King of the Grey Islands by Candlemass
Release date : June 2007
Reviewed by Anthony Morgan
King of the Grey Islands sees Swedish Doom masters Candlemass march onwards with a ninth studio effort, a commendable feat in itself when the circumstances surrounding its initial pregnancy and ultimate birth are taken into consideration. Before vocal parts on behalf of singer Messiah Marcolin could even be committed to tape, yet again he parted ways with the group. Left to salvage the pieces once more, Leif Edling and company didn't waste a breath in hiring a new vocalist for their 2007 opus; step forward Robert Lowe of Texan act Solitude Aeturnus.
Without attempting to descend into the muddy world of hack journalism, the music bears more than a passing resemblance to prime Heavy Metal group Black Sabbath on several different levels. If one sifted through the deluge of vocalists that have passed through Black Sabbath's ranks over the years, they'd discover that Lowe's vocal DNA pattern bears a striking similarity to that of one Ronnie James Dio - a fitting curiosity considering Sabbath's Dio incarnation resurgence in 2007 under the Heaven and Hell moniker. Whether this was a factor in Lowe's recruitment is a reason for speculation, though I'd personally wager this was the case. This allows for a more extensive range in the vocal department, granting Leif Edling and his band of merry men an exclusive license to explore a wider array of musical paths and styles. Such a hefty choice of directions and possibilities would be forbidden if Candlemass had submitted the reins to that of a lesser vocalist than Lowe, so for once in the realms of Heavy Metal an apt replacement was chosen. Whether it be a song capable of metling through the wings of a Concorde jet (“Emperor of the Void”) or a song capable of wading through filth drenched battlefields (“Of Stars and Smoke”), Lowe's voice proves up to the task. With a voice that can soar towards rooftop levels, overall Lowe emerges with his head raised high.
The art of penning tracks in the Black Sabbath vein isn't exactly a trade secret, though it's one that is difficult to master (though like all great music, it can be imitated yet never bettered). The answer lies in simply plugging the guitar into the amp, and then plucking away at those strings for hours upon hours until you stumble upon that prime riff which haunts you when you're safely tucked under your duvet. Then, and only then, do you own what forms the very backbone of the track. Afterwards of course, you need some weighty meat to clothe the riff, and then you have it in all its glory. Some possess the talent, while others struggle along for decades without ever discovering it. Before the review goes further, it goes without saying that Tony Iommi is a peerless individual who cannot be taught any lessons as concerns the style he solely crafted. Having said that, Leif Edling does a commendable job of continuing the style with some top notch tunes that'll still be around in years to come. Combine that with Robert Lowe, and you have a winning combination which is truly capable of duelling with the Heavy Metal elite.
If your Black Sabbath records never get a decent night's sleep, then consider slipping those discs back in their cases for a few hours. Place King of the Grey Islands onto the CD tray, and then press “Close” followed by "Play”. Give the record a spin, a twirl and let each song sink into your system before arriving to a judgment. In terms of originality it doesn't score too high, though for entertainment value it's rather highly rated. Fans who worship at the Holy Grail of Sabbath should love it, and'll be in for a splendid treat should they make the investment.