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Having this as my first Candlemass album had a lot of advantages. Perhaps if I had heard 'Nightfall' or 'Tales of Creation', I would have been disappointed with the rather broad guitar tone, which sounds like a concrete/treacle hybrid, or the notable straightforwardness of the solos (no 'Into the Unfathomed Tower' here), or even Robert Lowe's voice, which doesn't quite do the same things as Messiah's. Having since caught up on what I had missed out, I can say that 'King of the Grey Islands' isn't quite as inspirational or as grandiose as those first four albums (not much is), but it's a definite improvement on the very unspectacular 'From the 13th Sun' that I found so plain and dry for this band. Candlemass generally struggled to find a particular direction after their reformation, with some attempts at a more Sabbathy sound, a more spacey direction, and then a darker, less spiritual style on this and the following 'Death Magic Doom' that actually harks back to the slightly mysterious and medieval atmosphere of the debut.
For me, this is easily the best 21st century Candlemass album and it's a simple matter of numbers. Eight full-length songs, as well as two intros,and all of them are good songs. I would go as far as to say that three or four of them are damn good songs, up there with the best this band has produced, although for sheer jaw-dropping ambition they lag a little behind. What is brilliant about this album is that Candlemass managed to introduce a smidgen of subtlety to their earlier bombastic formula and, by remembering what made them initially so outstanding, produced an album with far greater impact than any of the other post-reformation efforts. Thomas Vikstrom and Bjorn Flodkvist were not vocalists that helped Candlemass achieve their full potential: neither of them were epic doom vocalists and they just made the band sound like a depressed or tripping Black Sabbath. What does the trick on 'King of the Grey Islands' is not a return to the complexity of songs like 'Well of Souls' or the revelatory glory of 'Darkness in Paradise', but instead a strong set of basic ideas with some interesting twists and clear focal points.
Robert Lowe is very important on this album, despite my belief that his best singing days were with Solitude Aeturnus in the 90s. He stretches his voice to far more shapes than all Candlemass vocalists bar Messiah, yet he doesn't give in to the excess that Messiah was constantly on the verge of, instead supplying a very earthy, gritty persona to lyrics that are vitriolic and vengeful in place of lamenting or heavenly. Something Machiavellian seems to haunt the album and, particularly with the curious magic/castle/madness hybrid on 'Demonia 6', harks back to a song like 'A Sorceror's Pledge' and all the epic and mildly fantastic imagery that existed there. Something quite nasty and shadowy goes on in the middle of the album that we don't get a clear glimpse of, though it pulls the listener into an atmosphere and a story that Messiah could never have pulled off. This isn't a concept album, but all the pieces hang together so well that it could be passed off as such - perhaps the epic journey of a ruler turned over to the dark side, who eventually perishes in just the place he used to rule, as the dreamily perfect closing minute of 'Embracing the Styx' suggests.
The rest of Candlemass are brilliant as well, because they make the most of every musical idea that they begin. The riffs in songs like 'Devil Seed' or 'Destroyer' are very, very simple for this style, but the guitar tone is so crushing and thick that even chord progressions sound immense, while the small melodic touches that unfold upon those riffs are emotional in their gradual ascent and totally seal the climax of 'Destroyer' with their slow harmonic development. The weird structure of 'Man of Shadows' shows how the instrumentalists have out-thought their weaknesses: instead of hoping that pure strength will carry the song, there is the surprise factor of a sudden acoustic verse, which bursts into a squalling solo with all manner of distorted trickery, and a peaceful outro that gets epic because of its balance, not because of any virtuoso playing. On the other hand, 'Of Stars and Smoke' is straight up verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-solo-chorus and is perfect, the kind of song you would have played at your funeral. I could honestly pick out brilliant features from every song and there would still be surprises to spare - the songwriting is just that sweet.
I think that this might just be the smartest album Candlemass ever made. It would be impossible to rise above the 80s albums in terms of musicianship, epic scale, or raw talent, so the wiser heads of middle age went with what they had and used it to its full. Heavier, angrier, more cohesive, and without any weak points, 'King of the Grey Islands' goes right up there with the classics.
Not having heard this band before this release I was expecting their brand of â€epic doomâ€ to be some super intricate thing full of incredibly long songs and heaps of narration and whatnot. Shame this isnâ€™t as grandiose and epic as I was expecting but itâ€™s still a good surprise; I expected a doom take on Summoning but instead I got a doom take on doom; big riffs that are slow and mostly good combined with vocals that are also slow and always good.
