By ANDREW MCKAYSMITH
LEIF Edling may need some introduction to the uninitiated. As the chief songwriter and captain of Candlemass, he is responsible for some of the greatest heavy metal ever recorded.
Big statement – but when your band’s catalogue includes the albums Epicus Doomicus Metalicus (’86) and Nightfall (’87) it’s a thoroughly deserved acclaim.
I ended up reviewing Edling’s recent album under the new moniker The Doomsday Kingdom for The Metal Forge web publication, more or less by accident. I follow most new releases from one of the globe’s pre-eminent metal-centric record labels, Nuclear Blast, and The Doomsday Kingdom (’17) was essentially just another release to listen to and review. What a surprise I received when I heard the album and dived deeper into the list of personnel responsible for its creation. I mentioned in that review that “… great riffs and Leif Edling are a tremendous combination”. This is mainly due to bassist and all round nice guy Edling’s ability to master the art of recording catchy, memorable yet dense-as-plutonium heavy metal riffs.
Late one evening I called Edling for a chat about his career and the recently released self-titled effort from The Doomsday Kingdom. He’s a genial fellow which is something I have noticed about so many musicians and artists from Sweden I’ve had the pleasure to interview. “It’s a nice spring day here in Stockholm. Finally the long winter is over, so I feel pretty good actually. I have had the ‘flu for two weeks so my voice is a little bit strained but I’m able to speak anyway. For the past few days I’ve been doing interviews and my voice has been totally crap but I’m actually able to speak today, so I’m happy about that!”
During the exchange of pleasantries, I am genuinely surprised to learn he is yet to bring his outstanding musicianship to Australia for the purpose of a live show. “I hope to go there sometime. I have to see it for myself. That’s one of the goals I have, so let’s hope it will happen soon. If not with Candlemass then with The Doomsday Kingdom but I would love to come to Australia man, I would love to come.”(continued below)
I ask Edling if he is aware of how revered Candlemass is by the so called ‘black t-shirt brigade’. “A little bit, I mean I haven’t played with Candlemass for quite some time but you know, when we came back for the reunion that was fantastic. We pulled big crowds when we played and we still play headline spots at festivals. When we sign at the festivals there’s long lines of people with stacks of records. So yes, I mean we won a Grammy a couple of years ago here in Sweden and we were voted best hard rock/metal band ever from Sweden in a big metal magazine. Nightfall has got its 30th anniversary this year, we see that Nightfall is pretty high up in metal charts. Sometimes it’s like top 10, so that is really, really cool I think, that’s fantastic.”
One of the many classic cuts on Nightfall is “Bewitched”. The iconic video accompanying the track contains a supporting cast featuring Per ‘Dead’ Ohlin, the sadly deceased front man of black metal iconoclasts Mayhem. Ohlin committed suicide in April of ’91 and only ever hinted at the talent that may lie beneath the rather morbid veneer he cultivated. I ask Edling if he recalls Ohlin’s presence during the recording of the video. “No, no, we were just really unaware of the black metal scene. It was so new and growing. Jonas Åkerlund (the “Bewitched” video director later known for collaborating with Madonna, U2, Lenny Kravitz and a host of other prominent artists) went to the Hard Rock Café and had told everybody to come out to this place tomorrow if they wanted to be in a video. And apparently, we only noticed after the shoot, that there’s like a half of the black metal society in that video. They were ‘doom dancing’ because they like Candlemass actually. Some of them are pretty big Candlemass fans. I know that Euronymous (former Mayhem guitarist, Burzum frontman and former Mayhem bassist Varg Vikernes was convicted of his murder in ‘94) was a big Candlemass fan. That is pretty cool because we were not really aware of this bubbling black metal and death metal scene. We knew the kids, we knew the faces from the Hard Rock Cafe and from gigs and stuff but we were not aware that some of them were even playing in bands. I knew some of the guys from Entombed, I knew them and recognised them in the record shops and stuff but I never knew they had a band called Entombed.”
So Edling must be aware that along with Venom and Bathory, Candlemass is considered one of the forefathers of black and extreme metal, right? “Oh, I never heard that. People always say that we were like grandfathers of doom, more, the doom metal genre. I’m sure if you speak to them (black metal bands), I’m sure they would say that Venom or Bathory were the key influence, but they do like Candlemass anyway. I’ve bumped into a few of those (black metal band members) and they say that because we were so early and we were really dark with Epicus’… Euronymous actually loved the atmosphere on Epicus’, it was so heavy and the atmosphere was so evil and sinister on that record”.
Euronymous would no doubt approve of The Doomsday Kingdom as it continues the sinister narrative is so synonymous with Edlings creative output. The album features a singer I have never heard of, Niklas Stålvind. Stålvind sounds like another excellent unsung metal vocalist, David Bower from the reactivated NWOBHM band Hell. Where did Edling find Stålvind? “Oh yes, absolutely, he’s fantastic. I mean he sings the album like a fucking king, man. It’s like he was born to sing on the record. I’ve known him for like 20 years or something, not exactly as close friends but I bumped into him occasionally at airports and backstage areas, in Stockholm a couple of times, at a club here and a bar there. He lives like two hours away from Stockholm. So I don’t see him that often but I followed (Stålvind’s previous band) Wolf and I think what he’s been doing in Wolf has been really, really good. I watched Wolf a couple of times and every time I’ve been very impressed with his vocals. So I think that he was the right choice for the record with his characteristic voice. I think it brings so much extra energy, a youthful energy into the album and into the songs. Not only because he’s a great singer but also he doesn’t sound like a 50-year-old bloke or something. He sounds like a young natural singer. I love his vocals on the record.”
Let’s hope a tour promoter or agent offers Stålvind, Edling and co. an opportunity to visit Australia!
The Doomsday Kingdom is out now through Nuclear Blast