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EP Review: Death Thy Lover by Candlemass

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Count me in favor of metal bands releasing coffee table books.

Honoring three-plus decades of doom’n’gloom, Swedish legends Candlemass lined up a series of special releases this year: A picture disc for Record Store Day. A collection of rare and unreleased tracks. A DVD of the band’s 1988 Dynamo show (Notes excited founder Leif Edling: “Our breakthrough gig … All in front of 30,000 ecstatic headbangers. Messiah trips over the monitor, my fake leather robe, Mappe’s classic white B.C. rich & a band going for the throat!”)

Oh, and that book: Rare photos, history of the band, “cool facts,” etc. Not quite this level of coffee table epic, but hey, a nice way to mark the band’s influence.

Which is… what, exactly? Admittedly, these Swedes mark a blind spot in my metal history—so much so that I thought I’d seen them live in ‘92, only to realize I’d actually witnessed Cathedral (that tour with Napalm Death, Carcass and Brutal Truth was epic, IMHO).

Death Thy Lover, Candlemass’s new EP, purports to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the band’s debut Epicus Doomicus Metallicus (along with the book and everything else). That said, it feels a bit like a stopgap—just three songs of Sabbath-y licks and theatrical vocals portending doom, plus one solidly crushing instrumental.

Even with 3/5 of the lineup altered from the band’s debut (with journeyman Mats Levén now permanently on lead vocals), this is something that would have sounded right at home in 1986. Certainly doomy yet purposely melodic, a little cheesy in the imagery (“Did you know you’re the devil’s own child?”), occasionally plodding but sometimes chugging toward something dark and epic, it’s a perfectly fine addition to the band’s canon. One interesting outlier: the sinister nursery rhyme feel of “Sleeping Giant” suggests a band that bought a Danny Elfman soundtrack or two.

Hey, maybe they did. Possibly a “cool fact” for the next book.

Candlemass’ Death Thy Lover is out June 3 on Napalm. You can check out the title track here and pre-order the EP here.

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