First thing that strikes you (past the â€œdamn this is a really annoying intro riffâ€) when the real music comes in is that is really heavy. Monolithic, huge, crushing, dense, etc. etc. Itâ€™s hard to describe the guitar tone in anything but the usual doom cliches; suffice to say that the guitar tone weighs a great deal. Moreso then any other genre doom metal needs big guitars, and the producer of this record really understood that, pushing the guitars up in the mix, yet still keeping everything else well placed. â€˜Course, while massive guitar tone will carry an album a fair way it wonâ€™t make it good; and while the songs donâ€™t quite match the production on show here theyâ€™re still real solid and make this whole thing a pretty enjoyable experience.
A simple enough description of the stuff on offer here would be a more misanthropic Black Sabbath. Riffs of the dense and heavy variety come in, the singer- who was a really nice middle range voice, perfect for the music- rages about satan and the human race, a solo or perhaps a mid tempo section comes and goes, and Candlemass resume the misery and hate. Honestly I really wasnâ€™t expecting this album to be as dark as it is- I guess mostly listening to the Sleep style of stoner/doom has made me forget just how cheerless this kind of stuff can be. Doom is serious business for these guys, and that attitude helps Candlemass pull off some riffs that otherwise shouldnâ€™t work- the good olâ€™ one semitone riff in â€œDestroyerâ€, the sort of pointless nothing intro to â€œMan of Shadowsâ€- they would normally invite some sort of snigger from me, but I swear I can hear these guys going â€œcome on, just try to laugh at itâ€, at which point I shut up and resume my equally serious listening.
Donâ€™t get me wrong though- this album doesnâ€˜t get by on itâ€˜s vibe, this is a good album with lots of good moments. Pick a track, any track, and thereâ€™ll be a heap of massive riffs ready to do a big, onyx-coloured shit on you. Never has â€œWe set sail in Julyâ€ sounded as depressing as it does in â€œClearsightâ€; a real huge mid tempo brawler of a tune that makes you want to go out and knife yuppies. â€œOf Stars and Smokeâ€ is probably the most typically sad type doom thing here, not as angry as the other songs, perhaps, but itâ€™s still huge and has a really nice solo- as do most songs really- the noodlingâ€™s always tuneful and economical. Thereâ€™s a sweet little breakdown on offer here too, made all the more effective by the fact that it hardly happens anywhere else in the album. â€œEmbracing the Styxâ€œ is probably the highlight, though- a really fine intro/verse riff, super heavy and really eerie, all supported by some fine drumming and subtle ivory jingles. Itâ€˜s probably the best song on here, and itâ€˜s heavy itâ€˜s fucking heavy. I love how the drummer speeds things up a little bit once in a while in this song, makes the thing seem strangely frantic and, I dunno heavy. Instant doom classic, for serious. Overall I canâ€™t really say thereâ€™s a huge amount of variety here- Candlemass plug the slow riffs, the vocalist is depressed and sings with a lot of passion, thereâ€™s some mid tempo sections. However this is the kind of music thatâ€™s best when itâ€™s simple and straight-forward in itâ€™s approach. Like many things about doom, Candlemass understand this.
The slowness and lethargy on offer here has been executed rather well; Candlemass wanted to give you a dose of riff filled misery and they certainly succeed. If you like doom, get this, as itâ€™s a very good album. Simple as that.
Every time there is an important band that makes the decision to switch from their alleged principle vocalist to one of equal prominence, I always get this strong sense of déjà vu, as if I’m reliving the entire experience of discovering Black Sabbath post-Ozzy. There is naturally a fair share of loyalists who cling to the notion that the band ceases to be when their renowned singer disappears from the fold, but most of these types never even bothered to listen to the Dio years of Sabbath, let alone the brilliant work done with Tony Martin, lest their minds would be instantly changed by the equal, if not superior work done by these lesser known figures. Vocally the contrast between Lowe and Messiah is very similar to that of Dio and Ozzy, but unlike with Rainbow and Sabbath being very different creatures during the 70s, the common genre shared by Candlemass and Solitude Aeturnus makes this vocal transition between this album and its predecessor much easier to accept for the otherwise orthodox doom metal faithful.
“King Of The Grey Islands” is interesting in its approach of not trying to impress, yet simultaneously being quite impressive. The songs are presented in a very methodical manner, putting forth traditional structures and emphasizing strong ideas worth the constant repetition that is peculiar to doom metal, as well as ones that are conducive to the dark atmosphere required for the desired effect. Right from the first few seconds of “Prologue”, where a basic clean guitar line reflects the plain yet haunting imagery depicted on the album cover, you can tell that a peculiarly dark musical picture will emerge. But the actual experience is not quite the mere sorrowful wailing that some tend to pigeonhole the genre with, but a multifaceted sort of darkness that can be fatalistic, angry, spiteful, or the more expected mix of hopelessness and depression. This all combines with a sort of mysticism that the band has always carried in their lyrical subjects to create something that is very distinctive yet accessible. Comparisons to the whole of this album could be made to Sabbath’s “Dehumanizer” and “Cross Purposes” in a sense, although the final product is definitely its own beast.
