Nemesis was never a great band. We were ok some days, crap others. But we rehearsed often, had so much fun, with a burning ambition to do better...Leif Edling, guitarist and vocalist, was 21 at the time of this album's original release, and he later went on to form Candlemass, one of the most epic and inspiration doom bands ever to step out of Scandinavia. Nemesis was not his first band, but it was the first that released an actual album (an EP). There were 2000 copies pressed originally, about half of which sold and the young, naive band never signed a contract and thus got a bit royally screwed when their record label went bust. After the release of this EP and the legal issues, and the fact they couldn't get another vocalist or a reliable second guitarist, AND a company called NEMESIS were going to sue us if they didn't change the name... Well, the band split and from the ashes, Candlemass was born.
The cover is pink. Edling hates this. He thinks the warrior woman on a horse looks like the scribblings of a 5 year old. This is the second time the album has been re-released and it still features that cover! I kinda like it - the warrior on the horse is abstract, indicated more with smudges of ink than actual lineart. And the CD is inside a nice slipcase with the same image on it. Inside the sleeve is Edling's little rant. It's rather self-deprecating, and quite amusing. That's where I got most of the above information from.
Edling likes this particular re-release - even if it does come with the original pink cover! There's some old photos (so young!) and a bunch of bonus demos - so let's give it a spin, shall we?
"Black Messiah"* has achingly slow drums. Leif's voice is powerful, echoing and deep, ending in a snarl. Rather like a devil, or fallen angel. This is the only album he sings on, even the early Candlemass album has a different vocalist. Deep, slow beats, ponderous rifts. It is raw and sludgy, like something rising from the darkest pits.
Faster, filled with raw savagery, "In God We Trust" makes an effort at catchy choral melodies but does not quite suceed. Does have an interesting, slower bit, giving Edling a change to demonstrate his ability to do doom-esque vocals.
"Theme of the Guardians" is likewise slow and sludgy, ponderous and filled with haunting doom. The vocals are almost drowned out by the thunderous stormcloud wall of the guitars. Still, it chimes through every now and then, like the tolling of a heavy bell.
We pick up the pace a teeny tiny step, for "The King is Dead". It is dramatic, Edling's voice a chameleon, turning one minute from low, deep and bordering on melodic, to a savage snarl.
The final on the EP - "Goodnight" was an Angelwitch rip-off and not supposed to be on the album at all - but it's one of my favourites. Edling's voice rises from the sludgy mix of guitars and drums, a haunting, fallen angel. It actually reminds me of early King Diamond.
Now we're into the bonus demos, from 1983 - including all of the above, except "goodnight".
The first "In God We Trust" is very raw. The drums sounding not unlike someone thumping on skins way off in the distance. The guitars are a sludgy wall, over which Edling's voice soars and swoops, sounding slightly fuzzy around the edges. It truly makes you appreciate how much mixing and polishing goes into creating the sound that gets to the pressing. It does, however, make the lyrics easier to hear.
"Theme of the Guardians" seems to have greater clarity of sound. Again, the vocals dominate the mix - a nice change from the earlier tracks in which they kept getting bogged in the sludge. Lyrics still indeciperable, except for the occasional word here and there.
This version of "Black Messiah" is pretty good. Edling's voice is strong, although at times sounds a little strained and painful (for him, not me).
And in this version of "The King is Dead" I can actually decipher the lyrics:
"And the prophet said 'The king is dead, but where did he go?Ah, literary references.
To serve in heaven? To rule in hell?'"
The mix seems stronger, more polished here, or perhaps I'm getting used to the sludgeness. It truly makes you appreciate the clarity of sound you get in modern recording studios. Then again, the sludge can be half the charm.
And keeping in the whole medieaval theme - let's "Burn the Witch". I can almost see the circling villagers, flaming torches and pitchforks in hand, chanting along with the chorus.
"Burn the witch, burn her down; burn her down to the ground..."How do you burn a witch to the ground?
Churning, thrashing: "The Act" is fast and frantic. I *think* it's about either attending a metal concert or performing one. Drums are a bit tinny. Actually, listening closer - I think it might be about sex.
Edling is not actually a bad vocalist, comparable with Johann Lundvist from Epicus Doomicus Metallicus. I suspect he is largely let down by the mix, which has all the sludge and garage sound typical of the early 80s. This is a ponderous, doom-laden and, at times, quite vicious album.
My ranking is 6/10.
* This was recorded by Candlemass under the name "Incarnation of Evil" (on Ancient Dreams), if you wish to compare the two vocalists.