06 July 2008

Album of the Week: Candlemass - Epicus Doomicus Metallicus (1986)

Epicus Doomicus Metallicus, dating from 1986, was the debut album from Candlemass. It is also one of the most important and influential albums in all of Doom Metal. It contains only six songs, but every one of these is a classic. Perhaps even moreso than the three other albums that Candlemass released in the 1980s, Epicus Doomicus Metallicus is slow and heavy, moving at the deliberate pace of a thunderstorm on an August afternoon. What really sets this album apart from the Candlemass curriculum vitae is the excellent performance given by vocalist Johan Längqvist; he croons with great passion and demonstrates impressive range, though he is most effective as a baritone (Längqvist's voice is, in fact, deeper than Messiah Marcolin's).

The album opens with "Solitude", a canonical Doom Metal track. Next is "Demons Gate", the longest song on the album, but perhaps also the heaviest. The third track is "Crystal Ball", which not only showcases Längqvist's vocal range but also features an almost Thrashy passage. "Black Stone Wielder" is next. It is for the most part a mid-tempo affair, though it features a suitably Doomy breakdown midway through the song. The excellent "Under the Oak" follows, my personal favorite. Closing out the album is "A Sorcerer's Pledge", a powerful and epic track (though still quite in keeping with the Doom Metal ethos).

It's difficult to determine which rendition of "Under the Oak" I like best--this one, or the later version from Tales of Creation. This earlier version definitely feels more like traditional Doom Metal, but though the later rendition is a bit faster, it is more powerful and evocative. Ultimately, it's too close to call.

Its historical significance aside, Epicus Doomicus Metallicus holds a special place in my heart. Back when I was still working as a Security Patrolman for the university, I used to listen to this album when I was out doing my rounds. As a result, this album always reminds me of cold, dark Autumn nights and empty hallways in old Tudor-Gothic buildings. "A Sorcerer's Pledge" in particular will always make me think about Thompson Hall, and the silhouette of its observatory tower against the purple night sky. I imagine that, in the future, this album will make me very nostalgic for my college days (along with Pink Floyd's The Wall, but that's a matter for another post).

Epicus Doomicus Metallicus is an essential classic of Doom Metal. I can't recommend it strongly enough.

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