If being in a band is like being in a relationship, Candlemass has had a bumpier ride than all the Kardashians combined. Over the course of almost 40 years, the Swedish doom metal gods have gone through half a dozen vocalists and broken up and reunited twice. But the last few years have seen the quintet reach a level of peace that is completely at odds with the furious noise that has made them a fan favorite across the globe.
“Well, we’ve been around for a while, and there’s been a change of vocalists here and there. The guitars, bass and drums have not changed, so the sound still remains,” says lead guitarist Lars Johansson.
According to bassist Leif Edling, it was the return of vocalist Johan Langqvist, who originally had a short mid-’80s stint with Candlemass, that brought on this new era of stability.
“It’s been the four of us for a long time now,” Edling says. “We know each other inside out, we know what we can do and what we can’t, so we’re incredibly stable. And now that Johan is back, we have the best solid lineup we’ve ever had! We have had so many ups and downs as a band during these 35-plus years; we’ve always been able to come back, no matter how impossible it has looked. You just can’t kill us! We’re the cockroaches of epic doom metal! We will never go away!”
On their new album, Sweet Evil Sun, Candlemass prove they’re just as vital as ever. Lead single Scandinavian Gods sets the tone, opening with a minor key riff so evil that even Satan might ask them to tone it down a notch. It harkens back to some of the band’s earliest albums from the ’80s, a renewed freshness that Johansson credits to Edling’s songwriting skills.
“I can only believe that that’s the only and main mindset that’s been essential to the sound of this band, and that is one of Leif’s strong sides,” Johansson says.
For Edling’s part, the loquacious bassist notes that while the new album might sound dark and gloomy, there’s a deliberate juxtaposition with surprisingly positive and uplifting lyrics. For inspiration, he looked to the political situation in the band’s home country, where the far-right anti-immigrant party Sweden Democrats saw a stunning leap in popularity in the leadup to the country’s recent election.
“Everything just can’t be dark and ominous all the time. It has to be a little light in the dark somewhere, sometime,” he says. “It doesn’t feel like this, especially today when the right wing seems to have taken over Sweden in this election, but we can’t give up. Darkness will always be there, lurking, looking for a weak spot and it’s our duty to fight insanity, stupidity and all the dark waves that splash up on our shores whenever we can.”
“I try to keep it simple and easy to work with and easy to travel with,” he says of his preferred gear. “A massive rhythm sound and a cool solo sound, with some echo and/or reverb and a wah here and there does the trick for me. And, of course, I experiment with new and different gear, but I often end up with a handful of things I use.”
Those pieces of gear that made it onto the album were put through their paces: all told, Sweet Evil Sun took 18 months to write and record. The process was so arduous that Edling says he came down with chronic fatigue syndrome, leaving him unable to come into the studio more than three times a week while the band was in the demoing stage – and the band had to still properly track and mix the record, which took another six months.
“I wish that those six months could be the entire process from idea to finished album,” Edler says. “But my burned-out brain doesn’t work that way. Can’t do it faster. But I work in my head for 18 months, even if I’m not in the studio all the time. Even if I’m tired as fuck, I write riffs on my guitar while in bed, think about melody lines, vocals, arrangements. And next time in the studio, I’m prepared.”
Johansson strikes a more philosophical tone. All that time gave the band an opportunity to look at the world and the destruction and despair that seems so rampant these days. Taking that darkness and making a piece of art may have taken a toll on Edler, but the band is sure that the effort and torment was worth it.
“Through Covid and all this crap that’s going on in the world, there was a lot to think about, and even making a heavier album than the last one,” Johansson says. “I mean, making the songs, doing demos, it’s nothing to rush through if you want good results.”
- Sweet Evil Sun is out now via Napalm.