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For all intents and purposes, this is the last Candlemass album. Thus, it’s a sad day for metal, as it bids goodbye to the prospect of fresh material from one of its most important formative entities. The band has not broken up, mind, but they’ve stated with relative finality that they do not wish to grow stagnant, and thus are ending their full-length legacy here at number 11 with Psalms for the Dead. While I would not qualify this as one of their very best records, it nevertheless draws upon all of the things that make Candlemass truly great, and proves a very solid goodbye. Personally, I think Leif Edling and co. have the potential for another masterpiece in them, and hope for a follow up down the road, but as far as legacies go, this is a more than satisfactory requiem.
Psalms for the Dead exists very much in the same realm as the last few records, and continues to be fronted by Solitude Aeternus front-man Robert Lowe, whom I’ve always felt has fit the band perfectly, particularly in the astonishing King of the Grey Islands. His dynamic range continues to serve the vast, epic compositional nature, with charismatic yet melancholy bellowing rising above the dark, ornate slabs of riffing. He may not be quite as impressively maniacal or varied as Messiah Marcolin, but I’ve had no issues with any of his performances here. As for the record itself, you can expect a healthy 50 minutes of thick, lumbering, Sabbath-influenced doom, drawing from the well of fantasy in both lyrical and atmospheric strati. As always, the tones here are just crushing, a dense low-end crunch that proves full and resonant. Edling’s bass is particularly satisfying, like rhythmic shifting of tectonic plates beneath the fiery oceans of riffing.
Speaking of riffing, the quality here is incredibly consistent, with a strong breadth of songs that nicely encapsulate what exactly Candlemass is. Overall, I felt the compositional tendency was a bit on the safe side, with relatively predictable structures for verse, chorus, and refrain, but the tone of the individual tracks shifts enough to be engrossing, and as always, there are a good number of addictive choruses present and accounted for. I’d be remiss, however, if I didn’t mention that I feel an opportunity may have been wasted here to delve into some more progressive variations, paying tribute to the adventurous nature of their earlier material. Black as Time is the exception to this, with more unconventional tactics, and is incredibly satisfying as it morphs through varying incarnations. Regardless, any real fan of the band is going to find a lot to like here, as it’s all unmistakably Candlemass, in all their ornate mythological grandeur. It’s noticeably less oppressive than fans of their earlier material might want, as the songs don’t always have that weighty, menacing quality many look for, but it’s highly functional and memorable nevertheless. There’s some organ-like keyboard additions scattered throughout as well, adding some unique flavor in a creepy, vaguely Castlevania-esque style. It’s easy to feel like one is trapped in a haunted cathedral, beset by looming fantastical creatures, and other such imagery. In essence, its doom metal, conjuring the level of atmosphere one would expect from the guys who virtually wrote the fucking playbook. Heavy, unique, dark, and addictive, there is a lot to like here.
Psalms for the Dead is divided pretty well into subsections that all resonate with spiritual trappings of classic heavy and doom, but with appreciably distinct variables innate to each. Prophet has a dreamy midsection with addictive vocal lines and some beautiful guitar-work, a strong opening piece that conjures classic heavy metal with its thick, elegant licks; Dancing in the Temple of the Mad Queen Bee thrives on simplicity, but provides the hooks necessary to snare you in as it bounces between organ-ornamented marching and vibrant, memorable leads; The Lights of Thebe feels like some traditional Candlemass, displaying a creeping, permeating grandeur through thick, epic chords and some powerful vocal work from Lowe; though not quite reaching the overwhelming quality of Nightfall, Ancient Dreams, or even King of the Grey Islands, there are truly no losers here, as each track proves to be both satisfying and memorable, all but demanding multiple listens.
You know, it really doesn’t get more iconic than Candlemass. It just doesn’t. While Psalms for the Dead may not be the stunning masterwork many were hoping for, given the finality present here, and doesn’t really herald many surprises for those familiar with their work in the last ten years, it’s hard not to feel swept up in the dark fantasy epic that this band still weaves with ease. In 1986, these guys took the heavy blues of Sabbath and imbued it with a billowing darkness and a propensity for absolutely crushing riff-craft, literally changing metal forever, and in this reviewer’s opinion, have barely even stumbled since, even in the harder times around the turn of the century. Pslams for the Dead delivers on this promise with spirit and grace. It’s achingly sad to say goodbye to a band that’s given us so much, but it’s simultaneously admirable that they chose to bow out before they could descend into a caricature, though personally I find that instance virtually impossible. Candlemass are one of the best, most important metal bands of all time, doom or otherwise, and Psalms for the Dead is one last love letter displaying that fact, one that every self-respecting fan of heaviness should experience, if only for its significance as the closing chapter in an absolutely stellar career.
