Wednesday 27 February 2019

Candlemass - The Door to Doom (2019)

Country: Sweden
Style: Doom Metal
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 22 Feb 2019
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Well, here's an interesting state of affairs! The Door to Doom is Candlemass's twelfth studio album but it's the first with their original vocalist, the man who helped them define a new genre back in 1986, as a full member. He's Johan Längquist and its his voice that you heard on Epicus Doomicus Metallicus when he was merely a session singer. Now he's the band's official vocalist and he sounds pretty good to me.

With most bands, it's the drummer who's most likely to change with the rest of the line-up remaining more consistent. With Candlemass, it's the vocalist and there have been five singers now who have spent enough years with the band to have recorded at least one album. Four have them have recorded two and that's more than recorded two albums for their most overt influence, Black Sabbath.

And talking of Sabbath, the return of Längquist does bring them a lot closer to Sabbath here than I remember Candlemass ever getting, but it's their Dio era that seems especially obvious on more up tempo tracks like Death's Wheel; in quiet emotional intros like the one on Under the Ocean; and when the riffs are most overtly Sabbath influenced, such as on Astorolus (courtesy of the one and only Tony Iommi, so it's hardly surprising).

I like Längquist's voice here. While I thoroughly enjoyed Epicus Doomicus Metallicus back in the day, his voice has matured over the last (holy crap) thirty-three years and the modern production helps him too. My favourite era, as it might be for perhaps most Candlemass fans, was the next one, though it's Nightfall that does it for me rather than Tales of Creation. The obvious question is to ask how anyone can follow a voice like Messiah Marcolin's?

Well, as Längquist shows here, the trick is to not try. While I'm bringing it up here, I didn't listen to this album and wonder how it would have sounded had it all been sung by a different voice, as I've done on some prior albums. I just listened to it as an album and that's surely telling in itself. There are points where the phrasing echoes Marcolin but there's far more that has a Dio feel. Mostly it sounds like Längquist. The Omega Circle, for instance, is a great example of him stamping his authority on the material.

With no other musician involved having been with Candlemass for less than a quarter of a century, it's no surprise that the backing is quintessential stuff. While they clearly owe their existence to Sabbath, it didn't take them long to forge their own identity and there are reasons why they're the originators of epic doom. They've continued to evolve their particular style and, regardless of vocalist, this couldn't be mistaken for any other band. A hundred bands may have formed when they first heard Candlemass but it's not too difficult to recognise the originals.

The only other influence I heard here that surprised me was an epic Manowar feel to the ballad, Bridge of the Blind. I may have missed the last couple of albums, but I don't recall that sort of sound on a Candlemass release before. It fits quite well, to be honest, though it might not have done with another vocalist, which is another telling statement.

Let's hope that by going full circle and actually hiring the singer on their first, legendary album, Candlemass can settle down to doing what they do best, namely to dish out dangerous slices of doom and tell us that they're doing it. There are a whole bunch of lines on this album that are gimmes for wrapping up a review, starting with the very title.

Yes, if you enter The Door of Doom, under the sign reading "Welcome to the House of Doom", you'll find "the Ambassadors of Doom". How cheesy does that sound? Pretty damn cheesy. However, it does help to highlight how Candlemass are still around and they're still pretty good. This isn't remotely Nightfall and it isn't Epicus Doomicus Metallicus either, but it's still a decent album that will hopefully lead the way to another great one.

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