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Friday, April 24, 2009

CD Review: Candlemass - Death Magic Doom

Candlemass - Death Magic Doom
2009 Nuclear Blast Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

If you happen to be one of the stubborn lot who strayed from Candlemass because Messiah departed once again, shame shame shame on you. Robert Lowe more than capably fielded mike duties on Candlemass' last album King of the Grey Islands while his second tour of duty in the legendary doom unit is so convincing this band responds triumphantly with their latest speakers-busting album Death Magic Doom.

Heaven and Hell and Candlemass this year have put the doom sanction on full alert the stakes are raised so high it's going to take nothing short of a boisterous masterpiece to challenge either band. Candlemass especially brings their A-game on Death Magic Doom it almost coerces tears of joy to listen to such care and grace to an album this freakin' loud.

While Death Magic Doom heralds some of the trademark despaired shambles of this honored-style of metal on slowly-flogging tunes as "Hammer of Doom" and "Clouds of Dementia," Candlemass inflict as much technicality as can be painted amidst their blaring volume and punishing tempos. Soak up the sheer heaviness of "House of 1000 Voices" and bob that head proper; you will not be able to resist this song it's so goddamned metal.

Screeching and meticulous guitar solos are Lars Johansson's specialty, yet there's a youthful exuberance tugged out of his squeezed frets and pumping pedals you have to appreciate the genuine artistry here. Ditto for Johansson's quasi-romantic high pitch slides on the chorus of "Dead Angel." Doom metal this may be, Johansson's playing is undeniably beautiful on Death Magic Doom.

Another of Candlemass' maneuvers of excellence is how they begin certain songs with tapestried quietude before stamping down with dominant power riffs on "Funeral Dreams" and "Demon of the Deep," the latter especially generating exquisite thunder on the heels of Robert Lowe's swooning intro and later with supplemented organs. Leif Edling's bass would nearly fill the track by himself, if not for Lars Johansson's punctuated string shrieks.

As Death Magic Doom opens with the brisk rocker "If I Ever Die," Candlemass proves they have every ounce of strength, will and determination to keep their long-running litany of cacophony reading like a dark bible of the form. With Robert Lowe's confident swagger which bears only the smallest hint of his predecessor, the man proves he's no fluke. Whatever Candlemass asks of Lowe, he can nail it and on Death Magic Doom, he does it with such conviction you have to believe the entire band feeds off of his capacities. The way Lowe scales and dips his notes on the Gothic feel of "The Bleeding Baroness," the ultimate projection is like a metallic ode to the classic Hammer films of the sixties and seventies.

As strong as Heaven and Hell's The Devil You Know is, Candlemass actually bests their (slight) elders with Death Magic Doom. Perhaps Iommi and Butler wield mightier swords of distortion, but the team of Johansson, Edling and Mappe Bjorkman possess plenty of clang in their own right. Not that Robert Lowe is superior to Ronnie James Dio (who the hell is, save for Rob Halford?), but once you've spun Death Magic Doom a few times, the entertaining prospect of seeing Dio and Lowe together with both groups in booming arms at their backs is not going to be too astray from your mind.

Candlemass at this point in their career could've settled for a by-the-numbers effort, which many would hardly ask for more. Thankfully, the Robert Lowe era of Candlemass gives far more than the expectations. Heavier than your balls after an hour in a meat locker...

Rating: ****1/2


FredCQ said...

Hey Ray, how are you? I have to get off my butt and order a copy of this. I liked the last one.

Ray Van Horn, Jr. said...

this one's even better, trust me...good to see ya, Fred!

FredcQ said...

As much as I like Messiah, all indications are that he is a big pain in the ass to work with. I've been in bands with people like that, so I know the pain.

Ray Van Horn, Jr. said...

lol, I wouldn't be able to vouch for that, but I think Lowe is outstanding, particularly on this album...very, very fun guy too...I had a blast talking with him last album

JP said...

I liked this album better than King Of The Grey Isles, but I'd still only give it around 3 or 3.5. Rob Lowe is just one of the greatest metal singers today, but I think this album has some pretty weak songs towards the end, kept interesting with good singing and some of lead guitarist Lars Johansson's best work in a while. The first three songs are gold, though, especially The Bleeding Baroness.

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Actually i like this release so much! its a good release from Candlemass