A Candlemass album is a lesson in doom. One of the first wave of bands that followed in the darker side of what Black Sabbath forged, Candlemass stood alongside Trouble, St. Vitus and arguably Celtic Frost to keep the funeral march going. In most metal circles the goal is to play harder and faster, whereas with doom the mission statement is to be darker and slower. The vocals play a larger role, as the genre’s more deliberate pace puts more emphasis on powerful soaring vocal melodies than other other subgenre, save for for power-metal. The man behind the microphone in the case of Candlemass’ 13th album, Sweet Evil Sun, is Johan Längquist, the singer who helms the band’s first album, Epicus Doomus Metallicus, who was followed by a handful of other singers since, some of them even more legendary in their abilities.
When fans of doom think of the band, they likely think of Messiah Marcolin. Marcolin sang on four albums, one of those being the legendary Nightfall, while Solitude Aeturnus singer Robert Lowe also had an impressive run with the band that felt true to who they are. Yet Längquist has a lower, grittier tone than the more operatic bellow of Messiah Marcolin. Johan definitely goes for it more on some songs than others. The songs are highly dependent on his lead, as riff-wise the group haven’t made any radical changes since the glory days. “Angel Battle” is the first song that sells me on this incarnation of the band as it’s strong enough to measure up to their legacy. The song finds Längquist able to open up and really croon in the emotive manner this band is known for.
Guitarists Lars Johansson and Mats Björkman offer really strong performances. If you’re into guitar solos, they have you covered. Meanwhile, Längquist sings everything with pretty equal levels of conviction, roaring through most of the album with a great deal of authority. It’s on a song like “Devil Voodoo” where things get a little silly. Unlike King Diamond, who is well read enough to delve into particular corners of the occult such as voodoo, which are out of his Satanic wheelhouse, he at least has a grasp of the mythology and history of the practice. Here, “voodoo” just seems to sound like a cool word to use.
Traditional doom is not proliferating this year, so an album by any of the genre’s elder statesmen is going to be welcome. Sweet Evil Sun is well produced, with the guitars packing as weighty of a punch as any modern metal bands. The overall sound is dense and tinged with enough morbidity to please fans hungry for the doom of years past. Even this deep into Candlemass’ career, you can hear their influence on the more death-metal flavored doom moments more common in 2022. They are not trying to recreate 1986, but rather measure up against their younger peers.