Review: Candlemass – ‘Green Valley Live’

Swedish Doom Metal legends return with their eighth live album to date “Green Valley Live”. That’s a fair amount of live albums even for a band that’s now been around for over 35 years. The recording was actually from a covid “lockdown” session that was streamed for fans in July last year. I was lucky enough to catch the concert at the time so I was happy to see that they’d decided to release this as a 2-disc CD+DVD, and also double gatefold black vinyl.

The line-up is the same as that from the 2019 album “The Door to Doom”: Johan Längqvist (vocals), Mats Björkman (guitar), Lars Johansson (guitar), Leif Edling (bass) & Jan Lindh (drums). When watching the stream last year I was particularly interested in seeing how Johan performed vocally with the band. The last time Candlemass played in Scotland was way back in 1989 (which I unfortunately missed) so I’ve never seen Johan with the band. In fact, even though I’ve been a fan of Candlemass since the “Ancient Dreams” album I’ve still yet to see them live. Come on guys, come to Scotland.

“I bind unto myself, Today the strong name of the trinity”, Johan kicks off the session singing the familiar opening strain to the classic “Well of Souls”. The song is slightly down-tuned which is quite common for metal bands playing live but it does give the guitars a slightly sludgy sound. It’s not as crisp sounding as the original and I can’t help but compare Johan’s singing to the original Messiah version. Johan does a great job throughout the album, but most of the songs come from the first 4 albums, 3 of which were originally sung by Messiah. They’re fantastic songs, and when I watched the stream live I was happy to hear them, but Johan’s voice is unsurprisingly at its strongest when singing “Astorolus” from the new album. The tracklisting reads like a “Best of Candlemass” compilation but I would have liked to have heard more live versions from “The Door to Doom”.

The songs on here of course are all timeless doom classics, and it’s difficult to pick out favourites, but the tracks from “Epicus Doomicus Metallicus” such as “Under The Oak”, “A Sorcerer’s Pledge”, and “Demon’s Gate” are highlights for me. Another high point is Lars Johansson’s lead guitar playing. I always felt he was vastly underrated and his solo’s sound awesome here.

By and large, I’m not the biggest fan of live albums. Given the choice, I’d rather listen to the studio recordings and generally, that’s what my play-list will be full of. I do love the experience of seeing a band live however and when listening in a venue we can forgive the odd bum note and out-of-tune vocal, and even come to expect it, as it is live after all. When I watched the streaming version of this gig last year I loved it and as I watched and listened to the band I was swept up by the energy of it. For this review however I only received the audio CD version so, listening to it with no other distractions, and a more critical ear I became more aware of the imperfections. While many live albums have been accused of using overdubs, parts redone in the studio, fake crowd noise, etc.. (I’ll not mention any band names but you know who you are) this is really a warts and all recording. There are a few mistakes here and there but the recording quality is excellent and you can’t really go wrong with the material on offer here.

While I wouldn’t say this is an essential album to have in your collection, at least as a CD, the fact that it is packaged together with a DVD of the concert makes it a much more appealing proposition. Another quality release from Candlemass and here’s hoping a new studio album won’t be too far behind.

Reviewer: Martin Patterson

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