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There are some records that, from the very first note, take you away from the world in which you sit and whisk you away on a journey or to another realm. Candlemass are a glorious band for that reason. There is such a distinct departure that their music forces, particularly on this first album, that it's easy to forget just how good they sound until you do the service of listening to the whole thing in full. The moment the first notes of 'Solitude' ring out (and 'Solitude' is my least favourite song on this album), I am gone from my bedroom or my car or the street: I'm at the top of a stone tower in an ancient castle, looking out of the window at the swathe of forest beneath me, the mountains in the distance, and the river that bridges the gap between them.
I guess that's why Candlemass get to be "epic" doom metal and not just doom metal - they have the vision, the ambition, and the execution to never sound ordinary. Every part of this album is crafted to ramp up the epic factor of the music. If Candlemass can make something bigger, they will. For instance, it's not ever just a riff, it's a riff taken from that basic 'Electric Funeral'/'Iron Man' template, driven over by a steamroller, soaked in lead, blasted in the fire, and given its own sinister embellishments; and then, it's never just that riff, but that riff played with morbid intensity and with a catholic choir of twin guitars; even then, that would be forgetting the vocals that soar above them. This is not doom metal, it's epic doom metal, the enormity of which provides hope, even if it chooses to ultimately dash that hope.
The first Candlemass album is unique for a few reasons. Firstly, there isn't a song you would want to change. We really do have six of the best here, and without any of the annoying interludes that blocked up 'Nightfall'. The songwriting isn't too complicated and it's not too simple: there are a few sections of lighter variation on 'Solitude' and 'A Sorceror's Pledge' that become incredible sing along moments, there are rare faster moments like the pounding double bass riff in 'Demon's Gate' and some of the solo sections, and there are a couple of more complex touches, such as the first verse of 'Crystal Ball', which is apparently a mistake caused by the band getting confused over its timing. It's very rare to hear an album that feels so comfortably natural, so I can only assume that these songs achieved their structural perfection from the long gestation period that Candlemass went through before this album was released. A single listen to the heartbreakingly perfect 'A Sorceror's Pledge', which doesn't need a solo and uses just one main riff, is enough to convince anyone that this album could not have been finessed any more.
Secondly, Johan Längquist sings on 'Epicus Doomicus Metallicus'. He wasn't officially the Candlemass vocalist at the time, but my god does he do a good job. Messiah Marcolin would become the iconic frontman and he brought a greater grandeur to the band than Längquist was capable of, though Längquist sounds like he is living the songs more, despite not being the superior talent. His performance on 'Under the Oak' is mesmerising and the visceral scream that he rips out as the fast solo begins gives me goosebumps every time I hear it - something that Messiah's version (the band rerecorded the song for 'Tales of Creation') doesn't quite achieve, its lofty brilliance aside. On a similar note, Klas Bergwall was a session lead guitarist for this album and also suffers from having a fantastic replacement, but I have never heard a lead tone like his, with its shrill, screaming iridescence cutting through the rumbling riffs and providing excitement, rather than elevation, as the later style would introduce.
Thirdly, I can count three songs which have definitively acknowledged, stone-cold classic riffs (the first two and the last) and I would like to add 'Black Stone Wielder' to that list, nor would I begrudge the other two sneaking on. If the songwriting is great, the compartmentalisation of these songs does not suffer at all for it. Doom metal needs crushing riffs and Candlemass delivers main riffs where there ought to be "verse riffs" (code for no fucking riffs at all) at every opportunity. I can't fault Mats Björkman on here, everything he touches turns to lead and his guitar tone is phenomenally powerful. Some respect must go to Leif Edling for his innovative idea of playing bass like a second guitar (and then using a second guitar anyway, ahahahaha), but he gets way more than the minimum number of bass variations in there, mostly playing around the riffs rather than compromising their heaviness. Mats Ekström is super too and doesn't suffer from boring doom drummer syndrome, playing his fills with glee and keeping things interesting with his faster speeds on 'Demon's Gate' and 'Crystal Ball'.
If you want to listen to an iconic album, you can't choose better than 'Epicus Doomicus Metallicus', since it has a title that named a genre, a cover image that defines a band, and six songs that cast a spell over the listener and make the real world seem insignificant. "Time stands still in these ancient halls", indeed.
From the opening strains to the final fading echoes of Epicus Doomicus Metallicus, Candlemass present six immersive songs of misery, fantasy and revelation.
After a somber introduction with acoustic guitar, synth and vocals, “Solitude” lurches to life like a waking giant and plods along at a meditative pace, almost literally setting the tempo for the rest of the album. Mats Bjoerkman’s rhythm guitar tone is reminiscent of Trouble, but the riffs are much slower while Klas Bergwall’s lead tone is like tiny points of starlight briefly illuminating an otherwise cold dungeon. He gave his all in every solo like it was his last time appearing on a metal album or something. The solos on display here are still my favorite of all the Candlemass albums. Starlight then fades into the black hole called “Demon’s Gate,” at which point I’ve known some people to stop the CD and say it’s just not for them. “Too slow,“ they almost always say. However, if slow and crushing melodic riffs, epic lyrics and a subterranean atmosphere are just some of the things that draw you to metal then you have to go into the demon’s gate. You just gotta do it. The nine-minute-plus trip into the bleeding infernal regions of Leif Edling’s imagination will be worth it. You’ll be hooked with every rise, fall and sinister twist of the riff that first appears at 1:11 and you‘ll know you‘re on the right path. At least, that’s the riff I most wanted to learn to play after my first time hearing this album. The double bass drums later in the track act more as atmosphere than as percussion like the bubbling of black dragon's blood in a massive cauldron. The bassline at 4:22 isn't even pretending to show off as its methodical pulse further enforces the desolation of the lyrics and prepares you to explore even deeper caves illuminated only briefly by those magnificent solos.
“Black Stone Wielder” could be a play on the title of the Stephen Donaldson book, White Gold Wielder which, given his love of fantasy themes, I’d bet Edling had at least heard of if not read. The lyrics, however, always reminded me of a dark interpretation of Christ's birth. You can see the Magi trudging through a cold desert at night as Johan Lanquist expertly draws you into the tale with his dramatic vocal style that feels like he’s acting out the lyrics, but not hamming it up. Even his whisper sounds melodic when he says the black stone wielders were never seen again. The slow-motion crush at 3:22 begins another highlight of this album like the travellers struggling to continue despite being nearly exhausted by their journey. Like dinosaurs waltzing or planets rotating while revolving around a central star, it’s a strange kind of beautiful melody that stands apart from the rest of the album like you‘ve just stepped into a realm that even the band themselves didn‘t realize they could create. A solo tries to offer the travellers some relief, but its deliberate cadence could be either a dirge or an exhortation depending on how you hear it. One of the best moments of the album is when this section segues into the song’s signature bouncing riff as the solo picks up the pace and the song rolls on to its destination.
