CANDLEMASS, Epicus Doomicus Metallicus (1986, Black Dragon)
One of the most iconic skull images in metal, the Candlemass skull needs no introduction, but what about it is so memorable? The horns and the spears. The horns are a diabolic touch; the drumstick-like spikes spearing the skull and forming a crucifix pattern are clearly awesome. Plus, the grainy black-and-white is perfect in its minimalism, and even has a bleakness about it. The gothic/Olde English logo font and Combat-style font for the album title…just everything. A perfect album cover, and one of the finest skull covers you will ever see.
Finally we have a skull cover that not only rules but has equally excellent music to match. This album is a mere six songs but totally complete in every way. Its atmosphere is morose and epic, the very best definition of “doom metal” possible. Interestingly, the session guys provide the most musically impressive performances: the leads of Klas Bergwall are soaring things that make the most of both aggression and melody, very much minor key and apparently taking influence from classic music, especially reminiscent of various religious hymns. His passages sound like they’re coming from the minds and hands of a church organist and not a mere rock guitarist. Bergwell is clearly a skilled player who never recorded on another metal album again (damn shame). Same story with vocalist Johan Längquist, who is not only magnificent in his pleading, desperate, booming delivery, and not only the best singer the band ever had, but actually turns in one of the most memorable performances on any metal album. Another damn shame that he would never sing on another Candlemass album. The whole thing has a creepy, medieval, ancient vibe. Leif Edling’s riffs and note sequences are amongst the most memorable in the genre — check the main riff of “Black Stone Wielder.” Awesome. What Edling lacks as a bassist he more than makes up for as a songwriter. Candlemass is only a live entity these days, no more studio recordings (so they say), and it’s just as well, because as good as successive albums might have been, they’ve never topped this one in terms of epic doom metal purity.
— Friar Wagner