Release House: Black Dragon Records
Genre: Doom Metal
One Sentence Synopsis: Debut album of doom metal pioneers, Candlemass
Release Date: 6-10-1986
Running Time: 43 Min
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Reviewed by: Reverend Leviathan
Final Score: 5.0 Moons (Out of 5.0)
Standing out from other European metal bands at the time with their fast-paced guitar riffs and high-pitched screams, Candlemass came onto the scene with slower riffs and operatic-style vocals. At the time of its recording and release, their debut album Epicus Doomicus Metallicus (Dog Latin for Epic Doom Metal) featured only three full-time members of the band: Leif Edling (bass), Mats Bjorkman (guitar) and Matz Ekstrom (drums). Johan Langquist performed as a guest vocalist despite not hearing any of the music performed by them, and would not reunite with Candlemass again until 2018 when he became their new permanent vocalist.
Due to initially poor album sales Candlemass was dropped from their label the same year of its release. Despite this, it has gone on to receive almost universal critical acclaim and is identified as being a cornerstone in the development of the doom metal subgenre. And though this is still debated among metal fans, to this day many claim Epicus Doomicus Metallicus is the inspiration behind the name “doom metal.”
Founding member and bassist Leif Edling wrote all of the songs, lyrics and arrangements. The first track “Solitude” (which Edling dedicated to himself) really sets the mood for the entire album. We open with some acoustic guitars and Johan with his operatic-style vocals singing about depression and thoughts of suicide (“Sitting here alone in darkness, waiting to be free, lonely and forlorn I’m crying I long for my time to come, death means just life, please let me die in solitude”). It’s pretty clear that Leif was probably going through a lot of emotional distress when he wrote this stuff.
“Demons Gate,” the longest song on the album at just over nine minutes (a trademark of all doom metal being long songs), continues with the dark mood but also pulls us into the mystical side of a lot of Leif’s lyrics, as it speaks of the horrors of death and Hell, with some really good slow guitar riffs and Johan’s low, baritone voice. It is definitely one of my favorites.
My other favorite tracks are “Black Stone Wielder” and “Under the Oak.” There’s a lot of mysticism and imagery in “Black Stone Wielder” (my favorite song on the album), with some really good guitar riffs and a memorable guitar solo. “Under the Oak” captures a lot of emotion, again with some of the best guitar riffs, and the slowed down, more acoustic sounding bridge of the song has Johan not holding anything back. The song was later rerecorded with Messiah for the album Tales of Creation.
Once I discovered my love for doom metal, it was inevitable that I would be led to Candlemass, and then my love for Candlemass led to adding their entire discography to my collection. Though Messiah is my preferred vocalist and I would rate their next album Nightfall over all of their other releases (which we will have a retro review for later), Epicus Doomicus Metallicus is where it all started, and it’s phenomenal considering the history behind it.
When you hear Johan it really makes sense why they went with Messiah as their vocalist, as their singing styles were extremely similar. His low baritone, operatic vocals are preferred to later vocalists of the band who sounded more like they came from the more typical, squealing hair bands of the time. And you can hear the emotion in his voice when he’s singing the darker, depressing lyrics. It’s pretty impressive too, considering that he hadn’t heard any of the music performed by them.
Leif Edling really put himself into this, as musically and lyrically it’s very powerful, and with a budget of only $1,800 they put out a well mixed and produced album, with all the right guest musicians. Some people say there is no Candlemass without Messiah Marcolin, but really there’s no Candlemass without Leif and his struggles with “hatred, bitterness, pain, depressions and hangovers,” as he attributes all of that to the creation of this album.
This is a must have for doom metal fans and metalhead collectors. I’ve yet to meet any Candlemass fans who don’t list this album among their favorite releases (aside from those who strictly listen to the Messiah Marcolin era). I would definitely recommend to fans of Black Sabbath and/or Trouble, as they were listed as a couple of the band’s greatest influences.
37 years after its release, Epicus Doomicus Metallicus has stood the test of time and proven itself to be a classic. It truly is “Epic Doom Metal,” and has been cited as inspiration by many bands. Grab a copy of metal history!
Theme: 5.0 Moons (out of 5.0)
Presentation: 5.0 Moons (out of 5.0)
Audience Fit: 5.0 Moons (out of 5.0)
Final Score (not an average): 5.0 Moons (out of 5.0)