Psalms of Doom: Candlemass plays Rare Los Angeles Headline Show

By Andrew Bansal
(photos by Matt Nielson)

May 24th 2017, The Regent, Los Angeles CA: Swedish doom metal legends Candlemass have arrived in the United States for an appearance on this year’s Maryland Death Fest in Baltimore, but following their MDF announcement, they also booked three special headline shows in the lead-up, in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Vancouver. It is extremely rare for this band to be playing in the United States at all, and headline shows on the West Coast are even rarer. The Los Angeles show was slated to take place at the Regent, combined with an altogether different tour featuring Taake and Gost, on Wednesday May 24th. Taake canceled due to visa issues, Gost was forced to cancel as a result, and some people sought refunds for this reason, but Candlemass fans in LA came through in huge numbers to ensure that the show itself still went ahead as scheduled, with local openers Volahn and Arizmenda. Those who did not seek refunds were rewarded in full with a worship-worthy deliverance by the Gods of doom.

For starters, this was not the ‘Nightfall’ set, as advertised for Candlemass’ MDF appearance, because that is a one-off exclusive set for the festival and shall not be performed anywhere else. In all honesty, this was very much a blessing in disguise for the band’s LA fans, because ‘Nightfall’ is not an album that was intentionally written to be performed in its entirety on stage, plus, for many who were getting to see Candlemass for the first time here, a set list comprising selections from a variety of albums was more desirable in any case. They did play a couple of tunes off of ‘Nightfall’, including ‘Bewitched’, a song that garnered a loud chorus singalong from this crowd. They also played a good number of songs from the 1986 debut effort ‘Epicus Doomicus Metallicus’, closing the show with ‘Crystall Ball’ and the ever-incredible ‘Solitude’. Vocalist Mats Levén said that the band was switching up the set every night on this run of dates leading up to MDF, so fans attending the San Francisco (5/25) or Vancouver (5/26) shows can expect a different set list from the one at the bottom of this article.

To say that the band was at the peak of their powers would be an understatement, jet lag not withstanding. Guitarists Mats Björkman and Lars Johansson laid down the riffs with crushing precision and massive sonic power, Jan Lindh was splendid on drums, and for longtime Opeth fans it was an added bonus to get to see that band’s former keyboardist Per Wiberg on stage again, this time as bassist for Candlemass, as Leif Edling continues to sit out due to health issues. But the make-or-break element of this incarnation of Candlemass was always going to be the vocalist, and it is heartening to note that Mats Levén performs this role to perfection, with excellent vocal delivery, strong stage presence, and total command over the audience.

Levén remarked that the band is not very used to playing without a barricade in front of the stage, and expressed pleasant surprise that the setup here at the Regent did not include a barricade. He encouraged people to stage-dive, and his wish was the audience’s command as non-stop stage-diving ensued, often repeatedly by the same people. Mosh pits were also a regular feature of the set, and most heads banged uncontrollably as Candlemass’ epic riffs resonated through all parts of the Regent. The band played a full headline set that lasted nearly 90 minutes, and bid goodbye to this gathering of fans who knew they had just witnessed something special.

There are doom bands, and then there’s Candlemass, who influenced many of them but continue to stand above all else as the true definition and the gold standard of the genre, and do so in a manner that is respected, admired and enjoyed even by those who do not claim to be doom fans. This band is in a league of its own, opportunities to witness them performing live on stage come few and far between, and absolutely should not be missed. Los Angeles indulged in doom worship last night, and it was an experience no one will forget in a hurry.

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Set List:
01. Born in a Tank
02. Bewitched
03. Dark Reflections
04. Gothic Stone
05. The Well of Souls
06. A Cry from the Crypt
07. Incarnation of Evil
08. Under the Oak
09. At the Gallows End
10. Mirror Mirror
11. Crystal Ball
12. Solitude