Upon its release, Candlemass’ debut album, Epicus Doomicus Metallicus signified a turning point in the heavy metal landscape not only in Sweden, but as a whole. That album turns 30 today, and we celebrate not only its birthday, but the birth of epic doom metal as a whole. For the avid reader, both Daniel Akeroth’s Swedish Death Metal and Albert Mudrian’s Choosing Death mark this album as a major departure from the kind of heavy metal and hard rock made in Sweden at the time. In the same way that Bathory paved the way for Swedish death metal, Candlemass prepared the world for Swedish doom. A Sweden after Epicus Doomicus Metallicus produced Katatonia, Opeth, Draconian, Count Raven, Witchcraft, Ghost and more, all of whom bear some sonic debt to Candlemass.
Before? Um… Europe?
Candlemass laid the blueprint for so-called epic doom metal, a style that borrows from both early iterations of Black Sabbath: the extended, bluesy structure of the first 6 albums and the soaring vocal performances and unabashed metal-ness of the Dio-era.
Johan Langquist handled the vocal duties on this album having never heard a note of the band’s music before stepping into the studio, and did an excellent job with them. This would be the one and only album he performed with the band. As a matter of fact if Candlemass had it their way Langquist would have been their longtime vocalist. Much to the chagrin of the band he moved on, Messiah Marcolin joined and history was written.
Langquist is the less well-known Candlemass frontman, but nonetheless his highlights are all over the album. You’d be hard pressed to forget his contributions on “Solitude.” His emotive howl of “Please let me die in solitude” is a doom metal staple and one worthy of Candlemass’ grand sense of scope. When you’re in the world of Candlemass even minor laments are prolonged dirges. The haunting female vocals of Cille Svenson that close out the album on “A Sorceror’s Pledge” are stellar as well and serve as an excellent and uneasy transition back into everyday life.
Some of the largest riffs the band has ever recorded are contained within as well; the herculean intro to “Under The Oak” is not something to be provoked. Tony Iommi looms large over Candlemass and their debut is no exception. Create a catchy riff, layering it with operatic vocals and slowing it all down; a great and by today’s standards familiar structure. A perfect plod of a song is “Crystal Ball”–its slow riffs create a mystic atmosphere, allowing Langquist plenty of room to showcase his works. The listener finds themselves pulled back with a bridge of the song that could fit on Master of Reality, until guitarist Matte Bjorkman lets a great solo rip before this song reaches it’s coda.
The specter of death drives this slow and painful music forward, which left Candlemass to sell some records by album art alone at the time. They came up with the concept for this simple and excellent cover themselves: a skull pierced by a wooden crucifix. More than any individual song from the album, that image remains synonymous with Candlemass.
So if you fancy Solitude Aeturnus, Scald, Solstice, Crypt Sermon or any other of the forefathers of heavy metal; you owe it to yourself to become more familiar with Candlemass and this album is a great place to start.