28 January 2008

Album of the Week: Candlemass - Tales of Creation (1989)

Sweden's Candlemass has the distinction of being recognized as the the progenitors of Doom Metal (second only, perhaps, to Black Sabbath). Candlemass released a series of solid albums in the late 80s, beginning with the renowned Epicus Doomicus Metallicus in 1986. Each successive album was an improvement over the last, a trend which would reach its apex with 1989's Tales of Creation, which was, ironically, a re-recording and reworking of the band's eponymous 1985 demo.

Tales of Creation is something of a concept album--often a dirty word when it comes to modern music--but its themes of judgment, loss, redemption and rebirth are well suited to Doom Metal, particularly the "epic traditional" style of Candlemass. Its journey is one through sorrow and despair, yet one which ultimately concludes on a note of unexpected hope and reconciliation. Our narrator, the last of mankind, must face his destiny as the one who will decide the ultimate fate of humanity.

Here is an album which is fantastic from beginning to end--there is hardly a weak moment or a bad song to be found. Certain songs, particularly "Under the Oak" and "The Edge of Heaven", stand out as being truly excellent (I have to admit that the former ranks among my favorite songs of all time). The melodies and riffs are as heavy as any to be found in the curriculum vitae of Black Sabbath or Saint Vitus, and are also quite moving; Messiah Marcolin's signature vocal work is an excellent compliment to the music, and further enhances the album's operatic flair.

When the album reaches its conclusion, the listener is left with the same sensation one gets upon finishing a great novel or watching a masterpiece of cinema. Tales of Creation is not just great Doom Metal or even great Metal; it is great music. Without reservation, I give it the most enthusiastic of recommendations.

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