It’s with a heavy heart and a cheeky adherence to cliche that I bid Candlemass a fond farewell, but I think we, and they, can be satisfied with the fact that they’ve created a host of undying musical worlds, a self-contained, ageless universe of heaviness that will continue to awe and inspire future generations to unleash their own unique emanations of heavy metal, on until our psychotic race inevitably destroys itself. Whether that’s later this month, or in a thousand years, at the gallows end or at the killing of the sun, may the hammer of doom pound on, eternal, through the infinitive halls of death.
-Left Hand of Dog
These doom-veterans from Stockholm should need no formal introduction whatsoever. This is the third - and apparently final - album with "new" vocalist Robert Lowe. I thought that 2009's "Death Magic Doom" was their best work since the epic debut album back in -86 and 2007's "King of the Grey Islands" had it's moments too.
The album opens with the fast-paced (at least when it comes to Candlemass) "Prophet" which gives a couple of not-so-subtle nods to the opener "If I Ever Die" from "Death Magic Doom". Nothing wrong with that, since both songs are great and natural album-openers. It is on the second song "The Sound of Dying Demons" that my forehead starts the frowning and I think to myself; "I've heard this before". And even though the band has tried to vary it's sound as much as possible - by adding keyboards and hammonds amongst other things - there is always that familiar doom-feeling that nothing really much has happened since last time.
I have also discovered that I personally feel that Candlemass' music works best when they speed things up like they do on the aforementioned "Prophet", the single "Dancing in the Temple (of the Mad Queen Bee)" and "The Killing of the Sun". Another thing that kind of bugs me is that most of the choruses on "Psalms for the Dead" just repeats the title and while it may work on some songs, overall that is just lazy lyric-writing from Leif Edling's side. Songs such as "Waterwitch" and "Siren Song" are plain boring and have no purpose whatsoever on a Candlemass-album. And let's not even start discussing the embarrassing opening 1 and a half minutes of the closer "Black as Time" - I want to smash my own face into bits each time I hear that retarded British guy do his EXTREMELY boring monologue.
There is really nothing wrong with what the band does on this album but there is also really nothing that sticks out from the bands incredibly patented formula. Sure, it might be that I am just a bit tired of Candlemass' classic doom metal but I think that the answer lies closer to that the band themselves are a bit tired of doing the same thing year after year since the early '80s. The fact that they have also announced that "Psalms for the Dead" will be their last album ever doesn't really destroy the grand scheme that I've conjured forth.
If the band won't do any more albums, I for one wont be sorry, since they've left us with incredible albums such as "Epicus Doomicus Metallicus", "Nightfall" and "Death Magic Doom" and that's an incredible legacy right there.
Originally written for Metal Monuments
As is often the case with bands whose legacies were unquestionably formed many years ago and today have no hope of ever topping I have a hard time working out what to make of their latest release. The teenage fan in me wishes for them to not change the template that many them so strong but the realist accepts this doesn't happen, and for the best. Which brings me to Candlemass, the kings of doom. Their recent releases have indeed been good, as seen by 2009's "Death Magic Doom" and now "Psalms for the Dead" but the majesty of the earlier material feels a long way from the modern, heavy sound we have here on album no. 11.
Recorded with erstwhile Solitude Aeturnus vocalist Rob Lowe who has since left since release, "Psalms…" sees Candlemass looking to solidify their position as the doom headliner of 2012, even if newer, younger bands have released better, more essential albums in recent years. The pace of their tomes these days hovers at more of a slow-medium rather than the dead slow of old, with time spent split between the lurching of "The Sound of Dying Demons", the psychedelic "Waterwitch", a more upbeat "Prophet" and the epic title-track. The use of keyboards, tuned to sound as an organist does in an old church, add an extra dimension to the periods where their usage accompanies the lead guitar and main riff (as in "Psalms for the Dead") or as a song-leading element like in "The Killing of the Sun". As someone not usually too taken by the sounds of keyboard I can vouch for their justified and elegant usage here, the difference being the experience of bassist and songwriter Leif Edling in knowing how to nail the true feeling of doom at a whim. Added to all, the bands knack of writing a great vocal harmony; done previously in recent years with "Of Stars and Smoke" on "King of the Grey Islands", the leading one found in this here title track (yes that track again) with Lowe's recognisable crooning will knock the socks off you.
