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CANDLEMASS


Candlemass - The Voice of Doom

Interview By Dr. Abner Mality

 Robert Lowe is certainly one of the most depressing men in the world. No, not really to talk to...he's laid-back, articulate and interesting to converse with. But if you are looking for a living, breathing embodiment of DOOM METAL, Mr. Lowe fits the bill.

For years, he's been the voice of America's premier doom metal band Solitude Aeturnus, using his sorrowful, velvet tones to relate tales of regret and melancholy. Now, however, Mr. Lowe had a new mission of doom: he has become the lead vocalist for the legendary Swedish gods Candlemass, replacing the iconic but difficult Messiah Marcolin. Many would have reckoned that the monkish, frizzy-haired Messiah was irreplaceable, but Lowe has proven them wrong on his debut with the band, the tremendous "King of the Grey Islands". Rarely has such a long time member of an established band been replaced with grace and power on this level.

As if this is not enough, Robert has another doomy project in the works called Concept of God. If I sang depressing music with the frequency of Mr. Lowe, I would be on the suicide short watch. But he has an insatiable need for this music and we the fans benefit from it.

Robert called me recently to discuss his work with Candlemass and upcoming projects from Solitude Aeturnus and Concept of God. Share the sorrow with us...


WORMWOOD CHRONICLES: It goes without saying that you have an exceptional vocal talent, What led you to use that voice in heavy metal, why did you choose metal for your outlet?

ROBERT LOWE: Actually, I never even had considered being a vocalist. When I was a teenager, I wanted to be another Yngwie Malmsteen so I picked up a guitar first. I've been playing guitar all my life, which is kind of funny. As a kid, I sat around and listened to the bands at that time like Maiden, Scorpions, Sabbath, whatever and I sang along. I wound up in this genre because that was the kind of music I liked and I was writing as a teenager. When it got to the point that I put together a band, I was playing guitar and singing. Obviously the vocals were influenced by what I was listening to at the time and that's where I started to turn around to focusing more on vocals.

WC: Being a guitar player has to help you understand being a band better, because you do know about playing guitar.

RL: It's most definitely a help when it comes to songwriting. As far as all the Solitude Aeturnus stuff goes, I've always had a hand in writing the music. You can be at rehearsal and going over new stuff and it's kind of nice to be able to say "hey, we need to do this" and know what you're talking about.

WC: Was your chemistry with Candlemass there from the start or did it take a while to develop? Musical or personal chemistry?

RL: It's funny because I never even met these guys until February of this year. The chemistry would be more along the lines of the musical aspect because when Solitude was forming, Candlemass has just come out with "Epicus Doomicus Metallicus" back in 86. Solitude started in 1989 and I joined the band in 1991. I was listening to "Epicus Doomicus" already at that time. There's definitely a musical bond which after all these years of Candlemass doing what they're doing and Solitude doing what they're doing...I wouldn't say it was an obvious choice but it's not like I stepped into a new genre. It's not like I stepped from doom metal into pop country. It was easy to step into Candlemass and take over that way.

WC: I think to many people, including myself, it WAS the logical choice...picking you to be the new singer of Candlemass.

RL: I hear that a lot and I really appreciate that. It's nice to think that people believe that. I didn't actively seek this position. My girlfriend actually did it!

WC: Really?

RL: Yeah, I was at work one day and she calls up and says, hey, you know Candlemass is looking for a new singer? I go, what? She said, yeah, Messiah quit again. I was like, yeah, OK, whatever. She said, I'm gonna send them an email and I said, these guys don't want me, screw that! Well, she went ahead and did it anyway and the next thing I know, later that night, I'm taking to Leif (Edling, Candlemass mastermind) and trying to figure out the logistics of it. And here we are!

WC: There's a big gap in distance and time with you being in America and them being in Candlemass. How do you deal with this gulf?

RL: That's the beauty of the Internet nowadays. When we finally made the decision to go ahead and do this, they had a time schedule they had to meet because Nuclear Blast had a time set up for the release of the album. You know how that works. When this was finally decided, I had one week to get this done because the following week, after recording the Candlemass album, Solitude Aeturnus had to go to Poland to record that new DVD on Metal Mind. Within four days, I had to knock out the album and then go to Poland.

