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Great way to end - 90%

Papyrus11, June 18th, 2012

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.

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