“A Sorceror's Pledge” is still my favorite Candlemass song. The atmosphere from beginning to end is remarkable. The tone of every instrument and effect works together to create an apocalyptic vision similar to what the sorceror may have seen in his thousand-year dream. It begins with Lanquist’s vocals filling the whistling wind with lamentations that will be further elaborated in the main body of the song. The transition to a heavier tone after the last strum of the acoustic guitar is the part where I start increasing the volume, daring the limits of my speakers because I want to feel as if I’m hearing titans perform this song on guitars the size of oak trees through amps the size of glaciers. It’s epic doom, dude. How else is it supposed to be heard? After the monumental heaviness, the song comes down again to build toward the ending as the synth takes over with a new melody like starlight trying to return and shine through the darkness to see if the sorceror will keep his pledge or if the dream quest was too much for him to endure. You can't tell if the angelic vocals of the finale symbolize the sorceror's promised return or if it's the sound of a heavenly host welcoming him to a divine realm, but their tone give the album an all too brief moment of utter joy.
Overall, I describe Epicus Doomicus Metallicus as somewhere between a melodic approach to Black Sabbath and a heavy approach to Legend’s From the Fjords. Imaginative and powerful while retaining that arcane touch that separates it from subsequent Candlmass albums. Doom certainly wasn’t a new concept upon this album‘s release, but the fact that Candlemass had the audacity to brand themselves in such a way as the title was not only an obvious mission statement, but it helped give the genre a new idea of what it could be to the point where now it’s not uncommon for bands to refer to themselves as epic doom metal or for listeners to describe a band as epic doom metal. Just a fantastic album from beginning to end.
While Black Sabbath may have pioneered the doom metal, it was Candlemass that solidified the style of music we know today as doom. Granted, I was a little put off their debut album's title, but after listening, I have no doubt that 'Epicus Doomicus Metallicus' delivers what it promises.
This is considered a classic of the doom metal sound for very good reason; the band captures a dense, heavy song while simultaneously fueling it with intelligent, richly orchestrated songwriting. Led creatively by bassist Leif Edling, the music of Candlemass is slow, crushing, and emotionally charged; all now-fundamental tenants of the style. What I think distinguishes Candlemass' music from earlier work from bands like Sabbath however is that while Sabbath aimed for their brand of 'doom' to be evil and foreboding, Candlemass was among the first to get a little more introspective and melancholic. That's not to imply in the slightest that the sound here is anything but badass, however. Each of these six tracks lumbers on with thick guitar riffs, and a pummeling rhythm section that is offset only by the presence of some lighter synth arrangements that give the compositions an almost baroque quality to them. Best of all are the vocals of Johan Längqvist, who belts out powerfully, as if he was singing in an opera house. Längqvist manages to strike a nice balance between sounding badass and conveying emotion, and it turns out wonderfully.
The songwriting is confident and melodic, keeping in line with a fairly gloomy tone, but drawing out some surprisingly catchy choruses. 'Solitude' has an incredibly powerful hook, and works out to be the highlight of the album. There are not any weak tracks on the album, but I do feel with most of the tracks here that the choruses are made a little too important. The riffs are powerful, but when almost all of the hooks are thrown into the vocals, it can make for a one-sided memory, unless a listener is willing to sit down and let it truly sink in. As it stands, I have no problem calling 'Epicus Doomicus Metallicus' a classic. The style and direction of the band is very narrow however, and thus makes this album one I would only be able to appreciate fully when I am in the mood for something both gloomy and bombastic. Regardless, Candlemass introduced themselves in 1986 on a remarkable note.
I get it: Candlemass are a classic heavy metal band. One that specializes in "epic doom". I debated whether or not to criticize Epicus Doomicus Metallicus on its merits as plain heavy metal or to compare and contrast it with other earlier bands with a type of exact sound only to conclude that it makes no difference; this album doesn't do enough for me either way. Here's the kicker though: this band is really good at what they do and on this album they try to do more than enough to please traditionalists. I've gone and back and forth. Coaxing myself to get into this even self hypnosis. After all, it's not as if the band were "trying too hard". No, it's not that because these guys know what they are doing and have a goal. They got the heaviness down, that's for sure. And for some, the heaviness of the album is enough but I'll get to the "heavy" part soon. It's not for lack of identity either. No crisis one bit and they are a credit to their subgenre. I said that the band knows "what they are doing" in that they are trying to accomplish a really heavy, crushing doom sound (ala Black Sabbath) but taken in a more epic approach. And you know what? That's part of the problem. Where's the magic? Where is the sense of spontaneity that seems to accompany the songwriting found in other great doom metal albums? This album is too mapped out in accomplishing a majestic brooding heavy metal that while good at doing that, it seems to come at a price.
Unlike Sabbath, Pentagram and Vitus, Candlemass seemingly drops that darkness driven pyschedelic blues sound in favor of a more classically based structure giving it that epic feel. The end result on this particular album is that it loses the colorfulness for me. There are a few awesome riffs to get giddy about but the album takes too long to get there and mostly Epicus Doomicus can get kind of boring while dooming in its own gloom because this album is supposed to be fun too. The band is singing about dark fantasy and witchery with an extra lugubrious undertaking than those other doom bands. And while that's nice and they do it well, in the end it doesn't make me feel or see anything as I hear it. If I read 'epic' before metal, I'm someone who will say "show me the way!" And although I can agree that this can be described as epic, it still disappoints. They dumped too many of the catchy headbanging rhythms.
The opening song Solitude is the one standout track that gets everything right and gets me banging my head out from open to close. This is a fun song to experience in such a way but once my head is emptied out, I'm left with the just that: solitude. As in holy shit, am I the only who realizes that Black Sabbath had a song with that very same title and that that song was smaller and better? Sabb's song titled Solitude actually made me feel lonely and depressed yet trippy too. I know there are those of you who are reading this and thinking 'why the hell do you persist in comparing Black Sabbath and other bands of their ilk to this (at the time) underground Swedish heavy metal band that was actually trying to do something a little unique with the sound?' Here's the rub: the song on here is rife with cool riffs and all (plus fun) but it is not stoned out enough to reinforce the melancholia. It doesn't subject you to anything except that the album is more an exercise in style (doomy melodic heaviness) with impressive epic fantasy lyrics.
When you hear the sweeping acoustic guitar in Solitude, it gives way to the mournful operatic singer's voice and then comes in the devastating doom riff. It's very majestic and catchy right here and right way I know where the band will be drawing influence from. That would be of course Black Sabbath's tenth album. It's a beautiful thing. The 'earth to earth, ashes to ashes' chorus is sung so grandly and melodramatic and represents the band's successful career sound. There are a few other highlights found in the rest of the tracklist too but I couldn't help but wonder if the rest of the record was a one trick pony. This is because the band stays at an all too consistent tempo throughout which makes it sound predictable at times. It becomes a little tired as if they are too satisfied to stay with one agenda in establishing trademark heaviness.
