Sunday, October 28, 2012

13 Days of Halloween, 13 Wicked Albums: Day 10

Epicus Doomicus Metallicus (1986)
When we're talking about metal, everything goes back to Black Sabbath. Power metal, thrash metal, death metal, black metal - whatever the subgenre, it owes its existence to the heavy, dark, and occasionally aggressive style basically pioneered by Ozzy, Tony, Geezer, and Bill. Yet if there is one genre that has really taken the most influence from the Sabbath sound, it would have to be doom metal. Doom rests on slow, often ominous riffs characteristic of such Sabbath songs as "Electric Funeral," "Into the Void," and, of course, "Black Sabbath."

After Ozzy and company paved the way, bands like Pentagram and Witchfinder General carried on the genre, but doom would not be refined much until Candlemass' 1986 debut. The album title, Epicus Doomicus Metallicus, gave the name to the new subgenre of epic doom metal. This is a take on the dark and heavy formula that revolves around long songs, operatic and choral vocals, and bears a fair amount of inspiration from classical music. The bluesy, rock 'n' roll side to some of the early doom bands, particularly Sabbath, is more or less absent from Epicus, where the atmosphere is purely one of sorrow, mystique, and evil. The opening line of the first track, "Solitude," says it all: I'm sitting here alone in darkness, waiting to be free...

From this debut, Candlemass created an impressively unique and powerful style for themselves, much as Sabbath did with their own debut back in 1970. Bassist Leif Edling is the mastermind to a lot of the band's music, but Mats Ekstrom re-imagines drumming in the doom genre by incorporating double bass kicks (very scarcely used before then), and guitarist Mats Bjorkman lays down some amazing guitar harmonies and crushing riffs. Interestingly, though, some of the other unique aspects of the album seem to have come about more out of luck. The vocalist on the record, Johan Langquist, is a classically trained singer who was hired for the session and did not return for subsequent Candlemass albums. On Epicus, he delivers haunting baritone vocals in an operatic style that became a major component of the epic doom genre. Guest guitarist Klas Bergwall also contributes leads that have a bit of a classical touch to them, further adding to the somber, antiquated feel of the music.

Lyrically, the debut deals almost entirely with fantasy and mythology, particularly the supernatural and occult. Wizards and sorcerers, fortune-tellers and demons, Epicus tells story after story in dramatic fashion, which certainly makes for great Halloween material. One could argue whether or not that qualifies it for being wicked, but once you listen to the indescribably epic and sinister "Demons Gate," you'll find that it alone earns this album a place of recognition. You won't find any odes to Satan on Candlemass' debut, yet you will find music that embraces darkness and doom in a different way. Candlemass is another one of my favorite bands, and Epicus is a masterpiece, in my opinion, so give it a try if you're looking for the mystical, elegant, and elaborate kind of wickedness while celebrating All Hallow's Eve.

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