CD review: “The Door To Doom” by Candlemass

The doom metal luminaries in Candlemass return with the band’s newest release in seven years, The Door To Doom.

The gargantuan riffs on “Splendor Majestic Demon” leave no doubt that the listener is in store for a heavy experience. Original vocalist Johan Langquist makes his triumphant return after a 33 year absence. His soaring vocals have not faltered and carry the same demonic majesty as they did on the band’s 1986 debut Epicus Doomicus Metallicus. “Splendor” features a crushing galloping riff that explodes during the track’s chorus.

“Under The Ocean” commences with a dreary, psychedelic riff before it is interrupted with a colossal riff and ground shaking drums. Drummer Jan Lindh keeps a stomping mid-tempo for the duration of the track. The following track “Astorolus-The Great Octopus” delves deeper in to the seas of doom as none other than heavy metal progenitor Tony Iommi guest stars on this track. This slow, haunting monody imbues a sense of hopelessness as Langquist laments of a great sea monster that will swallow the earth. Iommi’s bluesy solo serves as fitting music as the planet is devoured.

“Death’s Wheel” is notable for its circular, galloping riff like a carriage traveling to hell. Guitarists Lars Johansson and Mats Bjorkman’s riffs drip with sludge and the double drumming during the song’s chorus heighten the song’s heaviness. “House of Doom” is another highlight with its ripping guitar riff and spine tingling organ during the song’s midsection. Candlemass conclude Door with “The Omega Circle”, the longest track on the record, clocking in at over seven minutes. The trudging tempo and mammoth riffs transition to a soft acoustic passage as Langquist sings of a satanic dream before things turn heavy again. A mighty end to a mighty record.

The Door To Doom is not a door, but a lofty gate that once opened strikes the listener with crushing riffs and operatic vocals. The members of Candlemass do not rest on their laurels and prove why the band is so revered. Bassist and key songwriter Leif Edling creates the perfect balance between heavy and soft as the band never over does it. The record’s softer moments are not just rest areas for listeners but good pieces of music. Of course, when the band plays heavy, the earth shakes and the demons listen. Door is forty-eight minutes of doom metal played extremely well. While the lyrics are awkward at times, they barely detract from the quality of this record.

Candlemass has not lost its step since its formation 35 years ago. The Door To Doom is a stellar record that should please fans and those new to the band. Open the door and revere the colossal splendor before you.

Check out the band’s website:

http://www.candlemass.se/

CD Review: ‘Red Robes’ by The Order of Israfel

It is rare that a band can successfully meld several sub-genres without sounding awkward or insincere. Swedish doom metal quartet The Order of Israfel pull it off with ease on its sophomore effort Red Robes. The Romani influenced violins that open “Staff In The Sand” provide a haunting prelude for the melancholy riffs that follow. The downbeat, mountainous riffs plod like a giant in a winter storm. The title track has a touch of stoner metal with its psychedelic main riff. The ominous riffing is further accentuated by the chorused singing throughout the track. The chants and creepy bassline in the middle of the track would invoke the Devil himself. The grooving “In Thrall To The Sorceress” is one of the shorter tracks on the record. It is a straight up rocker that breaks up the bleak atmosphere of the previous songs. Yet, the highlight on Red Robes is “Swords To The Sky,” a progressive doomy venture equal parts Black Sabbath and Opeth. Tom Sutton’s wailing vocals paint a picture of a battle worn knight marching forward. The acoustic passage of “Fallen Children” is both and tragic and beautiful. The band focuses on war and the relationship between man and the supernatural.

Red Robes shows The Order of Israfel as its best. The band can play doom, folk and progressive metal without a hint of hesitation. This gives the music several layers of depth and it is never monotonous. The band’s influences are apparent but not cheaply imitated. Production wise, it is a mix of vintage Seventies with a modern update. The guitars and drums are at the forefront so one can feel those molten riffs melt your ear drums. The only minor problem is that Tom’s Sutton’s vocals are slightly drowned out, however, it is not terribly bad.

Red Robes is one of the best metal records released this year. It is only May and we have seven months to go, but this is a strong release. Fans of Paradise Lost, Candlemass or Electric Wizard should pick this record up. The Order of Israfel’s members have every right to point their swords to the sky with Red Robes.

