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Live Reviews : Candlemass @ Odeon Theatre, Hobart 16/06/2019

By on June 18, 2019

Candlemass, a band at the very origin of the darkened storm that is doom metal took the stage at the Odeon Theatre in Hobart as part of the Dark Mofo arts festival. Formed in Sweden in 1984, Candlemass is one of the most definitive bands of doom metal, and in particular that celestial corner of it know as ‘epic doom metal’. Drawing from a vast catalogue containing some of the most identifiable songs in the soundtrack of darkness, the set transcended the tempests of time, from the hallowed era of the mid-1980s to the most recent of Candlemass offerings. This was indeed my first live experience of Candlemass and it opened a whole new dimension to appreciating their iconic sound.

The solemn strains of Marche Funebre heralded the arrival of the band onstage, the audience enthusiastically welcoming the reappearance of vocalist Johan Längquist. From the first lines of the dark thundering song The Well Of Souls, Längquist’s vocals sung straight into the soul, gripping the audience by the heartstrings. The sound was huge, rumbling and deep, almost velvety, through a series of earlier songs such as the addictively bleak rolling pulse of Mirror Mirror, which had the crowd singing along, fists in the air. Candlemass’ most recent album The Doors To Doom marked a triumphant return to the studio for Längquist and one of the most turbulent songs from this release that the audience at the Odeon was treated to was Astrolus – The Great Octopus.

The primal rhythmic intro ushered in the luridly chilling riff, with Längquist bringing a deeper, more operatic sound to this live rendition than the epic dimensions of the recording. Delivered with all its latent violence and rich sombre tones, and indeed mimicking the shy monster, the song pulled right before guitarist Lars Johansson let fly on a screamer of an extended solo. This slightly quirky, hypnotic song is undoubtedly one of the great modern gothic grotesques and evidence that Candlemass is still spawning doom metal mainstays over three decades after their first, now classic, release. Returning to the territory of essential earlier Candlemass songs, Bewitched rang through the entranced audience. To hear this song, that familiar, sinister groove, in such a different context than the seminal version recorded in ’87 by Messiah Marcolin, renowned for its beloved cult-status music video, was enlightening.

Splitting hairs between titans, Längquist’s performance of this massive Candlemass hit did grant it more austerity, while Johansson lured us in with the kind of solo that feels like it’s telling you a story. No Candlemass set would be complete without Bewitched and this was a very robust live performance of it. Then arrived a moment to behold. The harrowing, otherworldly melodic opening sequence of The Sorcerer’s Pledge pierced the energy of the night with nothing short of profound beauty before a frightening scream launched into the thick, tempestuous riffs of this early crowd favourite. The audience willingly surrendered to the great Candlemass ritual of chanting that iconic melody to the guiding pulse of the drum in an ethereal gathering before a huge finale ostensibly ended the set.

The night was, however, not over. As guitarist Mats Björkman launched into the distinctly doom-laden riffs of Black Trinity, Candlemass returned to lay out an epic encore. Jan Lindh treated us to a cameo on the drums that seemed to beat into our sternums before the dark melodic guitars and haunting vocal lines of the stately and magnificent song Solitude seeped into our veins. As Längquist released those resonant lyrics into the smoke-swirling air, every heart opened, and every heart bled, and the set once again masqueraded as over. Yet, at the behest of bassist Leif Edling, Candlemass’ long journey to Hobart warranted but one more song, which came in the form of the hectic pace and playful solos of Crystal Ball to incite a manic moshpit, as Candlemass bid us farewell. As the night faded to a whisper, there is no denying that it was a remarkable event, showcasing this majestic band on an almighty pedestal. And rightly so, Candlemass may be formative of a genre but is ultimately in a realm of its own.