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June In Metal, I: Melvins Lite, Candlemass and Ahab

Album: Melvins Lite, Freak Puke
Label: Ipecac
Release: June 5, 2012

Ah, good old King Buzzo and Dave Crover. You just never know what you’re going to get from these two guys and whatever lineup they decide to put together at the current time, especially when for the first time, they’ve renamed themselves as Melvins Lite. After three LPs and an EP with the two dudes from Big Business, they decided to switch it up and work with long time weirdo and friend of the band, Trevor Dunn who plays in Tomahawk, Fantomas and of course was the bassist in the legendary freak out group, Mr. Bungle. Dunn brings with him an upright bass which changes the whole dynamic of the band yet again.

See, this is what keeps the Melvins fun and interesting. If they put out the same record every year, no one would still be following them but instead they are one of the most interesting bands in rock music today. Don’t let the “Lite” part in their name fool you into thinking this is lounge music or something though. The presence of Dunn is made known right away as the disc opens with his bass playing on “Mr. Rip Off” and the following interlude – “Inner Ear Rupture” is almost all the work of Dunn.

What you don’t get is the double drumming of the previous three records, therefore pretty much anything they do is going to sound “lite” compared to that. The songs are shorter overall and more laid back, with Dunn contributing a lot of vocals as well. The closest you really get to the freak out sound they seem to love to play is as usual, the closing track, “Tommy Goes Beserk” but even then it starts out pretty mellow until turning into a semi-normal rock song before the last three experimental minutes. And of course there’s a cover, this one being a fantastic version of Wings’s “Let Me Roll It.”

Overall, Freak Puke is a damn fine Melvins release even if there’s no track that really stands out on the disc. You can certainly feel Dunn’s presence and it makes the record be the chillest recording since Pigs of the Roman Empire. It’s not a classic Melvins album but fits nicely into the catalog.

Album: Candlemass, Psalms for the Dead
Label: Napalm
Release: June 5, 2012

Twenty-Eight years and 11 LPs later, Candlemass mastermind Leif Edling claims that Psalms for the Dead will be the group’s final recording.  The group won’t be breaking up again but rather concentrating on live performances instead, which likely means in 2017 we’ll have a Candlemass comeback record. Let’s face it here, Edling has the musical itch. He can’t stop creating and whether he keeps recording with Krux or Jupiter Society going forward doesn’t really matter because he is Candlemass and they will almost certainly be the biggest thing Edling will ever do.

Leif stated that he wanted to go out on top and he certainly is. In fact, most bands say this after two or three mediocre records in a row and that has never happened with Candlemass. In fact, they might very well be the most consistently fantastic band to ever play doom metal or even metal in general.

When people talk about Candlemass’s career, they always go back to Epicus Doomicus Metallicus or Nightfall to point out the classic albums but that often ends up sounding like they haven’t put out good music since that point.  Personally, 1999′s From the 13th Sun is my favorite record from the group and all three records since the return of the group in 2005 have been great as well.

Psalms of the Dead is only different in the fact that it’s the best record since 13th sun. The group is certainly going out with a bang as the doom is beyond epic, Robert Lowe’s vocals soar through the disc and the entire record is solid from start to finish. “The Sound of Dying Demons” is my favorite with noises on the track that certainly sound like what would come out of those demons.  “Dancing in the Temple (of the Mad Queen Bee)” blends a little power metal with the doom and features some fantastic soloing and “Waterwitch” is a dark and menacing tune.

Personally, I would have loved to see the final album be with Messiah Marcolin on vocals as I think he’s one of the greatest metal vocalists in the world but I know after multiple fall outs with him that couldn’t have been expected and Robert Lowe is a great fit for the band anyway.  Lowe has since left the band and regular Edling collaborator Mats Levin will join the group for the touring that will ensue.

As for that, I know they are the name in doom metal and will draw huge crowds but ten years from now, I can’t picture that without a new album they are still going to be touring playing classic material and as good as some of Edling’s side projects were (Abstrakt Algebra was fantastic) they never really last that long. So while this may be the swan song for the group, I certainly wouldn’t be at all surprised it they make a third comeback sometime in the future.

Album: Ahab, The Giant
Label: Napalm
Release: June 5, 2012

This four piece German band started out labeling themselves “Nautik Funeral Doom” but if you look at how they are labeled today, it’s simply “Nautik Doom.” The nautical theme is pretty obvious when you name yourself Ahab and they do create some dark, dark doom metal. I have a problem labeling them as funeral metal though, as most of that is depressing as hell and with a first album about Moby Dick, the second about the Essex (a whaling vessel) and this one about Edgar Allan Poe’s novel, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket, while it’s dark, I don’t find it depressing in the least bit.

What you get with The Giant is six gargantuan tracks of doom metal, ranging from eight to 13 minutes in length for simply a massive listening experience. There’s a nice mixture of slow doom with clean vocals and louder, faster rhythms with growls as well. A band like Esoteric out of the UK is a good comparison musically as they mix doom and death metal which seems to be more along the lines of what The Giant is shooting for. In fact sonically, you could make a case for a nice pairing with Opeth (back when Akerfeldt still growled) as this has a similar feel to most of their back catalog.

It’s a record that you really have to be in a certain grim mood for though. The length of the tracks and the repetitive nature of riffs make it seem like the album is lasting forever. I’m not a huge fan of the clean vocals but the growls can be amazing, like on the epic, “Antarctica The Polymorphess.”  That track has the best mix of power and subtlety on the disc.

Overall, it’s a tough listen at any point other than at 2 am in the dark but for those that like epic doom metal, you could certainly do worse.

Albums currently on the potential best of 2012 list:
Christian Mistress, Possession
Goatwhore, Blood for the Master
Human Toilet, Human Toilet
OSI, Fire Make Thunder
Terrorizer, Hordes of Chaos
Ufomammut, Oro: Opus Primum
Woods of Ypres, Woods 5: Grey Skies & Electric Light