Messiah Marcolin, vocalist at this time, is a Metal God. He has the voice of an angel - albeit a somewhat large one and slightly sweaty one. That is to say - it is a lovely, beautiful voice but so much power - the sort of power that could devastate buildings or rise mountains from the sea.
He is magnificant.
This is the first of the Trinity of Divine Candlemass albums. As I own them all, they shall all be listened to, dissected, admired and enjoyed. I am undecided as to which is my favourite, but as this is the first, it defnitely rates highly.
Okay, so you get the idea, I love these albums. I love Messiah. They are beauty and power and... let's just listen to it already, shall we? Actually, I vaguely remember analysing some of these songs for a school project/poetry assignment. We had an awesome English teacher.
And don't worry, I'll try and find you some videos too - in case you are one of the unintiated.
Firstly - this album jacket is beautiful, taken from "The Voyage of Life: Old Age" by Thomas Cole. It depicts an aged man, in a boat afloat on a lonely ocean, dark clouds looming overhead, a ray of light splitting them asunder. Before him hovers an Angel, a vision of white and glory. In the very centre, small and unassuming but very easy to read, is the band name and the title. The sleeve itself is a simple affair - a one fold cover with all the lyrics printed in small but legible font, set against the twilight clouds.
As I noted previously, most metal albums from this era begin with a short intro piece with haunting music or - in this case - crashing lightning or perhaps a cracking "Gothic Stone".
Whatever it is, it quickly fades into the looming majesty of "The Well of Souls". Messiah's soaring and powerful voice rises above the doom-laden chords, filled with his passion and dedication to protecting the world from:
"...hatred and scorn..."Perhaps because Messiah's customary attire is a robe, crucifix and he pretty much looks like an epic avenging monk, it is very, very easy to envisage him as the "old man" whose life is dedicated to protecting the world from the looming threat of Satan.
Lyrics indicate that he is unsuccessful in this endeavour, yet like in the earlier track "The Sorcerer's Pledge", the battle is a non-climactic one. In this case, daylight destroys the darkness. Let us just be thankful that they write lyrics, not novels.
"Codex Gigas" is another pounding instrumental, with ominous, slow beats and brooding atmosphere. I am imagining someone carrying a heavy load, ponderously through the dark.
Ah, the opening chords of "At the Gallows End" bring a shiver to my spine and a tear to my eye. Partly it is nostalgia - but also it is a beauty lead-in - slow and haunting, with Messiah's wonderful voice dripping with raw emotion and loss. I am standing with him, waiting for my death. What a swan song.
"Only the vultures will come to see me hang..."Pounding bass, dramatic and chilling.
And oh, now we have the most beautiful "Samarithan". Every song a memory. Slower rhythms, slightly lower vocal register; sorrow and compassion weigh down the words. A homeless man, offered sanctuary - a simple act of kindness that brings with it much reward. This song is a thing of beauty.
I am never quite sure if Candlemass are technically a Christian band - their lyrics are filled with Christian imagery, but they seem to regard it with more honour and respect than the bands that preach about hellfire and damnation. It feels biblical in the oldest sense of the word, and noble.
The ponderous and dramatic "Marche Funeral" bridges us between this song and "Dark are the Veils of Death". This is a faster paced, and somewhat more dramatic slightly hectic song, almost desperate at times. Messiah's vocals are no less than stupendous.
"Enter the great adventure, just wait and see..."I think Candlemass helped me to "survive" my teen years. Whilst they are, technically, a doom band, their lyrics are not filled with as much death and despair as other bands of that ilk* - they have hope - of the afterlife, of redemption, of the triumph of good against evil.
The devastatingly beautiful "Mourner's Lament" follows. A song laden so much with mourning, loss and anguish. A father mourns his deceased son. A song that sends shivers down my spine and a thrill in my heart. The power... the raw emotion... The whispered "Rest in peace" brings a tear to my eye.
Why, you could almost say that I'm "Bewitched" - which is coincidentally, the next (and almost final) track on this album. It is a song with decidedly pagan elements, putting it at odds of every other track on this album:
"Bewitched by delight, you'll reach the night dancing and singing to my fiddle. So take my hand, and understand, that no-one will see you again."
It is a splendid song, and somewhat more upbeat than the rest of the album. Of course, the video is something of a letdown, thanks to be exceedingly cheap and cheesy and rather silly. I suspect that the band are not quite as serious as they pretend to be. Still, noone is immune to a little fun.
Candlemass are an amazing band, and this is an awesome album. Along with the other two Messiah-vocaled Candlemass albums, they are some of the finest doom and gloom albums ever made. Even the nostalgia aspect notwithstanding, it would be a crime against metal to give this album anything less than 10/10.
* Stay tuned for Confessor (music to kill yourself to). But they'll probably have to wait until I've looped through all my Candlemass. Ironically, Confessor helped me in those angst-ridden years too.