(Live Review) CANDLEMASS + RUBY THE HATCHET - Thalia Hall, Chicago (April 24/22)
Reviewed by Mark McQueen
RUBY THE HATCHET
Sound techs at Thalia are quick. By verse two of song one they had Jillian Taylor’s vocal levels up over the music, while boosting the fullness of the band sound. Nice job there. Taylor could be a bit more powerful vocally, but she gives a solid performance in this opening slot. Songs are driving and enjoyable even if not hugely memorable.
Keys are what often delineates the occult rock sub-genre. Mid tempo (although faster and/or slower can be found throughout), is the preferred speed. Ruby The Hatchet is in that solid middle of the road. Openers are supposed to energize the crowd and Ruby The Hatchet certainly does that.
This band is solid, workman like and importantly doesn’t waste time. They play music.
Candlemass, the Swedish doom legends, hit the stage with “Well of Souls” from Nightfall (their seminal sophomore effort now celebrating 35 years), and the doom is on. Slow, heavy plodding and the definition of everything doom is supposed to sound like. Majesty in vocals (with the return to the mic of Johan Langqvist), guitar and bass steamroller (from founder Leif Edling and long time staple Lars Johansson), and the drums of Jan Lindh that sound like he’s swinging 10 pound sticks. The doom of Candlemas sets the bar for all others.
“Mirror Mirror” follows (from Ancient Dreams) and the heaviness is awesome. Third number “Bewitched”, and the classics just keep coming. Doomgasms on the first three songs. 1987, I see you again. Fourth song “Samaritan” and the classics keep coming. This is awesome. Heavy dose of Nightfall classics. Fifth song “Under the Oak”. What a set list so far. I’m smelling set of the year candidate. Little Johnny, bow before the seminal doom band of the 1980’s.
Sixth song “Dark are the Veils of Death”. Jesus…THIS is DOOM. This is what brought me to this style. I am watching one of the most perfect sets of music I can remember. I admit I never thought they would sound as good without Messiah Marcolin on lead, but Langqvist was who the original album was written and designed for, and even 35 years later his voice is still strong.
Seventh song “Crystal Ball”, from Epicus Doomicus… there has been nothing less than classics this set.
Eighth song: “Sorcerers Pledge”. Epic Candlemass. Amazing set list. Crowd is singing along loudly. Little Johnny just fainted from the overwhelming awesomeness of what is transpiring. “Someone get some smelling salts for little Johnny….and a shot”
Encore: "Demons Gate". Still not a single misstep in this set. A doomy anthemic powerhouse of guitar bass and drums mowing down all before it, like wheat fields in a tornado. This is a one-shot set. I am watching why Mark “The Beard” McQueen goes to see live music.
An acknowledgment (by Leif), of Trouble singer Eric Wagner (who passed away last summer) and a dedication of song 10 to him. “Dark Reflections”. For the uneducated, Candlemass, Trouble, and Saint Vitus form the trinity of the 1980’s doom movement.
Song 11: of course they had to end it with the Doom anthem “Solitude”. Bows all around, crowd adulation swelling.
Little Johnny is weeping.
This was the greatest set of classic doom I have witnessed in my ten years of reviewing.
In over 1000 band reviews, I have never once given the unicorn of 100. Tonight, that streak ends.
Best set in 10 years.
Candlemass, you have just received the Beards first ever 100/100.
It has happened. Hail Candlemass.