The individual chapters of this book of an album fall into two distinct categories, namely the catchy melodic sort and the epic atmospheric numbers. “Emperor Of The Void” and “Of Stars And Smoke” are the best examples of the shorter and slightly more accessible songs put forth here, putting a good deal of emphasis on melodic choruses and muddy yet easy to follow riff lines. The latter one has an utterly spellbinding, yet short guitar solo with a tone that almost perfectly mirrors Craig Goldie’s brilliant sound on Dio’s “Magica”. Among the longer, more drawn out songs, there is a trend where the longer these guys tend to go the better their product becomes. The dark and droning recitation that is “Destroyer” departs from the mystical/fantasy based subjects for vile depictions of villainous schemes, perfectly reflected in Lowe’s angry yet still very melodic vocal interpretation. “Embracing The Styx”, which is my personal favorite of all the songs on here, perfectly demonstrates that if you come up with the right combination of notes for a riff and put the right atmospheric touches on it with the rest of the arrangement; you can repeat the hell out of it, vary it very little, and yet still keep it interesting. The principle intro riff, when combined with the rumble of the double bass drums, create this sort of horrific atmosphere quite similar to what the river Styx may have appeared to anyone viewing it.
When you get right down to it, there is very little on here to criticize or to want for. The only thing that might improve this is a little more emphasis on the lead guitar, as there is a disproportionate amount of repetitive atmospheric sections that are either presented without a leading instrument, or take the occasion to focus on Lowe’s vocals. At times, the album seems to be mostly vocally driven than anything else, and the solos, though very well realized, tend to not last very long. It’s understandable to take this approach when considering Lowe’s very expressive and versatile voice, but it also has the detrimental effect of sometimes making the music come off plainer sounding than it necessarily should. Perhaps it’s my own addiction to hearing slow melodic metal by the likes of Axel Rudi Pell, who puts greater emphasis on leads than he does riffs or vocals, but the leads on here are expressive and interesting enough to merit a little more attention paid to them.
This album is a slight step up from the “self-titled” one that preceded it, but people just discovering this band would be well served by going earlier into their catalog first, preferably to their 80s material. Fans of Solitude Aeturnus will probably take to this pretty easily as it’s similarities to this band are comparable to the ones between Dio and the albums Sabbath put out with the same front man. Candlemass has an uncanny ability for adapting its sound to fit a new vocalist, as shown in their all but impeccable back catalog, but hopefully Robert Lowe will be able to juggle both projects for a while and there will be more where this came from.
Originally submitted to (www.metal-observer.com) on September 26, 2008.
It’s funny how history repeats itself. ‘King Of The Grey Islands’ is Candlemass’ weakest album since ‘Chapter VI’, also recorded in the wake of vocalist Messiah Marcolin’s departure from the band. That doesn’t mean it’s all bad news though – even ‘Chapter VI’ had a few standout moments, like ‘When The Runes Still Speak’ or ‘The Ebony Throne’, for instance, and this album is aided greatly by the presence of Solitude Aeternus’ Robert Lowe on vocals. Lowe is a brilliant doom vocalist in his own right and has a stronger presence than the somewhat generic Thomas Vikstrom did on ‘Chapter VI’.
And at first, this album seems invincible. Opening with a suitably dark and melodic instrumental ‘Prologue’, the Swedish doomsters go on to score a hat-trick with ‘Emperor Of The Void’, ‘Devil Seed’ and the haunting, exquisite ‘Of Stars And Smoke’. The band is completely on point here, with strong riffs, memorable melodies and immersive song structures. But then, somewhere halfway through ‘Demonia 6’, the album hits a slump. While songs like ‘Clearsight’ and ‘Man Of Shadows’ have their moments, there’s a definite slackening in intensity, a sense of meandering from one doomy sequence to the next without a masterplan in mind. The band is never less than flawlessly competent, but there’s an under-developed feel to the material, as if they needed more time to really find each song’s niche and fully incorporate Lowe into the equation. Still, class will show, and few doomsters can match bassist and main man Leif Edling’s class. All the loose ends and meanderings of the in-between material are reined in for a final, epic track, ‘Embracing The Styx’ which makes full use of Edling’s knack for churning out sluggish, immense Iommi-esque riffage and bleak, compelling melody.
