Candlemass played Middle East – 4/20

Swedish doom legends Candlemass played a rare east coast gig in April with support from Ruby the Hatchet and Frayle.

When it comes to doom, few bands have more foundational cred than Candlemass. I mean, who else’s debut record (the absurdly, perfectly titled Epicus Doomicus Metallicus) has an entire subgenre named after it?

The Stockholm-originating heavy metal vets have been a going concern since the mid-80s (minus a few years in hibernation here and there), with a mile-long trail of operatic and, yes, epic, doom classics to their name in that span. Improbably, the version of the band hitting the road in 2022 boasts a lineup whose membership dates all the way back to their early days – hardly a given when you look to the revolving-door membership of contemporaries like Pentagram. Founding bassist/songwriter Leif Edling and guitarist Mats Björkman are still holding things down with longtime drummer Jan Lindh and lead axeman Lars Johansson, with the lineup rounded out by Metallicus vocalist Johan Längqvist, who rejoined the band as a full-time member in 2018.

The fivesome released the pretty excellent Door To Doom together in 2019, but hadn’t done a whole lot of touring as a unit since. Available records indicate the band hadn’t played Massachusetts in any form since 1991. That finally changed last month, when Candlemass headlined a sold-out Middle East Downstairs for a masterclass in heaviness.

Under moody lights and flanked by the intimidating number of amplifier stacks you’d hope to see present for a show like this, the band confidently dug into a lengthy set of their classic material. Much of their influential debut was accounted for, as well as a solid half of followup Nightfall (which celebrates a 35th anniversary this year). The sound was crisp and crushing, a wave of downtuned, fuzzed-out riffs steamrolling their way through a truly psyched crowd. The band brought the energy, too (as energetic as you can make their oft elegiac and glacial compositions, anyway), with de facto bandleader Edling in particular clearly having a blast.

It was a thoroughly satisfying set from a still-vital lineup of doom-masters, which also checked one of the last remaining boxes on my list of genre pioneers to see live (joining ranks including multiple Saint Vitus lineups, Pentagram, Bang, at least half of Trouble and – of course – Sabbath).

Support for the night came from a well-matched pair of modern bands rooted in the classic doom and stoner rock tradition, NJ’s Ruby the Hatchet and Cleveland’s Frayle. Scroll down for photos of all three acts.