February 18, 2019 Candlemass – The Door to Doom (Album Review)
Time seems to stand still for Candlemass, and as such, their newest full-length, The Door to Doom, is both eagerly anticipated and right on schedule. Legendary Frontman Johan Längqvist is back in the mix, and the record is due for release on February 22nd through Napalm Records.
Emerging in the early 1980s behind Bassist Leif Edling, Guitarists Mats Björkman and Klas Bergwall, and Drummer Matz Ekström, the band recruited Längqvist as a session vocalist to record their debut album, 1986’s Epicus Doomicus Metallicus. Taking the crumbling riffs of Black Sabbath into unchartered waters, the band quickly established a solid reputation while also formalizing the definition of “Doom Metal” as a proper genre.
Soon after the debut record was released, Bergwall, Längqvist, and Ekström left the band; Längqvist was replaced by the enigmatic Messiah Marcolin, while Drummer Jan Lindh and Guitarist Lars Johansson joined, forming the core of the lineup that recorded the impressive and iconic 1987 sophomore album Nightfall. Fast-forward all these years later, after various lineup changes, including the most recent parting with Vocalist Mats Levén, Johan Längqvist returned to the helm in late 2018 to join up with Edling, Guitarists Mats “Mappe” Björkman and Lars Johansson along with Drummer Jan Lindh to work on The Door to Doom.
Längqvist’s first studio recording with the band in over three decades, The Door to Doom’s “Splendor Demon Majesty” takes the reigns immediately, a fast-paced track with sad, sorrowful riffs, both in lead and rhythm. The arching heights reached by Längqvist are meant less to distance him from erstwhile vocalists, and instead simply cement his place at the front of Candlemass. Largely a slow ballad in the vein of the Dio classic “Don’t Talk to Strangers,” the track “Under the Ocean” takes a stiff detour to build anticipation for a bustling solo, as the quiet tone of the early half of the track never returns.
“Astorolus: The Great Octopus” takes shape as a brooding monody, warning of the many forms good and evil can take as a disguise. As Edling explains, “Monsters and gods come in different shapes. The eternal wheel of birth and death portrayed in a cool video and great song.” The legendary Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath delivers a crippling solo halfway through; unfortunately, his mastery is not actually visible within the accompanying video, though there is plenty of other visual appeal.
Another balladic lamentation, “Bridge of the Blind” features Längqvist singing over sullen acoustic guitar, the spell broken only by a bifurcating solo. The hearty pace returns with “Death’s Wheel,” followed by “Black Trinity,” which enters the frame with a properly mountainous riff, one which easily shifts into repetition as Längqvist reaches deep into his pipes to set a mood of optimistic foreboding. Each member of the band lends enough of their mettle to this pair, the strongest additions to the Candlemass catalog.
“House of Doom” appeared earlier on the 2018 EP of the same name; re-recorded here with Längqvist in place of Levén, the progressions are largely similar to the earlier version. As stated earlier, rather than compare the two vocalists for effectiveness, it is better to sit back and absorb how easily Längqvist fits into this role.
The Door to Doom is an excellent mixture of gloomy ballads, crushing riffs, and utter heart-pounding doom, and songs like “Black Trinity,” “Death’s Wheel,” and the towering “Astorolus” will make healthy additions to the band’s live reportoire. While much has been made of the return of Längqvist (and rightfully so), his first lines on “Splendor Demon Majesty” sound as effortless and seamless as if he had never left, and his presence further enmeshes with each track that follows.
The album cover itself harkens back to this; the well-recognized skull-and-cross logo from Epicus is embellished here with a circle of fire, perhaps representing the cycle the band has rolled through the past three decades. The closing track, “The Omega Circle,” also nods toward this idea, as Edling has hinted at the end of Candlemass for at least half of that time, not counting the handful of actual breakups. The efforts here on The Door to Doom are strong, but expectations are out of mind. A strong return to form for a band that never quite went away, may the end times be far off, as Cryptic Rock is pleased give The Door to Doom 4 out of 5 stars.