I noticed that the recording quality is quite clean and technical for such a debut. This isn't so much a problem for me but the way the lead and rhythm guitars are so evenly mixed, there really isn't much room for the bass to show off the wares as heavy doom metal should. The bass rhythms are there but its not very dominant. That slimming down might speak more towards the album's power metal leaning. You will however notice the four-string solo at the middle of Demon's Gate. Under the circumstances, it's pretty solid doomsmanship. You can almost hear it as if mumbling "please let me go on." It was not to be.
One of the most interesting moments on EDM occurs in the song Under the Oak. It begins with an old school Sabbath chord and then the second guitar brings in a NWOBHM solo riff. This is all very awesome but I think by track's end it sums up why I didn't quite take to this record. It's got the powerful and crushing vibe but the momentum is interrupted when the middle of the song goes back to the slower epic vibe. In the case of A Sorcerer's Pledge, the reverse seems to apply: the soft majestic acoustic opening with the singer wailing about imprisonment in some cursed keep. Much like Solitude, the heavy doom lead arises like a vampire out the crypt at dusk. The presence here is a little faster and more aggressive so maybe its more intense than the opening track. The song is also too long and goes all cheesy at the end with power metal like synths and a kooky choir.
What I'm left with is wonderful talent and fortitude by the band to develop some fun and crushing heaviness but there is that feeling that Candlemass had to be heavier and work harder at it than their more experienced English counterparts to accomplish that goal. Speaking of which, who looks to Sweden for doom metal anyhow? And I mean this in the most amicable way possible: what the fuck do these Swede metallers got to be so bummed out about? I still have never seen an ugly Swedish dame or chap. Hmm..what else? Sweden got to stay out of the World Wars. They enjoy the highest standard of living per capita in the world. England on the other hand..well, there's good reason why heavy metal came from there. My point is that doom metal works out best from some sort of weird contextual background and while Candlemass' motive to "doom" on this album are castles, curses and spells, Black Sabbath or Witchfinder General can more effortlessly find satirical commentary in heaviness out of a country that suffered Vikings, Cromwell, the Ripper and the Blitz (not to mention class distinction and the Irish) in a way that's more natural and authentic to effuse such rock and roll as this. When you get down to all these classic doom bands, that just may be the difference why this Candlemass record is missing something for me against an album like Death Penalty or Sabotage. It's HEAVY but it ain't 'eavy, dig it? Occasionally it moves like British doom will and other times it has me screaming 'aye c'mon 'Mass, move your bloomin' arse!'
You figure if that's the case, then wouldn't that apply to the rest of Candlemass' output? The answer is no. It just took the band alot longer to inspire me with their brand before they put out a great album which eventually they did. It's not to be found here just yet. If you can listen to Epicus Doomicus on vinyl, then you should do it because I found that this album sounds much better on that format. While it doesn't change my overall opinion on the music, I found the power metal type percussion more acclimated to the warmer sound as well as the relatively modern production quality allowing the sheer crushing riffs a better springboard when the recording is laid down for the needle to groove in whereas on tape or CD it sounded like the guitars were plugged into Orange amps.
Many who have this album will have bonus tracks included that are live cuts. I have never seen this band in concert but hearing them I came away with the impression that if they played one of their great songs like Solitude on stage, the band can get boring after awhile with a setlist consisting of these early albums lessers. If you like classic heavy/doom metal I'm sure you have this album. 1986 was a banner year in metal and this offers something slower in the more epic manner after Black Sabbath parted ways with Ronnie Dio but it is not essential. Messiah will come.
This is a LOOONG overdue rewrite.
Epicus was the first album review that I had ever done. That was a couple of years ago and I was a bit of an overzealous newbie to this fine establishment. I will always love this album. Not much choice, really. You see, the ink of my one and only tattoo (the impaled skull of EDM) was still drying on my right outer calf muscle whilst I was frantically heaping loads and loads of zeal onto this disc. I've had two years to think about it and the rage of my hard-on has subsided, albeit just a wee bit. I'd like to thank the 'Saab Rules' (hilarious title, mate) for helping to curb my enthusiasm. However, I can still thank this (and a shitload of other doom albums) for rescuing me from a stagnant sea of death metal where I was drowning in entropy.
In the foul year of our lord 1986, Earth was a very heavy place to be. Slayer and Megadeth (fuck Master!) unleashed their respective masterpieces unto the world, Maiden was in the midst of their "classic era", Celtic Frost, Sodom, and Possessed were busy building the framework for death and black metal, and these dudes from Sweden come along and heave their massive debut onto the metallic table with authority.
Epicus Doomicus Metallicus may well be the most aptly-named heavy metal record to date, for it is just that. With thrash approaching fruition and the embryonic death metal genre beginning to spread its morbid wings, the need for speed was ever-present.
Fortunately, Candlemass came forth and proved once and for all that you DO NOT have to play fast to be heavy. From the first notes of "Epicus...", these artists create a foreboding atmosphere of depression, misanthropy, and longing for death. Perhaps the most unfortunate detail of this album is that this would be the first and final appearance of baritone Johann Lanquist. His performance on this album is absolutely spellbinding. He is obviously a trained musician, singing from the diaphragm, projecting each perfectly decipherable syllable toward the heavens. There is much to be said for metal bands with all cleanly sung vocals. If you ever find yourself drowning in a world of cookie monsters and guttural barks, consider this classic.
These songs are expertly structured for all fans of anything that is heavy. Production is clear, crisp, and, frankly, immaculate, considering the release date. In the current age of pro-tools, gridding, and other such studio magic (a.k.a. lies), we are fortunate to have the choice to travel back in time to analog recordings such as this opus that were made for long-haired, poseur-stomping, dope smoking metal-heads. Simply put, this is genre-definitive heavy metal.
All right, so if the ethereal darkness of "Solitude" (I still like this Solitude better than the Sab's simply for the sake of headbanging) doesn't do you in, just wait till the double bass drums pummel your guts on "Demon's Gate". Goddamn! This is where things start to get nice and heavy, and let's not forget the awesome and evil spoken word intro to the song. Pure morbidity. I now will raise the chalice of metal excellence to drummer Matz Ekstroem. He does his job with mastery and the utmost class. He is the ideal percussionist for this band, or for heavy metal in general, and it is tragic that this would be his last studio appearance with Candlemass. This is crystalline drum performance and production. The rack toms sing out beautifully, the floor toms are rich and deep, and again, the tastefully-executed double kicks will smash your fuckin' balls.
"Black Stone Wielder" is everything I could ever want from any metal song - it is a perfect song. The 6/8 opening riff is darkly ponderous and cunning and it obviously inspired many bands such as Opeth. Its gravity pulls the listener into a world of sorcery and sheer aesthetic metal beauty. My favorite riff on the album is in this song, starting at 3:22. It reminds me of the opening riff of "Into The Void" if it were being covered by a band of elder gods. Plodding, archaic, and triumphant, it eloquently sets the stage for the dreamy and neo-classical guitar solo, also my fave on the album.
