Candlemass – Epicus Doomicus Metallicus (Review)

The 1986 debut record of Sweden’s Candlemass casts the kind of pure Heavy Metal spell you’d expect to find scrawled in some dusty old grimoire found in a subterranean chamber. As well as giving the Doom Metal genre its name, the album’s title also describes its contents perfectly. Six ancient tales of myth, legend and tragedy told through Metal of portentous and quaking heaviness.

On Epicus… bassist and songwriter, Leif Edling, offers up a treasure-trove of timeless riffs, all heftily delivered by rhythm guitarist Mats “Mappe” Bjorkman, from the snaky, neoclassical riffs in Demons Gate and Crystal Ball, to the windswept bludgeon that opens Black Stone Wielder and the Am I Evil-esque riff that fires up Under the Oak. In addition to the lumbering guitars, the album’s acoustic passages and doleful harmonies add a bleak, gothic atmosphere.

Vocalist Johan Längqvist’s baritone is sincerely and chillingly emotive: anguished in funereal opener Solitude and channelling some arcane evil in Crystal Ball. He tells all of Epicus’ tales with theatrical flair and melodrama. Lead guitarist Klas Bergwall provides chinks of light and a very European flavour with his lyrical, neo-classical leads and drummer Matz Ekström proves to be the album’s secret weapon, filling the gaps between snail-paced chords with massive fills that sound like the raging elements.

It’s surprising, considering the musical chemistry and cohesiveness, that Candlemass wasn’t really a band at this point. They had been signed to France’s Black Dragon label on the strength of Edling, Bjorkman and Ekström’s demos. Längqvist and Bergwall were hurriedly drafted in for the album’s recording sessions but were uninterested in joining the band on a more permanent basis and after the recording finished, Ekström left the band too. Despite a positive critical reception, Epicus… sold poorly but the next line-up of Candlemass would record another masterpiece that helped boost the reputation of the band, sending many back to the debut.

The legend of Epicus… would grow in stature over time, becoming a mainstay of best-album polls and increasingly cited as an important influence by other bands. While forever associated with its titular sub-genre, it’s a timeless, magical classic for Metal fans of all stripes and still casts a powerful spell to this day.

56 thoughts on “Candlemass – Epicus Doomicus Metallicus (Review)”

  1. I had heard of Candlemass vaguely but never followed up to learn more, mistakenly thinking them early black metal, which tends not to be my thing. As a result of your excellent review/post and a listen to the sweet embedded song, coupled with my already being a fan of the Doom genre, I am ordering this CD immediately.

    So, a sale within the first hour; you may want to demand double commission for this one.


      1. While it took a while — (I’m clearly not especially fast off the blocks) — I did finally order and just received Nightfall. Awesome! (Messiah!). Just wanted you to know your advocacy has staying power.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Thanks! That’s great. Nightfall and Epicus are the two Candlemass must haves as far as I’m concerned. Lief Edling’s new band Avatarium are well worth checking out if you haven’t already. Their debut album is fantastic.


      1. This one and Nightfall are the best studio albums to buy first. I think you’d like their self-titled one that came out when they reunited with Messiah too. They haven’t brought any real stinkers out but those are the best ones to start off with IMHHMOO.


      1. To that point I have been asking everyone I know to name the biggest bands of all-time since the 60s. Not a lot of Americans high on that list…Europe even Canada kick ass…


      2. Beatles, Stones, Zeppelin, U2, AC/DC, Sabbath, Priest, Scorpions, Rush, Police, Who, Pink Floyd,
        Maiden,..obviously a couple non-European, but not American. For American bands it is Metallica, VH, Aerosmith….then a huge falloff to Boston, the Cars, Journey. Of course that’s my circle…what you think?


      3. It’s an interesting one. I’d say the majority of the acts I like are European but I’m still fairly surprised that the US would come so far behind when it comes to providing the massive bands. For the US contingent I’d throw in KISS, Guns N’ Roses, Bruce Springsteen, The Eagles, Bob Dylan, Michael Jackson… not all artists I like but definitely hugely popular worldwide. Maybe even ZZ Top?

        But for my personal listening I’d definitely agree there is more of a European bias. Not on purpose, it’s just worked out that way! I do live here, after all!

        But it’s an interesting topic! I wonder if any one else out there has any thoughts?


