PICK OF THE WEEK: Candlemass on path to the future with piece of past on smashing ‘Door to Doom’

Being in a legendary band worshipped by many likely means you’ve been doing your thing for a long time, and the scourge of lineup changes has impacted your music way more than one time. The greats always find a way to push through and keep doing relevant work—Maiden, Priest, Sabbath—which keeps them a pillar of their musical community for years to come.

Classic Swedish doom metal band Candlemass has hardly avoided chaos over the years, and from the time their last album “Psalms for the Dead” arrived seven long years ago in 2012, changes have struck the group all over again. Except this time, their new frontman is a familiar face from the past—Johan Längqvist, who performed vocals as a session singer on the band’s incredible debut album “Epicus Doomicus Metallicus.” It was a welcome surprise to longtime fans to hear he was returning to the fold, but the proof of their might would be in the music they made, which we now have with their 12th album “The Door to Doom,” as ideal a title as you’re going to find. This eight track, nearly 49-miniute record sure as hell delivers, over and over again, bringing doom magic like these guys have been making for years. The band—rounded out by guitarists Mats Bjorkman and Lars Johansson, bassist Leif Edling, and drummer Jan Lindh—sounds channeled and alive, as if they’re breathing dank new life again after renewing their mission to drub you and scorch you to hell.

“Splendor Demon Majesty” starts off the record perfectly, bristling in its presence of satanic powers. The track punches right away, with Längqvist wondering, “Will this be a new beginning or orchestrate the end?” The chorus is powerful, with the command to “hear the doomsday bell” (which you do hear), while guitars spread out, and Längqvist burns to the “sounds of 666.” “Under the Ocean” starts acoustic and trippy with hushed vocals before the track is torn open. The singing is in full command, while the soloing catches fire and scorches, leading to a cooling, mystical area. The chorus bursts out of that before things end in a psyche haze. “Astorolus – The Great Octopus” sounds like a batshit idea on the surface, but it fucking rules. Slow drumming paves the way for pulverizing riffs, verses that boil, and Längqvist wailing over the chorus, “There’s a mountain of skulls, you swallow the earth.” If this song wasn’t killer enough, Tony Iommi (of some band whose name is on the tip of my tongue) rips away, adding a bluesy fury in his own awesome way, with the band smashing and sweltering from there. “Bridge of the Blind” pulls things back, as it’s a haunting doom ballad led by colder guitars, soulful singing, and a classic metal feel. “Will you be waiting on the other side?” Längqvist calls before the song melts away.

“Death’s Wheel” begins to chew away as the riffs start to kill, and the vocals just soar over the verses. The guitars burn flesh later as the soloing sinks in, but then they buzz away, grinding away at rock. The tempo rounds back in later, with Längqvist howling, “The wheel is spinning round and round,” before the track bleeds away. “Black Trinity” is a strange one, a little darker than what preceded it, and one that feels sludgy at the start. A strange section that sounds like the exhaust from a machine kicks in before the solo blasts, and the chorus heads back for one more shot. The title cut fittingly opens with rain and thunder before the band hits on a faster pace. The chorus is simple but satisfying, with Längqvist welcoming you to the door to doom, while organs swell, and the horror gets thicker. Then the pace changes up, with a thick, Sabbath-style solo blistering as the track slips into the mud. “The Omega Circle” closes the album, letting off mystical fog that the guitars slice right through. The chorus is a change of pace, and then we’re back to strangeness, as Längqvist calls, “In the midnight hour and the souls devoured.” The track stomps and hulks, seemingly fading away, before a guitar-led charge heads in for a redux, sending thick plumes of smoke into the night sky.

Candlemass have been making some of the finest doom—hell, any style of metal—ever since their inception in 1984, and here we are, 35 years later, and they’re still cracking skulls on “The Door to Doom.” Having Längqvist back in the fold is a welcome return, and the rest of the band sounds as fresh as they ever have on this record. Candlemass have been creating great music and influencing legions of followers for decades, and that’s something that’s nowhere near ending.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/candlemass

To buy the album, go here: https://napalmrecords.com/english/candlemass

For more on the label, go here: https://napalmrecords.com/

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