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Alluring and Engaging - 88%

ReleaseTheBears, February 2nd, 2019

Sitting here on the Christian holiday of Candlemas, listening to Ancient Dreams, surrounded by lit candles, and drinking the Iron Maiden beer Hallowed: I am feeling pretty in the zone. So I think a review for my favourite Candlemass album is in order.

What is it that makes me prefer this album over the monstrously regarded Epicus Doomicus Metalus and Nightfall? I think it comes down to consistent hooks. While Epicus undoubtedly starts out with probably the greatest song that Candlemass ever wrote, and the rest of the album is excellent, I find that my attention can start to wander at times. Even more damning for Nightfall, is that I find myself rather bored throughout most of the album, with the notable exception of "At The Gallow's End". But there's something about the tracks on Ancient Dreams that keep me allured and engaged throughout the entire runtime.

"Mirror Mirror", while not immediately recognizeable as similar to "Crystal Ball" on Epicus, gives me that same feel, only better. In some ways it sounds like a cliche, "oh, the metal band singing about a magic mirror" but dayum, they do it well. Marcolin's voice really elevates the topic of the mirror to another plane. And "A Cry From The Crypt", holy hell, this might be my favourite Candlemass riff. It literally sounds like a corpse is slowly creeping its way out of the crypt towards you. Ditto for the other riffs too, in that many of them seem to embody the action/vibe of what the song is about.

Yes, it's definitely the riffs that make this album stand out to me. Marcolin's operatic voice is amazing, but it's also amazing on Nightfall and Tales Of Creation, so that can't be what elevates this above the others, although it's still an integral part of what makes this outstanding. Most of the lyrics seem to be inspired by Biblical stories, which certainly suits the origin of the band name, and fits the epic sound well.

The musicianship is solid, and the songwriting is gold. Slow parts that resemble "Children Of The Grave" type Black Sabbath, with sporadic bursts of speed bordering on thrash, not too different from early Trouble. Lots of the rhythm guitar tends to be slow and is played with lots of staccato, which gives it a kind of doomy trot, as though a dark figure is slowing shuffling along a castle corridor. Funny enough, the only thing that doesn't work too well on here is the Black Sabbath medley. Not that it's bad, but it belongs on a bonus disc, not tacked onto the end of the album.

All in all I don't have too much more to say about this album, except that it's great! If you already know what early Candlemass sounds like, but you haven't heard this album, you will most certainly enjoy it. It has that same galloping, pounding, epic doomy trot to it that complements the operatic vocals so well on all their albums. And if you haven't heard any Candlemass yet, here wouldn't be a bad place to start. Heck, any of their first four albums would be a splendid start. Even Nightfall is a good album, I just descend into an illogical boredom with it most of the time. But I always remain engaged during this beauty!