Candlemass – Epicus Doomicus Metallicus (1986)
I have a confession to make…
I was not always a fan of doom metal.
Before receiving this album as a Christmas gift, I was uninterested in doom metal, believing it to be just a rehash of things that Black Sabbath and Pentagram had already done.
You can guess what my attitude was after my first listen to Epicus Doomicus Metallicus.
From Aaron Stainthorpe’s (My Dying Bride) loving introduction in the liner notes, it should have been obvious this is an album that has the power to change minds. “We have a lot to thank the dark minds from Sweden for, and my hat is doffed to them,” he writes.
Mastermind Leif Edling also reminisces about the damp, underground studio where the album was recorded, the band members’ breath forming clouds, the rumble of the subway above them, and the drum set covered with chicken netting to dampen the sound. I pictured the members of Candlemass in a pitch black room, standing around a bright, flickering crystal ball as the only source of light, and mentally entered the room with them…
2. Demon’s Gate
3. Crystall Ball
4. Black Stone Wielder
5. Under the Oak
6. A Sorcerer’s Pledge
Unbeknownst to me at the time, the album opened with two of the greatest doom metal songs ever created: “Solitude” and “Demon’s Gate.” The twinkling guitars and twin harmonies that start off “Solitude” give way to a mighty riff and a mournful, anthemic chorus: “Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, and dust to dust.” It’s easy to hear how the song inspired a young Aaron Stainthorpe to start his own doom band.
“Demon’s Gate” tops even that, a 9-minute horror movie set to music that Leif considers to be his finest personal achievement. “Approach the eyeball!” goes the terrifyingly intense chorus.
By the time “Crystal Ball” started, I began to get the impression that something very special was happening. Candlemass was crafting a dark vision, and I was watching them at work: Johan the intense narrator, Klas providing the fine lead guitar work, and drummer Mat Ekstrom the unsung hero, hammering and rolling away to announce his presence despite the dampening effects of the drum netting.
“Black Stone Wielder” was a bit too low for Johan’s range, but he powers through it anyway, and his maniacal laughter in “A Sorcerer’s Pledge” reinforces to the listener that our narrator has just lost it. “It was the most magical moment on the album,” Leif writes in remembrance. “We all had collective goosebumps in the mixing booth.” It’s a powerful finish that has also been used to close many a Candlemass show, and the organ shines forth more intensely than on the other songs.
“Nowadays, ‘Epicus’ is routinely ranked as the greatest doom album of all time,” he writes in conclusion. “I feel very privileged to have been a part of such a landmark album!”
And on my end, more than 25 years later, it is a privilege to have had my mind changed by it.
Written by Matt P