Perhaps the weaknesses of this album stem from it being a bit of a rush job – Leif Edling released the last Krux album in 2006, and Robert Lowe had to find time for this album in between his main band’s 2006 release, and Concept Of God, a Solitude Aeternus side-project with a 2007 release. There’s nothing drastically wrong with ‘King Of The Grey Islands’, it simply lapses below the sterling standard of a classic Candlemass album by a few, crucial notches that make a rather definite difference between an admittedly decent release and another Candlemass essential.
I was playing 'Essential Doom' in the car with a non-metal friend, when he bemusedly asked me to explain the appeal of such a band as Candlemass. I told him to imagine ordering a pizza, a delicious pizza with all of his favourite toppings in perfect combination. Now, I said, imagine that pizza, smothered with extra cheese. He understood straight away, though I don't think I made a convert of him.
When I heard that Robert Lowe of mediocre, cheese-dripping Solitude Aeturnus was to join the legendary C-mass, I was overjoyed, not only because it would give him the platform to realise his considerable vocal potential (and on decent recordings, I might add), but also because I felt that after years of emulating the epic doom sound, he thoroughly deserved the chance to play the real thing. I was not disappointed.
King of the Grey Islands, to carry the analogy, has only a modest sprinkling of cheese. Edling's style has definitely evolved since the glory days of Nightfall and Ancient Dreams, and where once the sound was restrained (as in 'Cry from the Crypt'), of late it surges relentlessly forward (as in 'Black Dwarf'). Grey Islands certainly follows this trend of pounding momentum, yet with a touch more finesse and C-mass authenticity than the somewhat abysmal self-titled album. There are some excellent songs on this album, especially 'Embracing the Styx' which combines a stunning guitar riff with a dramatic vocal riff and lyrical motifs to 'die' for (although they've always had superb themes).
Even though some tracks are a little bland (Demonia 6 doesn't bear a whole lot of scrutiny), Lowe's outstanding vocal performance makes it all worthwhile. His tone, so starkly different, nay, oppositional to Marcolin's, reminds us of deserts and dehydration, of rage and misery and many things Messiah's triumphal operatics struggle to convey. An added bonus on at least one version of the album are two 'vocal sessions with Robert Lowe', 'Solitude' and 'Gallow's End'. These I have probably played the most, obviously because they're classics, but believe me, he does them justice.
There are a couple of flaws to King of the Grey Islands, my chief complaint is the inexorable repetition of certain songs, for instance Demonia 6. I put this down to the band's veteran status (it's hard to write new material that's actually good), and the fact that the vocals were apparently recorded a continent away from the band under severe time pressure, considering which, they've produced a remarkable album.
Without dragging this out much further, I'd like to comment on Mappe Bjorkman's wierd and innovative guitar solos. The difference of Grey Islands is often most apparent when from the crushing bellows of the new sound flowers an absolutely authentic, arpeggiated solo that is unquestionably Candlemass in the oldest tradition. It's a very well played album, and I fervently hope for another, even fresher album in the next couple of years...
Candlemass is undoubtedly one of the most historic and legendary doom metal bands. For the majority of the fans of this particular metal genre, the announcement that Candlemass were reunited with their original line up was met with excitement and high expectations. However, some were more sceptical and had their doubts on whether Candlemass could reproduce the unique atmosphere they had in the past. I have to admit that I was among the sceptical ones: following the split-up of Candlemass after “Chapter VI”, the members of the band decided to create their own bands. Nevertheless, these new bands never managed to reach the success that Canlemass had achieved, at least not in the commercial level. Leif Edling even reformed the band, with totally different members and a totally different musical approach, yet success still seemed to be out of reach. The sudden declaration that Candlemass were back once again with their original line up led me to the conclusion that the members of the band simply tried to take advantage of the name “Candlemass” in an effort to attract attention and regenerate their diminished popularity.
Our fears were partially and temporarily falsified with the release of the album “Candlemass” in 2005. Although this new record could hardly be compared with the masterpieces the band had released during the ’80s, it proved that Candlemass still had the ability to provide us with doom metal of high quality and interesting compositions. Nevertheless, the band would soon face a new difficulty: after the subsequent tours for the promotion of the new album, vocalist Messiah Marcolin decided to leave the group. Since the operatic style Messiah employed contributed essentially to the distinct sound of Candlemass, a lot of fans expressed feelings of uncertainty concerning the future of the band. Many thought that Candlemass had little to offer without Messiah.
It was obvious that finding a replacement for a singer as established and accomplished as Messiah would be no easy task. Leif Edling and the other members of Candlemass sought to recruit an experienced vocalist, whose abilities could not be questioned. Robert Lowe seemed to be the perfect choice, as he had served for long years in the underrated band of Solitude Aeturnus, always displaying excellent skills. Thus, with Robert Lowe as their lead vocalist, Candlemass recorded and released their next album, “King Of The Grey Islands”.
