Candlemass - Psalms for the Dead
Not long after the release of this album, Candlemass got rid of Robert Lowe, who had taken over vocal duties with 2007’s excellent King of the Grey Islands. I’m sorry to see him go, but if this means the return of his old/other band, Solitude Aeturnus, then maybe it’s for the best. Unfortunately, Candlemass’s most well-known and beloved singer, Messiah Marcolin, is not (as of this moment) back. (Mats Leven is filling in on vox live.) Although even Messiah could not make goofy lyrics like, “Dancing in the temple of the mad queen bee / Deep in the cinnamon forest,” sound cool. The cinnamon forest? The cinnamon forest?! Holy hell, unless that’s secret code for “Queen B” Beyonce’s vag, it’s fucking stupid. No, wait, it’s stupid no matter what. Other irritants include Lowe mispronouncing “Neanderthal” as “NeanDRAthal,” possibly because he’s from Texas. It doesn’t completely ruin the song “The Killing of the Sun,” just almost, and makes Lowe seem a little hydrocephalic. There is also a minute-and-a-half of narration before the final song, “Black As Time” (I thought for sure it was called “Time Is Black” until I double-checked), which sounds a bit like Eric Idle (sadly, it’s not) and was fine the first few listens (maybe even interesting once or twice), but eventually a sermon about how time is “the sword of destruction” becomes infuriating because it is true and listening to it is killing me for those 90 seconds I have to wait before that last song starts (I’d hate it less as a separate track, so I could do as Odin intended and hit the “next” button). Some versions of this CD also come with a bonus DVD. No need to bother paying extra for that, though, as it’s essentially useless. Only the most die-hard fans could ever sit through all its “behind the scenes with Candlemass” goofiness even once. Why not a live show? Oh wait - Lowe was supposedly canned because he wasn’t doing so well performing live… 2007’s 20 Year Anniversary Party live album/DVD had quite a few other singers, so perhaps Lowe was only really up to snuff in the studio from the very beginning. I remember that he was not exactly flawless in his execution on the 2010 live album Ashes to Ashes, either. Well, shit, that seems like a lot of negative things to say about an LP I actually really like. Musically this is, as always, the instantly memorable blend of Thrash and Doomy parts that the band made famous, with some really heavy hitting moments, like the monstrous album-opening riff and the ending of the title track, and many others. Honestly, beyond the imperfections I’ve mentioned and a very few more minor lyrical and vocal missteps (Lowe making the title of “Waterwitch” sound like “What a Witch,” for example), there is damn little not to like. Candlemass has said that this will be their last studio album, but Psalms for the Dead is neither impeccable enough to be this legendary band’s final work, nor flawed enough for me to not want to hear more.
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