Released: 2009, Nuclear Blast Records
Reviewer: Aaron Yurkiewicz
My obsession with all things doom metal can be traced back to 1990’s Candlemass LIVE album. When Messiah Marcolin asked the Stockholm, Sweden audience “are you ready to go doom dancing?” that was it, I was hooked. Like a junkie getting his first taste of black tar heroin, I gobbled up the band’s entire catalog (a diligent follower ever since) and explored as many different doom style bands that I could track down. 2007’s KING OF THE GREY ISLANDS marked the debut appearance of Solitude Aeturnus vocalist Robert Lowe as the band’s new frontman, a union that could only have been forged by the doom metal gods. Though it was overshadowed by 2005’s “white” album, songs like “Emperor of the Void”, “Of Stars and Smoke,” and “Embracing the Styx” showed the newfound creative potential available with Lowe’s dynamic vocal style. On their latest release and tenth studio disc overall, DEATH MAGIC DOOM, the band has fully tapped into that creative potential to craft eight of the heaviest songs in their catalog.
“If I Ever Die” carries on in the tradition of double barreled Candlemass openers. With a thick, bouncing riff that’s instantly catchy, Lowe’s emphatic rasp drives through the song powerfully. In the press surrounding the release of the album, the band has made it clear that they’re throwing down the gauntlet with DEATH MAGIC DOOM, and this song is the opening salvo of attack. “Hammer of Doom” follows, and in stark contrast, is a slow, plodding beast of a tune. The song shifts gears at the chorus as the guitars turn up to 11 and Lowe bellows the song title. The arrangements on “The Bleeding Baroness” have an old school Candlemass vibe and could envisioned somewhere comfortably on the tracklisting of ANCIENT DREAMS, as does “House of 1,000 Voices.” “Dead Angel” is stylistically reminiscent of Lowe’s other band and is more consistent with the more contemporary GREY ISLANDS material. “My Funeral Dreams” is backed with some keyboard emphasis and a compelling riff underneath the chorus that shuts the door as loudly as the opening track blew it off the hinges.
The mix is tight and balanced here, with Lowe’s vocals up front and in your face, but not at the expense of the rest of the instruments. Whereas the phenomenal “white” album was very much a “Messiah’s back” affair and GREY ISLANDS was an attempt to prove the band could match that caliber without Messiah’s presence, DEATH MAGIC DOOM is a more confident and unpretentious effort. With this being the second release to feature the new lineup (not counting last year’s iffy LUCIFER RISING EP), the quintet have gelled into a powerful and cohesive unit, rather than an enigmatic frontman and four other guys.
At 8 tracks clocking in just over 45 minutes long, DEATH MAGIC DOOM is a fulfilling addition to the Candlemass discography and track for track is more quality consistent than its predecessor. DEATH MAGIC DOOM showcases a leaner, meaner, heavier Candlemass ready to lay their brand of doom metal smackdown upon the masses. This is good stuff.