mean is this a stoner’s song or what? If there is any low point in the album I would say it is “Arx/NG 891” It starts like a Hawkwind song(Hawkwind rules by the way), like flying saucers or something in outer space, really trippy, but not up to par with the other songs.
The album picks right up with “Zog”, this is a crusher, slow, dense, and those damn catchy riffs that Candlemass do so well, throughout the song there is a weird distortion like guitar, it adds a third dimension to the song, amazing stuff. Then comes the best track of the album in my opinion, “Galatea” is the gem of this treasure. A brilliant combination of haunting lyrics “In the grass the ogre is slayed…fragile moment of the day”, and an overall melancholy that creeps under your skin and stays with you for hours, I would say that this is one of Candlemass’s best songs ever.
The album closes with “Cyclo – f” and “Mythos”. Both are odd tracks, “Cyclo – F” is a great doom song, with a long ass drum solo in the middle, again it picks up the pace so the album ends on a crushing note. “Mythos” is like an outro, creepy if you ask me. This album is a masterpiece. From just hearing, the first couple of songs you understand that what you are listening to is out of the ordinary and that you are in the presence of greatness. It amazes me that this album gets so little recognition from the metal hordes across the world, it is simply brilliant and worth every cent of your hard earned money. Of course it dose not surprise me that this album comes from Candlemass, they are truly the masters of what they do.