Oh, and there's two other songs. They're pretty good, too.
1986 was one of the biggest years for heavy metal with many major releases such as Metallica's Master of Puppets and Slayer's Reign in Blood. These are albums that are recognised by every metal fan in the world whether they like them or not. While Candlemass' debut album isn't as well known as the aforementioned albums, it is no doubt it made a contribution to heavy metal as great as them for being one of the major influences in doom metal.
Epicus Doomicus Metallicus is a doom metal album that's dark, depressive, powerful, dynamic, heavy and of course, epic! These descriptions together makes this one hell of an album. All six tracks on this album are fantastic. They all stick out equally well and there are absolutely no fillers in sight. This is a challenge for any artist writing an album but Candlemass knew how many songs this album needed and gave each one their own characteristics while keeping their style intact all the way through. Six may not be a lot but it doesn't feel like there's a song or two missing in this album at all.
This was the only album to feature Johan Längqvist on vocals and it's a shame he left so soon. He has a very powerful voice and it's loud and clear. He shows a lot of energy and emotions all the way through. It makes you wish his metal career didn't end right there. Despite that, Messiah Marcolin is still a fantastic singer and did even better for the band later on. However, he doesn't sing the songs on Epicus Doomicus Metallicus as well as Johan did as shown on the live bonus disc included with the remastered version.
The guitars are another strong point to this album. The riffs are very heavy, dark and give out a depressive feel to go with this album. Solitude and Under the Oak and the intro to Black Stone Wielder are some badass riffs and even have a Black Sabbath vibe to them which makes perfect sense considering they are one of the major influences on Candlemass. The solos are also worth noting, especially Crystal Ball and Black Stone Wielder where they show some great emotions and make a great deal of the songs they belong to.
The bass performance by Leif Edling is fantastic. It's audible throughout and stands out as its own character in the music as well which is a sign of a strong bassist. His best performance is in Demons Gate where he gets an excellent spotlight halfway through. Alongside with the guitars, it is undeniable that it adds a great factor to the heaviness of this album.
The drums also do good with the album for the excellent rhythm to bang your head to these awesome songs. There's even some spotlights for the drumming, especially in A Sorcerer's Pledge where it's given a great chance to show a good beat with a reasonable tempo and to prove its worthiness for the whole album.
Each song knows how to make a great introduction, especially the acoustic depressive piece at the start of Solitude and the crushing riffs in Black Stone Wielder. The only intro that doesn't do as well is Demons Gate, You hear a demonic voice who talks about entering the demons gate which sounds rather odd. It would have made more sense if the voice was welcoming you rather than saying "I went into the demons gate". That aside, it's still an interesting introduction to the song.
The endings are slightly less notable than the intros but that doesn't mean they're not amazing. A Sorcerer's Pledge ends it all off with the spine-shivering female choir that is not only a great closure to the song but also a brilliant closure to the whole album making you think "Wow, what an album I just heard."
The last thing that comes to mind is the lyrics. Although this is coming from someone who focuses on lyrics the least in music, Candlemass do a good job at writing the lyrics to make the songs even more depressing, especially Solitude as well as telling an dark and epic story in Crystal Ball and A Sorcerer's Pledge. It may be cliché here and there but overall, it works very well with the atmosphere of the entire album.
In conclusion, Epicus Doomicus Metallicus is a masterpiece. Each and every song is epic, heavy and awesome and they're all equally recognisable to each other, thus making it a well balanced album. This is highly recommended to anyone who's a genuine metal fan whether your main interest is power, thrash, death or even traditional metal. If doom metal isn't really your cup of tea, it's still worth checking this album out. Who knows, this could spark your interest in doom metal because it's that good.
The titanic debut album from Candlemass is many things, the ultimate doom album being one of them. Almost perfect is another. To be honest I'm not sure what could really be better but I don't think there is a perfect album so I'll leave the score at 99.
This album while not the first doom album, see Sabbath for that, it is the single best example of the genre I've ever heard. Everything about it moans out a feeling of loss and final doom. Captured here are pondering riffs of epic heaviness and despair. The opening lyrics and notes of the first track, Solitude, capture the mood so well that a consistent feeling is created in the mind of the listener that never lets up until A Sorcerer’s Pledge ends. The end, oblivion, hell, whatever bad place you can think of this music takes you there.
The music is epic and intricate enough to give the listener a reason to dig into the songs. Fat Sabbath inspired riffing abounds mixed in with incredibly atmospheric keys. These aren’t fuzzy riffs like some doom bands use; these are tight and fit the epic doom sound Candlemass creates here. Speaking of the keys, the keyboards and synths don’t dominate the music as they can for some bands, they are there to enhance what the guitars and drums are doing instead of trying to be the main player in these songs which is just perfect. Tight and perfectly crafted solos highlight the emotion in the songs and never stay into mere wankery.
One thing that must be praised more is the drumming on this album. Matz Ekström puts on a clinic is the only way I can say it. This isn’t a crazy million miles an hour performance that so many shoot their loads over. These are the pondering drums of doom. Measured and perfectly crafted to enhance the feel of each song. Amazing fills and rolls abound along with incredible use of the double kick drums. Some drummers overplay music, some can’t keep up, and then you have albums like there were the drums are so perfect for the songs that you can’t imagine any other musician improving on them. The sound of the drums is near perfect as well. The kicks punch through and the rolls crack around the kit. The production on this album is very good all around. Not too slick and not too raw with every instrument exactly where it needed to be in the mix. The bass mix is excellent, you can hear it but it doesn’t overpower, it thickens and increases the heaviness of the music. Just very well done and just what these classic tunes need to realize their potential.
Now we get to my favorite aspect of this album, and the reason I find the rest of the band’s catalog pales next to this classic. Johan Lanquist. The emotion and sense of loss and despair he puts into his vocal performance is nearly unmatched in any genre of music. I cannot for the life of me understand the many fans who claim Messiah was the best singer for this band. These are the vocals of doom. Damn why couldn’t he have stayed with the band? Listening to the opening lines of Solitude and you wonder if this guy slit his wrists after recording this song there is so much emotion in the performance. His delivery of Demon’s Gate is a highlight as well. However a Sorcerer’s Pledge is his biggest highlight. An incredible opening line leads to incredible verses where you almost get the feeling that the singer is living this rather than just singing some fantasy lyrics.
Lyrically the album covers topics like death, despair, hell, wizardry, and the like. Fantasy sure, but so convincingly sang and written that they feel like the truth. I think I need to listen to Black Stone Wielder one more time. The story told in that song is a real example of lyrical artistry.