Not all moments are quite so solid - notably closer "Black As Time" which is a total waste of 7 minutes, and much of "Siren Song" which plods along despite the best hammond efforts of Opeth's Per Wiberg - but for a band so steeped in doom (and metal) heritage there is much to admire and like on "Psalms for the Dead". Best post-Y2K album from the Swedes? A hard one to call given the consistency of all four, but a worthy addition to a catalogue already bursting with doom greatness.
Originally written for www.Rockfreaks.net
With the start of yet another month of pure Metal taking us on a roller coaster ride, it is time we bid farewell to one of the greats, who steered this ride and touched our hearts with their music. Candlemass, the Black Sabbath of Doom Metal, have now released their final studio album Psalms for the Dead, waving their fans a final goodbye in style! This album is a perfect example of how a band should end their career in the studio. From sheer evil and diabolic riffs too some face melting solos, the album has it all! But sadly, just when Robert Lowe began to hit the right note to fit in the band through this album, he was announced no longer a part of the band quite recently.
The opening track, “Prophet” was a great start to the album with the typical elements of doom embedded in it. This makes you crave for some more and as you move to the next track, you will be greeted with a tweak of a surprise with “Dancing in the Temple”. This song seemed to deviate slightly from their heavy, slow and haunting sound to more of a slow power metal inclination. This song sets you right into the mood for more of Candlemass, with 3 blistering solos. Noticeably, almost every song treats you with some diverse solos by Lars Johansson. Per Wiberg (ex-Opeth) has added his own spices to this well cooked piece of art with a beautiful solo in the “Siren Song” on the keys.
Every song in the album has a different feel to it. Like, “Killing of the Sun” gives you a total Black Sabbath feel to your ears. Not to forget, Leif Edling has done a fabulous job on the bass with some hot and heavy portions in “Black as Time”. I certainly expected some intricate acoustic guitar magic like that of the most well-known song of the band, “Solitude”, from their first album Epicus Doomicus Metallicus. But setting that apart, this album seems flawless, and yet another masterpiece!
To choose the 3 best tracks from the album, I’d say my number one choice would be “The Lights of Thebe”, because in this one, although the band maintains their reputation of sounding evil, it takes a different turn with some lovely symphony and a sweet solo with an oriental feel to it. At second place would be, “Dancing in the Temple” because of the downpour of three solos and the slight deviation from the typical sound they usually play. Lastly, I’d choose the track “Psalms for the Dead” that matches its title to that of the album, because of the very impressive strong structure! The dual solo song is well fitted with some commendable transitions and an outro that will surely leave you in a trance, at the end.
I always felt as long as Candlemass will exist, the standard of doom metal will remain high. Without much ado, I’ll conclude by saying that this album was sick enough to be called legendary and is a perfect full stop as they fade away from the limelight, leaving their legacy behind. For me, Epicus Doomicus Metallicus, Nightfall and now Psalms for the Dead stand at the top of my list of best doom metal albums ever made and Candlemass will remain one of the biggest influences for this genre. Even though the sub-division of this doom metal style does not have many bands that would make it proud, Candlemass is enough, and this album shows why. Now, solely a touring band, they have replaced Robert Lowe with Mats Leven on the vocals. Buy the album, irrespective of what sub-genre of metal you prefer because this album is the pinnacle of sheer mastery.
Original review by me on :
Candlemass is an epic doom metal band hailing from the country of Sweden. They have been coined the originators of epic doom metal, and have been HANDS DOWN dominating the genre since 1984. The band split up in 1994, only to be reformed in 1997 by original member Leif Edling, the bassist/vocalist. Just recently, June 2, 2012, the band announced on their website that their current vocalist Robert Lowe has been replaced by a long-time friend of the band Mats Levén. The band has reassured fans that they will continue to play shows and are rehearsing new and old songs with the new vocalist.
Candlemass has a massive discography, just recently adding to it with their new full length, Psalms for the Dead, released June 6, 2012. This album has been said to be the last release from Candlemass, though the band has assured their fans they won’t be splitting up. Hearing that this was the last Candlemass album to be released really upset me and trust me, I had HIGH hopes for it. I wasn’t disappointed.
Candlemass has this way of grabbing you by the balls and throwing some true hard and heavy doom at you, yet making you want to dance at the same time. If you’re an avid listener… you understand. This new album is NO exception. Every single track is fantastic, well written, and beautifully haunting!
