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On Second Listen: Candlebox – Into The Sun

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If you fell in love with grunge music in the early nineties, you’ll be pleased to know that Seattle’s Candlebox is bringing it back. Since its reunion in 2006, the post-grunge band has been steadily recording its fourth album, Into the Sun, which was released this past July.

After a 10 year hiatus from the music scene, it was surprising to hear that the band hadn’t changed at all. In fact, the most notable switch is that bassist Bardi Martin has been replaced by Adam Kurv. Musically, Candlebox still carries that grungy feel, mixed with a bit of classic rock and new wave, that when bunched together creates a sound that is both soulful and melodic, but also not afraid tobe heavy when needed. The entire album flows with ease and a ballsy swagger, sort of like it’s 1995 all over again.

While listening to Into the Sun, it’s impossible to ignore the fact that everything on this album has been done before by at least one other grunge band. Candlebox even re-hashes selections from their hit “Far Behind” in both “Surrendering” and “How Does it Feel”. Knowing this, it’s important to point out that Candlebox is still stuck in the 90’s and the only difference is that here, the band’s been given a pristine post-2000’s production makeover. Ironically, this undercuts whatever noise-making abilities they had back in the day.

As the album carries on, it becomes obvious that the band is holding too tightly to the nostalgic, gray angst which just doesn’t fit into today’s music scene. A decade ago, it was common for grunge bands like Candlebox to copy its peers, so much so that there were only slight differences between them and bands like Collective Soul or Stone Temple Pilots. Thus, Into the Sun inevitably becomes an over-used copy of grunge music that was released a decade too late.

Most of the time, the album hammers out down-stroked riffs pushed a little too cleanly through digital processors, which all then are accompanied by Kevin Martin’s gritty vocals. On a closer listen, the band’s like a neutered Led Zeppelin at times, particularly in the opening track “Stand” which borrows heavily from “The Immigrant Song.” Constrained or not, the band managed to pull something out. The most notable tracks are radio hit “Stand”, sensitive “Miss You”, and the razor sharp punch of “A Kiss Before Dying”.

Although Into the Sun is heavily reminiscent of “Far Behind,” tracks like “Surrendering” manage to make up for it with steady guitar work that’s mixed with the loud/soft/loud formula that Martin delivers with impassioned vocals. Later on, starting with “Breathe Me In,” the album shifts to a slower, heavy-handed sound that leaves the listener weary. Songs like “Lover Come Back to Me” and “Consider Us” are quite depressingly slow and conclude the album with a mixed feeling of boredom and aloofness.

Overall, Into the Sun meanders through standard radio-rock that at the same time is somehow buoyed by solid musicianship. It’s quite apparent that Martin’s vocals are the main attraction, but without Peter Klett jamming out on heavy guitar riffs and Scott Mercado pounding heavily on the drums, Martin would be nothing.

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