Candlemass - The Door To Doom - (9.5/10)
Published on January 20, 2019
Death’s wheel comes full-circle.
Isn’t it a wonderful feeling when hype actually pays off?! Teasing retirement for the past fuck-knows-how-many years, the pioneers of epic doom metal, the legendary Candlemass, have pulled off a ‘comeback’ of sorts. The EPs that bridged the gap between this album and the last were questionable both in terms of quality and enthusiasm. However, with the announcement of the return of original Epicus Doomicus Metallicus vocalist Johan Längqvist, there came waves of hype – which, as it turns out, were well justified. The guy sang six songs 33 years ago but has somehow retained ‘God’ status among fans and is frequently hailed as a legend. Well, Leif Edling and crew have decided to come full-circle, bring a 55-year-old Johan back to the frontline and releasing The Door To Doom. This is the Swedes’ 12th full-length record, their first in seven years, and – dare I say this after only 3 listens? – their best in ages.
Now, I don’t give in to hype very easily (one of the reasons I’ve never read A Game Of Thrones), but I know what I want from my doom metal – and the revitalized Candlemass provide exactly that. Menacing melodies, crawling tempos, a sense of cosmological dread, and – most importantly – huge hulking riffs. Dear sweet Jesus…SO many riffs! Sure, they were pretty big on the last LP (2012’s Psalms Of The Dead) – especially “Prophet” – but here in 2019, ‘big’ has been inflated to ‘colossal’. This became clear as soon as the first single, “The Omega Circle”, was dropped like a fucking anvil on our stupid faces. That’s the sort of weight and gravitas we expect from the ‘Mass, and then some! The beastly production quality adds to this tenfold, retaining a sense of rawness whilst beefing up the timbre to monstrous levels. All you need is the majestic first minute of opener “Splendor Demon Majesty” to convince you that this is the best sound Candlemass have achieved on disc since 2007.
Honestly, any one of these amazing riffs could attain ‘riff of the year’ status (“Black Trinity” anyone?), but then the great Tony Iommi himself appears on “Astorolus – The Great Octopus” so maybe that had something to do with it… Anyway, onto the main talking point, how does Johan fare after a whole three decades in obscurity? Insanely well! He has aged, but more like a fine wine than milk. He croons, mourns, bellows and falsettos with the best of them – providing some real emotional edge and attitude on both ”Astorolus…” and “Death’s Wheel” especially. He even manages to improve last year’s “House Of Doom” by injecting it with some much-needed energy. Guitar solos are well executed and well positioned; drums are a reliable pillar of solid excellence; and the rumbling, metallic bass is – naturally – always fully present.
The Door To Doom exhibits exactly what Candlemass are best at: varying tempos whilst remaining stylistically loyal to the lumbering epic doom vibe. The record is 70% slow and elephantine like a sleeping giant from Shadow Of The Colossus, and 20% vibrant and energetic for that lethal dose of headbang-worthy fun. The remaining 10% is the beautifully sorrowful ballad “Bridge Of The Blind” which splits the album in two, acting as an interval before “Death’s Wheel” melts your face with Edling’s creative riff-writing and Längqvist’s gruffest performance yet. This album needs to be heard by every metalhead, to remind them who birthed a massive segment of our beloved genre and why they’re not just relevant, but a mentor to those following in their footsteps. The Door To Doom is the best doom metal album I’ve heard in a long time, and my favourite Candlemass output since 2007’s King Of The Grey Islands. I don’t miss Messiah, I don’t miss Lowe and I certainly don’t miss Leven. I’m only looking forward to a dark, gloomy and doom-laden future.