Candlemass - Psalms for the Dead

Emerging from the darkness, brimming with bombast and drenched in doom, “Psalms for the Dead”, the (perhaps) final album from Swedish doom metal legends Candlemass is/might be a stirring finish to a storied career. Candlemass have been recording for 20 plus years, and set the tone not just for themselves, but for a whole generation of doomsayers with their 1986 album “Epicus Doomicus Metallicus”. Over the past two or so decades, Candlemass have burned through lead singers at an alarming rate, but their commitment to a mournful, oppressive, and especially EPIC form of heavy metal has made them a powerful force in heavy music.
If “Psalms for the Dead” is indeed their last album, and I would not be the first person to doubt (or hope) that this is not the case, then it's a damn fine ending. Former lead singer Robert Lowe's (as I write this he has already departed Candlemass, making him ex-Candlemass vocalist #5) voice is a powerful instrument. It soars and emotes in all the right places, and mixes barely-restrained power with a pervasive sense of dread and despair. I'm no great fan of clean vox in my metal (case in point: I think Nergal has the most stirring and pleasing voices in heavy metal history. Long may he reign), but Lowe's work on “Psalms for the Dead” approaches that truly excellent Dio-level of epic-evilness.
And the band? Stunning as always. As Lowe's voice soars beautifully in lamentation, guitarists Lars Johansson and Mats Bjorkman lay down black, weighty riffage that sucks the listener back down into the muck. Jan Lindh's drumming is also excellent, and well suited to the highly-theatrical nature of Candlemass' music. He pounds away at his kit with plenty of bravado and, strangely, the Psalms often sounds like a duet between Robert Lowe and Lindh, with Lowe providing the soaring highs to Lindh's hammering lows. Oh, and there's a fucking keyboard solo. Treading on dangerous ice here (I was at a Dio concert the last time metal keyboards didn't send me running to the latrines to deposit my disgust), Candlemass actually pulls it off.
“Psalms for the Dead” is an excellent piece of traditional doom metal. Quivering with despair and filled with the kind of darkness that could only come from a band with a thorough understanding of what it means to feel DOOM, it is a fitting end to a long recording career. That is, unless Candlemass' newest lead singer wants to soldier on in the studio. And that wouldn't be too much to expect, now would it? 

Chris Wright 

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