The first impression one gets when examining “King Of The Grey Islands” is that it is a very dark and gloomy record. The cover artwork is a plain picture of a skull bearing a crown, an image totally devoid of colour. The same colourless pattern is followed when it comes to the photographs of the band members. What is more, this pessimistic and broody atmosphere is evident in the musical content of the record. Indeed, if “King Of The Grey Islands” were a painting, it would probably be black and white. This album is a musical manifestation of darkness, depression and solitude - nothing less than what is expected from a doom metal record.
Even though the atmosphere of “King Of The Grey Islands” is mostly reminiscent of “Epicus Doomicus Metallicus”, the songs themselves seem to be a combination between the “Nightfall” and “Ancient Dreams” periods of Candlemass. Heavy and mysterious guitar riffs that seem to drag themselves through the tracks, eerie parts with operatic vocals, melancholic and depressive lyrics that nevertheless include small hints of hope. As always, the influences from Black Sabbath constitute the main feature of Candlemass’ music. The majority of the songs are inspired and enjoyable, proving that Leif Edling can still deliver excellent doom compositions. “Of Stars And Smoke” and “Embracing The Styx”, for instance, could easily be included in a compilation of Candlemass’ greatest songs. Robert Lowe’s vocal contribution seems to have revived the band, adding a distinct quality to the final result. “King Of The Grey Islands” gives a very clear and definite answer to the question whether Messiah could successfully be replaced.
However, there is a flaw in Candlemass’ current album, a flaw that constitutes the main reason why we’re not dealing with an excellent record. More specifically, “King Of The Grey Islands” is not only influenced from “Ancient Dreams” or “Nightfall”, but it is also extremely reminiscent of these albums, in a manner that becomes annoying at times. When listening to the tracks of Candlemass’ recent album, a listener who is familiar with the former works of the group will sometimes get a feeling like “wait a minute, I think I’ve heard this riff before in the past”. Once again, it is Robert Lowe that saves the day: had it not been for his excellent performance, which adds to the originality of the album’s sound, then “King Of The Grey Islands” would probably be considered a simple repetition of what Candlemass produced in past years.
Overall, despite its minor flaws, “King Of The Grey Islands” seems to be an encouraging step towards a right direction. If Candlemass take advantage of the skilful singer they now possess, and if they manage to sound a little bit more original, then they will surely create even greater albums and re-establish themselves as the absolute masters of European doom metal.
Candlemass is a strange case. They have a singer regarded by many as
"iconic" to the band, but unlike most bands with such a setup you can
accept Candlemass without him pretty easily. Oh sure, Messiah Marcolin was a fantastic vocalist, but he just couldn't seem to hold his act together withCandlemass for more than one or two albums at a time (supposedly he's a big an assclown as he looks, but I digress) so he was never had the chance to be thought of as an irreplaceable element. It helps that Leif Edling has an uncanny knack for finding replacement singers who are just as talented, if not more so. Which brings us to Candlemass' most recent effort, King Of The Grey Islands.
First off I must mention the album cover. Maybe it's the D&D nerd in me
but fuck me if that isn't the best cover I've seen all year. It fits the
music perfectly, plus it avoids the too-much-information trap of so many metal covers and lets your mind fill in the blanks. I picture that skull attached to a purple robe-bedecked skeleton perched in a marble throne, still regal despite centuries of dust and decay, a glittering sword clutched in its hand. It's seated in a sealed tomb deep underground, surrounded by heaps of treasure accumulated through a lifetime of conquest and plunder--and ready to spring to life and swing that sword at the neck of anyone who fucks with ANY of it. Hope your cleric took the Greater Turning feat, fucko.
Anyway. The album.
First off: New singer Robert Lowe. He's just amazing. I've never heard
Solitude Aeturnus so I didn't know what to expect, but goddamn if he
doesn't deliver. He manages the trick of taking after Ronnie James Dio without ripping him off. Unlike some falsettos I can name*cough*JamesLaBrie*cough* he actually SINGS, rather than show off with a lot of "look how high I can scream!" nonsense. He uses a lot more emotion than Messiah ever did, too. Perhaps most importantly, I can picture him singing any of the old stuff and doing right by it--I'd love to hear him sing "Bewitched". If the band happens to read this, a live album (heavy on Epicus and Tales of Creation songs) would be AWESOME.
The rest of the bands sounds great too--very riffy, but unlike some
doom bands they don't just play the same riff for minutes on end; they keep
you engaged. No matter how long any song on this album lasts, you never get the feeling that it's "padded". The lyrics are very fantasy-heavy, but the band handles them with such gravity and respect that they never devolve into power metal silliness--the absence of keyboards helps GREATLY in this. They never forget the gloom-n-doom atmosphere no matter what Lowe is singing about.
