Candlemass – Sweet Evil Sun


The band that popularised modern doom metal as we know it retired in 2012 with their farewell album, Psalms for the Dead, only to re-emerge in 2019 with The Door to Doom. Now, they present us with album number thirteen and retain the services of Johan Längquist on vocals. Their riffs are as epic as ever and their choruses as strong as anything in their back catalogue, and you will have no problem mastering the intricacies of this record. Metalheads can rest easier knowing that this is a fine effort by the Swedish legends, but will this be the last studio LP from Leif Edling and the boys?

A quick history lesson is appropriate before we begin. Of course, most metal sub-genres go back to Black Sabbath, often one specific song from the Birmingham greats. The stoner metal sound originates in the band’s 1970 classic ‘Sweet Leaf, while the Candlemass interpretation of doom metal comes from their song, ‘Electric Funeral’. You could even argue that prog metal begins at ‘War Pigs’, the foundations of thrash lie in ‘Paranoid’, and avant-garde symphonic metal originates with ‘Supertzar’. The important thing is that Black Sabbath planted the seeds, and other artists developed them into recognisable genres years later. Nobody can accuse Candlemass of being copyists, and they continue to make their case as one of the most influential artists in modern metal with Sweet Evil Sun. You won’t find any lethargic songs here drowned in dull fifth chords and amp fuzz. There’s a reason why we call this epic doom metal – the quality of the riffs and the drama of the vocals.

Opener, ‘Wizard of the Vortex’, is one of the simplest songs in the Candlemass discography and shows how you can make a song work with the same riff for four of the six minutes on offer. The animated performance of Johan Längquist is a big help here. This is a man who commands the microphone like an intercessor between the listener and the creator God, externalising your thoughts and fears to the supreme being like a two-way messenger. Often the exquisite guitar hooks can do the same job. The title track and ‘Angel Battle’ speak the overlooked sign language of air guitar. Listen to the crunch of the six-string instruments and the curling sensation of the bass notes in the latter. Modern metal’s obsession with chugging breakdowns means we forget the stunning effect of the slowdown, as popularised by Led Zeppelin in ‘Dazed and Confused’ and – you guessed it – Black Sabbath in ‘Iron Man’. Here, Candlemass combine different tempos with no warning of an impending change and anchor everything around the involuntary head rotation of the hypnotic doom riff. Längquist brings another dimension of melody with his Chris Cornell influences in the chorus. The dual harmony voice of ‘When Death Sighs’ is just as impressive.

You don’t even notice the slow tempos with Candlemass because of the swagger of their guitars. ‘Scandinavian Gods’ and ‘Goddess’ merge the rock gold with the heavy metal drama of aggressive tenor projections. In a paradoxical way, the Swedes create a sense of urgency using slow tempos – that’s what makes them so special. They’re not afraid of the faster juggernaut, either. ‘Crucified’ charges like a Roman chariot and strikes you down with a sobering chorus that can jolt you out of your crack-cocaine habit through the power of its harmonies.

We know they’ll never better Epicus Doomicus Metallicus from 1986, but Candlemass do not rest on their glorious heritage for greatness – they can still mix it with the best of them. Sweet Evil Sun is metal with a capital M.

JVB


Verdict


Release Date: 18/11/2022

Record Label: Napalm Records

Standout tracks: Wizard of the Vortex, Angel Battle, Crucified

Suggested Further Listening: Black Sabbath – Paranoid (1970), Trouble – The Distortion Field (2013), My Dying Bride – Like Gods of the Sun (1996)