Candlemass - The Door to Doom

Candlemass The Door to Doom cover
The Door to Doom
Napalm Records
Candlemass did suffer through quite the existential crisis in the past few years. You see after returning with their classic “Messiah” led lineup for an album and some subsequent tours that lasted for a couple of years, the plethoric monk left again, due to internal band strife. The band seemed to strike gold, when they enlisted the services of Texan archangel of Doom, Robert Lowe (from Solitude Aeturnus), who did front the band for six year and managed to release three albums during that time, without ever managing to bond 100% with the band. Soon issues regarding his less than enthusiastic stagecraft and the fact that he often didn’t seem to remember the lyrics, often using notes onstage had him unceremoniously departing from the band’s ranks, before long.
The band soldiered on with Mats Leven (ex-Yngwie Malmsteen, Therion etc.), who also did demo songs for the band previously. Problem is that now the band’s creator and bassist Leif Edling would take a lengthy sabbatical to battle some unspecified illness. It wouldn’t be until 2019 that their talismanic bassist and band leader would be rumored to make a full recovery, re-assuming his duties both in the studio and live as well. In the meantime he was active at home composing for both Avatarium, as well as another project, the Doomsday Kingdom that both released albums he didn’t tour behind. After a couple of EPs and numerous performances with the band it would now be the turn of Leven to go, handling the vocal mantle back to the band’s original singer Johan Längqvist, who makes a return some three decades after his original stint with the band… confusing at the very least.
Still with all the time to rest and compose it would mean that whenever Candlemass returned, it would indeed be glorious. Or would it? It goes without saying that a couple of songs on the last Avatarium or the sole Doomsday Kingdom albums have Candlemass written all over them, so those numbers were “lost” on those projects, leaving “The Door to Doom” with probably all new material.
And while on paper pairing the classic lineup with the vocalist of your debut should be “epic”, it is a little underwhelming, given how seminal that debut was. It’s not that this album is bad, it’s just how much better the other ones were and how much heavier they sounded as well, that makes it so. Also, the overall mode of the album seems more geared towards 70s heavy rock, a bit like Avatarium but with baritone vocals and not as much towards the heavier, doom epic metal that seemed to flourish into the 80s.
“Splendor Demon Majesty” has some nice riffing and a typical delirious crescendo over the chorus, along with some nice leads, but it doesn’t really go beyond, what the band has achieved before, content to just match it at best.
“Under the Ocean” exchanges it’s fragile acoustic intro, with some extremely heavy guitars, but seems more preoccupied with the notion of remaining heavy, recycling the same riff, without trying to develop that idea more; the leads don’t do much and soon the whole mellow into heavy part repeats in a rather unimaginative way. Some call it minimalism. Others boredom.
“Astorolus: The Great Octopus” does two things. Firstly, it’s one of the better songs on the album, one with a chorus that seems to work, although it feels eerily similar to the band’s past. It also gets one Mr. Tony Iommy of Black Sabbath fame to join the Swedes, a mere fact that must have had them orgasming and doomdancing for a week prior and after they got the news.
“Bridge of the Blind” is a sorrowful slow acoustic song that seems to be completely grey and bleak and it fits, nicely with the whole atmosphere of the album.
“Death’s Wheel” has some of the coolest riffage of all the songs on the album, but Längqvist’s eagerness and rather, quick delivery during the song, deprives it from the heaviness and darkness it could have potentially been shrouded in. Probably the best song on offer, done a bit quicker than one would expect.
“Black Trinity” seems to get the formula down a bit better, but still seems to be too urgent for what this should be.
“House of Doom”, that originally came out in the eponymous EP sung by Mats Leven, is here reprised by Längqvist… and it’s just not as edgy, with JL’s vocals being overall bluesier and less capable of carrying the melody.
“The Omega Circle” is a decent enough tune that’s the longest on the album, nearing eight minutes. It gets the tempo right… well, not that it couldn’t have been slower. Its chorus verse is pretty much amazing and textbook Candlemass, but it’s a bit too little too late and it does somewhat recycle, some of the bands own ideas. It’s also the original closer of the album.
The Japanese version, afforded here, adds the entirety of the “House of Doom” EP as a bonus tracks, thus mixing the old and the new and sounding a bit confusing thus.
In truth, a pretty standard Candlemass album on par with “Psalms for the Dead” maybe, without being any better or worse, because of Langqvist’s involvement, which might ultimately disappoint those who were expecting the second coming of “Epicus, Doomicus...”, who will ultimately have to go back to sleep or look elsewhere for their doom fix. Could and should have been slower, heavier and fuller sounding… a somewhat missed opportunity here and not entirely worth the wait or excitement that was built up prior to its release.