Epic doom legends Candlemass return with classic-era glory on fire-stoking ‘Sweet Evil Sun’

We are very lucky in that we live in a time when metal’s legends still are among us, creating great art and proving the style has true staying power even after its creators have spent so much time in the trenches. Judas Priest and Iron Maiden continue to make strong new records and tour, and having seen Metallica on their short stadium run this summer, it’s clear they still absolutely bring it.

That also applies to longtime doom standard bearers Candlemass, who continue to make strong music nearly 40 years into their run as a band. Just as the air is getting colder (actually, it was like 80 here today, but that won’t last…), this legendary act returns with “Sweet Evil Sun,” their 13th album and follow-up to 2019’s “The Door to Doom.” On this record, the band—vocalist Johan Lanquist, guitarists Lars Johansson and Mappe Björkman, bassist Leif Edling, drummer Janne Lind—digs back to their roots, delivering epic doom metal but also grounding that in where this stuff came from in the first place. Lanquist (who returned in 2018), Björkman, and Edling all date back to their “Epicus Doomicus Metallicus” debut, and they still have the fire and ominous energy to be as relevant and fiery as they are on this album.

“Wizard of the Vortex” kicks off the record with crushing riffs and strong singing, two hallmarks of any good Candlemass song. The chorus is gothy and hearty, the soloing rips out and delivers electricity, and Lanquist calls, “Spreading her wings down, down, down, down,” as the track ends on a folkish note. The title track erupts with guitars blaring and melodies twisting, a classic 1980s feel driving through your blood. The soloing melts as the fiery pace kicks harder, and Lanquist howls, “Oh mother of the world, you are one.” “Angel Battle” is sinister with grittier singing and the guitars bringing aggression, Lanquist calling, “The war to end all wars.” Guitars melt as the playing turns into slow and doomy storming, rolling under thickening cloud cover and fading into steady rain and chiming bells. “Black Butterfly” powers with its blackening riffs, the murk hanging overhead and making the shadows feel more threatening. The band finds a way to get more haunting, the chorus smokes, and the guitar playing spirals into a pile of ash. “When Death Sighs” features Jennie-Ann Smith of Avatarium who adds her dramatic vocals to this stunner. The chorus is steamy and alluring as great darkness falls, the classic doom strains flex, and the calls of, “Now tell me who you love,” reverberate in your cells.

“Scandinavian Gods” is ominous with thornier singing and slow-driving, sooty playing that coats your face with black. “Sing for me brother, sister, and son, sing for the brave and old,” Lanquist bellows over the chorus, adding a catchy, dark edge to the playing, the soloing taking off into the sun. “Devil Voodoo” starts acoustically with the singing deliberately moving, the pace eventually bursting open. The chorus punishes as the guitar playing brings some bluesy heat, and then we settle back into slower, more delicate terrain as Lanquist calls, “Can I really do what you want me to?” as everything soaks into gothy soil. “Crucified” lets guitars utterly melt, kicking in and leaving dents in your skull, bringing a spirit that darkens the skies. The pace stews and steams, sludgy guitars emerge, and everything slowly evaporates into thin air. “Goddess” takes its time sinking in its hooks, while the vocals scrape prone flesh, Lanquist howling, “Do you really feel betrayed?” The guitars take off as the singing toughens, the power slithers, and the ominous call of, “The beginning of the end,” makes the aura feel apocalyptic. Closer “A Cup of Coffin” is a brief instrumental outro with the bass lurching, guitars heating up, and detached applause raining down and dropping the final curtain.

Candlemass obviously are legends of the doom genre, carrying the banner for four decades, and creating so much diverse music, even within their own catalog, that the world owes them a debt of gratitude. “Sweet Evil Sun” is a chance for this reworked version of the band, once that stretches all the way back to their formation, to flex their muscles and continue to prove the fire they have left for the world. This is a strong, immersive, powerful set from a band with nothing left to prove that continues to create great art regardless.

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

To buy the album (U.S./Canada), go here: https://www.napalmrecordsamerica.com/

Or here (rest of the world): https://napalmrecords.com/

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