The oaken doors to the cathedral, shut, stand unmovable. Embellished with the indelible mark of the triumphant few who pass into the pantheon beyond, they separate the greatness of legends from the mundane, the lacklustre, the expendable. Bells above herald doom, cloaked by everlasting rains but heard throughout the land. When those bells toll, you can rest assured what is to come is nothing short of monumental. All ears were poised upon the studio return of Swedish legends Candlemass, a band who at this stage in history need no introduction, waited with baited breath, clinging on to the sound of those meddlesome bells. And ring they did – for The Door to Doom opened and out stormed the return to end all returns.
After announcing the return of Epicus Doomicus Metallicus vocalist Johan Längquist for their first release since 2012’s Psalms of the Dead, originally penned as the band’s studio swansong, some would be right to be skeptical; after all it’d been 32 years since his last recording with them. Nevertheless, last year’s House of Doom delivered. And though the embellishment of that skull screamed nostalgia for the sake of nostalgia, all fears of the band’s 12th album running a stale gauntlet were quickly quashed: as soon as the record begins it is one epic bludgeoning riff after another, a storm unfurling with every passing second. Rumbling with full force and gargantuan volume, this is quintessential Candlemass, with Mappe Björkman executing an arsenal of monumental hooks against Jan Lindh and Leif Edling’s pounding rhythm section bulging at the seams of their mortal vessels; aside from the acoustic majesty of ‘Bridge of the Blind’ this does not change until the closing moments. The sheer magnitude of all this is carried in the weight of Längquist’s voice, who at times far exceeds his performance on the album that started it all; his pipes are more powerful than ever and perfectly complement the regal nature of the music behind him. His performance here is exactly the kind doom metal needs in 2019.
Kicking off this magnum opus is ‘Splendor Demon Majesty’, a eruptive of pure heaviness that proudly beckons “I’m glad your highness is back“, and whilst that may sound a bit on the nose to some it perfectly encapsulates what’s to come, nothing but sheer power and conviction. It’s monstrous clout continues with the epic ‘Under the Ocean’ and ‘Astrolus – The Great Octopus’, the latter featuring a certain legend of the riff, with maestro Lasse Johansson shows off his inimitable prowess alongside the master himself. Though the second half loses just a smidgen of the first’s magic rest assured the monolithic par excellence is fundamentally unchanged, with ‘Black Trinity’ and it’s enormous riffs preceding the oozing charm of ‘House of Doom’, boasting one of the more anthemic choruses to come out of the year so far; it’s dark, brooding, and everything you could possibly want from the masters.
It should come as a surprise to absolutely no one that The Door to Doom is as triumphant as anything Candlemass have released in their long career, perhaps their strongest record of the century. As powerful as they are as a unit, it is Längquist who takes the spotlight – his dynamic performance is beyond phenomenal and fuels the magnificence behind him with an irresistible conflagration. Far from being game-changing this is a stellar record chock full of everything that has made Candlemass the goliaths we still worship to this day: gigantic riffs, epic dirges, legendary vocals, and the overwhelmingly grand sensation of blowing everything around it out of the water. It’s enough to instill your faith back in old gods with more than fond memories of what has been: now, we can look forward to what the bells will toll in the days to come.
Out on Napalm Records