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Grandiosus Returnus Masterus - 96%

bayern, March 2nd, 2018

Regardless of what one thinks about Messiah Marcolin, his prodigious vocal talents notwithstanding, it’s undeniable that the moment he left the first time uncertainty was swiftly instilled in the Candlemass camp. It was so big that Leif Edling, the mainman behind the kings of Epicus Doomicus Metallicus, decided to change the course of action. Well, it’s debatable whether the vocalist’s departure was the only reason for this decision, but it was a timely one having in mind the scene metamorphosis that was witnessed around the same time.

“Chapter VI” saw the guys adopting a more expansive, progressive power/doom metal sound that spawned a wave of similarly-styled works/bands (Pathos, Memory Garden, Veni Domine, Morgana Lefay, Fifth Reason) including the one with Marcolin’s participation, Memento Mori (earlier Hexenhaus). Edling kept riding the crest of said wave with his side-project Abstrakt Algebra which self-titled (1995) could be considered its pinnacle. The man was ready with a material for a sequel to it, but the record company wasn’t happy promoting this new initiative as they wanted more Candlemass exploits. Consequently, this material was released as the next chapter from the Candlemass saga under the title “Dactylis Glomerata”. Needless to add, it had very little to do with the vintage sound of the band, and it’s still viewed as the lowest point in their career after all these years. Not a bad effort by any stretch, truth be told, it was followed by “From the 13th Sun”, the trippy psychedelic tribute to early Black Sabbath that was way more relevant with its ship-sinking doom-laden character.

And that was it; the guys concluded the 90’s with a worthy, but hardly exceptional, opus with no other particular plans in sight for the future. This status lasted for quite a few years until “the lost son” Marcolin was brought back for the album reviewed here; as a publicity stunt, no more no less, as it became so obvious only too soon. Well, if this was the intention from the beginning then we want more stunts of the kind as this album is one of the ten best releases from the metal circuit since the start of the new millennium. If there ever had to be a true doom metal masterpiece produced in the 00’s, it had to be from the masters…

And the masters deliver, on all counts, with “Black Dwarf” shattering the aether with its bouncy thrash-prone vigour recalling the aggressive meanderings from “Ancient Dreams”, Marcolin soaring above the proceedings with his inimitable wailing, pathos-like tirades. With “Seven Silver Keys” the album enters a sorrowful, doomy mode with slow, officiant rhythms with the customary epic setting nicely instilled, “cloaking” “Assassin of The Light” underneath this cut a more dynamic, but equally as dark proposition with marginally more venomous, more spiteful Marcolin behind the mike. “Copernicus” is a towering progressive metal piece the guys using the more ambitious template introduced on “Chapter VI”, expanding it with funereal doomy vistas and superb heavy riffs, this odyssey aptly complemented by the excellent short, elegiac instrumental “The Man Who Fell from the Sky”.

“Witches” takes the listener on a bumpy, thrilling ride with more intensity and energy incorporated among the seismic riffage and enchanting melodic walkabouts the latter pulled by Lars Yohansson with style to spare, recalling the ones from “Mirror, Mirror” (“Ancient Dreams” again). “Born in a Tank” is a formidable galloper again echoing a track from the mentioned album, “A Cry from the Crypt”, the band moshing with reckless abandon as much as this is possible within their chosen field, a nice melodic respite breaking the stride for a bit in the middle. “Spellbreaker” doesn’t exactly break the faster-paced “spell” as it’s built on more lively riff-formulas that border on the gallop at times as well, the band intent on serving their doom in leaps and bounds towards the end although “The Day and the Night” drowns everything around in gloom and sorrow, an academic 9-min epicer, a model of the genre with the slow-burning dramatism, the patiently-woven configurations, the gorgeous melodic hooks, and last but not least Marcolin’s highly emotional contribution behind the mike.

Mentioning the latter, one can’t deny the guy’s indispensable presence and magical touch because with him in action the band are virtually unstoppable. This opus ranks up there with the first four instalments, and one can even go as far as place it above “Tales of Creation” even, right next to its spiritual “sibling” “Ancient Dreams” as both albums are executed in a fairly similar manner. It was a most affirmative, resounding reunion piece of which Judas Priest, whose stint took place the same year, could have only dreamt about. It also raised the lathe too high for subsequent comeback occurrences on the scene, one that was reached by a few (Atheist, Mekong Delta, Black Sabbath, Carcass), but one that ultimately left the majority far behind. It also stirred the dormant doom metal spirits, prompting the band’s main rivals (My Dying Bride, Solitude Aeturnus, Mirror of Deception, etc.) to pull themselves together and perform accordingly.

Marcolin didn’t hang around for very long, but that was to be expected this time around, no tears, no drama; and couldn’t have been any other way with none other than Robert Lowe from the guys’ major rivals Solitude Aeturnus stepping in to fill in the vacated position behind the mike. The band haven’t dropped the ball after this effort here; each subsequent outing has carried some of the magic exhibited on it, keeping them on the top of the doom metal movement, also finally proving that, yes, they can do without the “obsequious monk” and his prodigious vocal antics. Happy Candlemass everyone!