There is no reason you should not have this album. Even if you have never heard any doom metal before you must buy it. Anyone who loves Black Sabbath should buy this album. Hell anyone who appreciates good music should buy this album.
Stand out tracks – All
Weak tracks – Are you kidding me?
In the year 1986, a strange album was released from a band named Candlemass. On the cover you could see just the band’s name, the title and a spiked skull. This poor, depressive image pictures precisely the music content of Epicus Doomicus Metallicus, for Candlemass play slow, doom metal with clearly influenced by the masters of the kind, Black Sabbath, which of course the band never denied. The feelings that prevail here are sorrow and melancholy and its lyrics are dark and pessimistic.
The band is basically a trio and other musicians contribute as guests. Johan Lanquist, who has taken the vocals, surely doesn’t match the singing abilities of his successor, Mesiah Marcolin, a top doom vocalist. Although he does not possess this “operatic” tone in his voice, he is a remarkable singer with a personal style, since he has a special way of “mourning” on the tracks. Now, let’s see what this is all about.
In contrast to most metal albums, Epicus… does not begin with a fast, catchy song but with Solitude, the slowest song in here. It begins peacefully with acoustic guitar and vocals, but as soon as the Sabbathic electric guitar and drums enter, into an unbelievably heavy creation that keeps nailed to the end. The lyrics are extremely pessimistic; the disappointment and rage over life have death as the only salvation, which leads to eternal peace and eases the pain. It’s one of the best they have written and a great way to begin the album. Candlemass’ intentions are obvious.
The imposing intro of drums and distorted vocals gives its place to an amazing riff combined with mid-tempo drums, resulting to Demon’s Gate, an epic doom song, the perfect soundtrack of the descention to Hades. Lanquist’s vocals help the most for this mystical atmosphere.
“Visions and dreams you can see in the crystal ball”… As you can tell from those lyrics, Crystal Ball is the dreamy song of the album. The element of fantastic is also pictured in the music since this track is a bit closer to power metal style and doom elements are relatively fewer.
Black Stone Wielder is a song that refers to the three magicians of Christ’s birth. However, bassist Leif Edling, the main composer of Candlemass, gives his own version of the story making the song sound so dark. It also has a fast-tempo part, maybe the only one in the disc. Under The Oak is another masterpiece with many virtues. It is a melancholic metal hymn, an elegy offered for dreaming. Throughout the atmosphere of disappointment and despair you can surely notice the strength this composition possesses.
Candlemass have chosen to close the album with a truly magnificent song called The Sorcerer’s Pledge. It basically is a trilogy that starts with acoustic guitars. The second part enters suddenly turning it to a metallic thunder. Near the end it becomes quite atmospheric thanks to divine female vocals. Many power metal bands would be pleased if they had written A Sorcerer’s Pledge that carries you into a world of magic and fantasy with its epic/heroic element. The ideal epilogue for the album.
With Epicus Doomicus Metallicus, and the following Nightfall, Candlemass set the barriers for doom metal and many future doom metal bands were influenced by them. It is truly great.
Candlemass' debut album hit like a hammer, instilling sadness and wonder in many listeners. Candlemass grabbed the reins from Black Sabbath and inspired many doom metal bands to come. Upon starting the album you're greeted with a sad, down tuned rhythm paired with some small keyboard elements. Then almost instantly Johan hits, his mournful voice touching upon your deepest emotions. Candlemass was born.
The sound quality and production is one of my favorite parts of the album. The guitars crunch and churn forward with slow and mournful riffs (Solitude, Under the Oak) and in some cases almost a galloping frenzy (Black Stone Wielder, Sorcerer's Pledge.) and yet they always strike the same emotional chord. Each note sounds perfect, from the start of Solitude to the depressing end of the album. Leif's bass is one of the key parts in delivering this emotion. He keeps rhythm with the guitars, and almost sounds like one at times. The bass is turned up to 11 and it works. His carefully contrived and yet simplistic riffs and passages fill each song with despair as the guitars riff on.
While sound quality is pleasant to the ears, the lyrics are refreshing for the mind. Songs such as Solitude and Sorcerer's pledge concern men who are at their ends, wishing for a new time (In Pledge's case, literally.) or death. Crystal Ball touches upon humanity's greed and lust for wealth, at a cost. Under the Oak and Demons Gate touch upon the dark, unforgiving side of religious lure. Indeed Leif explores all his horizons on this album, from personal feelings to religious questioning to violence and greed. Unlike the albums successor there is never a feeling of hope. This is pure doom, and each song delivers it in its own way.
The voice of doom is Johan. His delivery here has some eerie, intense vocals. A Sorcerer's Pledge opens with an acoustic bombshell of emotion as Johan mourns a Wizard who failed. Or Solitude, where he is at his wits end while Under the Oak might be his best delivery. On the Bridge Johan cries and moans, recounting a lost love and the situation at hand matched with one of the best guitar melodies on the album. Near the end his screaming falsetto is out of place, but as frightening as doom can get.
This is pure, heavy, unforgiving doom at its best. Highly recommended.
Highly influential to many (including myself), Candlemass’s “Epicus Doomicus Metallicus” album is regarded as one of the greatest doom metal records ever, and rightfully so. This album pretty much spawned the epic doom metal genre, and influenced countless doom metal bands. Even though it has it’s fair share of flaws like any other album, what makes this release stand above the rest is the dark, gloomy atmosphere it creates. I haven’t listened to an album that exhibits an intense, gloom and doom feeling as this one did, besides a King Diamond or Mercyful Fate album.
The vocals are outstanding here. Although Candlemass’s most recognizable front man Messiah Marcolin is not on this album, vocalist Johan Lanquist’s performance is excellent. His voice has many similarities to Messiah, but Lanquist has a slightly deeper voice, not by much mind you, though it is apparent. Compare “Under the Oak” from this album, and then the remade version from “Tales of Creation”, and I’m sure you’ll be able to tell. Lanquist’s voice is quite melodic, and he can even hit the scarce high notes better than Messiah in my opinion. Lanquist’s voice really shines on the opening track “Solitude”, where you can hear the emotion in his voice. A definite highlight of the album!
The guitars are ok, but the session player on this album is no where near Lars Johansson. A few of the leads sound quickly thrown together, but no matter, there still alright to listen to. The riffs on this album, on the other hand, are fantastic! That’s what really makes up this album anyways; the dark and doomy riffs. That’s one of the perks about doom metal. The genre has some of the most basic riffs out there, but the riffs themselves are THAT good that it doesn’t matter if they are not played at 120 mph like 90% of thrash bands out there. The riffs are dark and gloomy, but at the same time melodic. Candlemass were always good at coming up with great, memorable riffs, and it shows on this album.
Leif Edlings bass is actually pretty audible, you can almost always hear it pounding in the background. He’s a really good bassist, and the lyrics he came up with are magnificent. The lyrics are well thought out, and really sets the tone for the whole album. Mainly the lyrics deal with death like in “Solitude”, but there are some fantasy themes thrown in their as well, which adds some variety.
