Candlemass are doom metal legends, there’s no better description for them. Without them – and their pioneering debut Epicus Doomicus Metallicus – doom metal may never have become the force it is today but they do like to fuck around with their vocalists! Fans have so far embraced the iconic delivery of original singer Johan Längqvist, the grand theatrics of Messiah Marcolin, the often forgotten Thomas Vikström & Björn Flodkvist, the instantly recognisable tones of doom metal stalwart Robert Lowe and now we have Mats Levén at the helm.
Not that Candlemass mainman Leif Edling and Mats Levén are strangers, the two teaming up in the mid 90’s (while Candlemas were on hiatus) for the experimental but ultimately ill-fated Abstrakt Algebra project. Still, Death Be Thy Lover is Candlemass’ first official release with the former Therion and Firewind singer and he equips himself well. Although, he does seem an odd choice as permanent vocalist. Less epic doom metal and more power metal, it seems unfair to diss the man but Candlemass cry out for a deep, mournful baritone to accompany their usually morose riffs and Mats Levén doesn’t really meet that requirement.
However, this is a new chapter in Candlemass’ formidable career and perhaps the faster-paced likes of the title track – obviously more suited to Levén’s vocals – is the way forward, it’s a ‘classic’ sounding heavy metal song either way and retains the bands iconic identity….just! In contrast, “Sleeping Giant” and “Sinister N Sweet” retain more of that traditional Candlemass feel but it’s been justifiably modernised for a hopefully doom-hungry new audience. Either way, Death Thy Lover is home to quality tunes and quality performances – as you’d expect – and it’s great to have new material from these scene leaders.
Do Candlemass have one more gob-smacking album left in them….on this evidence, yes, it would appear they do! 8/10