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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.