The production of the album is quite good, even though there are some cracks in the sound at some times. The album was most likely made on a next to nothing budget, so that really doesn’t take anything away from the music. It also adds to the music a bit, as a doom metal album really shouldn’t have a crystal clear production anyways.
A landmark album in the epic doom metal genre, “Epicus Doomicus Metallicus” paved the way for other doom metal bands such as Solitude Aeturnus and Memory’s Garden. Even though I would rate their next album “Nightfall” just a bit higher than this one, you can’t miss out on this. Though you can’t really go wrong with any of Candlemass’s first 5 albums. Awesome vocals, doom and gloom riffs, pounding bass and well written lyrics make this album a must listen to any fan of doom metal. I HIGHLY recommend it!
I don't want to lightly hand out a 100% to an album, because no album I've heard is necessarily perfect. But this one, Epicus Doomicus Metallicus, Candlemass' debut full-length, is so fucking close I almost want to do just that...
But I can't. Not yet anyway. This may be the perfect metal album, but it may not. So I'll take the unconventional route and divide the album to parts using averages, etc. and coming up with a complicated rating system that only makes sense in my brain.
While I do this, I may as well tell you how I feel about the whole thing.
This is a crushing slab of Heavy Metal, the kind slowed to a crawl, and dropped on your head like the proverbial Acme Anvil. You will be left dumbfounded after this is through spinning, and the only way to release yourself from the addictive, cold grip of this masterpiece, is to drown it out with a better album.
Good luck finding one, I know I still haven't.
The thing with this album is not that it is the most technically evolved piece of music (it's not) or that it is the most diverse piece of music (it's not), but that the atmosphere is so solid that they may be playing only 3 notes per song (in some cases, that may very well hold true) and you wouldn't fucking notice. Because the notes would sing through your brain and find the deepest, most sensitive sectors of your imagination, and probe them into life.
Some of the tracks on here are so catchy (yes, catchy doom metal...) that I can't help but listen over and over. I've often found myself with Black Stone Wielder or Demon's Gate running through my head at all hours, until, once or twice a week, I have to spin this beauty of an album. It's really that addictive.
The vocals are soaring, powerful, and evocative of battle hymns mated with forlorn arias that drive the words home in a very unforgettable way. From the beginning of Solitude, Johann Lanqvist takes a place in your head as a unique vocalist, never matched (even by the more-recognized Messiah Marcolin, who's vocal stylings were more soaring, but lest emotional). In Demon's Gate, you hear the vocal howls becoming more and more possessed by emotion as the song moves further and further along into a crushing, maniacal climax. The man sounds like he's going mad, while keeping a steady tune. Black Stone Weilder has a wonderful, ghastly delivery, that lends to the atmosphere of desolation and decadence. He really lends all that he can to this album, throughout. Crystal Ball is full of frenzied variations that fit the scheme of the music perfectly, while Under the Oak tends to be more personal and less thematic (from a man who didn't even write the fucking song!) Sorcerer's Pledge is an amazingly dramatic Exeunt, leaving you wishing he'd made another record...
The dual guitar attacks carry a signature sound that would move on with the band from this point. Two different notes, played in harmony, the same riff, but different octaves. Seems to be the credo. And it works! To extraordinary effect, you can hear guitars turned into machines of pattern-weaving and emotion-spurring. You will be compelled by the plodding excess that leaves you little choice but to put yourself inside the music. Slow (Demon's Gate) Medium (Solitude) or Fast (Sorcerer's Pledge), the feeling of being surrounded is present nonetheless. Sometimes there will be an epic break into a long, drawn-out note, while a chorus / pre-chorus is playing (see Black Stone Wielder), which became another leitmotif of the Career of Candlemass for years to come (hey, if it ain't broke...)
The bass is simply a bass... There's nothing wrong with a bass-player who plays rhythm with the guitars, and this is definitely a working formula here, because despite it's follow-along nature, Lief Edling will not allow his bass to be a backup. Due to the genius mixing, the bass acts like a third guitar, completing the harmonies, while still applying pressure to the rhythm.
The drums? Fucking brilliant! Not fast, but not achingly slow, and they are always played with precision and decisiveness, including effective fills that compliment the riffage (see EPIC breaks, in Black Stone Wielder). Nothing wrong there.
Hey, lookit that! My brain is finished...
Oh, oh shit, I found a winner. Epicus Doomicus Metallicus, my first 100% review, and definitely worthy of it. You want crushing doom? Find it here, friends.
One of Sweden’s most influential bands, Candlemass are the fathers of the epic brand of doom metal that fuses the mystery and crushing tempos of doom metal with the magic and melody of power metal. Epicus Doomicus Metallicus (henceforth “EDM”) is their landmark debut, an album that while merely a stepping stone towards things to come for the genre as a whole, is nonetheless a complete and essential album for fans of any brand of heavy metal.
Though Candlemass certainly have a strong claim as one of the styles innovators, I do not agree with fans’ claim that they invented it. Even if you don’t consider Black Sabbath the style’s founding father (I do), many of the ideas on “EDM” can be found on Trouble’s Psalm 9 album, released a few years prior to this. What Candlemass have really done here is established a uniform reincarnation of the Sabbath sound that would become the base for pretty much every doom band to follow, from Solitude Aeturnus to Cathedral. The music is very heavy and very forlorn, maintaining an image of gloom for almost its entirely. Things never pick up above a crawl, yet they never drag either. Vocalist Johan Lanquist, predecessor to their long-time singer Messiah Marcolin, wields a mighty tenor that can roar into the stratosphere at any notice, altogether filling the space left by the minimalistic riffs with an air of mystique. The guitars themselves are used to create beautiful harmonies and well-crafted solos when they’re not toiling away at bleak, immersive rhythms during which the bass provides much of the melody. The drums are truly the backbone, never ceasing to give life to the dreary pace of the album (and adding to the funereal feeling). And all of this without ever bringing the pace up past a jog.
Due to the length of the songs, “EDM” feels more like a journey than an album, but it rewards those that take the time to listen. Few albums can cast a mood from the very first note and maintain it until the very last. Candlemass, in their drive to create the eeriest music possible, have certainly done it here. All six songs are classic (the even ones are my personal favorites) and the album on which they’re featured is as well. No other band would really be able to outdo this album’s mysticism until Symphony X arrived to pair similar lyrical themes with their new brand of power metal. Even if you don’t always understand precisely what they’re trying to say, the feeling the music gives you explains it all, elevating this album above your pedestrian pop metal records.
I’ve merely scratched the surface in my description of this album, so I highly recommend to the curious that they listen for themselves. Anybody sitting comfortably on the fence will surely lean in this album’s favor after having heard it.
