Sunday Old School: Candlemass
Band Photo: Candlemass (?)
Sunday is a day which is usually taken quite slow, deliberately or otherwise. It seems fitting then Sunday Old School pays tribute to one of the greatest bands in the history of doom metal this week, by taking a look at Swedish legends, Candlemass. Candlemass were formed in 1984 in the Swedish capital city, Stockholm by bass player Leif Edling, following the dissolution of his previous band, Nemesis. He soon recruited guitarists Mats "Mappe" Bjorkman and Klas Bergwall, as well as drummer Matz Ekström, to complete the lineup of musicians, while they went through a revolving door of singers. Before long, they had signed to Black Dragon Records, a label in France which signed the band on a one album deal and gave them a budget of less than two thousand dollars. In June of 1986, the band released their first full length record, "Epicus Doomicus Metalllicus," which was immediately met with a positive response thanks to it’s slow riffs, unusual in a time when thrash was the popular flavour in the metal world. The singer on the album was Johan Längqvist, who performed vocals despite having never heard their music before. Those who look for weaker points in the album tend to point fingers at Längqvist, though his singing was still quite impressive. He did not stay for long however and was soon replaced by Bror Jan Alfredo Marcolin, better known to audiences as "Messiah."
Messiah made his recording debut almost immediately upon joining, which surfaced in 1987 in the form on the sophomore full length, "Nightfall," although by this point Bergwall and Ekström had also left the group, their places being filled by Lars Johansson and Jan Lindh respectively. "Nightfall" was another critical success for the band and saw them branch out commercially too, most notably with their first music video for the song, "Bewitched," which features a young Per Yngve Ohlin, better known to most people as Mayhem vocalist, "Dead." They would release a third album a year later entitled, "Ancient Dreams" which spawned their second music video for the song, "Mirror Mirror." Although it didn’t receive quite as much praise as it’s predecessors, it became the first Candlemass record to hit the charts in the United States, reaching number 74 on the Billboard album chart. They won back some of their detractors with their next album however, 1989’s, "Tales of Creation," though following a live record simply entitled, "Live," they were once again forced to search for a new singer, as a falling out with Messiah Marcolin resulted in him leaving the group.
The void left by Marcolin was filled by new vocalist Thomas Vikström, a stage actor and they got to work on new material, which culminated in their fifth studio album, "Chapter VI." Despite, or perhaps because of, their new beginning, sales and reception for the album were lukewarm, which factored into the decision to disband the group upon returning home from touring in 1994. Edling focused on his new band, Abstrakt Algebra, though when they were unsuccessful, he recruited a selection of musicians, including former Carcass member Michael Amott and released a new album under the Candlemass moniker entitled, "Dactylis Glomerata," which was comprised of brand new material and music written for Abstrakt Algebra. This lineup (minus Amott) released another album a year later called, "From the 13th Sun," which notably was dedicated to "the greatest band of all time: Black Sabbath," before previous members rejoined the band for a new live album in 2002, as well as overseeing the re-issue of their first four albums and releasing their first DVD, "Documents of Doom." The reunion was intended to be a permanent return, although while searching for a new record label, old tensions flared up and Candlemass disbanded once again.
Following their second dissolution, a second reformation was announced only two years later, along with the news that the band had recorded a new, self-titled album, which was released in May 2005 through Nuclear Blast Records and went on to garner a Swedish Grammy award. Inspired by this accolade, Candlemass decided to keep going, although there was some uncertainty as to whether Messiah was dedicated to do so, resulting in his second ejection from the band. He was replaced by American singer, Robert Lowe, who had earned a good reputation in the doom metal genre via his work with Solitude Aeturnus and made his recording debut with Candlemass on their 2007 effort, "King of the Grey Islands," which was met quite well by fans. They then decided to celebrate twenty years in the business (despite forming in 1984) and did so by bringing original vocalist Johan Längqvist on the road to perform with them live for the first time, resulting in the DVD, "Candlemass 20 Year Anniversary."
In 2008, guitarist Mats "Mappe" Bjorkman was sentenced to two years in prison for allegedly stealing over 35 thousand CDs and DVDs from a warehouse, although in an interview with Sweden Rock Magazine he maintained his innocence. Despite this, the band did record a new album, "Death Magic Doom," in the autumn of that year, though it would not be released until April 2009. The album proved to be worth the wait however, earning the band some of the best reviews of their long career and initially spurred the group on to record another album, though this was put to one side in order to celebrate the twenty fifth anniversary of their debut, "Epicus Dommicus Metallicus." Eventually, after signing a new record deal with Australian label, Napalm Records, another new full length surfaced, which came in 2012 under the title, "Psalms for the Dead." The band has stated that this will be their final album, although they have no plans to disband, as evidenced by their decision the same month to replace Robert Lowe with former Therion vocalist Mats Levén. So it seems that the future of Candlemass will lie solely upon the stage, although fans can continue to hope that, like such groups as Ministry and Carcass before them, they will renege on their promise of a final album and deliver another slab of quality doom, as only they can.
Candlemass - "Solitude"
Candlemass - "Bewitched"
Candlemass - "Mirror Mirror"
Candlemass - "The Dying Illusion"
Candlemass - "Black Dwarf"
Ollie Hynes has been a writer for Metal Underground.com for four years and has been a metal fan for ten years, going so far as to travel abroad for metal shows.
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