      4. That’s some good ones. I agree about some of the solo artists i was thinking bands. GnR is undoubtedly big in all parts over the world except my brain. KISS, ZZTop, Eagles, Bon Jovi…to me don’t have supergroup status. But everyone has their own opinions. I know I think about music having studied composition and lean towards that criteria.


      5. Ah, I thought we were talking in terms of commercial success. Do you mean in terms of people saying “they’re my favourite band”? In that case, I’d put KISS in there for sure along with VH but I’d mostly be leaning towards European bands. There’s still plenty of US bands I’d rate highly even if they’re not commercially massive. As far as modern-Metal goes Europe has the edge I think.


      6. I just make the rules as I go. lol You could go commercially but Beieber has probably made more money than Led Zeppelin or some outlier facts with strictly money. Plus everyone has their favorites they like to mention which makes the topic fun. This is a topic that has been bugging me lately. I think I will do a poll!!!


      7. You should! It’s just funny you bringing it up cause I’ve been pondering it lately myself. If you look at the stuff I’ve been buying this year, there’s less of it from the States than I would have thought. It hadn’t really occurred to me before!


      8. Wahoo PARTY CANNON! Dude, if you ever see a CD of theirs in the shoppes, you gotta buy it. If you don’t want it, I’ll take it! I played it on their web site (a song called Duct-Taped To A Flagpole) and it was glorious.

        Another thought that occurs to me, further to your discussion, is that it’s interesting to me that all of the bands you’ve listed so far, at the latest, started in the 80s. Many of them before that. I understand the criteria as being “since the 60s.” So, is duration of a career an important part of making a band one of the World’s Biggest? I mean, time to build a discography, fan-base, record sales, etc? Or is there just no one in the last 5 or 10 years who’ve really lit the world’s as on fire? I’m not talking 5-years-maybe flashes like Bieber or any other future burnouts. I mean bands built to last. I’ve been trying to think… There’s nobody? That’s… sorta sad…

        Also, while we’re giving shout-outs:

        Canada Represent! TRAGICALLY HIIIIIIP!! WOOOO!!


      9. Concur there’s no comparison to Zep! Issacandsophie, I would say if you ask a 15 year old kid he is gonna give you some old and obviously some new….it’s so subjective. You got age/gender/socio economic and pure favorites i am sure in play.I am gonna come up with a poll to see what I can see……viva Canada!


      10. I think the fact that there aren’t many newer bands becoming successful says more about the state of the industry and the mass audiences that would rather go and see a “brand name” band while not caring who is actually in the lineup.


      11. I agree the industry seems to be a mess these days. Lowest common denominator….most people are sheep and w the Internet people love to follow what everyone else does.

        On an unrelated note I dreamt last night I was hanging with Queensryches Michael Wilton while he was writing riffs for Rage for Order.


      12. Ha! Ive always wondered how GB got to sing with so many great guitarists….now he gets the hot chicks too?


  2. I can’t stream your audio either – Damned England. Luckily Spotify to the rescue (sorry Mike), ‘Under the Oak’ wins it for me – awesome.

    I’d not explored them properly before, I thought they’d be far heavier – this is right up my alley.

    Thank you.


    1. Hmmm it was an m4a file, I wonder if that’s the problem?

      Under the Oak is an awesome song, one of my favourites on there too. The thing I like about them is that it’s heavy music without just being the kind of heaviness that you can just dial into an amp or whatever. It’s all in the writing, emotion, atmosphere and the performance. Proper heaviness!


  3. Oh great, here goes our HMO again. Seems like every post he slaps up in these pages makes me realize there’s another band and another whole discography I want to hear.

    I was able to stream the audio, so maybe it’s just yer town, Mike? I have no idea why or how that would even be an issue when I’m only a couple of hours away.

    I loved this Solitude song. Definitely “Sabbathy-ness.” But then, the influence of Sabbath spread so far and so wide it’s really not much of a surprise.

    Also, IMHHMOO. Loved it. Say it with a black metal growl… \m/ \m/


    1. Glad I could be of service! And, of course, I have plenty more other bands to hit you with!

      There’s definitely a Sabbath influence in there and Solitude is probably the Sabbathiest(!) song on the album. Of the classic Doom acts though, I think they are the least obviously Sabbathy.

      I think the audio issue is probably more down to the file format than location. I’ll try a different file type next time and see what happens.


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