So here is where doom metal really started to get great. Bands like Sabbath and Pentagram definitely had mastered one aspect of what makes doom metal great, in that they had the insanely heavy riffs played at a slow pace almost down to a science, but they had yet to master the second aspect. That aspect is the epic feeling that most great doom albums have. This is where Candlemass really succeeds on this record, and they combine that aspect with a foreboding feeling of gloom. This album is excellent and it really took the genre of doom metal a step further.
Every song on this album is great. All of them have an overwhelmingly epic mood to them. The riffs move at a crawling pace and overflow with excellent melody. They are typically quite simple when it comes to technicality, but they’re very complex in a songwriting sense. While the riffs aren’t the most impressive in the department of sheer skill, the solos show that the guitarists are very skillful and every one of the solos sound great. The choruses are very strong and powerful and they reach epic levels that most bands couldn’t reach with a 20 person choir singing behind them. Every one of them is extremely potent and exciting despite being as slow as a 300 pound child with Down syndrome. The drumming is very heavy and really good. Every snare hit and bass drum kick sound thunderous and provides great density to the music.
A lot of Candlemass’s greatness is rooted in the fact that Johan Lanquist is an excellent vocalist. He has a very forceful, deep singing voice that goes perfectly with the music. He had absolutely mastered the style in which he sings and he uses that style for most of the album, but at times he also shows that he is capable of hitting very high notes.
The title, and for that matter the genre, of this album suits it perfectly. While the album presents very epic instrumentation and singing, it counters it with a feeling of depression, despair, and doom. Every song presents an odd feeling of impending evil that envelopes the listener in intrigue, while the epic riffs and melodies provide something pleasing to hear to keep him/her listening. It is the perfect blend of atmosphere and substance.
As I have said, this album is excellent. Everything about it is great and it is not lacking in any aspect. All of the instruments are played very well and they all sound amazing. The vocalist has a near perfect voice and uses it well. The album is filled with epic music and songwriting, while the atmosphere suggests something much darker. This album is really spectacular and it is essential to any fan of doom metal.
An ominous, delicately-picked acoustic intro, supplemented by swelling church organs marks the start of Epicus Doomicus Metallicus, one of the more appropriately named albums ever to be committed to tape. Solitude is the song, and in many ways, this is Candlemass's signature song. The intro soon makes way for a truly monstrous riff, and Johan Lanquist's mighty tenor vocals. The slightly cliched nature of the lyrics: 'Earth to earth, ashes to ashes etc', ripped by many a metal band from the Anglican funeral service matter little when delivered with this much emotion and power, and with the spiralling lead lending a strange air of deautiful despondency to proceedings, Solitude turns full circle, concluding with a lone voice backed by an acoustic, imploring some form of higher power to 'Please let [him] die in solitude'.
The rest of the album is built around equally molten riffage, with Demon's Gate and Crystal Ball in particular revealing bounty indeed for those of us who live for the riff. Keyboards and clean guitars are sprinkled throughout the album, but never dominate the guitars and vocals, adding a real sense of tension through dynamics that all classic metal records should exhibit, but sadly few do these days.
Although held up by many as bastions of true doom, and not to say that there aren't doom moments to be found here, Candlemass have always emphasized the metal side of their personality above all else. Black Stone Wielder has it's relatively fast and chuggy moments, and A Sorceror's pledge could even be said to raise a gallop at times. There's also a strong neo-classical feel to much of the guitar work, with the counterpoint melodies of the latter half of Under The Oak providing one of the albums best musical passages.
Epicus is a great album for several reasons. Firstly, the songs are just so strong. Where so many albums strive unsuccessfully to create so much as a handful of memorable moments, Candlemass's debut burns song after song, melody after melody into your soul, from almost the first listen. Secondly, the tones of the guitars, and the overall sound and atmosphere create the indefinable arcane aura of true heavy metal that just can't be faked. Epicus... possesses a classicism that fits it straight into an impeccable metal lineage, starting at Sabbath, and proceeding through Pentagram and Cirith Ungol, to the present day standard bearers like Reverend Bizarre and Solitude Aeturnus. Yes there are some metal cliches at work here, and well-worn melodic patterns, but the overall effect is so spell-binding that you would swear that Candlemass did it first, and everyone else copied them.
Candlemass would go on to record another trio of very good albums, as well as a fine comeback record in 2005, but as a definitive encapsulation of their fundamental sound, Epicus Doomicus Metallicus is very hard to beat.
"I'm sitting here alone in darkness
waiting to be free,
Lonely and forlorn I'm crying
I long for my time to come
death means just life
Please let me die in solitude "
And so begins one of the pinnacle albums of the entire European doom scene, Epicus Doomicus Meticallus. Candlemass’ debut album truly set the bar for future albums in this genre and really paved the way for such bands as Cathedral, Paradise Lost, and Electric Wizard. Candlemass take what Black Sabbath were doing circa Heaven and Hell to the next logical step. Epic doesn’t even begin to describe what these Swedes were conducting on this album. Take the opening intro to the song “Solitude” I quoted at the beginning of this review. It begins with a deceptive acoustic guitar fiddling away as a voice akin to a lost soul calls out for his own death, immediately following this come the guitars crashing down. A truly monstrous riff is unleashed and they have reached limits previous unheard of in levels of heaviness. Heaviness that wouldn’t be topped until possibly Cathedral’s debut album.
The album truly never lets up. The follow up to “Solitude“, “Demon’s Gate” opens with a rather cheesy low frequency voice over almost as cheesy synthesizers, but after that part the guitars come ripping in and we have another doom classic on our hands. Demon’s Gate is over nine minutes of pure doom, with the basis of the song being the simple, but moving drum line that tends to plod along but erupts with double bass or quick drumming at various times. There song has an extremely lengthy instrumental break that stays true to the purpose of doom metal in the fact that it is heavy and relentless. “Crystal Ball” isn’t quite as good as the two previous tracks, perhaps because of a lack of a strong vocalist. Original vocalist Johan Lanquist lacks a strong set of pipes, especially when compared to Messiah Marcolin, the person who took over for him in the band. Lanquist tends to employ a kind of whine, when this sort of song requires something powerful and soaring because of the fact that the song is essentially vocal based. However, the music is still amazing and there is an almost thrash break around halfway through the song that is truly magnificent. “Black Stone Wielder” is a standout track with its pounding riff and propelling bass, however it lacks the variation that the previous tracks had with the exception of an absolutely lethal break about two-thirds into the song. The final two songs “Under the Oak” and “A Sorcerer’s Pledge” are pretty much just doom metal standards, but still solid in their own rights. They just don’t sound as groundbreaking as the opening few tracks are.
The sound on this album is slightly above average for a fairly underground band in 1986. The guitars could sound heavier, and the bass could definitely be given a boost as far as sound is concerned as well. The drums and vocals are both well-recorded though. If their was one thing they could have done production-wise it would be to up the bass and make it more prominent. It would certainly help as far as enhancing the heaviness of the album. Otherwise I have to commend the production talents at work here.