For news and tour dates, check out the band’s Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/TheOrderOfIsrafel/

CD Review: ‘Sunrise to Sundown’ by Spiritual Beggars

Spiritual Beggars keep the rock rolling on its ninth record, Sunrise to Sundown. The title track is a straight forward rocker with a tinge of psychedelia. The song is rather generic despite frontman Apollo Papathanasio’s souful vocals. Things improve on “Diamond Under Pressure” which is a mix of Deep Purple and 80s hair metal. Keyboardist Per Wiberg pulls off a convincing John Hammond impression while Michael Amott throws out a nice bluesy solo. The fast paced “What Doesn’t Kill You” again shows the band drawing inspiration from Purple’s hard rock period. It is a fact paced track layered with guitar and organ leads. It is also a short progressive rock song, clocking in around four-and-a-half minutes. There are a few hard rockers like “Hard Road” and sleaze punk inspired “Still Hunter.” The primitive “I Turn To Stone” is based around a repetitive drum beat that is interrupted by several dreamy acoustic guitar phrases. It is one of the most unique tracks on the record and takes the listener on a ride.

Sunrise to Sundown is strong in some areas and weak in others. The musicianship is disappointing at times because the members played in some of the greatest metal bands of all time. Michael Amott and bassist Sharlee D’Angelo both play in Arch Enemy. In addition, Amott’s musical resume includes Carcass and Carnage. Per Wiberg played in Opeth. Still the songs on Sunrise are not that awe inspiring. I understand that this is a hard rock project, but these guys are perfectly capable of playing stellar rock. There are bright spots when the band finds its groove and a sick lead here and there. However, the record falls a little short.

Sunrise to Sundown is not a bad record. There are some decent tracks and a few good ones. However, the record is just naff and there is a feeling that the group is holding back. I would not recommend this record unless one is a big Spiritual Beggars fan and has to have every record in the band’s discography.

For news and tour dates, check out the band’s website: http://www.spiritualbeggars.com/

CD Review: ‘Out Of Respect For The Dead’ By Grave

Swedish death metal band Grave return from the dead with its 11th record. Out Of Respect For The Dead is pure Stockholm death metal, complete with gory lyrics, buzzsaw guitars and manic drumming. The opener “Mass Grave Mass” is a brutal headbanger that does not relent until the final note. “Flesh Before My Eyes” is another thrasher with a macabre breakdown in the middle of the track. The droning, squealing guitars bring things to an unsettling standstill before speeding up again at the end. The Sabbath inspired “Plain Pine Box” is a nice slab of doom metal that is every bit as heavy as the records faster songs. The title track is a suffocating thrasher with an endless spew of riffs and guttural vocals. It is straight ahead, no frills death metal that rips the jugular. The colossal “Grotesque Gory” trudges like a zombie through the graveyard. A fitting end for a record titled as an homage to the dead.

This record’s greatest strength is the balance of simplicity with technicality. Grave is dynamic, but have the musical chops to switch things up when necessary. The record is filled with rhythm changes and complex tempos, but also straight forward metal. This is good as the record is neither monotonous or pretentious. A common problem with new death metal bands are that they place musicianship over songwriting. Thus, the songs are a batch of complicated musical ideas, but fail to translate into songs. Grave never falls into this trap, as the songs sound like songs. Then again, the band has existed for nearly 30 years so it has experience on its side.

Out Of Respect For The Dead is old school death metal done right. Grave once again prove why its one of the most revered and influential bands in extreme music. Grave fans will be pleased as well as extreme metal fans in general. Go out and by the record. The dead will be honored when you do.

Check out the band’s Facebook page for news and tour dates: https://www.facebook.com/GraveOfficial

CD Review: ‘Frontschwein’ by Marduk

This year marks the 25th Anniversary of Marduk’s formation. The Swedish black metal unit celebrates its formation with Frontschwein, its 13th record. The band returns to the theme of war on this record as each track details the tragedy and triumph of combat. The title track fires off the album in intense glory. “Frontschwein” is an all out assault of drums, guitars and screeching vocals. Things slow down on “The Blond Beast” to a mid paced groove as Mortuus details the horrors of global conflict. The lyric that particularly stands out is “a funeral nation with a funeral urge,” which encapsulates war’s senselessness. Marduk gives listeners a history lesson with “Afrika” which is about the North African Campaign of World War II. It is not everyday that one head bangs to history, but this is certainly an exception. The standout track is “Wartheland,” which advances like a battalion through a desolated city. The pummeling drums are a highlight, but it is Morgan’s guitar work that drives this track. The riffs roll like Panzers across cobblestone streets. The vicious stomp of “Between the Wolf-Packs” accentuates the lyrics; “Blood and ash/ severe reprisals ahead/ the blood is shaken in the Reich/ As thousand-fold vengeance takes form.”

The albums sound fine. The guitars, vocals and drums are clear and there is a raw attitude on this release. The production is not such that one will stand and take notice, but it suffices. Still, it is black metal, so black metal purists will deride Frontschwein for not being “true.” Then again, those purists have probably long abandoned Marduk.

Frontschwein is a good record. Marduk delivers the goods on this one and it is another notch in the band’s belt. These veterans of combat are just getting started.

For more Marduk, visit their website at http://marduk.nu/