Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Candlemass - Epicus Doomicus Metallicus (1986)

Ah, the first Candlemas album, before they took on the majesty of Messiah Marcolin and had instead Johan Langquist on vocals.

This album is very old, I was 9 when it was released. Disregarding the slightly silly title - silly it may be, but it certainly does describe this album and the pretty crummy cover - this is a damned fine album.

Candlemass were a Swedish band that formed in 1984 and I discovered in the Great Metal Revelation that was my teenage years. It may seem strange that the bands I would commonly claim as my favourites were Candlemass (admittedly, Marcolin-lead Candlemass, I discovered this CD later) and Helloween - two metal bands that may seem like polar opposites of one another. I believe Candlemass spoke to the angst-ridden, hormonely-tormented me - the me that luxuriated in feelings of misery and gloom.

I just looked up Candlemass on Wikipedia and discovered that for SIX WHOLE YEARS they had Robert Lowe as their vocalist. Robert Lowe*! The only band that can compete with Candlemass for melancholic emotion were Solitude Aeturnus. I MUST track down "King of the Grey Islands" and/or "Death Magic Doom".

Anyhow, back to this album - their very first:

With its slow and dramatic opening chords, we are immersed into the majesty of "Solitude" - a song that drips with melancholy and loneliness, a song that sings of death and the desire to be alone with it. Whilst not as elegant a vocalist as Messiah, Langquist's low voice is filled with the emotion and conveys the doomladen tone with suitable power.
"Hate is my only friend, Pain is my father. Torment is delight to me. Death is my sanctuary, I seek it with pleasure. Please let me die in solitude..."

"Demon's Gate" is suitably ominous, beginning with a rather creepy, almost demonic voice proclaiming the entry into this other realm of terror and darkness, before we are once again treated to Langquist's emotive vocal style. The bass and drums are slow but heavy, laden with doom. The tempo increases slightly, becoming more ominous as the song progresses and the vocals turn, at times, almost frenzied, before fading into a slower central beat, in which the drummer hammers away in a rather dramatic fashion. It attains an almost dirge-like quality, before the lyrics start again from the beginning, Langquist sounding somewhat more anxious.

Lyric sheet could do with a bit of a proof-read, however. Should it be "Demons Gate" or "Demon's Gate"?
Also, "...where it's darkness..."

We are pounded into "Crystal Ball," and experience once more Langquist switching from low and melancholic to shrill and frantic.

"Black Stone Wielder" is suitably pounding.

The brooding "Under the Oak" is a haunting piece. Langquist's voice soars over the instruments and tells us of a time when the world has died, and all that remains is he - a single man left after the Lord has swept away mankind. Certainly, Candlemass may have religious elements to their lyrics, but their God is anything but benign. 

The epic "A Sorcerer's Pledge" is probably my favourite song on this CD, and also displays that the sleeve-designers DO understand punctuation. It begins with low, ominous vocals, weaving the start of the story about the Sorcerer's desire to cheat time. Actually, reading the lyrics, they do not make a lot of sense. Anyhow, who cares, this is a song, not a novel! The slow build ends savagely as we soar into Part II, where the Sorcerer's evil schemes are revealed and his plans to rise and rule take hold. Part III describes the rather anti-climactic results of his plans. All in all, not a great plot, but an awesome song.

 The pacing of all these songs is slow and powerful, as befits the genre known as "doom metal", for which Candlemass were the GODS, drawing inspiration from Black Sabbath's darker moments. There are no additional instruments past the standard lead guitar, bass guitar, rhythm guitar and drums. This is basic, primeval metal. Dark and heavy, it reaches deep into your soul with its gloom-laden vocals and pounds in your viscera. It is not happy music, but it is not aggressive either. Not even depressing (although sometime of the lyrics are rather negative).

Rating = 7/10

However, now I've got distracted and am listening to Robert Lowe sing The Bleeding Baronness on youtube (no video, alas, it would be interesting to see how he has aged). Well, looking at him on wikipedia - much like the rest of us - larger, older, actually looks a little like Bill Bailey. Hrm...

* Not to be confused with the actor by the similar name, who is also rather lovely.

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