Candlemass are the granddaddies of epic doom metal, a style of doom metal that incorporates far more classical influences than the more common narcotised, stoner doom sound that is often associated with the word “doom” these days. This new fare titled The Door to Doom, is a foray into the dark and more traditional roots of heavy metal. The first most notable thing about this album is the return of Johan Längqvist, the vocalist who recorded on the original Candlemass album Epicus Doomicus Metallicus. His first feature on a Candlemass album since 1987 and his vocal presence is overwhelming; it might be one of my favourite elements of this release. Those who are fans of the earlier Candlemass albums as I am should give this album a listen just to hear Längqvist back in action.
Speaking of classic lineups, Lars Johansson and Jan Lindh also return on this album. They are the members who performed and recorded with Candlemass in their glory days from 1987 to 1994 and can be heard on albums such as Nightfall and Ancient Dreams, among others. When mentioning Candlemass members, one cannot leave out the founder and brains behind these doom titans, Leif Edling, whose driving force and song-writing skills have kept the band going all these years. To close up the lineup, we have another member from the original album on rhythm guitar Mats “Mappe” Björkman, who, besides Edling, has been one of the most consistent members of the lineup performing with Candlemass from 1984 to 1994 and then again from 2002 to present. The sound this lineup forges is one of the most cohesive I have heard from Candlemass in years and although the album pays great homage to their releases of yesteryear, the songwriting is both classic and original, giving fans of earlier Candlemass releases some nostalgia while also keeping them on the edge of the seats. For those who may have never heard Candlemass before and want to adventure into the world of epic doom, this is a great place to start.
Musically this album feels strongest in its beginning; the first few tracks might be the best on the album. “Splendor Demon Majesty” opens with a cult-like atmosphere, the lead guitar summoning images of burning fires and vast satanic masses. One of the most notable musical elements overall would be the melodic lead guitars that infuse a great amount of mood into the music. The lead breaks in this song are drenched in creepy keyboards, which in turn really complement the lyrical content. The solos also deserve honorable mention, both technically and lyrically, and constantly bring you to new heights of euphoria.
As “Under the Ocean” starts to play I am reminded of “Gallows End” off Nightfall, however that effect is instantly broken as the acoustic guitar stops and the distorted riff pushes its way into the song. As mentioned, the songwriting here conjures up images of Candlemass’s past, but still manages to keep the writing fresh with modal type melodic leads that are interspersed between the vocals in this track. The lyrics of this song are simple yet poetic and complementary to the sound of the song. The most memorable track might be “Astrolus – The Great Octopus” which features both Lovecraftian style lyrics and a guest appearance by Old Man Doom himself, Tony Iommi. Its main riff is extremely powerful and undulates inside your head, forcing you to headbang along. Next up we have the ballad of the album, “Bridge of the Blind”. I can’t say I’m too fond of this track; it reminds me of “Master of the Wind” by Manowar and as much as I love Manowar, I’m not too sure I like the connotations of cheese it brings. I wouldn’t say it’s a terrible song, but it is a bit of a dip in energy after the bone-crushing opening tracks. I feel this track could have appeared later on the album, but this is only a minor criticism.
After the ballad, the pace picks back up again. The intro of “Black Trinity” stands out with its suitably dirty opening riff and memorable chorus followed closely by “House of Doom”, which is seemingly where The Door to Doom leads us and thematically could be called the title track. I really enjoyed the experimental mid-section of “Black Trinity” that precedes the blistering solo that brings us back to Earth, or mayhap hell. Speaking of hell, another great moment on this album is when the Baroque-esque church organs can be heard near the close of the “House of Doom”. This album is just filled with so many great moments and while the writing manages to respect the time-honoured tradition of Candlemass’s well-known sound, the band really brings something new to the table with this release. It is the kind of record that gives more on each repeated listen, which for me, is the best kind of album.
Lyrically this album is filled with mystical and cursed imagery and though the lyrics themselves are not too complex I enjoy the time-honored, pseudo-archaic writing style that has come to be tradition throughout the band’s career.
Though I pointed out some small issues with pacing on the album, entirely due to the ballad that breaks up the first and last half, overall I would rate The Door To Doom quite highly on my list of favourite Candlemass albums. The production is phenomenal and extremely heavy while still sounding surprisingly pleasant on the ears. As a huge Candlemass fan, I have always found some of their work to be quite inconsistent in songwriting quality, some songs being instant classics while others forgettable, however, The Door to Doom manages to stay quite consistent throughout and easily tops their last release, Psalms for the Dead, from 2012. Whether you are new to Candlemass or a long time fan, this album does not disappoint.