It says much about the steadfastness of Candlemass bassist and bandleader Leif Edling’s vision that the Stockholm doom kings have retained such a consistent approach across a number of different singers, just as Black Sabbath remained the vehicle for Tony Iommi’s guitar, whichever vocalist he was employing.
It wouldn’t be too flippant to quip that Candlemass remain the vehicle for Iommi’s guitar too. They are the Swedish Sabs at this point, the comparison echoed as much in their bullish persistence and continuity across a wayward, decades-long career as in the songs themselves, still devotedly steeped in the art of flatted fifth string-bending and sounds of rainfall and tolling bells.
After inventing and nailing epic doom metal with singer Johan Längquist on landmark 1986 debut Epicus Doomicus Metallicus, Candlemass shot to fame with mercurial monastic frontman Messiah Marcolin, whose departure precipitated the band’s dissolution in 1994. After a couple more singers, Messiah was back for a self-titled 2005 comeback album, vanishing again for good a year later.
Since then, barely a year has gone by without a Candlemass LP, EP, single or live record, despite working through a couple more frontmen before calling back the singer who was there at the get-go, Johan re-joining for 2019’s The Door To Doom. His voice now possesses more gritty dynamics, perfectly attuned for the hulking riffs and classic rock infused songwriting of Sweet Evil Sun, this 13th studio album calling for less otherworldly atmospherics and melodramatic melancholy, and more forceful projection and snarling energy.
Musically, of course, it’s more down-to-earth doom for the diehards, but like much of their latter output, the songs have a tendency to plod in circles rather than aspiring to greatness. Individual riffs and solos shine, but ultimately, it’s frustrating for such influential pioneers to sound so unexceptionally derivative.
Sweet Evil Sun is out November 18 via Napalm.