Review Summary: An amazing album that remains an absolute classic and helped mark the beginning for Doom Metal.
Doom Metal has never really been my Metal genre of expertise. Now to think about it, I really don't have a Metal genre of expertise but I do know what type of Metal I truly enjoy listening to and Doom Metal bands usually are not ranked up there with the likes of Opeth and Dream Theater. That's what really shocks me as I sit down and write this review. Never in a million years did I expect myself to be taken completely aback by a classic Doom Metal band by the name of Candlemass. I had heard many things about these guys, but I figured they were just another overly hyped band that happened to pioneer a genre of Metal that I didn't really care for.
Now, For those of you who don't really know what Doom Metal is, let me explain. Doom Metal is a genre of Metal that focuses on slow, sludgy guitars and anguish filled vocals with somewhat depressing lyrics. This does not describe all Doom Metal bands, especially Candlemass, but this is what has become common in the Doom Metal genre. Much like beer, it is often an acquired taste.
So as I was flipping through the bargain bin at a local music store, I came across Epicus Doomicus Metallicus. The first thing that came to my mind was "Hey! I recognize this CD cover!." As I took a look at the back, I glanced at the extremely cheesy classic Metal photo that was branded on the backside of the CD. I got a quick chuckle out of that, but it didn't make me put it down. If anything, it actually made me a little more interested in checking it out. The album was selling for $2.99. I figured "Well, if it sucks, then at least I didn't lose too much." Besides, I'm always willing to give something new a go. However, little did I expect how much this album I just picked up for less than a Quarter Pounder combo at McDonald's would impact me.
As soon as I got home, I took the CD out of its unnecessary protective seal (I mean, for goodness sake! The CD was already used!) and popped it into to my laptop. As soon as the first song "Solitude" began, I knew I was in for a treat. The song begins with an acoustic guitar playing a simple but affective melody. As soon as I began to get into the mellow acoustic intro, the singer came in and accompanied the guitarist wonderfully. It all sounded so great and then the music hits a pause. At this point, the band proved to me why they were the pioneers of the Doom Metal genre. The slow sludgy guitars come in and the song truly began to start. "Solitude" is an absolutely amazing song and really sets the stage for the whole album. I was actually expecting somewhat poor production value, but everything came through crystal clear.
Now, what I really loved about this album was that it didn't sound like most of the Doom Metal I have heard. Sure, some of the riffs are slow, but that in itself does not make Doom Metal. I was really expecting whiny and depressing vocals, but what I got was much different. The lead singer, Johan Längqvist, is absolutely amazing. He doesn't over do the high notes, but he can still hit them perfectly and his normal singing tone is nothing short of brilliant. His vocals really fit the band. Its honestly a shame they lost him, because, in my opinion, he was one of the best singers for Candlemass. However, his vocals played a major role in setting this band apart from so many others at that time and pioneering Epic Doom Metal, a genre of Doom Metal that focuses more on operatic vocals and mythological lyrical influences.
While Candlemass had an exceptional lead singer, the instruments in this band also steal the show. Yes, of course you have the trademark slow guitar riffs, but there is something that this band has that I don't hear in many other Doom Metal bands and that is an actual driving progression. These guys don't lag behind or simply drone, many of the songs on Epicus Doomicus Metallicus almost have a fist-pumping beat about some of them. For instance, the verse in Demon's Gate is driven in some parts by double bass, and the slow tempo of the song resembles Groove Metal. This is what I mean about the band sounding different from most Doom Metal I've heard. The guitarists here are definitely very good at their instruments, just check out the solo's in "Solitude" and "Under The Oak" for proof. However, every instrument played on this album is played greatly. I especially didn't expect to hear any double bass on this album, but it's definitely here and used perfectly in places.
While the band does sound much different from most generic Doom Metal I have heard, there are still many traces of Doom Metal here. Many of the songs sound foreboding, but they never really get to the point of being depressing like a lot of the Doom Metal I have heard. There is always something being added to the songs to add flavor, such as acoustic guitar sections, keyboards and, on the final track, a female vocalist. In many ways I almost want to label these guys as Progressive Doom Metal because of the long songs and influence of other styles. However, Candlemass still manage to stay to one side of the spectrum and create their own original sound.
Honestly, I am quite impressed with this album. Every song here is well done and I still remain intrigued by this album. I can certainly now say I am a fan of Candlemass and their form of Doom Metal. This album is absolutely a classic, not just because it is an amazing album, but because it marked a change in Metal and the formation of a new genre of Metal that would open the doors for many modern bands like Swallow The Sun, Sun O))) and Paradise Lost. I am now a more open minded person to Doom Metal after listening to this album, even if it is quite different from most I have heard. Not many albums have an impact on me in this sort of way, but Candlemass has managed to do that, and all for a measly $2.99!