This is basically how it all worked. They are seven hours ahead of us in Sweden. I was in the studio over here in the daytime, they were doing the sleepytime thing over there. We had an FTP site we set up, I would upload the songs I did during the day. Leif would get up in the morning, listen to them and emailed me. The next day in the studio, if I needed to fix something according to him, I'd do it or move on to another batch of songs. So that's how we did it...back and forth. It's like, I'm in the studio, he's in bed. He gets up, works on it, I'm in bed. It worked out...it worked out really well.

WC: How did the guys in Solitude Aeturnus react when you joined Candlemass?

RL: Once I finalized things with Leif, I talked to John (Perez, mastermind of S.A.) and said, John, I've got an opportunity here. What it all boils down to is that everybody in S.A. was totally two thumbs up and "go for it, dude"! It's painfully obvious that Solitude doesn't really do a whole lot and in order for me to stay busy and stay on the road like I want to do, this was the perfect opportunity. Either I sit here and do nothing or I do something with Candlemass and everytime something comes up with Solitude, we try to work it into the schedule. It worked out well and really, nothing has changed as far as Solitude goes.

WC: This may sound crazy, but do you think there would ever be a chance of a joint Solitude/Candlemass show? That would be the dream of many doom metal fans.

RL: (laughs) It's funny you mention that. I get that question a lot and yeah, it does seem obvious. Honestly, the only way that could happen is if it were a one-off thing. There's no way that we could tour with me doing two hours a night every night. I think it would be great, it would be a lot of fun, but I don't see it happening unless there's some super special circumstances that allow it to happen.

WC: Maybe something like Wacken or a big European festival?

RL: If Solitude just happens to be playing a festival and Candlemass is playing a shorter set...I don't know, but that would be the only way.

WC: Other than the obvious fact that you sang on the album, how much of a stamp were you able to put on "King of the Grey Islands"?

RL: I had full reign. Leif wrote everything and he's always pretty much dictated the path that Candlemass has taken. I've always known that. We did have a couple discussions about changing lyrics. Basically, he sent the stuff to me and there was some pre-production stuff already in there. He said, feel free to change the words, feel to do whatever you want with your vocals. There were several songs where I did that, with "Demonia 6" being a prime example. That was one of the first songs we recorded for the album and I had no fucking clue what I was gonna do. So I just went in there balls-out and made it my own. We did a couple of takes and it was done.

WC: Who or what is "Demonia 6"?

RL: I tell you what, my friend.(chuckles) You're asking the wrong fella, because I don't know what Leif was getting at with that one. It has to do with the overall theme of the album. I'm not exactly sure what the title refers to.

WC: It seems to me that the new album's lyrics are even more depressing than the usual Candlemass stuff. It's really dark and suicidal.

RL: That's the underlying theme throughout the whole CD. It's basically the rise and fall of somebody being an egotist. And at the end, the ultimate demise of ego is suicide. Now you obviously would have to talk to Leif to get the real meaning, but from my experience singing the lyrics and working with the songs and listening to what Leif thought the King of the Grey Islands was, it's about the rise and fall of a single individual.

WC: Do you think it might be a subtle jab at a certain former singer of Candlemass?

RL: (chuckles) You know what? I don't even know, I haven't really looked at it that way. If you've read some of the statements that Leif has made, it was not an amicable parting. But I wasn't there and I don't know all the ins and outs of the situation. Honestly, I don't want to know. I've always been a fan of Messsiah. Don't ask, don't tell, I leave it at that.

WC: As far as handling the old Candlemass material, how do you think you'll go about that? Because you're probably going to sing the classic songs live.

RL: Oh, absolutely! As a matter of fact, if you're one of the people to get the first digipak edition of "King of the Grey Islands", you'll find my demo versions of "Gallow's End" and "Solitude" on there. So yeah, we will definitely be hitting the classics. For me, it was a walk in the park. I've been listening to these songs and singing these songs forever. I mean, Solitude used to cover "Well of Souls" forever. So it's a no-brainer when it comes to that.

WC: How do you see your partnership with Candlemass evolving? Os it too premature to ask?

RL: It may be a little premature to speculate on that. We haven't even really talked about next year's release or anything like that. This year, we've been scrambling to record the album and then two weeks later, I flew over to Europe to do press and then I flew back here and then back over to Poland and then back to Sweden for the 20 year reunion...it's just been a complete whirlwind, you know?

WC: With the new album and the previous self-titled release, Candlemass seems to have re-established itself as a force. In the 90's, they were in a grey area, especially when it came to the States.

