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Pretty Goddamn Good. - 85%

Jackie, March 8th, 2004

For people into metal, it’s normal for certain bands to pop into your head when you hear the “Doom Metal.” The first band is usually Black Sabbath, and for the sake of this review, I hope the second band that jumps into your head is Candlemass.

For those (unfortunate) few not familiar with Candlemass, they are a five piece band from Sweden characterized by their thick sludgy epic sound and their insane borderline operatic vocalist.

Some people would say that Candlemass founded their very own genre within a genre, most often referred to as “Epic Power Doom.” Their third full length release, titled Ancient Dreams found them moving further into this genre by establishing more of a stronghold within the doom community.

Not as impressive as their previous album Nightfall, this is still a very strong album
most fans of doom probably aren’t as familiar with Ancient Dreams as they might be with Epicus Doomicus Metallicus, their first full length released in 1986.

All of the elements that fans of doom have come to expect from Candlemass are of course present in this 1988 release. You have the slow crawling to mid-paced tempo, the sweeping arcs of melody laden riffs arranged beautifully to create a very epic appeal to the presentation of the album and a man with the voice needed to get the powerful words and emotions across.

Messiah Marcolin is the name belonging to the voice on this album. With a unique timbre and style of singing, Messiah’s vocal power rivals that of an opera singer. With his incredible range and strong vibrato, he is the epitome of what most power metal vocalists strive to be. While annoying to some, I find that his voice adds something to this album that would be lacking with any other vocalist. “Epistle No. 81” is a perfect example of how versatile his voice really is. The music in this song is what you would expect from Candlemass: dark and somber with excellent deep-pitched vocals in the appropriate places.

Even though this album is pure doom, it excels in variety. Not only do they play in slow motion, most songs are peppered with faster passages as well, and there are also gothic melodic passages as well, if only to keep the listener’s attention, which is fine. Not that they need to do that here. If the music isn’t enough to keep your attention, bassist and chief songwriter Leif Edling has added lyrics that definitely capture the imagination and ears of those listening. The stories of demons, death, darkness and despair should appeal to all fans of the band.

Lead guitarist Lars Johansson is a wonderful soloist and he isn’t afraid to use a variety of techniques in his playing. You get a combination of sludgy slow Sabbath-type riffs and dark melodies delivered with less low end and more beautiful haunting melodies than one might expect from a band in this genre.

To demonstrate the wide variety on this album, you should listen to “Mirror Mirror” and “Bearer of Pain” which are two of the thrashier songs on this album while songs like “Incarnation of Evil” is more slow and plodding.

Ancient Dreams is an album highlighted by memorable choruses, dark melodies and epic compositions all in the seven minute range. While most fans of Candlemass would rate this below Nightfall and Epicus, I have to rate this higher than both. I feel that the vocal arrangements on this album are far more emotional than the two albums before it. This is definitely essential ‘80s metal, especially for those with a soft spot for bands like Solitude Aeturnus and later My Dying Bride.

Also, as an added bonus, there is a wonderful Black Sabbath medley. A little something for everyone, I guess.

All in all, this is definitely a masterpiece of doom. If you’re into doom at all, you’ll be into this album.