Sweden's Candlemass helped reintroduce the lumbering power chords of Black Sabbath to an entire generation of post-New Wave of British Heavy Metal and post-thrash metalheads, almost single-handedly writing the handbook for the modern doom metal movement in the process. Emerging in 1986 with the landmark Epicus Doomicus Metallicus -- the LP helped coin the genre -- the band issued four more influential albums before ceasing operations in 1994. They reunited three years later and released Dactylis Glomerata, which saw them adopt a more avant-garde approach, but called it quits again shortly thereafter. They officially re-formed in 2004 and remained at the vanguard of the doom metal scene, issuing a string of acclaimed albums including Candlemass (2005), Psalms for the Dead (2012), and The Door to Doom (2019). After the breakup of his first band, Nemesis, in 1985, bassist Leif Edling founded Candlemass with vocalist Johan Lanquist, guitarist Mats Bjorkman, and drummer Matz Ekstroem. Their watershed debut, Epicus Doomicus Metallicus, was released the following year, and though it immediately secured their standing within metal circles, it was only with the arrival of new vocalist Messiah Marcolin for 1987's Nightfall that the band found its true voice -- quite literally -- as the singer's vibrato-laden operatic tone remains completely original to this day. The album, which also saw the arrival of lead guitarist Lars Johansson and new drummer Jan Lindh, combined massive riffs and dark melodies into songs of epic proportions, which were made even more dramatic by Marcolin's religious lyrics and monk's habit stage costume. Candlemass repeated this formula on ensuing albums Ancient Dreams (1988) and Tales of Creation (1989), each of which also saw a noticeable improvement in the production department. The appropriately titled Live closed the golden era of their career with Marcolin departing to form his own band, Memento Mori. Singer Tomas Vikstrom was drafted as his replacement for 1992's Chapter VI (featuring a more conventional metal sound), but the band's popularity was in swift decline and Edling decided to disband soon thereafter. He formed a new group with decidedly Euro-metal leanings called Abstrakt Algebra in 1994, but after only two albums, he decided to resurrect Candlemass once again. The avant-garde metal of 1998's Dactylis Glomerata bore little resemblance to Candlemass' doom metal past, featuring Edling along with vocalist Björn Fklodkvist, guitarist Mike Amott, keyboard player Carl Westholm, and drummer Jejo Perkovic. Further lineup changes would occur, with guitarist Mats Stahl replacing Amott prior to the release of 1999's From the 13th Sun, after which the group would endure another long hiatus. Several years later, the classic lineup reconvened and released a self-titled 2005 album, which took home a Swedish Grammy. Messiah Marcolin left the fold shortly after the album's release, making way for new vocalist Robert Lowe of Solitude Aeturnus, who made his studio debut on 2007's King of the Grey Islands. Lowe appeared on 2009's Death Magic Doom as well, but left the group in 2012. Now signed to Napalm, the group enlisted longtime friend and collaborator Mats Leven (Yngwie Malmsteen, At Vance, Therion) to take the mike, resulting in the release of Psalms for the Dead. Leven's tenure with the group was short-lived, as the band brought back Epicus Doomicus Metallicus singer Johan Längqvist for album number 12, 2019's punishing Door to Doom. Album cut "Astorolus," featuring Tony Iommi, was later nominated for a Grammy for Best Metal Performance.
© Eduardo Rivadavia /TiVo
© Eduardo Rivadavia /TiVo
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Metal - Released June 8, 2012 | Napalm Records
Candlemass did not act frivolously when selecting the title for their 11th career album, and third working with former Solitude Aeturnus singer Robert Lowe: Psalms for the Dead. In tandem with its mid-2012 release came the announcement that the celebrated Swedish doom titans would carry on touring now and then, but otherwise refrain from composing and recording new material, effectively marking the end of an often turbulent but overwhelmingly triumphant quarter-century run. Frankly, given the musical evidence at hand, it was time. By and large, Psalms for the Dead is another fine collection of songs: neither as brilliant nor as flawed as Candlemass' best and worst efforts past, consistent with the other two LPs (note the frequent backing organs) graced by Lowe's powerful operatic style, but creatively stagnant nonetheless. Clearly, Candlemass leader Leif Edling knows there's simply no point trying to mess with fan expectations or his band's well-established aesthetic (he's tried already), so why carry on beating it to death indefinitely? And for every persistent show of continued genius working within those limitations (including suicidal highlights like "Dancing in the Temple [Of the Mad Queen Bee]" and "The Lights of Thebe"), one must ask how long can grown men keep churning out songs about prophets ("Prophet") or waterwitches ("Waterwitch"), whatever they are? If anything (and notwithstanding the rare display of humor via the LP-closing "Black as Time"'s Monty Python-like intro), one can confidently state that Psalms for the Dead sees Candlemass going out, if not on a high, certainly in strong health, and obviously on their own terms. Godspeed old friends.... [Shortly following the album's release, it was learned that Lowe had in fact confirmed his exit from the band, leading to the recruitment of occasional Candlemass, Therion, and Krux vocalist Mats Levén as his on-stage replacement.] © Eduardo Rivadavia /TiVo