“Psalms For The Dead” is the eleventh album by Sweden’s premier purveyors of lead-heavy doom metal and by all accounts will be their last, although the band have said they’re not splitting up. Not sure what that means but if this is to be their last studio output then they’re going out on a bit of a high.
Encompassing everything that has made this band the force they have been for the last thirty-odd years, “Psalms For The Dead” is probably the most varied yet the most Candlemass sounding album this band has made for quite some time. Singer Robert Lowe‘s commanding voice is all over this album, his power and range being something quite remarkable, and luckily the band provide the perfect backing with some of the biggest and heaviest riffs they’ve written to date, none more evident than the riff to ‘The Killing of the Sun’ which lumbers along in a similar way to Black Sabbath‘s ‘Iron Man’ – not a bad thing – and is probably the standout track on the album.
It must be said, though, that the confidence takes about three songs to really kick in. Opening track ‘Prophet’ is solid yet fairly unremarkable and is really a four-minute song stretched out to six minutes, whilst ‘The Sound of Dying Demons’ is similarly good but lacking that special something that you know this band are capable of producing. Luckily ‘Dancing in the Temple (of the Mad Queen Bee)’ is literally sprinkled with it and really kick starts the album with its straight-forward heavy metal structure and atmospheric backing keyboards that give it an extra layer. ‘Waterwitch’ rumbles along afterwards like Black Sabbath’s ‘Electric Funeral’ only more dynamic, and by the time you get to the sprawling title track – replete with those gothic keyboards – you’re so in-the-moment with the band that it’s hard to believe this is going to be their last album.
Which when you think about it is a real shame. Most bands give up when they’ve nothing left to give – some don’t even stop then – but judging by “Psalms For the Dead” it sounds like Candlemass are far from a spent force. It is does have its flaws – that slow start and the overcooked spoken intro to ‘Black as Time’ leap out as slightly-less-than-satisfactory moments – and may not be quite up there on the holy altar with “Epicus Doomicus Metallicus” or “Ancient Dreams” but it isn’t far short, and for a veteran band with as extensive a back-catalogue as these guys that should be something worth celebrating.