Candlemass – Sweet Evil Sun Review

As someone who fell deeply in love with Epicus Doomicus Metallicus after buying it based solely on the cool cover back in 1986, I consider myself a big fanMAN of Candlemass’ classic era. I define that epoch as the debut up through Tales of Creation. After that, it was much more of a crap shoot, with some albums working and others not so much. Considering the band’s golden era was rather brief, Candlemass enjoyed an outsized influence on the doom metal genre over the decades. When word hit that original vocalist Johan Langquist would appear on 2019s The Door to Doom comeback after not being heard from since Epicus, expectations were set unreasonably high. Sadly, the album itself was a mixed bag and didn’t deliver the classic doom goods I wanted. It felt like Johan didn’t always fit with the music and the songwriting was rather lackluster and short on hooks. Three years later we get Sweet Evil Sun, the second release with Johan at the mic. With this being their lucky 13th album, can we expect further bad luck or a dark, unnatural rebirth?

The answer lies somewhere in the middle. There’s no doubt though that Sweet Evil Sun is an improvement over The Door to Doom. Opener “Wizard of the Vortex” is the first clue that the listener can expect something bigger and better. It has the spirit of the Epicus material, and Johan fits in better with what’s going on around him. The heavy doom riffs build significant momentum and Johan’s gritty delivery suits the doom grooving well. It’s unmistakably Candlemass and reeks of 80s era nostalgia, especially at chorus time. The title track is more aggressive and in-your-face, introducing the 70s hard rock influences founder Leif Edling used so effectively in Avatarium. The organs conjure a Deep Purple / Rainbow vibe but the riffs largely remain locked in doom mode. This gives the song a bit of booty-shakin’ lightness even as the riffs pound rocks into powder. Another highpoint arrives with “Devil Voodoo” which uses its 7-plus minutes to explore a series of different moods and textures. It opens with sad 60s rock vocals and strummed guitar before quickly segueing into heavy Sabbath worship with huge riffs pounding as Johan rages like a biker version of Dio. This is one of the best songs Candlemass has come up with in forever.

Closer “Goddess” is another surprisingly spry number with extra heavy, stomping riffs and some of Johan’s most impassioned vocals to push the material to that next level. Sweet Evil Sun is quite consistent from track to track with none tanking or feeling expendable, though not every track will blow your doors off equally. Avatarium’s Jennie Ann-Smith makes an appearance on “When Death Sighs” and it’s always great to hear her stellar vocals, though the song she’s on is not one of my favorites. Her presence spotlights how similar some of this material is to what Leif was doing with Avatarium. This isn’t a knock, as there is plenty of moments here that are classically Candlemassive, but there is some unmistakable project bleed over. Sound-wise things are solid and I really love the guitar tone. It has real weight and a slightly abrasive edge that adds to the oppression. At 54 minutes I can’t say the album feels overlong, and that in itself is a good omen.

The biggest revelation for me is the improvement in how Johan Langquist is used. While he seemed an odd fit at times on The Door to Doom, here he sounds way more complementary. His gritty, sometimes raw delivery imparts a rough edge to the material that pairs well with the high-quality guitar work. Lars Johansson and Mappe Björkman deliver a much-improved collection of heavy riffs and grooves this time out, nailing the sound of the band’s classic era in a way that felt absent last time. There are some very solid and weighty doom leads propelling the songs and their melodic phrasing is great. Basically, the material sounds like the work of a much more comfortable, settled band who are having fun making music together.

I came into Sweet Evil Sun with guarded expectations and ended up quite pleasantly surprised. While it’s not exactly a return to the band’s days of wine and black roses, this is a solid, consistently entertaining doom platter with enough nods to the past to satisfy long-time fans. All this gives me hope for a continued upward trajectory. It’s good to see such a titan in the doom world back on its feet and handing out cracked skulls again. Keep those home candles burning, boys!

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: NA | Format Reviewed: Stream
Label: Napalm
Websites: | |
Releases Worldwide: November 18th, 2022

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