Candlemass – Psalms for the Dead

By Gruesome Greg

Has it really been three years since we had a new studio album from Candlemass? It hardly seems that long ago, Death Magic Doom resonating long after the fact. Of course, there had been plenty of material to fill the gap, from the Ashes to Ashes live CD/DVD to the Doomology box set and even the “Don’t Fear the Reaper” b/w “All Along the Watchtower” vinyl EP. Can’t say I got my hands on the latter—it was limited to 600 copies. Likewise, this record took a little bit longer to track down, Napalm not having the North American distribution of, let’s say, Nuclear Blast.

In any case, Psalms for the Dead isn’t just the latest Candlemass album; it’s also reportedly their last. So how does this swan-psalm stack up? Well…

As a great gloomy glob of Lars Johansson riffage announces right off the bat, these guys are still no stranger to high-quality doom. “Prophet” is for the most part mid-paced, but the Phantom-of-the-Opera vocals of recently departed (from the band, that is) Robert Lowe elevates it to epicness, almost more power than doom metal, though the crushingly-heavy riff that kicks in just shy of five minutes affirms that these are the epic doom masters we’re listening to, indeed.

They slow things down entirely for “The Sound of Dying Demons,” Lowe’s wailing voice setting the tone overtop a dump truck loaded with longing and sorrow, though the guitar solo section is rather Maidenesque. (It almost sounds like he’s singing “the sound of dying demands,” mind you.) But pre-release single “Dancing of the Temple (Of the Mad Queen Bed)” is a little like Candlemass light, three-and-a-half minutes of mediocre mid-paced metal. Some real nice shred-guitar soloing stands out on an otherwise bland offering.

Otherwise, this is a pretty decent slice of doom. “Waterwitch” is likely the most anthemic number on here, its simple, one-word chorus inducing its share of sing-alongs, I’m sure. The title track also has a pretty catchy chorus, though I can’t help noticing how much Lowe sounds like Bruce Dickinson singing “Blood Brothers” here, and on a large portion of the album, at that. Album-closer “Time is Black” starts off with a poem recited by some guy named Mark Roberton, and a grandfather clock ticking in the background, announcing a scorcher of a tune with a killer heavy chorus. Now there’s the classic Candlemass riff I’ve been waiting all album to hear! If they’re ending their careers on this note, well, they’ve left us with a solid token to remember them by.

The Special Edition comes with a bonus DVD that’s a half-hour mish-mash of behind-the-scenes silliness from the 70,000 Tons of Metal Cruise, gigs in Belgium and Greece—with no actual performance footage (there are a couple shots of the band on stage, but no sound)—and a few clips from the studio, where their Swedish conversations aren’t sub-titled, as well as some silly movie trailers at the end, haha. It’s worth noting that this wouldn’t actually play in my DVD player, though it worked just fine in my computer.

(Napalm Records)
RATING: 8

Sean Palmerston

Sean is the founder/publisher of Hellbound.ca; he has also written about metal for Exclaim!, Metal Maniacs, Roadburn, Unrestrained! and Vice.