CANDLEMASS: LIVE (1990)
1) The Well Of Souls; 2) Dark Are The Veils Of Death; 3) Bewitched; 4) Solitude; 5) Dark Reflections; 6) Under The Oak; 7) Demon's Gate; 8) The Bells Of Acheron; 9) Through The Infinitive Halls Of Death; 10) Samarithan; 11) Mirror, Mirror; 12) At The Gallows End; 13) The Sorcerer's Pledge.
Live heavy metal albums are usually a waste of time, with two exceptions: (a) metal bands that still preserve a lot of that old kick-ass rock'n'spirit, like Judas Priest, may follow the old principle of compensating for studio slickness with raw live energy; (b) mediocre metal bands that sound way too monotonous from album to album may have live albums that simply work as decent introductions / summaries of their overall sound, usually concentrating on the better stuff and leaving out the crap. Candlemass Live is a typical representative of group (b) — if you are interested in the band, but not enough to explore them in detail, this is a really good place to start... and, perhaps, to end.
Recorded on their native ground (in Stockholm), the album finds the classic lineup in as good a form as possible, with fine production (better than on the early studio records, actually), a rather tepid reception from the audience (which is okay, since it only helps the songs to sound better) and, most importantly, a near-perfect setlist — at least, all of my favorite Candlemass songs are here, and the energy level leaves me with nothing to complain about. ʽDemon's Gateʼ, ʽSolitudeʼ, ʽSorcerer's Pledgeʼ — these live versions totally correct all the original studio murkiness, with normally sounding drums and real deep rumble-crunch from the guitars, as compared to the almost lo-fi production quality of Epicus; honestly, even if you are a certified metalhead, I can't see how you'd like to go back to the 1986 values after hearing these versions.
Other than these two important details — great sound quality and intelligent setlist — there is really not much to say. Marcolin live is just as obnoxious as he is in the studio, but not that much more obnoxious: the obligatory audience-baiting is kept to a relative minimum (a few oi-oi-oi's here and there to get them a-clappin' and a-stompin', but nothing even close to Ozzy's trademark "let me fuckin' see your fuckin' hands, come on!"), and his treatment of Längqvist's material would probably have completely satisfied Längqvist himself (but not me). Johansson's leads are as fluent and technically perfect as they are in the studio, sometimes with a bit of extra flash. And structurally, the songs are played as close to the originals as possible.
I understand that there are several different versions of the album floating around — for instance, my version adds ʽThe Bells Of Acheronʼ, and then there's a 2-CD version with a separate show from 1988 as a bonus — but this is already in the sphere of trivia, useless for casual fans, so let's just top this off with a thumbs up and close the book on this first stage in the life of Candlemass, ending with the departure of Marcolin, and bringing on an image renovation for the new decade.