My personal favorite song on this album would have to be "Of Stars And
Smoke". It's just such a perfect song, plus it encapsulates the current state of
the band so well.
Highly, highly recommended.
These lines aren’t intended to serve any other purpose than just expressing my opinion about an album that i had the chance to listen to.
First of all, i have to say that i found nothing wrong with Marcolin’s vocal performance, or at least nothing that would have imposed him being cast out of the band. Their previous album was kind of redundant and self-sufficient, but in the end it turned out decent enough. That probably has to be the actual reason for the band’s decision to get a new vocalist. And so they did: King of the Grey Islands is the first release of the new Candlemass.
Now for the album itself. The first thing that came in my mind when i heard this was the fact that their music is still heavy, reminding of the self-titled album. The musicianship remains good and solid throughout the whole 53 minutes, but i have to note that it is somewhat reminiscent of the 2005 work. As for the vocals, they are a strong point of this effort, as Lowe does a good job, his voice simply merges perfectly with the lyrics and the instrumental part to form a whole.
Emperor of the Void is a masterpiece, clearly the best song in here, resuming very well what the band tried to do: heavy and dark doom metal, with deep and reflection-inducing lyrics. The riffs are cool and catchy and Robert Lowe’s vocal performance is outstanding. The next track, Devil Seed, is also good, though weaker than the second one. The other songs are all decent, but nothing remarcable, except Clearsight, the second best out there. The instrumental intro leads to the searing vocals, which i dare to say are quite different from the second track, haunting the listener by actually being lighter, cleaner, but just as good.
Now, the things i don’t like. The music can get a bit monotonous at times, as there seems to be an almost invisible pattern that the band tends to follow. Demonia 6 is the weakest track, as i can’t find anything in it to draw my attention. It’s quite boring, and not even Lowe can save this one. Simply a filler. The instrumental is actually forgetable, too short and it just doesn’t have any elements that would have made it noticeable. And i have to say that beside the vocal performance, which is certainly an improvement, the rest of it doesn’t seem like progress to me. It’s just the same Candlemass we know and love/hate (it is actually one of my favorite metal bands) with better vocals (sorry, Marcolin, but it’s the truth!).
Finally, the two bonus tracks seem to me useless and very weak. Marcolin did do, at the time being, a good job with those two songs, especially Solitude, which i dare to say is classic Candlemass. I don’t see the point of re-recording something that is already done as good as it could have ever been done just for the sake of having Lowe’s performance replace the old vocals, as the aforementioned tracks belong to a closed chapter in the band’s history. He’s very good, i can’t deny that, but his voice just doesn’t match those songs, let’s leave it to that.
To sum it all up, a good album, but not excellent. If you like Candlemass and want a doom metal album worth the money, buy this one!
It’s been a turbulent and weird era for Candlemass with all these things around the fact that Messiah Marcolin eventually left the band, after reading many interviews with the bandleader Leif Edling it’s obvious that he and the guys in the band doesn’t like Messiah at all, and have never really done. So Messiah left the building, but who really thought Candlemass would call it quits just because of that? Exactly, nobody! So they tested a whole bunch of vocalist but didn’t find what they looked for, and as a gift from heaven there was one day some news on their homepage saying that Robert Lowe of SOLITUDE AETURNUS was their new vocalist. Some were sceptic, but some felt directly that this is exactly what C-mass need. And yes, this new disc of doom shows: Candlemass are back and they are stronger than ever, and Robert is the best vocalist that has ever sung for this band.
With Candlemass we always know that we get heavy doom music with gloomy and phenomenal lyrics. The band has an excellent songwriter and bassplayer in form of Leif, a superb guitar duo, a solid drummer...and now one of the best vocalists in metal. The performance Robert does on the album can be described with one word: divine, it even outmatches his performance on the latest SA-album “Alone”. On “K.O.T.G.I.” he sings with much rawer and darker vocals to fit in with the aggressive music, but still he manages to sing with so much variation and mixes with some SA-kind of singing here and there, which really makes this to his best performance. The music, compared to 2005’s S/T-album, is much more dynamic and ‘big’-sounding, and as Leif has said; it’s also more metal. After hearing the verses of “Emperor of the Void” the first time I understood directly that this would be the darkest C-mass album so far, and it is. Not only musicwise, but also the lyrical part. Leif says he doesn’t care too much about the lyrics when writing an album, I find this strange, since he always writes so awesome lyrics. Most songs on this albums are about mankind...what can be more gloomy and depressing? Critisiscm is spitted out towards certain people, the society we live in and what we do to our planet and ourselves. And no one do this better than Leif, when it comes for lyrics to songs. Some great songs can be found on here and thing is that there’s not a single weak track, except the maybe too monotonous “Demonia 6”.
