Just when some believed the mightyCANDLEMASS to be over, the band is back with its first batch of new material since 2012's "Psalms for the Dead". In the interim, CANDLEMASS dropped a compilation album, "Introducing", and "Epicus Doomicus Metallicus – Live at Roadburn 2011". Also in that time, Mats Levén, who has been a metal troubadour fronting acts such as THERION, APOCALYPTICA, TREAT, AT VANCE, YNGWIE MALMSTEEN and more, helped CANDLEMASS fulfill touring obligations after the band parted ways with singer Robert Lowe. To celebrate the 30th anniversary of its pivotal debut album, CANDLEMASS recharges with Levén as the band's official vocalist, and drops an awesome four song EP, "Death Thy Lover".
The seven-minute title track opens the EP, and one senses how calm and confident Mats Levén sounds in front of an equally relaxed band. With the CANDLEMASS core of Leif Edling, Mats "Mappe" Bjorkman, Lars Johansson and Jan Lindh behind him, Levén's veteran polish rolls agreeably with the track's subdued groove. A guitar-chewed intro from Johansson and Bjorkman is reprised along the way, and it's remarkable how settled "Death Thy Lover" rings. Despite a brisk tempo, it's the song's screechy outro that punches through the rapture of Mats Levén's unruffled refinement.
"Sleeping Giant" is far heavier; the riffs condense and Leif Edling marches the band through their customary doom grooves. Mats Levén, likewise toughens up in spots, but otherwise continues to dial back with the band whispering behind him. "Sleeping Giant" (and "Sinister N Sweet" thereafter) is vintage CANDLEMASS, stocked by all the whumping doom chords longtime fans could want—and mingled with goth-riddled choruses. It is amusing how Levén drops in a few purposeful yawns personifying his muse, as it is the song's theme of keeping the titular goliath deep in slumber. Are we to assume, thusly, that doom is lullaby feed for colossi?
"Sinister N Sweet" goes full frontal with pounding doom progressions countered by the song's fragrant verses, but the real treat to this number is listening to Leif Edling, Mats Bjorkman and Lars Johansson extensively slash through their own sonic barbs. "The Goose", while a nutty title, yields more of the same. Only here, on this muscular instrumental, the riffs are dragged even slower with frolicking notes peppered throughout the buzz-bombed chunks. You'll also be subject to one of those most frightening fret scrapes you'll ever hear.
CANDLEMASS has released more than its fair share of EPs, maxi-singles and splits, but "Death Thy Lover" is one of their absolute best, offering fans resounding hope a new LP will follow. Robert Lowe was a commanding presence in this band, but Mats Levén's poise and knowledge of how this band operates stands to usher it into a new era of greatness.