Death Magic Doom
posted on 4/2009 By:
I have unfair expectations of this band. But my lofty confidence is the direct result of over 20-years of dedication and countless hours of gobbling and dissecting a catalog that has played a pivotal role in the very creation and development of the doom metal genre. In short, all these years have made me feel close to Candlemass, or at least to their work, and as I'm sure we've all heard before, "we're most critical of those we love."
I walked away happy from 2007's King of the Grey Islands, but it was with an understanding that the follow-up record would be better suited for the vocal styling of the newly recruited Robert Lowe. Last year's Lucifer Rising EP didn't do much to stoke my fires of anticipation -- throwing down two new tunes (one of which contains the most repetitive chorus I've heard in years) and yet another slew of live songs to accompany the two DVD's worth of live shows already dropped within the last five years. Toss in Lowe adding his vocal talent to yet another project (Concept of God), and the recent release of Leif's first solo record and you've essentially got doom fans being pelted by all things Candle-related from multiple angles. As strange as it may sound, I've been quietly wishing Leif would ease back on the gas pedal and let his new songs gestate a bit more before bringing them to light.
"BLASPHEMY!" Howled the mob with daggers in their eyes.
Now, now. Lower them boom-sticks, soldiers. Death Magic Doom is a good record. It's taken a little longer than normal to get settled with it (there's a lot of competition currently being released), but the tendrils are finally starting to do their work. I've gotten over the relatively kooky album cover that looks more like an idea scribbled on a cocktail napkin, and I've finally stopped referring to the record as Death Magnetic Doom, but when it all boils down to its essence, this record is simply not as bonerific as I'd hoped it would be. It's good, but it's not something I'd agree with Leif as being "the best album they've recorded since Nightfall!"
So, yeah, the "gestate" remark above clearly needs some illumination. I get the feeling that Candlemass is working extra hard, perhaps a little too hard, to push material out to the masses. We're doom fans, Leif: we're a patient lot and we're used to things being slow. As it stands, nearly 20-minutes worth of Death Magic Doom suffers from flat spots that are in need of the sort of emotive punch that illumined classics such as "Black Stone Wielder", "Dark Are the Veils of Death", "Where the Ruins Still Speak" and "Seven Silver Keys". The album breaks from the gate on a very positive note with the brisk "If I Ever Die" -- a tune that could easily have been plucked from the band's excellent self-titled 2005 release. It's bright, surprisingly aggressive, and invitingly infectious. From this point on, however, the record essentially peaks and dips like a ship on a wavy sea. "Hammer of Doom" has a glacial, middling riff afflicting its heart that knocks the wind out of the sails built up by the first tune. "The Bleeding Baroness", despite having a very familiar sounding Candlemass riff at its core, rights the ship again with its contagious chorus and solid doom trot, but "Demon of the Deep" misses the mark by associating its dark, tentacled subject manner with an odd, jangly guitar lick that just seems ill fitting to my ears. The musical nod to El Orfanato, "House of 1000 Voices", soundly pulls the ship back atop the waves and stands as one of the record's more robust, classic doom cuts (anyone else hear hints of Mirror of Deception here?), but I'm still left puzzled by the weirdly "poppy" chorus of its follow-up, "Dead Angel". The fat 'n' heavy groove of "Clouds of Dementia" peaks the record once again, but "My Funeral Dream" closes the journey on a flat note by crushing my hopes of a new epic slow jam 50-seconds in with a bouncy, rather unpalatable riff (will we ever hear another "Samarithan" again?).
"Critics are like eunuchs in a harem; they know how it's done, they've seen it done every day, but they're unable to do it themselves." ~ Brendan Francis Behan
Brendan Francis, you poetic sonofabitch you, you're right as rain. And allow me just a few more short words to perhaps save my credibility as a doom fan with the utmost respect for this venerable act. For even when the glacial riffs are sorta drab and bumming me out, every single tune has at least one completely rippin' lead bleeding from the fingers of Lars Johansson. And Robert Lowe really does sound more comfortable and epic on this record. His voice, alongside Johansson's stellar play, definitely bumps the likeability of Death Magic Doom more than a few notches. Still, when stacked up against the rest of the band's extensive catalog, I'm much more likely to use words such as "respectable" and "good" as opposed to "brilliant" or "great." But in the end, it's a bloody Candlemass record; doom fans will pick it up regardless of any critic's words. So get out there, support the band, and pick up Death Magic Doom to form your own opinion. I'll certainly be back towards the front of the line for their next release.
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Psalms for the Dead
King Of The Grey Islands