Psalms for the Dead starts off with a crushing track Prophet, with haunting vocals and lyrics about false gods, driving guitars and bass, and crushing drums, it’s a perfect start to the farewell album from Candlemass. The beautiful melodic guitar work in this song comes out of a thick, doomy atmosphere, bringing an entire new emotion to the song, and then quickly falls back into the heaviness we all know.
Waterwitch is another noteworthy track on the album, opening with a bad ass doomy riff with amazing reverb on the guitar then continues into some deep and mellow vocals by Lowe. The song as a whole has a dark, creepy feeling to it, with a deep, prominent bass line and mournful tones produced by guitar and vocals, layered ever so perfectly. Siren Song, my favorite on the album, brings in an entire new feeling with an organ, adding the lamentation of the album.
Black As Time ends the album with a spoken word about time and what it means to us all, which undeniably states “Slowly and almost unnoticed… second by second…tick tock, tick tock, tick tock… it continues the countdown closer to your grave… until it finally stops. TIME IS BLACK!” then the song opens up with an explosion of beautiful mournful lyrics ending with Lowe screaming Time Is Black.
It really disappoints me to think that this is in fact their last record. I’ve been a fan of everything they have put out over the many years they have been around. This album is most definitely a great way to say farewell to the doom metal world they’ve been a part of for so long… their swansong if you will. Well Candlemass, you will be dearly missed.
[Originally written for themetalreview.com]
So this is to be Candlemass’s final recorded album. The last ever musical statement from the doom icons, innovators and one of metal’s overall greatest bands. Wouldn’t it be terrible if it was a disappointment – a flimsy and shallow offering from a fading shadow of a band? Well luckily it’s not. This album is great, and that’s in the truest sense of the term. In fact the only disappointing thing about this album is the knowledge that Robert Lowe is no longer in the band and will subsequently never perform any of these great songs live. Oh well, that fact doesn’t change the quality of ‘Psalms For The Dead’; it’s a beast of an album and a truly appropriate sound with which to bow out from an amazing recording career.
Song-wise there is a fair amount of variety here; in fact the band display a slightly lighter and more upbeat approach on much of the material that actually makes a nice change from the previous album. Note the word slightly, because it is not to say that band have turned away from doom or made a power metal album or something. Not at all. This album is an absolute doom album in every way. But notable is the increased use of organ and keyboard sounds on a lot of the songs that adds an additional dimension and certain mood: maybe slightly more psychedelic and 70s sounding, but it’s not a total sound shift, just a different one. A good example of this sound is the single ‘Dancing in the Temple (Of the Mad Queen Bee)’, but there are multiple others.
I don’t do song-by-song reviews because it doesn’t seem necessary, but it is enough to say that every song has something different about it, a unique draw, and this means that the album does not turn into one great big similar-sounding dirge. There’s a lot of individual character to be heard. For example ‘The Lights of Thebe’ has an eastern/Arabic flavour to it that Candlemass haven’t really played with before, while the most doom-ridden and ominous song has to be ‘Waterwitch’ which reminds me somewhat of ‘Hammer of Doom’ from the last album. The song ‘The Killing of the Sun’ has a Black Sabbath riff reminiscent of ‘Iron Man’ which creates the impression of a more playful and fanciful band; it’s as if they’re saying ‘ this is our last album, let’s have some fun and go out with a bang. We love Sabbath so let’s do a Sabbath song’ (Despite this the lyrics are still dark as hell, as they are across the album – no lightening up there thankfully). Essentially you get the feeling that the band have really tried hard to get all aspects of their sound over the years on to one album, and to my mind they have succeeded in this admirably.
One slightly strange thing about this album is the final song ‘Black As Time.’ The song and riffs themselves are classic, but there is an English guy speaking over some of it, voicing philosophical musings on the nature of time and its destructive nature. Now this is probably Candlemass promoting their more whimsical and weird side, but personally I’m not quite convinced by this song. This is probably because the guy speaking reminds me slightly of Eric Idle, and subsequently it is a little hard to take seriously. I couldn’t help but think that this is the last song on the last ever album; why do the band want to bow out with that guy’s voice ringing in the listener’s ears? But still, they’re trying something new and in its own bizarre way it works; it’s just never going to be my favourite Candlemass song.
