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Candle - The Keeper's Curse

Candle
The Keeper's Curse
by Chris Hawkins at 11 March 2018, 11:36 PM

Having been a musician practically my whole life and specifically playing Metal in the form of bass and electric guitar for 25 years and in numerous bands, I feel I must preface this review as such to let it be known that I truly know not only the massive amount of hard work it is to form a band and write original music, but also the countless tedious hours spent in the studio it takes to record an album.  It should also be stated that I'm an avid fan of both MERCYFUL FATE and KING DIAMOND and hold the experience of each as among the top concerts I've ever attended.  CANDLE is a band that is not bashful about their love of all things KING DIAMOND, much like their contemporaries in ATTIC and PORTRAIT.  Thus, I feel very much in my niche when it comes to this sound.  Unfortunately, though, the album is the epitome of hit and miss.

First, I've never heard an album from a signed band that was this hot.  In saying hot, for those not in the know, I'm referring to the level of the mix.  In an age where it's more in vogue to not use limiters, this is to be somewhat expected, but not in the capacity employed here.  Not only is the album over twice the volume of other albums I own (as referenced by high quality headphones), but it actually distorts when played at any decent volume.  Distortion on guitar is good, but on an entire recording where peaks and valleys occur, it is absolutely shunned.  A radio station would flat-out refuse to play this.

As far as the band goes, there are good aspects and bad aspects.  The two guitar players both fit the mold of competent, creative, and flexible guitarists capable of delivering high quality Heavy Metal.  Like MERCYFUL FATE's bassist, Sharlee D'Angelo, Juhani Pihlajainen incorporates a mid-range, punchy bass tone that cuts perfectly between the guitars to find its own audibly distinct place of residence.  His brother, Jorma, plays drums providing a solid foundation upon which the rhythms are placed.  The singer, Erik Nordkvist, is the one element holding the band back.  In a band dwelling in the niche of Metal home to MERCYFUL FATE, HELLOWEEN, and even newer bands like WOLF, a singer can make or break the band.  Unfortunately, in this case the result is the latter.  The vocals are way too over the top, and many Metal fans are going to be turned off with what comes across as off-key, annoying, and even silly at times.

The point is that CANDLE's instrumentation is professionally top-notch, which is what makes it such a disappointment that the end-result comes across like a bad Karaoke performance over the top of quality Heavy Metal.  The first proper song, track 2's "The Secret," is an up-tempo potentially beast of a Metal song.  It is held back, though, by vocals that sound at times like they are dragged over the music, and other times completely missing the mark in attempting a falsetto.  A good producer should be there to say, "If you can't, then don't!"  A chunky bass line starts off "Light at the End," the 3rd track, and on this song the vocals exercise a bit of restraint which definitely helps.  The singer sounds as if he's half singing and half narrating a story on the 4th track entitled "Frozen with Fear."  There's no happy medium reached as half of the time the singer sounds lazy while the other half features him being entirely too over the top.  The interlude in this song is of note with solid double bass drumming complimented by classic IRON MAIDEN-like guitar harmonies that are peppered with bass guitar that slides up and down the neck as it harmonizes.  The most variation instrumentally is found in the 8th track, "No Peace for my Soul."

The band really nails the MERCYFUL FATE doctrine of varied riffs and time changes, and at the 2:51 mark, the singer screams to the stratosphere, perfectly nailing the note!  It makes me wonder if someone is simply not giving him good feedback.  My favorite moment of the album is during the last track, "Vengeance," where in the latter half of the song, the guitar switches to a crystalline JC-120-sounding clean rivaling Hetfield's "Welcome Home (Sanitarium)" sound.  It isn't an overly complex part, but it completely switches gears and hits straight to the heart providing an opening for classic Heavy Metal guitars playing descending chords while the lead is sliding arpeggios up the fretboard.   I couldn't help but think of the guitar masterwork of Wolf Hoffmann during this part.  Perhaps the strongest trait of this band is the interplay between the two guitarists which spices the songs up in harmonies, chords, and during fast double-picking.  The articulation is spot-on.  I truly wanted to like this band more, and even after dozens of spins, I couldn't find any comfort in the vocals.  It is most disappointing when you know things could be much, much better.

Songwriting:           6
Originality:              5
Memorability:        5
Production:             2
 

2 Star Rating

Tracklist:
1. Intro
2. The Secret
3. Light at the End
4. Frozen with Fear
5. Betrayal
6. Dancing Lights
7. Embraced by Darkness
8. No Peace for my Soul
9. Vengeance
Lineup:
Erik Nordkvist – Vocals
Markus Janus – Guitars
Juhani Pihlajainen – Bass
Jorma Pihlajainen – Drums
Christian Kanto – Guitars
Record Label: Fighter Records
     


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