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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.