The band seems happy with the situation, they’re feeling enthusiastic and want to get on the road with Robert, it’s obvious, Candlemass are hungry...and I can understand it. With such a great album as this, who can be anything else than happy? There’s some songs on here that can be counted as the best C-mass have written (“Clearsight” and “Embracing The Styx”) and i’m happy with Leif’s writing, that he can keep such a high level of greatness on every album in the last years. While it’s not really beating some of their older albums, this one is still very close and is absolutely up there in the top of this band’s albums. This is a must for every Candlemass as well as Solitude Aeturnus fan...or let’s just say: anyone that is into doom!
Can Candlemass survive without Messiah Marcolin? I have never had any doubts about that myself anyway. Their number one classic (‘Epicus Doomicus Metallicus’) had Johan Langqvist singing and the first album after Messiah’s first departure (‘Chapter VI’) wasn’t only handled very capably by Thomas Vikström, but also has some of the band’s best songs to date. Replacing Messiah this time is Doom Metal singer number one, Solitude Aeturnus-singer Robert Lowe. And no disrespect to Messiah, but I hope he won’t return this time. Because what Robert Lowe did on this album is bordering on the incredible.
Not only does Lowe do an outstanding job on ‘King Of The Grey Islands’, the whole band is in a shape I never thought they would be capable of. Don’t get me wrong, I have loved Candlemass in every incarnation they have had so far, but it seems like they’re breaking all the boundaries they set themselves with this album. Helped by a production that is guarateed to blow your mind, Candlemass lets nothing hold them back this time. The result is a stellar album, which is – who would have thought? – even surprising at times!
After a slightly unnecessary intro, the opening riff of ‘Emperor Of The Void’ blasts through either your speakers or headphones. It was the latter for me. I was heading for the mall on my bicycle when this amazing riff came on. I stopped for a minute, took my headphones off, said “holy shit!”, put my headphones back on and cycled further. It was that strong. Something about this song already shows you this album is going to be more powerful than what you’re used to from Candlemass. Part of that is definitely Robert Lowe’s vocals. Where Messiah would probably have done these vocal lines operatically, Lowe adds a certain, creepy atmosphere to the whole thing. And let’s not forget that amazing chorus!
See, I’ve mentioned a chorus already! I would hardly do that with Candlemass, because – let’s be honest – they hardly had any outstanding choruses in the past (‘Demon’s Gate’ maybe...), but this album is full of them. Memorable, but never cheesy. I heard a sample of ‘Of Stars And Smoke’ on the Candlemass MySpace several days prior to buying the album and it somehow didn’t do much to me. I can’t remember why and I can’t understand either, because ‘Of Stars And Smoke’ has – by far! – the best chorus in any Candlemass song. The pre-chorus to ‘Devil Seed’ is getting a hold of you and never letting go material as well. Singing along and banging your head have never been combined so naturally as on this album.
Though Leif Edling will always do whatever it takes to keep Candlemass and Krux apart two separate bands – my hope that Mats Levén would become the new Candlemass-singer was not answered due to that reason – there definitely are some references to Krux’s sound at some moments on this album. Most of that is caused by Carl Westholm’s keyboards. His subtle sense of psychedelia really makes some points on this album shine even more than they already would have done without those keyboards. Take ‘Man Of Shadows’ for instance, there’s this pre-chorus that appears only once in the entire song with acoustic guitars and keyboard work that can’t do anything else than causing goosebumps. The part reminds me of the pre-chorus to ‘I Still See The Black’ from ‘Dactylis Glomerata’ somehow. ‘Man Of Shadows’ probably has Lars Johansson’s best guitar solos to date as well.
But the best treat of this album is saved for last. Is ‘Embracing The Styx’ the best Candlemass-song to date? If you ask me...maybe ‘At The Gallow’s End’ is the only serious competition for that! ‘Embracing The Styx’ is really the über-doomsong that many bands in the genre wish they had made. It’s a bit Krux-ish too. The intro riff just kills you, I promise you. And if it wasn’t atmospheric enough, Carl Westholm hits the ground note on the piano and adds some of his typical synths to make it even better. Then there’s Robert Lowe, who is all over the place on this one, especially on the mighty chorus, and Leif Edling even has a bass solo! Now, usually, I’m not really into bass solos – please note that I am in fact a bass player! – but this one fits the mood of the song perfectly. The acoustic outro with Lowe’s beautiful vocals rounds the album off in perfect fashion.
