Few bands in metal history are as unequivocally linked to a specific subgenre as Swedish legend’s Candlemass. In the same way that Venom tied themselves to nascent black metal subgenre by naming their 1982 album after it, Candlemass are forever associated with the epic doom metal genre, thanks to their highly self-referential 1986 debut Epicus Doomicus Metallicus. Without this record there would be no Solitude Aeternus, no While Heaven Wept and no Crypt Sermon.
Now 40 years into their career and having reunited with Epicus… vocalist Johan Längquist on their fantastic previous album The Door to Doom, after a number of different frontmen have passed through their ranks (including iconic doom monk Messiah Marcolin and Solitude Aeternus’ Robert Lowe), the band are back with one of their most powerful albums yet. Loosely based around the Greek myth of Icarus, Sweet Evil Sun finds bassist/songwriter Lief Edling and the band incorporating influences from the heavy rock of their youth (think Deep Purple and Rainbow) to create a more direct kind of doom, albeit one that is still undeniably grandiose. Opener ‘Wizard of the Vortex’ is pure Candlemass magic, with a huge melodic riff, stomping drums and Längquist’s Dio-esque vocal soaring over the top, whereas the title track sees the 70’s influence start to come in, with an organ line reminiscent of Jon Lord running through the chorus. The fantastically titled ‘Angel Battle’ features a recording of the legendary occultist film maker Kenneth Anger and is probably the heaviest song on the record while still having a fantastic chorus.
‘When Death Sighs’ offers a slight change of texture with a guest appearance from Jennie-Ann Smith from Avatarium and a tense, staccato verse/chorus structure. Längquist sneers like King Diamond at his most dramatic and the effect (plus a fantastic solo) make it one of the best tracks on the album. The single ‘Scandinavian Gods’ feels a little bit like it they’ve got Amon Amarth to write the lyrics for them and it’s a huge, chugging track that feels destined for a massive singalong at Wacken. Both ‘Devil Voodoo and ‘Crucified’ have a great, stripped-back biker metal feel to them and the final song proper on the album ‘Goddess’ finds the lads back in epic territory with grim, ultra-heavy riffs and menacing vocals. The album ends with dual guitar instrumental ‘A Cup of Coffin’ which feels like the band coming back out to take a bow.
You’d think after four decades the wheels might be starting to come off the doom train, however Sweet Evil Sun finds Candlemass still at the absolute top of their game. Genre tags aside, this album feels like a testament to a band continuing to make the music they love, and their energy and passion shines through on every doom-laden note.
Sweet Evil Sun is out now via Napalm Records and can be ordered here.
Words: Dan Cadwallader