Candlemass | ’Psalms For The Dead’
No matter how good the album is, Candlemass’s swansong ‘Psalms For The Dead’ was always going to be a bittersweet affair, being the band’s swansong album, and tempered by the recent news of vocalist Rob Lowe’s firing due to live performance issues.
Before this LP hit the doom decks, I had half assumed that the stated lack of passion might perhaps have transferred onto the vinyl.
Opening song ‘Prophet’ soon discarded that opinion in exactly 48 seconds with an outrageously heavy drumbeat – surely the heaviest the band have recorded – and passionate vocals from Lowe, particularly in the absolutely fantastic shouted chorus.
It’s a very rare type of song in that the solo midway through is actually overshadowed by the gorgeous guitar tone of the main riff, it’s just splendid. And that drumming! Hate to unleash the clichés, but it’s just pummeling.
There’s an underlying sense of Hammer Horror throughout the album, and not entirely unwelcome, as on tracks like ‘Prophet’ and ‘The Sound Of Dying Demons’ the use of Hammond organ lends a delightful sense of mystery and the occult that strangely suits the band. It’s used sparingly on these songs and works well, but later in the album it seems every song has that exact same rising tone and it does get somewhat repetitive.
Album single ‘Dancing In The Temple Of The Mad Queen Bee’ is thankfully a short song, as evident by the title, it’s a silly throwaway track that never really goes anywhere, and was an odd choice for the single, considering there’s a wealth of better tracks on the album.
Although Rob Lowe may have been pitiful live, on record he’s incredibly detailed in his singing, inserting a huge amount of nuances into his singing, this song being a good example, if not for anything else.
‘Siren Song’, without the heaviness, could easily be the soundtrack to any number of 70s occult horror movies, that almost psychedelic weirdness and offsetting Hammond. It’s a perfect accompaniment to such a lyrical topic, Lowe’s vocals have odd effects and layers on them and the background music is sometimes louder than the singing. Totally insane and it works immensely. It’s an unhinged track, nothing like Candlemass, and a well executed concept.
The intro to album closer ‘Black As Time’ is just strange, stupid and a bollocks way to start a great song. It features an English narrator talking rubbish about time, with an echo that accentuates the annoyingness. The song itself is a decent mid-paced heavy number, featuring more organ, which by this point seems to be a little overused. Lowe’s vocals are strong on this one though, and the song is great, but the narration spoils it – it’s just dumb sounding.
It’s quite the shame that Candlemass’s last album is the best thing they’ve done since the reunion, as this album is the band going out on a significant high.
I can see a lot of these tracks in future live setlists, and I hope that new vocalist Mats Leven does them justice, as ‘Psalms For The Dead’ easily holds its ground with the classic 80s albums.
4.4 / 5 Dónal McBrien :::18/06/12