Candlemass – Epicus Doomicus Metallicus (1986) Album Review

Boy, oh boy. Yesterday was a day when I had a mood to do nothing, just to hang around in my house, either listening to music or sleeping. There is a word where I live, more specifically for that kind of shitty weather where it is cloudy, it doesn’t rain but the sun won’t come out either, in other words, I kind of mood that encourages to stay at home, to sleep or to make children. Still I offered a pretty good insight of what After Forever was at the beginning of their splendid career, with probably the best album they released. I wanted to post some more yesterday because I had two days where shit interfered and I was left without time and mood to do another review. I will, probably soon, probably later, I won’t promise though all I can say is that it will happen…in the near future. Hopefully more delays won’t interfere ever again, but like I said, you never know when shit happens so you just better never promise anything, so that you might have an excuse.

How about we venture into the past a little bit? How about we explore a metal sub-genre that has not really been that often depicted in my reviews? Guess that everyone heard of doom metal through bands such as the classic three death/doom acts from the early 1990s like Paradise Lost, My Dying Bride and Anathema. I am in the same boat as you guys. I came in touch with this genre through My Dying Bride which out of all I consider them the best and the most constant, a band that did not change much in their playing style since their inception. Probably the only change they’ve made is that they completely erased the death metal elements from their later works. Paradise Lost on the other hand has probably one of the most relevant death/doom metal album ever made, Gothic released back in 1991, which also defined and coined a new genre. Why I consider them inferior? Is because of their playing style from the mid career the all too friendly synthpop/synthrock style that completely annoyed me, though I was delighted when they turned back to their roots approaching a kind of gothic doom metal style in the most recent works. Anathema is the biggest disappointment out of all. Though their first albums are classics for the death/doom metal genre, the change in their style has surely bothered many. It was probably a way too radical change and too sudden, changing from a rather underground and unconventional playing style to a rather accessible and way too simplistic atmospheric rock style. Not saying that their works that approached this genre are bad, but it was a waste, considering that they reached a cult status with their early works.

Never mind about these bands, we are going to review the first opus made by Candlemass, a band that has it’s rost from the early 80s and they still are alive, kicking ass even today with the same old doom metal style. But when we speak about about Candlemass, we speak about a band that pioneered the doom metal genre at its purest form. Candlemass was formed back in 1982 under the name Nemesis where they released several demo tapes before changing the bands name to Candlemass in 1984. They are considered original pioneers of the early doom metal genre, coining a sub-division of it with their 1986 album Epicus Doomicus Metallicus, the album that I will review today.

Doom metal is probably the first extreme metal genre. It was pinpointed firstly by early heavy metal pioneers Black Sabbath, more specifically, through the kind of riffs Tony Iommi experimented on the self-titled album. However, it would take more than a decade for this genre to really raise to the surface. The ones that did it for the first time were Candlemass alongside other acts like Saint Vitus, Witchfinder General (with their opus, Death Penalty released in 1982), Trouble and Pentagram. What we can immediately remark is that the US metal scene had much to say about the formation of the doom metal genre, 4 out of 5 of the earliest pioneers originating from the American continent. Candlemass is a Swedish band and unfortunately, one of the very few bands that approached this style from the Scandinavian countries. They inspired many, but not many bands from their own country.

Through this album, they pinpointed the name of a sub-division of doom metal, called epic doom metal. It differs from the original doom metal because it is heavily influenced by classical elements. The style of playing is not slow like in modern doom metal or in other sub-divisions, it is way more atmospheric and the vocals are clean, operatic, choral and the most important thing, it is not usually discarded by the instrumental or made to flow with it. It focuses a lot more on themes such as fantasy or mythology and the drumming style is rather bombastic.

The question is, why I believe that Candlemass’s opus is the best there is for this sub-division? Simple, it is well balanced, all the instruments used have a word to say, there isn’t a main act in which the focus should be placed upon, probably the only exception is the vocals, which has the biggest influence and it is complex through it’s simplicity. Hell, you can’t even feel that actually there guys play 2-3 notes that continuously repeat themselves (not like in drone doom, another doom metal sub-division) but it is so melodic and spectacular, that you barely notice this aspect. Can you believe that for this album Candlemass did not even have a permanent vocalist? Surely, they had a drummer, bassist and guitarist but the vocalist was actually a guest performer in the name of Johan Langquist, a man with an extraordinary voice. His vocals are so deep and atmospheric, it is hard to claim that the vocal act could be bad. It maintains a dose of melancholy but at the same time, it does not refrain from going to a higher pitched voice, something that is not specific to other doom metal acts from the 90s onward. For the first time I could call a doom metal album catchy, a characteristic that should be an antonym for every doom metal record.

The tracks are memorable because of the vocal performance and rarely by the instrumental performance. Like I said, the band no, rather the genre, does not require difficult and complex playing style. To achieve a doom metal playing style you need to play in a simplistic manner. The guys do make use of guitar solos throughout songs such as Black Stone Wielder or Crystal Ball. Another thing specific for a doom metal record is the length of the songs. Even though the record features only 6 tracks, they are all longer than 5 minutes some of them reaching 9 minutes, accumulating to a total of 43 minutes in just 6 fucking songs. The best track of this record in my opinion is Under The Oak. Holy mother of dark desires, I can’t get out of my head the guitar solo from the beginning of the song, it was absolutely stunning, not to mention Johan’s performance which is rather more personal in this song, hint offered by the lyrical content as well. I almost forgot about the lyrical content, an aspect crucial to every doom metal album, all of them might pinpoint themes such as mythology or fantasy, but they are not optimistic nor happy ones, rather sad ones and pessimistic ones.

Epicus Doomicus Metallicus stands at the top of my list of best doom metal albums ever made and Candlemass will remain for a long time one of the biggest influences for this genre. Even though this sub-division of this doom metal style does not have many bands that would make it proud, Candlemass is plenty enough, and this album shows it why. As long as Candlemass will exist, epicness will also exist in doom metal. If you want a different kind of doom metal, other than the one played by the 90s doom metal acts, then check out this Candlemass opus, you won’t be disappointed. If you are a fan of Black Sabbath, you will enjoy this album too, as it just continues what Tony Iommi already experimented in one of the best heavy/doom metal albums, Black Sabbath.

Overall Impression: 100/100