Whatever your thoughts concerning the exit of Messiah Marcolin and his replacement by SOLITUDE AETURNUS's Robert Lowe, you must at least admit that CANDLEMASS career has been on the upswing since the Texan joined the Swedish doomsters. Much of that has to do with the release of a couple of great albums in "King of the Grey Islands" and the phenomenal "Death Magic Doom" and some it the fact that Lowe has one of doom metal's definitive voices and a near magical stage presence. Those of you who have yet to experience CANDLEMASS live with Lowe can at least get the gist of it with the "Ashes to Ashes" DVD/CD.
The centerpiece of the DVD is the band's appearance at Sweden Rock Festival in June 2009. Performed in daylight starting at 5:00 p.m. just before ZZ TOP and TWISTED SISTER in front of 25,000 people, the 10-song set offers a nice selection of classics like the unbelievably crushing and quintessentially CANDLEMASS doom of "Solitude" (lines from which were taken for the DVD/CD title) and "At the Gallows End" from 1986's "Epicus Doomicus Metallicus" and 1987's "Nightfall", respectively and classics-in-waiting from the Lowe era, such as "Hammer of Doom" and "Emperor of the Void". While the otherworldly qualities and range of Lowe's vocals are obvious from the studio recordings, it is the pure power of his voice that is unleashed in the live arena, at times during the front man's more aggressive moments not all that different from one Ronnie James Dio. That power is of course no more apparent than on the evening's final song, a raging cover of RAINBOW's excellent "Kill the King". The entire performance is visually captivating, though not first rate and the sound quality is more than sufficient, if not one that will move heavens and earth. The CD included covers the same performance.
Since Greece has always welcomed CANDLEMASS with open arms and wide-eyed enthusiasm, it was only fitting that the band filmed its appearance in front of 1,000 devotees at Athens' Club Gagarin on October 3, 2009. Entitled "No Sleep 'til Anthens", the longer headline set consists of 14 songs, many of which are also included in the Sweden Rock Festival set, as well as several like "Mirror Mirror", "Tears", "Demon of the Deep", "Man of Shadows", and "Demons Gate" that are exclusive to the Athens gig. Though not as slickly presented as the Sweden Rock Festival performance, the sound quality is solid and the visuals, though purposefully — one would assume — grainy (almost like '70s film footage), the show is enjoyable just the same. The uneven 30-minute Metalzone.gr interview segment with stage clip insertions adds little in the way of value to the package. Otherwise, "Ashes to Ashes" offer viewers a fine introduction to the CANDLEMASS live experience with Robert Lowe in tow(e).