CANDLEMASS: CANDLEMASS (2005)
1) Black Dwarf; 2) Seven Silver Keys; 3) Assassin Of The Light; 4) Copernicus; 5) The Man Who Fell From The Sky; 6) Witches; 7) Born In A Tank; 8) Spellbreaker; 9) The Day And The Night; 10) Mars And Volcanos.
Apparently, this album almost did not happen due to old tensions quickly reignited between the original band members as they gathered in the studio; in the end, though, they managed to override them for at least this one LP, before the Messiah re-ascended into the void once again, this time for good. They did make the album self-titled, though, which usually symbolizes a «reboot», in this case, a new Candlemass for a new millennium — a fairly complicated task, considering all the difficulties of getting the Nightfall lineup in the studio and not making another (inferior copy of) Nightfall in the process.
Surprisingly, the result is quite satisfactory. Of course, this is not too different from «classic» Candlemass, but in some ways, I think it actually improves upon it. If you are a purist, deeply in love with this band and treasuring its first years of output as the most inspired and innovative ones (although «innovative» is really a strange word to use in relation to these Sabbath adepts), you will not share this opinion; I, however, think that Candlemass, above and beyond everything else, are professional deliverers of «Sabbath-brand product», and that, as «product», their first albums suffered from too much pomp and too little technical care. By the mid-2000s, after twenty years of soaking and steeping, they seem to have learnt to deal with that problem: Candlemass is their first album that (a) features awesome production standards and (b) avoids sounding too ridiculous or annoying, most of the time.
Taking ʽBlack Dwarfʼ, the album's kick-ass opening song, as a good example, what do we see? The opening riff, decidedly unoriginal as usual, finally sounds thick, deep, crushing, and massive, and is propelled forward by a great drum sound — also thick, bass-heavy, without any electronic echoes or general tinny overlays that so plagued their Eighties albums. The lead guitar part is fluent, melodic, and perfectly audible over everything else (not to mention quite expressive and actually reminiscent of some cataclysmic astral processes). And, finally, Marcolin adds a layer of angry beastliness to his vocals, still relying on his operatic potential but sounding much better in the capacity of a threatening Old Testament prophet of the apocalypse than in his typical Freeshooter / Dr. Faustus image from the classic records. (And by «much better» I mean that I don't have to go "oh no, gimme a break already" every time he hits a high note).
After ʽBlack Dwarfʼ, the record predictably slows down (we know by now that Candlemass can handle fast tempos, but they have no desire to turn into Accept, after all), and the songs become more and more interchangeable. However, the corrected problems remain corrected — the production never turns to shit, and all the riffs on all the songs retain that «massive» effect, even if there is still hardly a single riff here that I would judge as immediately efficient on the classic Iommi level (more like decent/acceptable on the post-1980 Iommi level). The usual copycat problems persist: the lengthy ʽCopernicusʼ features clear echoes of ʽBlack Sabbathʼ in its slower parts, while ʽBorn In A Tankʼ presents yet another variation on ʽChildren Of The Graveʼ (just how many millions of times has that song been ripped off in the world of heavy metal?). But as long as you are not forced to memorize this stuff note-by-note, I like the overall sound: seems as if Edling's direct emulation of Sabbath on that previous album left some traces behind, and now, by injecting better produced Sabbath overtones into the classic Candlemass formula, he is able to achieve somewhat more credible results.
Special mention must be made of the lyrics, which are slightly less ridiculous than they used to be (this, at least, is an area in which they seem to have made some genuine progress: I actually catch myself pondering over the message of stuff like ʽSeven Silver Keysʼ and ʽAssassin Of The Lightʼ, and even if it is the same old devil-gonna-get-me stuff, it is at least presented in a vaguely veiled manner). On the down side, the song lengths... well, that's what you get for choosing «slow» as your default tempo — something that, given the success of ʽBlack Dwarfʼ as the lead-in track, they could have easily changed, but doom metal is doom metal. Still, a modest thumbs up. If you can only coax yourself into listening to one Candlemass album, you should probably pick up something from the Eighties, but if you want something that is actually listenable (if not necessarily enjoyable), this reunion gig is a better choice.