If you have the digipack version, you will get two more tracks. Both are re-recordings of classic Candlemass songs. The songs sound a bit odd because the guitars are tuned lower than the original versions and I suddenly noticed that Mats Björkman and Lars Johansson have a completely different way of playing rhythm guitar. There are no overdubs, as can be heard in a few minor mistakes in the songs, so I guess these are quite professional rehearsal recordings. The true reason to get these recordings is that Robert Lowe is singing on them. The songs are ‘Solitude’ and ‘At The Gallows End’. And he first thing I think when I hear Lowe singing these tunes is: “Messiah who?”.
Leif Edling will probably never agree with me on this one, but it’s Messiah Marcolin’s fault this album is so good. The music was already completed long before he left the band and he could only have fucked up the whole thing. ‘King Of The Grey Islands’ really confirms my idea that Messiah was holding them back. The album has all the elements I was missing in “classic Candlemass”. Suddenly the band dares to experiment. There are, for instance, more acoustic guitars and keyboards than on any previous Candlemass-album and there are more unusual song sructures for a Doom band here. This is definitely the most progressive album the band has made so far. And if that isn’t already enough, there’s still Robert Lowe, who delivers another proof of why he is the ultimate Doom singer.
My retailer, who had a promo of the album for a long time already, had been teasing me, telling me ‘King Of The Grey Islands’ is such an amazing album, for a long time prior to the release, as he knows that I’m not downloading, but I can only say he’s right. This might just be my album of the year! And maybe even the best Doom album ever? Not sure about that, but it’s definitely right up there with Solitude Aeturnus’ ‘Into The Depths Of Sorrow’ and Krux’s self titled debut for me. And it’s the ultimate proof of my statement that Doom Metal, when executed right, can be just as good as Thrash Metal. ‘King Of The Grey Islands’ is not only recommended, it’s obligatory for anyone who loves Heavy Metal.
This album took a while for me to get into at first because I had to become adjusted to Robert Lowe being on vocals as apposed to Eddie. However, after giving this album a worthy chance I was turned from a hater to a lover. Once I was able to grow accustom to Robert Lowe's vocals on this record I was able to sit back and appreciate how truly incredible this release is.
Picking up right were they left off, Candlemass brings us King of the Grey Islands, which has a great mix of songs which have clean guitar interludes, driving riffs, some smooth flowing drumming and some interesting effects that provide something different to an already fantastic album.
As mentioned previously it did take me a while to grow accustom to Robert Lowe filling in the vocal position on this release, but after giving this album an honest judgment, listening to it through stereo speakers and headphones (the final test) I came to the understanding that there would be no one better to fill the vocal position.
Surely, anyone who is already a fan of Candlemass will love this record as it provides everything that a good Candlemass record has, and for those who have yet to hear this great band I urge you to give this record a chance and you may just become a Candlemass fan.
I'll keep it concise to keep the expectation high. At the same time, I will state a few things that will add to the curiosity.
First, I've liked Candlemass in the past, but nothing more than getting the albums and throwing them around for an occasional spin. The songs, including the classics, would get a bit boring after a while. I have all of their albums, but can't listen to them for too long at a stretch at the risk of never listening to them again.
I acquired an advance of King of the Grey Islands. At this point, I know little more about Robert Lowe, their new vocalist from Solitude Aeturnus, than a few casual listens of the SA albums. I didn't know what to expect and if he could fit in Messiah's role. From the outset, Leif Edling appears to have done a thorough freshening of the Candlemass sound and direction, Lowe being an integral part of it. His voice and singing style offers more diversity to fit into (finally!) more varied music than they have done in the past. Several days ago Marcolin commented that he wanted to retain "a more traditional" direction for the Candlemass sound, while the band wanted to progress. Luckily, the band won the vote.
The music is finally more dynamic and changes tempo a more than I can remember. It's heavy, drums are real heavy, the songs are not monotoned, and they are exhibiting fine musicianship they rarely did in the past. Some have mentioned that their musical direction is a bit like Edling's other band, Krux, whom I have not yet heard. Some might be scared off thinking without Messiah and a different direction they won't be Candlemass. Don't worry. They sound like Candlemass, but with a freshened sound, through which they are likely to realize more creative satisfaction while distancing themselves from the safe, "sterile" sound of their self-titled 2006 album. By comparison, the highest rating I would have given any other Candlemass album is in the sixties.
Candlemass seems to be experimenting more, added more ambience, stepped up the vocals from a safe, straightforward direction, and could perhaps redefine modern "traditional" doom metal, while keeping it very heavy. I don't feel Marcolin would fit in with this album. Not only was his singing style somewhat restrictive for the music it would be mated to, he seems to have been creatively restrictive. Lowe appears to have brought new life to this 25 year old band and allowed Edling to persue a fresher direction in doom metal and helped produce the best album in Candlemass' history.
I have had "Demonia 6" playing in my car for the last two days straight.