Candlemass- Psalms For The Dead
I’ve never professed to be the ever-knowledgable expert on Doom Metal, but over time I’ve developed a pretty good three prong approach to how I examine and rate it. The first prong is riff quality. Looking to the roots of the genre, doom metal has always been about the crushing, heavy, and all-encompassing riff. The second is atmosphere. Derived from the name of the genre, there should always be some sense of forboding, darkness, or general ‘doom’. The third is memorability. To succeed, this requires both the riffs and the atmosphere to be well delivered. In addition to something else about the album that makes it memorable, this is the charactaristic that separates “quality” from “worthwhile” albums, because as a recent trend in metal, bands have become very good at their trade, but ultimately have fallen short of seperating themselves from countless peers that can do all the basics just as good as they can.
That out of the way, I’d now propose to look at Candlemass’ upcoming and allegedly final release. So, in good form, we’ll start with the riffs. Psalms For The Dead contains a total of 9 tracks, and about 50 minutes of material. Through the first listen, I can’t say there was a single point where the riffage let up. Slow and plodding? Sure. But crushing and effective? Moreso. Candlemass makes the fairly wise move of putting their best foot forward with “Prophet”, which contains my personal favorite riff on the album.
As far as the atmosphere goes, I can imagine this creating some level of controversy, but then the idea of ‘epic doom metal’ was probably bound to that from the start. For what it’s worth, outside of the last song I think the delivery is spectacular. The feeling doesn’t quite reach that level of deep horror, but I do have to comment that the organs on selected tracks are a really nice touch. It definitely captures the essence of ‘epic doom metal’ without sounding redundant. If you’re looking for one track to perhaps best sum up the atmosphere of the album, I’d start with “Waterwitch”.
Now we arrive at the clincher: memorability. The riffs, for all their quality, do falter somewhat in this department, but the atmosphere pulls its own weight. Candlemass has been somewhat musically nomadic over the years, never straying terribly far. But there are certainly some elements, like the addition of the organ the organ, that work very strongly on Psalms For The Dead. There is certainly a uniqueness to the traditional doom formula to make this worthwhile, while there is simultaneously nothing present to make it supremely memorable or legendary. In addition, one of the potentially best tracks on the album, “Black As Time” is ruined by awful voiceovers of terrible poetry and altogether cheesy lyrics.
Dagg’s Rating: 3.5 out of 5