RL: Yeah, I would agree with that. In the States, it would be. After "Tales of Creation", things kind of waned. I don't know, I was kind of in my own little world then, but I still had all the Candlemass stuff and I was still listening to them, but I don't know what the rest of the world was doing.

WC: Any American tour plans in the works?

RL: Well, it just depends on the demand. It depends on the sales and if promoters want to pick it up. If that happens, then probably the first part of next year like January or February because I'll be out with Candlemass the rest of the year after the summer festivals in Europe.

WC: Is there any Solitude Aeturnus news to pass along, anything happening in that camp?

RL: Oh yeah, most definitely! Either this week or next week, the Solitude DVD that we recorded in Poland will be coming out. It's on Metal Mind Productions. So now we've got a professionally done live DVD of a show in Warsaw...

WC: That''s a first, right?

RL: Oh definitely. It's called "Hour of Despair" and you have to check into that.

WC: Any plans for a new full length?

RL: We've already got four songs in the can for the new album. We're definitely still working. By no means have I departed from Solitude. I'm leaving Wednesday morning to go to Europe for three weeks and do festivals. When I get back, Solitude has got a show in Houston. Then we head to Norway and Finland for a couple of festivals. Then I'm home for a week or two, We might do an SA show in San Antonio or maybe Dallas.

WC: You're in a way different place than you were a few months ago.

RL Hell yeah! Back in January, I quit my job and I've been focusing on the two bands, which is great, it's all I ever
wanted to do! Oh, a side note, if I'm gonna be plugging...I just finished up in the studio last night with the Concept of God project, so that should be out in a couple of months,too.

WC: What's that about? That's something new to me.

RL: Back in 2002, me, Steve and ex-Solitude drummer John Covington were tired of sitting around and not playing. I came up with another project and called it Concept of God. You've got 3 S.A. members doing another kind of doom/heavy metal type thing. It's been on the back burner forever but me and Steve finally got off our asses and put it together in the last couple of weeks. We mixed it, added some new tracks and polsihed it up. In fact, Ive been working on the artwork for it all day. So it should see the light of day pretty soon. I think that any S.A./Candlemass fan will enjoy the Concept of God project.

WC: I will certainly look for that!

RL: You know the official S.A. website? Just go there, go to the Downloads section and I've got a full length version of a tune from Concept called "Past Perfect". You can listen to that and get a feel of what Concept is like. Although, mind you, that's the old version! We've remastered and done a lot of stuff to it.

WC: What was the last CD or tape you got just because you wanted to get it?

RL: Good Lord, now you made me think! (chuckles)

WC: First thing that comes into you head...

RL: You know, it's funny, because the first thing that comes to my head is the last thing my girlfriend bought, which was the Candlemass "white" album! I haven't bought anything on my own recently...I've got such a plethora of stuff to choose from. I'm happy sitting in my own little world listening to what I've already got. But the last thing I got handed to me was by this band called Funeral, from Norway. And the name of the CD was "From These Wounds". You know them?

WC: Yeah, it's on Candlelight Records. It's very slow, it's even gloomier than Candlemass...

RL: Yeah, it makes us look like speed metal! I've been listening to that one quite a bit, it's good stuff. I got from a guy in the band...nice fella, too. But most of the stuff that I buy these days is to replace really old records I used to have, like "Number of the Beast" and stuff like that.

WC: I know that feeling. I bought vinyl to the bitter end.

RL: Then you may be pleased to know that, I'm 90% sure, there's going to be a vinyl release of "King of the Grey Islands" and there's going to be an extra track that's not going to be on the CD or digipak. So keep your eye out for that.

WC: In the history of either Solitude or Candlemass, is there any kind of Spinal Tap moment that you'd like to share with the readers?

RL: Spinal Tap? You know how I can sum that up? That movie is entirely fuckin' true! From beginning to end. There has not been one moment in that thing that I have not experienced.

WC: Any particular incident come to mind?

RL: Right to mind? No. (laughs) But if I'm watching the movie now, I'll go "Damn! I remember that night in Germany!"

WC: You're not the only person to say that! They really struck a nerve with that movie!

RL: They did! Spot on!

WC: Any last words?

RL: Thanks for your support for both bands. I'd particularly like to thank the fans who have already accepted me as the new singer of Candlemass. I know personally as a musician and lover of music that the first thing you think when a band changes singers is "oh crap, what the hell now?" That goes through everybody's mind...it goes through my mind! So thanks to the ones that supported me.The new Candlemass is a killer album and I think it should be in any true metal fan's collection.


Candlemass' Official Website