Death Magic Doom surpasses its predecessor, King of the Grey Islands, in several aspects, songwriting being the most important one. It is a doomier release with a heavier focus on achieving atmosphere, and is blessed with stronger production. It is a lot more organic sounding, boasting a great degree of dynamics in the arrangements and revealing more details upon repeat listens.
Leif Edling has composed one of the most diverse Candlemass albums to date. This is not full-on Doom Metal. Rather, it moves from doomy sounds to melodic phrases to more aggressive numbers. The writing is truly varied and inspired. On a tune like "If I Ever Die," they weave uptempo guitar rhythms with melodically gripping vocal harmonies and throaty a capella vocals while "Hammer of Doom" is their nod to Black Sabbath. It is populated with myriad elements, from hellish bells chiming to slow, grinding riffs to angry vocals and abrasive fretwork. This is easily the doomiest cut on the album.
The guitar work is phenomenal, perhaps the best in years. Lars Johansson and Mats Björkman once again prove they are the strongest guitar duo in Doom Metal. The lead solos on "The Bleeding Baroness" and "House of 1000 Voices" are trance-like. They send chills up and down the spine and only get better with each listen. They are built very patiently, allowing Lowe to set the tone as he 'duels' with the guitar lines atop Edling's fat bass lines. "The Bleeding Baroness" features an indelible bass figure in the beginning which crops up in the mid-section before an insanely melodic chorus is delivered. Likewise, "House of 1000 Voices" boasts an indestructible opening riff that would make the crowds go wild if Candlemass were to open their shows with it. As the riff progression changes, so does Lowe's tone; he starts singing an octave lower than usual capturing an evil sound -- you've never heard him sing like this before. Then there is the silvery solo; first guitar, then bass, and the guitar again. Fantastic.
These two songs are separated by the secret hit of the album, "Demon of the Deep." At first, this one comes across as filler, but in time, you get to discover its brilliance. The creepy acoustic guitars and death-embracing riffs achieve a unique atmosphere. The vocals in the beginning are powerful beyond words. The guitar sounds like it was tuned deliberately off-key, which lends the piece an extra dimension. It is deep and searing. The discreet organ sounds beneath the main melody are sublime too. All of this is contrasted by quite a melodic vocal passage -- simply perfect.
"Dead Angel" is arguably the catchiest and fastest Candlemass song ever. Though I can't say I am fully convinced it deserves a place on this platter, the rather lengthy instrumental break is worth checking out nevertheless. As the band retreats into doomy sounds with "Clouds of Dementia," the trade-off between guitars and bass also commands your attention as does the bleak acoustic intro of "My Funeral Dreams," which is comprised of glacial riffs mixed with faster-paced stanzas and an infectious chorus.
Robert Lowe joined Candlemass shortly before the band started recording King of the Grey Islands, which was written with Messiah Marcolin on mind. Though he did a great job on it, on this record, he gets to demonstrate his talents as a singer to a greater extent. And although he is not credited for any of the songs, it is obvious Leif Edling composed the material to suit his style perfectly. This album sees his most diverse vocal performance to date. Never before has he sung so aggressively and melodically at the same time. He tries a capella vocals, he lets out deep snarling screams, he whispers -- he does it all. And whatever he does, he gives the songs a raw, palpable energy. This album is his pinnacle from a vocal standpoint.
If you want to buy only one Doom Metal album in 2009, this is it.
- If I Ever Die
- Hammer of Doom
- The Bleeding Baroness
- Demon of the Deep
- House of 1000 Voices
- Dead Angel
- Clouds of Dementia
- My Funeral Dreams