Whenever a much loved band or artist changes their sound in the slightest the murmurs of discontent from the fanbase are usually so loud that beings from the Medusa Cascade cluster about a trillion parsecs away calls and tells them to shut their yapping since decent folk needs their beauty sleep. Some of these records are later re-evaluated and given a second lease on life. And then there are others that don´t get that treatment, regardless of quality. One of these are doom metal messiahs (ta-da!) Candlemass´ fifth studio album, “Chapter VI”***.
After the release of their seminal debut album that gave name to an entire genre, “Epicus Doomicus Metalicus” (1985) Candlemass was the name on countless lips and rave reviews continued to pour in from all over the world. With the superb “Nightfall” (1987) which saw the debut of singer and massive fan favourite Messiah Marcolin as well as the fluent and innovative playing of sologuitarist Lasse Johansson, the Swedish doomsters toured the world amazed at the reception they got. Band leader Leif Edling has since publicly derided the next album “Ancient Dreams” (1988) as being rushed and far from the bands best but it is still well loved by fans.
1990 saw the birth of what main songwriter Edling had worked on for many years, his magnum opus if you will; a concept album called “Tales of Creation”. The record was hugely succesful and resulted in a great live album, simply called “Live”.
But behind the scenes everything was not nice and dandy, bellyrubs and chocolate fountains. A rift between the charismatic singer and the rest of the band made their cooperation diffucult with things escalating and eventually everything came to the point where Messiah was asked to leave the band.
This was indeed a time of change and transition. Grunge had just delivered a gutpunch to the solar plexus of melodic hard rock (hair metal) and record companies scurried like sharks around a floating carcass, all eager to find a new Nirvana or Soundgarden. The death metal scene was in full bloom with literally thousands of bands, ranging from the extremely skillful speed and precision of bands like Pestilence, Cynic and Death to the music equivalent of having your ear drums not so gently pierced by a drunk rhesus monkey. Black metal has been slowly biding its time, waiting in hiding and now steadily growing in popularity. This was a turbulent time for the band. Their singer for years now gone and a metal scene in a state of metamorphosis and to what end? What would come crawling out of that cocoon and where would Candlemass fit in?
Disillusioned and pissed off, Edling wrote some songs that sounded a tad different from the usual 60 beats-per-minute fair. Heavy as all hell, of course but faster and more aggressive with some progressive elements thrown in for good measure. But who would be able to perform these songs and still be able to do justice to the old material?
No mean feat indeed.
One night Edling strolled into one of his watering holes and on stage that night´s cover band just announced their next song to be Judas Priest “Painkiller”.
“Who the hell is stupid enough to even try that song?” Edling thought as the aforementioned ditty is a throatkiller of the highest order and insanely hard to pull off since most of it is belted in a pitch only dogs can hear.
Lo and behold, to the amazement of the crowd the singer screamed like a banshee that just stepped on a piece of LEGO and totally killed it. Mr Edling picked up his jawbone from the floor and a short time later Thomas Vikström (ex-Talk of The Town, Therion) was announced as Candlemass new singer.
When “Chapter VI” was released in the spring/summer of 1992 it initially garnered mostly positive reviews but that murmur of discontent I mentioned earlier was there to darken the horizon and sadly the following tour was not as successful as the previous ones. Viktröm, with his more versatile and high pitched voice, did very well on the songs from Messiah´s era of the band but the fans still weren´t happy. Sadly the band decided to call it quits with Leif Edling starting progressive metal band Abstrakt Algebra which featured another Candlemass alumni, namely Mats Levén (ex- Swedish Erotica, ex- Treat, Yngwie Malmsteen) and so alas, the band scattered like leaves on the wind.
But, thank heavens…
They have long since then reformed and has had a very successful career ever since.
What about “Chapter VI” then?
I´ve been a fan ever since I heard “Solitude” on the radio at the age of 12 and I love their 80s output but if I´d be forced to pick just one single record, “Chapter VI” would be my pick any day of the week. It is pretty much flawless, if you ask me. Fantastic production, one of the best vocal performances in the history of metal and the songs… Oh, man… the songs!’
“The Dying Illusion” kicks off things like nothing else in their discography. An uptempo song with crisp production and a verse other bands would kill for. “Julie Laughs No More” is one of Lasse Johanssons finest contribution to the discography and even gave name to a Swedish band from (I think) Bollnäs.
And then we have the jewel in the doomcrown, “Where The Runes Still Speaks”. THE best song of their career and Thomas Vikströms singing here is otherworldy, there is simply no other word for it. This is Epic Doom Metal at its prime and at its peak.
Listen, I can do this for every song on here as there is not a dud amongst them.
Ok, I´m aware that the George Lynch-esque (Dokken) guitars on “Aftermath” rubs some fans the wrong way and I can understand that. But I love some Dokken so that only deepens my love for the album as it is the most varied Candlemass record of them all.
*** Yeah, it´s a bit weird labeling your fifth studio album as “VI” but this is why; they´ve counted every full length record.
1. Epicus Doomicus Metalicus
3. Ancient Dream
4. Tales of Creation
6. Chapter VI
Title: Chapter VI
Label: Music For Nations
Playing Time: 60 minutes
Land of origin: Sweden
Stand out track: Where The Runes Still Speaks