Thursday, 14 June 2012

Review: Candlemass - Psalms for the Dead

 My mission to delve into the deeper more underground realms of metal has never been a truly easy one and sometimes it's been hard to work out which bands can truly be known as underground and which ones are more mainstream but with a wide cult following and a massive underground influence. But when I found out that Swedish doom metal legends Candlemass' eleventh album Psalms for the Dead is said to be their last piece of recorded music, it signified that an era in doom metal be it known to major degree or remain an underground wonder had come to an end.

 And with this considered, it's obvious that the effort on this album is an effort that soars above average levels of doom metal triumph and epic-ness to present and effective and immersive retrospective of the band's twenty eight year career, which has seen the creation of such works as Epicus Doomicus Metallicus and Nightfall all of which have had a wide influence on many doom metal bands today. And the effort of Psalms for the Dead is performed with the kind of will to create a piece of work as accomplished and memorable to a much greater extent of any of the band's most recent material brought out since the band's ever revolving lineup brought former Solitude Aeturnus frontman Robert Lowe into their ranks.

 Candlemass have never had any problems with their ability to create big sounds, they wouldn't be in the position of high influence that they live in today without it, but they like to remind listeners of that, and the way that we are launched into the monstrous crunches created by Lars Johansson and Mats Björkman on opener Prophet reminds us of this as the band thunders into their wondrous array of metal that carries the sound of absolute misery and total indestructibility.
 Musically, a lot of moments stand out on Psalms for the Dead for being uncharacteristically upbeat and focusing on a more triumphant melodic take on doom metal mixing it with traditional metal. Dancing in the Temple (Of the Mad Queen Bee) has something of a swing in it's rhythmic pounding that shows off the band's influences from bands as traditional as Rainbow or Dio's solo material, while the groove riding Killing of the Sun feels like a journey into a beckoning light of major metallic grandeur. So, indeed, Candlemass have created several songs that feel like something of a party. A party in which your soul will get crushed, but a party nonetheless.

 But of course, the band are on board to keep things on a fairly bleak outset and the monstrous droning of The Sound of Dying Demons, Waterwitch and the album's title track will drag all doom metal traditionalists down a steely path and grim slow paced brutality that will put a frown on anyone's face. Plus, they even manage to uphold a sense of beauty with the awe-inspiring backdrops of Siren Song and then of course, the dazzling band performance on closer  Black as Time that follows the most uncomfortable spoken monologue that should hopefully not encourage suicide because if it does, the listener will miss some of the most incredible displays of riffs from Johansson and Björkman, the kind that make you glad that they've chose the song to end their wonderful career in recording music on.

 And with the album complete, you realise that the performance of Candlemass on Psalms for the Dead is a sign of the band upping their game so that they can end things on a high note. With every immersive guitar solo from Johansson and every heartfelt performance from Lowe, listeners are dragged further into a display of absolute awe and doom-laden glory that there is no escape on and you realise that even in the face of constant change, especially in regards to issues of lineup within the band, Candlemass have always managed to remain a tight and genuine lineup who have been able to impress no matter who has been in their ranks for however long. And while they promise to remain a touring band, the fact that they're to stop recording is still truly resembling of the fact that an incredible force of doom metal has closed up. It's hard to think of any better way that they could go out.

Candlemass' Psalms for the Dead is out now via Napalm.

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