Release Date: 25th May 2018
Label: Napalm Records
Genre: Doom Metal
Candlemass cast a huge shadow over the Doom Metal scene, having first formed in Stockholm back in 1984. Since then they have cemented their position as highly respected veterans of the scene, with some classic albums under their belt, not least Epicus Doomicus Metallicus, which is recognised as a seminal work in the Metal canon. With such stellar credentials you’d expect that any of their releases would be of a relatively high standard, though the real question is to what extent Candlemass are opting for well trodden continuity, or aiming towards more novel releases.
Their latest 4 track EP House of Doom is released in conjunction with games company Hyperfrost. While this is somewhat of a novelty in of itself, to me it seemed a little gimmicky. However the music that has developed from this collaboration is on more familiar ground. ‘House of Doom’ opens up with the sound of a church bell, and the build up of drums accompanied by a pretty strong central riff. Things chug along at a reasonable pace for a couple of minutes before a breakdown that accentuates the gothic air, all organ and downtempo riffs, with slowed, full sounding drums underpinning everything.
Lyrically the song feels a little trite; with the repeated refrain of “we are the children of the moon, we keep the dark alive in the house of Doom” a case in point. It is the instrumental sections that best showcase what the band are capable of. The initial song structure isn’t bad but it is towards the last minute and a half that the instrumentation enters more demonstrably Doom Metal territory, with everything pared right down; the atmosphere aimed for in the lyrics captured more effectively sonically. The accompanying lyric video maintains the dark aesthetic of the track, with heavy copperplate text superimposed over revolving images of crosses, church spire, ravens and the like.
‘Flowers of Deception’ is quite similar to the preceding track, with a relatively uptempo introductory section giving way to much sparser parts. At one point things are carried solely by resounding bass notes before vocals and accompanying instruments are gradually reintroduced. There is a trudging downbeat quality to this track which has some decent fretwork over the slower moments. ‘Fortuneteller’ is a stripped back acoustic led number that brings some interesting guitar work to the foreground, while a slightly ethereal backing track generates a quasi-mystical atmosphere. There is even the faint sound of a flute discernible. While the vocal enunciation works for the overall sound and the guitar is well played this song doesn’t really get off the ground. At times it had the slight air of Spinal Tap’s ‘Stonehenge’ to it.
‘Dolls on a Wall’ brings the EP to its conclusion and for my money is the best track of the lot. It embraces the formula of solid riffs stretched over a simple but foreboding drumbeat without trying to over-complicate things. The lead guitar is proficient but not overlong and there aren’t too many sections. You could argue that this instrumental number is oversimplified but it is precisely by playing to their strengths and keeping things relatively brief, that the band encapsulate what is distinctive about their sound.
House of Doom isn’t particularly breaking new ground but it does display moments that demonstrate why Candlemass have developed such a following. For me the strongest elements were those where they let their Sludgy, heavy riffs do the talking. That said, it is good to see that the band are willing to mix things up a bit rather than simply stick to a single formula. This EP is somewhat uneven but it does suggest the forthcoming album release, slated for Autumn, could well have a couple of surprising additions.
Recommended Track: Dolls on a Wall