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Candlemass | ‘King Of The Grey Islands’

‘King Of The Grey Islands’ is the 9th studio album from Candlemass. It’s hard to believe that these Swedish masters of doom are still going strong with a career spanning 21 years, the first release of course being Epicus Doomicus Metalicus in 1986 which is widely considered as the genre-defining classic of 1980s doom scene. A band that is notorious for having numerous line up changes, fans were disheartened with the announcement of the departure of Messiah Marcolin (once again, although it would seem for good this time) before the recording of KOTGI.

Although not the original singer, most would deem him their favourite front man with the group. After many auditions Robert Lowe of Texan doomsters Solitude Aeturnus was chosen to step in as the new front man. With a strong falsetto metal vocal style – the type of which Candlemass require for their style of music – fans most certainly need not be disappointed. Although maybe not a voice quite as operatic as our old chum Messiah, he does bring a different and refreshing element to the music, and not in any negative way.

With a fine back catalogue of impressive doom masterpieces, great things are always expected from a new album, and let down you will not be. Leif Edling is a master of his craft and has put together a doom laden, monstrous riff collection that is KOTGI. It is rather up-tempo in places in comparison of course to the earlier works. But if you are a die hard fan, and loved 2005s self titled release then you will embrace this album as it really does have everything.

We begin with “Prologue” a short and simple yet beautiful acoustic intro which lulls the listener. Then things take off with “Emperor Of The Void” which is a great opener. It immediately grabs your attention and chugs along nicely at a mid-tempo pace, with an infectious riff which breaks down mid song with some nice guitar soloing, then eases back into the riffage once again.

Instantly Lowe’s vocal talents can be appreciated on this track: “yes”, you nod to yourself, he was the perfect choice. Next we are confronted with “Devil Seed” which is heavy and sinister and lyrically very dark. A much slower track than the previous which is a nice contrast, it’s classic doom with crushing riffs that pound along relentlessly. “Of Stars And Smoke” is outstanding again slower paced with serious riffing, and contains sublime guitar melodies and synthesised harmonies, all brought together with Lowe’s vocals soaring over the top.

Then “Demonia 6” means business. Edlings crunching bass work trudges along steadily throughout. Lowe is particularly impressive here, and his powerful vocals are reminiscent of Dio in style throughout. This track is all about the build up, gradually working into a frenzy of layers aided again by the use of subtle synthesizers towards the end that add to the evil atmosphere, and sends a satisfying shiver down the spine.

“Destroyer” has a slightly older era Candlemass feel to it, also one of the lengthier tracks here, and perhaps understated in comparison to others, but enjoyable nonetheless, and requisite in this opus. “Man Of Shadows” with the now signature stompy bass line, lending vocals with an eerie/sinister tinge to them leading to the most blistering guitar solo on the record. Then we get punched in the face with a riff that Black Sabbath would be proud to call their own.

“Clearsight” is a straight forward, tight doom metal track, packed with fine riffs slowing down at the end leading us nicely into “Opal City” which is more or less short instrumental intro to “Embracing The Styx”. Things slow waaay down here – a tremendously epic doom track and the longest on the album – packed with everything you would expect from Candlemass, and finishes up nicely with another acoustic/folk like piece as the outro, leaving you breathing a sigh of contentment. This truly is a classic Candlemass album and a great achievement, and will appeal to new and old fans of the band alike.

4.5 / 5 – Jane Oliver ::: 17/07/07

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