Unlocking the door to doom ain’t always easy. Even when the tools at your disposal add up to a veritable battering ram that should unleash the melancholy tide from within upon your psyche with elephantine riffs that crush what’s left of your hopes and dreams, things can still flounder. Take, well, Candlemass’ Door To Doom where the promised road back to glorious perfection seemed elusive even though destiny seemed set – at least on paper. The problem is that mournful vocals and heavy riffs have been around since before most of us were born. So what’s needed to crank things up is at least some piece of magic that takes things to some rarefied level or, failing that just some good old fashioned tunes. So, to Monasterium – which includes, but is not limited to, lyrical entertainment (‘I scry in to my crystal ball…’), a red hot writing quill that brings to life a solid set of painstakingly constructed songs and a band that throughout remains committed to its unfolding doom-ridden purpose.
Cards on the table, this is – if it’s not obvious by now given the rambling intro – yet another shaggy-sounding inheritor to the Messiah-era Candlemass crown led by former Sorcerer vocalist Michal Strzelecki who sounds more like the mentally-tortured and mildly deranged monk compared with Marcolin’s Benedictine narrator for the end of times. Tom Sutton’s The Order of Israfel, emerging Swedish doomsters Dautha and Poland’s epic gloom contenders Evangelist have all trodden the same path recently (the latter, although its members remain anonymous, reputedly share some members with Monasterium). As with all those bands, the more you listen to Church of Bones, the more whatever crooked edges are lurking within this release begin to click perfectly into the glorious tolling sound so that by the end you’d sure as hell miss them if they weren’t there. The aforementioned dishevelled vocals – made more so by the heavy accent which feel like it has stepped out of a scene from that most perfect of doom flicks Name of the Rose being the perfect example.
Yes, Monasterium’s sophomore release, is difficult to consume without thinking back to the second and third Candlemass albums. Strzelecki’s pipes comfortably boom towards the required high notes. Those guitar riffs wail (although they may well best anything I’ve heard in a single Candlemass release). Meanwhile the almost jaunty riffs of La Danse Macabre are bounced into action by the rolling drum work of Maciej Berniak which, as is required, leave plenty of musical space and time for the unhurried arrangements to unfold – the perfect salute to Ancient Dreams. But, while latter day Candlemass (sadly still sans Messiah) seems to forever struggle to reach the necessary levels of atmosphere, Monasterium piles on through Church of Bones and ratchets up the vibes as each track goes by. Each is more solid than the last. Yes, the songs all revolve around the usual themes – death, the dead, dying, power hungry wizards and everyone’s favourite ferryman Charon, to name but few. But the cute song writing continues with such relentless calculation that there’s plenty to like here and so little not to. As a result, there is magic emanating from Church of Bones and there are plenty of moments that leave this good album constantly teetering on great: The Last Templar – which also features Forsaken singer Leo Stivala – provides a gigantic eight minute epic finale to harry any final misgivings away. It stands as a fine epitaph to a memorable album that any epic doom fan should be checking out as a priority.
(8/10 Reverend Darkstanley)