It’s now been over a decade since King Diamond released an album. It’s almost been two decades since Mercyful Fate‘s final record. Hell, the last time the King released a full-length disc, yours truly was Mr. A.N. Grier. How fucking sad is that? As you can imagine, I’ve been dead inside since 2007. Last year’s releases from Attic and Portrait, and my upcoming YMIO article on “Them,“ help a little. But it’s just not the same. Living in the past only makes the pain worse and the KD/MF worshippers of today lack the riffs, the melodies, the falsettos, and the storylines of old. Not that any of these new-bloods should aspire to be carbon copies. But, I still itch for those chilling stories and soaring vocals, the heavy/melodic riffs and ripping solos, and popping bass and cruising drum work. Nothing touches the days of the Shermann-Denner dueling or the output of Andy LaRocque. And nothing touches the voice of the one-and-only King. But, Candle are pretty fucking close.
Not only are Candle capable bearers of the ’80s heavy/horror metal genre, but The Keeper’s Curse is only the beginning. One spin of this nine-track, forty-five-minute record and I am shocked that there isn’t more of a discog from these guys. Candle combines King Diamond‘s storytelling with Mercyful Fate‘s heavy licks and shredding solos, while also combing the melodies and harmonizing guitar work of Iron Maiden and Iced Earth. Coating all these fundamental elements are vocals that soar to the heights of Jon Oliva and King Diamond while giving way to the desperate moments of John Greely (ex-Iced Earth). The Keeper’s Curse is music for the old and haunted of heart. And it’s just proof that Halloween can’t get here fast enough.
One look at the song list from The Keeper’s Curse and you’d think this was the third installment of the “Them” series. Songs like “The Secret,” “Betrayal,” and “Vengeance” have titles as fitting as it gets—not to mention The Fatal Portrait homage of the band name. And, the best part, is that all three are some of the best of the record. Following the spooky organs of “Intro,” “The Secret” explodes into heavy riffs, filled with KD/MF love, and vocals that combine the sporadic, high-pitched delivery of King and Hell‘s David Bower. Where this song is important for the introduction of the concept and the vibe of the record, “Betrayal” and “Vengeance” are important for the story’s (and album’s) climax and conclusion. Both are jam-packed with big guitar licks, loads of clean-guitar effects and reverb, and thick melodies that make my heart flutter. Not only is “Vengeance” the best of the three, it’s the best song of the album. The seven-minute closer has passionate solos, a mix of King-meets-Oliva-meets-Greely vocal patterns, and the most melodic passages of the record. It’s a stunner.
As one would expect, every track on The Keeper’s Curse revolves not only around catchy licks and solos but also catchy verses and choruses. The best ones coming from songs like “Dancing Lights,” “Light at the End,” and “No Peace For My Soul.” Of the three, the latter-est is the best. It has a thick, sexy Maiden riff and a chunkiness akin to Iced Earth. Not to mention that addictive chorus that’ll embed in your head. “Dancing Lights” is another sticky number—that uses crushing riffs and some harsh vox to convey one of the album’s characters—while “Light at the End” falls back on the catchy vocal lines of bands like Castle and Mercyful Fate.
All that said, I’d be lying if I didn’t say the vocals took me awhile to get used to. They waver just a touch more than I like. But, with that, there’s definitely a character to the voice—a character that bleeds into the songwriting, making for a unique identity for the band. Along those lines, the lyrics can be downright cringe-worthy. Borrowing the “cryptic” storytelling of King Diamond, you get the sense that every footstep a character takes ends up in a vocal line. This sort of thing is most abundant in tracks like “Betrayal,” “Frozen With Fear,” and “Light at the End.” “Frozen With Fear,” in particular, is tough to get through because of the clunky lyrics and it’s probably a bit more comical than intended.
Even with some of the cheesy lyrics and concept, I enjoy the hell out of The Keeper’s Curse. I mean, if you’re into King‘s horror concepts, you will have no problem overlooking this. But, for a change, it’s not the concept that has me hooked on The Keeper’s Curse. Instead, it’s the impressive guitar work and the album’s charging, yet melodic, energy. The songwriting feels like a journey back in time but the modern bite makes these riffs heavier than they were in 1984. In the end, while not perfect, this one fun ride. And I can’t wait to see where Candle ends up next.
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 128 kbps mp3
Label: Fighter Records
Releases Worldwide: February 21st, 2017