Candlemass - Epicus Doomicus Metallicus
Black Dragon
Epic Doom Metal
6 songs (43 Mins)
Release year: 1986
Reviewed by Dee

It takes a bold statement to establish a new genre.

Candlemass came to be in 1984, assembled by bassist (and original vocalist) Leif Edling, the only anchor in an otherwise turbulent line-up. Johan Lanquist was secured as a session vocalist for the recording of Epicus - Messiah Marcolin, that legendary ravenous demon, had yet to audition.

From the moment you lay eyes on upon the cover (simply a skull impaled upon a cross in black and white) you know that the band were aware that they had something iconic on their hands. This stark visual approach compliments the music, where hardly a note is wasted and each song contributes to the overall theme of pain, betrayal and yes, solitude.

A modest acoustic introduction welcomes Johan Lanquist's sorrowful yet powerful voice, double tracked with one line sung an octave higher than the other to suggest he's a man possessed. "Solitude" is both the song's title and the secret keyword here, and once it has been sung the first of Leif's many genius riffs takes over, and it is all-encompassing. The guitar line sucks all the air out of the room, and as the drums merely propel it along that leaves nothing else upon which to focus. This may be lost on the modern listener, but twenty years ago there couldn't possibly have been anything heavier. Even today, "Solitude" is almost spiritual, a baptism in tears of sorrow, and the reclaimed lyric, "Earth to earth, ashes to ashes and dust to dust" along with the frequent reference to the protagonist's father increase the intensity of the religious theme.

Five more anthems are hewn from this seam, but there is variety among them; "Demon's Gate" features more exciting percussion as the drummer is now freed from the reins of Solitude's riff, and he double-pedals and inserts frequent fills, even performing a Neil Peart-style epic tom roll to this reviewer's delight. The tension relaxes over the course of the nine minute "Demon's Gate", but "Crystal Ball" reintroduces an oppressive sadness thanks to its agitated, high-pressure riff. Further into the song, a familiar thrash motif is slowed down and works just as well as doom. Listen; you'll see. This song also introduces the trademark classical, melodic solo style which has defined Candlemass over the years; an electric wail that slides seamlessly between minor chord changes, stylishly performed but always centred around a mournful theme.

"Black Stone Wielder" is peculiar as it opens with a mischievious muted riff in 3/4 that is reminiscent of several classical pieces, and then drops down into a haunting progression of fifths and THEN returns with two more riffs in 4/4 even before Johan has sung a note. This is perhaps the most important piece on the album, as it is an obvious blueprint for their future material, containing themes which promise to blossom into "Samarithan", "Mirror Mirror" and many more songs besides.

"Under the Oak" opens with a menacing, true metal riff which develops into a short but exuberant hard rock solo, but the real power of this song is Johan Linquist's tortured voice, managing to sound arrogant early on but his bravado slowly slips, and by the third minute he has descending into abject misery and ultimately anger, no longer lamenting those he has lost, simply screaming his disatisfaction with his fate at the gods. The chorus returns at exactly the right moment, in the perfect way. It can move one to tears.

"A Sorceror's Pledge" mimics "Solitude" as it opens with a simple acoustic piece, although the singer wastes no time in voicing his despair; in this case his fear of what will occur once a sorceror's thousand year sleep is over, although the answer is simple: RIFFS. This is the most powerful and traditionally metal song of the six, containing riffs which could be considered hyper-active for doom but which Leif hammers perfectly into place. This song can also be considered the first epic doom metal song with a classical structure rather than a traditional verse-chorus progression.

All things considered, Leif Edling is a genius, and maybe the father of modern doom metal.

It occurs to me that I haven't quite impressed the emotional trauma that this album can inflict upon the reader. Epicus Doomicus Metallicus is not simply dark, nor gothic, nor does it smother one into oblivion. It is more powerful still; it dredges up the listener's saddest memories and sings them back more slowly and agonizingly, forcing you to confront those ancient fears. It is not sombre but openly woeful, and if you are receptive it can make you cry away all of your tears. If not, it can also make you headbang quite masterfully.

You'll notice I have made little comparison between Candlemass and other bands, simply because they stand on their own like gods. If so, this is the bible. Epicus Doomicus Metallicus' twentieth anniversary is in June; make sure you already have it by then.

Killing Songs :
Each is a classic; Solitude doubly so.
Dee quoted CLASSIC
Other albums by Candlemass that we have reviewed:
Candlemass - The Door to Doom reviewed by Andy and quoted 79 / 100
Candlemass - Death Thy Lover (EP) reviewed by Goat and quoted no quote
Candlemass - Psalms For The Dead reviewed by Goat and quoted 90 / 100
Candlemass - Ancient Dreams reviewed by Goat and quoted CLASSIC
Candlemass - Nightfall reviewed by Kyle and quoted CLASSIC
To see all 10 reviews click here
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