Speaking more technically the production is excellent: extremely crisp and loud making the band sound heavy and powerful. The playing is great from all, from the drums and Leif’s thick bass lines to the riff guitars and the truly memorable and impressive lead playing. As noted above, the organ and keyboard sounds add a lot to the songs and are extremely well played and fitting. And of course, anyone who’s listened to any significant amount of doom will know the vocals of Robert Lowe. I won’t labour the point too much here: he’s always been an excellent, epic and unique singer and he still is on this album. He’s the star of the show for sure, along with Leif’s brilliant, as always, song-writing.
When most people consider ‘classic’ Candlemass they’re thinking of the first three or four albums, but the truth is they have never released a bad album. ‘Psalms For The Dead’ is no different. Hopefully it will be remembered as more than just their last album because the songs truly add to their legacy; they’re potent and powerful, full of character and interest, and are essentially classic Candlemass. I’m sad to see them go, but I’m happy to report that they have truly gone out on a high.
Originally written for: http://hauntingtheobscure.blogspot.co.uk/
Doom giants Candlemass return to deliver their eleventh and possibly final full length album of a long and illustrious career. Psalms for the Dead is an elegant work of massive, riff-endowed heavy metal from start to finish. Robert Lowe handles vocal duties again, albeit for the last time, as the band announced on their official web site June 2nd that he has been dismissed due to “quality of live performances.” A Swedish dude named Mats Leven will be taking over for the ensuing tour dates.
“Prophet” opens the album with doom-dance domination, making plain the confidence of the musicians and mastery of their craft. The first riff you will hear is pure, bone crushing doom, then they up the tempo with beefy double kicks and the mighty voice of Robert Lowe. The instrumentalists here consist of the classic line-up, with main man and bassist Leif Edling, the Johansson/Bjorkman guitar duo, and drummer Jan Lindh. Keyboardist Per Wiberg of Opeth fame plays the Hammond organ on one track of Psalms for the Dead, and will be joining Candlemass for the upcoming tour. Second track “The Sound of Dying Demons” is plodding and slow, opening with a heavy floor tom beat and the subtle sound of a storm in the background. Jan Lindh has been referred to as a “boring” drummer, but in my opinion he is an ideal doom metal drummer, doing his job with good taste and tact. Besides, if you’re listening to metal for drum kit wankery, doom might be the wrong genre for you.
“Waterwitch” is just fuckin awesome, with a bit of wah-pedal employed on the beginning riff a-la Mr. Iommi’s “Electric Funeral.” Edling’s creeping bass line beneath Lowe’s mournful voice in the verse juxtaposed to mammoth riffing make this a standout track of the album, and there’s also some tremendous lead guitar shredding to make it a complete masterpiece of a heavy metal song. I think Candlemass could probably write quality albums until they croak; their well of riffs seems to be bottomless. Interestingly enough, lead axe man Lars Johansson is a lefty, as is the godfather himself, so maybe that has something to do with it.
Psalms for the Dead comes with special packaging with some excellent band photos, printed lyrics, and a bonus DVD featuring some cool behind the scenes footage. If you happen to have a copy of Nightfall lying around, it’s interesting to compare the physical appearance of Candlemass twenty-five years ago to that of the same band today. Leif Edling seems to be ageless. The liner notes also feature a black and white illustration of the band that calls to mind the back cover of Heaven and Hell.
The onslaught of manly riffing continues into the title track, with the keyboards adding an eerie dimension to the overall tone of lamentation. “Psalms for the Dead / Songs for the Living” is the profound and triumphant cry of Robert Lowe on this crusher. It is indeed disheartening to see the departure of this amazing singer from Candlemass, especially after the success of Death Magic Doom and King of the Grey Islands. I do enjoy the classic albums featuring Messiah Marcolin (though his vibrato was a bit much at times) but I don’t think Lowe or Marcolin could match the powerful pipes of Johan Langquist, the session vocalist featured on Epicus Doomicus Metallicus. That dude ruled. One of the most alluring aspects of Candlemass has always been their operatic singers, so new guy Mats Leven must be presumably awesome.
Per Wiberg’s signature Hammond organ styling is featured on “Siren Song,” where he even plays the lead beginning at 2:25. Closer “Black as Time” starts with the sound of a ticking clock and a cynical spoken word piece on the cold and unforgiving nature of time. “Time is the sword of destruction, a faceless conqueror, the master of DOOM.” Only Candlemass could so eloquently capture the fatalism of time. This may be the swansong of these doom legends, and if so, they are finishing with grace and power, offering an album chock full of fist-pumping riffs and profound lyrical dissertations. We can only hope that they’ve got another one left in `em.