In conclusion, this album truly redefined what doom metal was. By taking the Sabbath blueprint and melding it with some underground metal sources (bits and pieces of Celtic Frost and Mercyful Fate certainly are apparent) they truly paved the way for the epic doom metal of the future. Get a hold of this album, you will not regret it. It is an important step in the evolution of doom metal, and is an excellent listen. It has hardly aged.
(This review is based on the 2003 remaster)
Candlemass’ debut album is, really, quite amazing. It does feel a bit empty at times, almost lacking atmosphere, though overall this is a solid release which, in the end, is worth the listen.
The first thing I’d like to point out is the drumming on this album. The snare drum, in particular, has a fine sound that really fits in well with the album. Listening to snare drums on some of my other favourite albums makes them sound inferior to the snare on Epicus Doomicus Metallicus. The drums, while not fast and intense (as is the style with doom metal), does have its moments where they shine and do just a little more than keep the beat.
The guitar and bass, unfortunately, sound a little thin on the album. The bass in particular is weak, and doesn’t do much for the music overall, which is a shame. On top of that, it is hardly heard, so that’s another disappointment. It is the lack of bass that really fails to create an outstanding atmosphere.
Focusing on the guitar now: the sound is great and the riffs are well-structured, however with the lack of bass and nonchalant drums for the most part, it is really the guitar that both holds the album together and makes it feel disappointingly… hollow, because that’s all there really seems to be in the album. Criticism aside, it is the tuning of the guitar and its fantastic sound which is what makes this album special.
The vocals are something you’ll either love or hate. Personally I find them to be outstanding, and they are very clean (something I enjoy a lot about this album), though for others it’s enough to turn them off the music. To quote a friend who didn’t like the vocals: “I feel embarrassed for the singer”. He says it sounds like the singer is trying too hard.
On to the songs – most of them are outstanding. The keyboards sound eerie on the tracks (and should probably be used more often), and there are a few lengthy songs which are probably the highlight of the album. The riffs are outstanding, the singing not too loud or soft, and the drums fairly consistent. Highlight tracks include “Demon’s gate” and “A sorcerer’s pledge”. And personally, I don’t find “Solitude” to be an outstanding doom song as many find it to be, though I guess it is just a matter of opinion.
In summary, Candlemass got it right with the guitar. They got the drum’s sound right, though didn’t use it wisely enough. And the bass is just disappointing. However, the bass is heard, and that is really the thing that matters most.
A highly recommended doom purchase, if you can overlook the small imperfections.
“…I saw the rainbow’s end. I am raptured I cannot pretend. I have found Atlantis…”
There’re very few bands that can do something as oxymoronic as invigorate doom metal. Frost does its portions with orchestral ambiance and lyrical genius. My Dying Bride and Celestial Season employ(ed) the moaning, dispiriting atmosphere of both/either electric or conventional violin. Trouble has the Christian angle. Candlemass, unlike those rightfully masterful bands, exploit no instrument originally alien to the metal realm and forgo 99.9% of all religious ideology. No tricks or gadgets. Like Breyer's ice cream, they do it with all natural ingredients: mesmerizing rhythms, grandiose structures, obscurely downtrodden vocals awakening words of story-form fantasy and abjection, and an aura…a mood that advances with the flow and weight of hardening magma.
Of course, the band’s history isn’t all one stage, but three made up of the pre and post Messiah Marcolin periods. Epicus… and the scarce Nemesis ep are the pre-era, a fickle and insecure time when the variable-member band had found its sound, yet were a few shades away from perfecting it. With Nemesis a few years under the bridge, Epicus…, despite its rawness, revolving door membership and gust of session musicians performing chores, is an epic, awe-inspiring shard of metal history whose place and importance can be refuted by few, and most of this hall of fame fortune is owed to mainman Leif Edling. Metal isn’t chock full of full-fledged brainchildren, a person who walked with a vision and worked it to glaring fruition, and on a fair list of ten or so, this Swedish bassist/lyricist rubs shoulders with anyone from Tom Warrior to Jon Zazula to evil Chuck (RIP).
“…scared I was with my hand on my cross, I went into the demons gate…”
For these six near-masterpieces of doom, Edling surrenders much of his vocal duties to session singer Johan Lanquist, a man whose uncomplicated and grievous style resembles that of the bassist’s but is a bit more pronounced with tighter control over his chords. No despair is lost, and at the start of the cumbersome “Solitude” the pair give the listener a forlorn duet that is an aural portrait to their similarity of style. An ode Edling wrote to himself, “Solitude” hides nothing, banishing all cheer to the local county fair and with a chorus like a funeral chant dwindles hope into grains of sand. Solos weep a similar path with the rhythm thanks to session stringer Klas Bergwall. “Demon’s Gate” with its epic length, grisly narration, and eruptions of twin bass-punished rhythms, is considered a Candlemass icon by many, and I’m not about to dispute that. “Crystal Ball” possesses an opening riff that flows with a maligned elegance, embellishing the lofty lyrics, yet stands opposite its chunky main tempo that stints with more pummeling double bass.
”…where is the morning? Where is the sun? A thousand years of midnight, the sunrise is gone…”
Side two finds another epic in “Black Stone Wielder”, a swelling tale of the ancestral passing of misused power that is told not only through words, but also through emotive movements of music that lie in the perpetual tread of the pace, the dynamic chorus, and then when the summation (starting with “…black stone wielder is born…”) of the story vitalizes the gait for a compelling finish. The eldest warhorse in the lp’s stable, “Under the Oak”, is another tale of anguish with not only some of the most somber of the album’s moments, but some of the most vehement, gripping notes in Lanquist’s repertoire. “A Sorcerer’s Pledge”, the third titan of the bunch, is introduced acoustically, almost ballad-like with Lanquist’s distressful recount of a wizard’s foolishly ambitious plan the main focus thus far. This transforms into a handful of earnest rhythms that keep the story’s tempo dramatic, and the most striking one for me is the one bridging the verses. A short impromptu keyboard interlude readies a finale that tapers exquisitely into a choir of angels.
“… and nothing remains of this foolish man except his fate…”
In addition to the vocals and solos, Mats Bjoerkman mans the rhythm guitar while stick-slammer Matz Ekstroem takes the seat of Anders Waltersson. But he who remains is the master. The master of the hunt for the perfect doom resonance that will come with omnipotent Nightfall. Comparing Epicus… with the following year’s endeavor is like comparing a groundhog to a muskrat. They look and sound very much alike until the muskrat starts doing the backstroke and the groundhog looks on in horror, and then the distinction becomes clear. In as many words, that is the impact one portly, monk-attired and frizzy-haired vocalist had on Candlemass’ future sound.
Engineered and co-produced by Ragne Walhquist of Heavy Load
“…earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust…”