When a band that has been around since the proverbial dawn of time manages to impress well into its long-in-the-tooth years, it’s a good thing. Swedish doom metal legends, Candlemass may be responsible for some of the genre’s most blinding and vaunted moments, specifically, 1986’s Epicus Doomicus Metallicus and Nightfall a year later, but excellence hasn’t fallen far from the tree over the years.
Sure, there were cracks in the consistency armour during the ‘90s and they’ve weathered all manner of lineup upheaval, poorly recorded and even more poorly promoted albums, a guitarist who did a stint in the clink, hiatuses, reunions and bassist Leif Edling’s currently battling Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. But the battle continues to the present with the welcomed return of original vocalist Johan Längquist after 32 years and the completion of their forthcoming twelfth studio album, The Door to Doom.
This, after proclamations from the band itself that previous record, 2012’s Psalms for the Dead was to be Candlemass’ final studio stand. But, an online gambling site/game became the unlikely catalyst for the new album, the return of Längquist and more excellent bleakness from doom metal’s most esteemed dealers. Original member Edling chats with us about his ongoing dance with doom that includes having a lifelong hero perform on the new album.
I’m sure this isn’t the first and it definitely won’t be the last time you get asked this question, but you kind of did it to yourselves. What’s the story surrounding the return of Johan to the band? What precipitated the move from him appearing with the band occasionally to returning as a full-time member? Leif Edling: We wanted to go back to the roots of doom! Simple as that. I have no clue if we’ve got one or two or five years still in us doing this, but we really wanted to close the circle with Johan. Find the way home again. Feels really good to have him back in the band!
If you’re feeling stuck in “Solitude,” check out this track from the classic Epicus Doomicus Metallicus.
Was anyone else auditioned or considered after (previous vocalist) Mats Leven? Edling: No, no. Johan was the only one we asked and he was very happy doing it. I think we kind of felt the same way. Let’s have some fun while we still can!
For a good chunk of time, you had said that Psalms for the Dead was going to be the last studio album and the band would only continue to perform live. What brought about this change of heart? Edling: It felt like the last one. The heart wasn’t there anymore and not long after, I got sick. The band did fine without me, but I got an interesting offer from Malta from a friend involved in the gaming industry there, so that gave me new energy. We had lots of talks about how to proceed. Shall we do a concept album? Shall we make music for the game only? It ended with the “House of Doom” song for the I-game with the same name and a newfound inspiration to do an album. It felt like we had more to offer the world.
Once you decided a new record was in the cards, how long did it take to write The Door To Doom? Edling: Took me nine months to a year to write the album, and I worked for six months on the “House of Doom” track before that, so in total it was eighteen months in the studio for this mammoth project. Of course, it could have been done much quicker than this, but I’m still battling with this fatigue syndrome thing which means that I can’t work every day during the week and sometimes I have to take time off for a breather. The major inspiration for the album was only the urge to make a good record. After I wrote the “House of Doom” track I got inspired and it was like the ketchup effect. Splash! Out came the black riffs!
The new album, The Door to Doom, is due on February 22, 2019, via Napalm Records.
Was there anything that was done differently in terms of the way the album was written or recorded that what you had done in the past? Edling: Yeah. It was a lot longer! Eighteen months in the studio is waaayyy too much! But my friend (producer) Marcus (Jidell) had a new studio and we got full access to it and could play around in there as much as we wanted. So yes, it took about a year too long to make The Door To Doom, but we had fun doing it and also solved a lot of recording Qs and As so next time it won’t take that long to do something really good.
Do you find yourself taking great advantage of all the technology available to you these days, or do you try to deliberately keep things old-school because that’s what you’re most used to? Edling: It’s a mix. Old technology is cool and I love the sound of the ‘70s, but it shouldn’t be a “must” to go analog all the way. The use of a computer mixed with old amps and microphones is a good combination I think. Best of both worlds!
With Johan back, did that alter the creative process in any way? Did he contribute to the writing at all or was most/all of the new record written by the time he stepped in? Edling: The record was done and recorded when he joined. Johan took about a month with his vocals. I would have loved to write some stuff with Johan in mind, but he came into the picture too late for it. Next time! Can’t wait….
Hear the awesomeness of “Astorolus – The Great Octopus” for yourself!
How did you wrangle Tony Iommi in for a guest appearance on the album? I’m assuming this was a great honour, if not a surprise. What did it mean to you and to the Candlemass name to have him play on a record of yours? Edling: When I wrote (new song) “Astorolus – The Great Octopus” I got this crazy idea that it would be absolutely fantastic if Tony Iommi could play on it. I got some doubting comments from members of the band, of course, but I really believe that you should aim for the stars. If you get there just halfway it’s still further up than most people get. All you risk is (getting) a “no” answer.
So, our manager got in touch with Tony’s personal manager and the rest is history! They were really cool and friendly. So, not only is Tony Iommi God of the almighty riff and the mastermind behind Black Sabbath, he’s also gracious enough to support a smaller band, which is bloody amazing. We feel very, very honoured and blessed!
What is the significance or story behind the album’s title? Edling: Well, I think the title pretty much captures what we did. We opened to door to doom again and stepped right in. And just like the in that American TV series, you never know what you’ll find on the other side. Hopefully something good!
"The Omega Circle" is another of the many standouts on The Door To Doom.
How would you characterize The Door To Doom against previous records? As a listener, I hear much more energy and excitement in the riffing, tempos and projection of Johan’s voice. Is this an accurate assessment? What do you hear having had time to step away from it after recording? Does this album feel like a renewal of the band with a new life breathed into it? Edling: Yeah, we do feel rejuvenated. And I do agree that the record has got lots of energy. It’s a pretty aggressive album…in your face…BAM! And Johan fits right in like a glove! Like 32 years haven’t passed since Epicus. I hear a band that isn’t quite dead yet. Still hungry for more!
Is there a plan for touring and such once the album is out? Edling: The phone is ringing like crazy now after the news about Johan being back became official. The offers for gigs are flowing in, so we actually have to say no to some of them. The year starts in a nice way too; we’re supporting Ghost in Europe! That will be a lot of fun. And that’s why we’re doing it nowadays: for the sake of fun! I’m a big Ghost fan as well so it will be a pleasure going out on this one!
When you were nominated the greatest hard rock/metal band in Swedish history by Sweden Rock Magazine in 2013 was it something that surprised you considering the tumultuous ups and downs Candlemass has experienced over the years? Edling: That came as a surprise. Big time! About sixty journalists were voting and we ended up as number one! Wow! I thought Europe or Entombed would win such a thing, but we got it! I actually spoke to the editor, Martin Carlsson afterwards and he said that it was because our more recent albums were really good, that we won the most soundchecks and got excellent reviews. Maybe the other bands didn’t, I have no clue. Just over the moon we won it! What an honour with all the great bands coming out of Sweden over the years. Entombed would have had my vote, but I’m not complaining about the outcome, not at all!