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Reviewed by R. David Smola
Incorrectly, Candlebox was lumped into the grunge movement. They were based in Seattle and began making hay in the early ‘90s, but the label just didn’t fit. They have more elements of classic rock with a bit of Southern guitar rock mixed in to form a sound that is soulful, melodic and rocks heavy when necessary. There are times where lead singer Kevin Martin sounds like he’s channeling equal parts Chris Robinson from the Black Crowes and the raspy delivery of Tesla’s Jeff Keith. The band has never hidden its Led Zepplin roots either, and nothing could be clearer then the borrowed background wailing from “The Immigrant Song” that appears in the opening track on Sun, “Stand.”
“Surrendering” explores the balladry of “Far Behind” and again emotes a strong Black Crowes vibe with steady guitar work mixing with the loud/soft/loud formula and Martin delivering impassioned vocals. The title track follows the formula of “Surrending” and mixes the texture of a ballad with the eventual amped-up guitar soloing and Martin alternating between a soulful delivery and blasting out the refrain to deliver the goods. “Miss You” has a Vertical Horizon feel, which puts enough pop and volume inside the power ballad formula. There is a grittiness to it, even though it’s a tender song. It has a very sincere tone without sounding contrived, and the guitar work is standard but, not dull. It’ll go down as one of the strongest tracks in their catalogue. The last 17:26 of the album explores a mellower side of Candlebox: “Breathe Me In” is a love letter preceded by a bluesy instrumental jam of just over three minutes, aptly entitled “Breathe Me In (Intro).” “Lover Come Back to Me” portrays the longing for a relationship that dissipated, and “Consider Us” asks the question: what do we see before we die, and is it beautiful?
Thematically, there is still some anger that pulses through the boys’ veins, as evidenced by “Stand,” which feels very anti-war, and some eloquent phrasing about being pissed off at someone in “How Does It Feel.” “Underneath It All” shares the same musical tone and similar lyrical content. The majority of tracks are given to examining love – lost, won, and longed for. This is an excellent record, one that will end up on my best-of list at the end of the year. The fact that it comes from a band that hadn’t made a record in nearly a decade makes it a wonderful surprise.