As much as I love Candlemass and its affiliated projects, I must admit that my feelings toward the band have somewhat soured in recent years. Leif Edling deserves props for his prolific yet quality releases spanning numerous names, but his ‘epic doom with operatic vocals formula’ has yielded some frankly interchangeable results in the last decade or so. Being a songwriter myself, I can understand (and am very guilty of) recurring tropes, but it honestly feels like the only difference between Krux, Candlemass, or The Doomsday Kingdom is whoever was available to sing at the time. And even that metric is pretty suspect with guys like Mats Leven showing up as repeat conspirators.
These feelings only intensified when the details surrounding Candlemass’ twelfth full-length The Door to Doom came to light. Casual and hardcore fans alike rejoiced as renowned vocalist Johan Langquist joined the band full time over thirty years after his sessional debut, and that Tony “Fuckin” Iommi himself contributed a guitar solo to a song. The doom world seemed to hope for the second coming of Epicus Doomicus Metallicus, while I expected yet another variation of the Leif Edling formula with somebody else singing.
I was right.
If you’ve heard anything that Candlemass released in the 2000s, then you already know what The Door to Doom sounds like. Any assumptions of Epicus-style labyrinths or Messiah-era grandeur can be left behind in favor of Edling’s now-signature blend of doom, power metal, and psychedelic rock. The structures are elaborate but ultimately straightforward, the riffs are workmanlike yet impactful, and the production paints it all in a heavy, full polish.
For what it’s worth, the musicianship hasn’t had this much vigor since 2009’s Death Magic Doom. Langquist is nigh unrecognizable with thirty-three years of time and infinitely less reverb on his voice, but his performance is solid with a good mix of melody and grit. It must also be said the drums are lively and the guitars continue to reign supreme. As blasphemous as it sounds, I think Lars Johansson’s solo on “Bridge of the Blind” may be more stirring than the Riff Lord’s cameo on “Astorolus.”
Speaking of which, I won’t deny that there’s some great material on here. “Astorolus – The Great Octopus” is easily the album’s best song; even without Iommi’s electrifying solo, its climactic hook and atmospheric menace puts it up with the strongest of the Robert Lowe era. Nothing else quite reaches those mind-blowing levels, but “Bridge of the Blind” makes for a poignant ballad, and I can get into the grooves on songs like “Death’s Wheel” and “Black Trinity.”
When it comes down to it, The Door to Doom is a good album that nobody would’ve cared about if Candlemass had released it without Langquist’s involvement. Such a sentiment speaks more to fair-weather listeners than the album’s actual quality, but it would’ve been great to see a widened scope for such a glorious return. The musicianship is energized and the writing is focused, so I can imagine this being a warmup for something even stronger to come. I definitely said that when the EPs came out, but you’re just gonna have to let me believe it. Doom Dance if you believe!
“Astorolus – The Great Octopus”
“Bridge of the Blind”