Candlemass provide great examples of the fine line between artful skullery and boring skullery. The image on their debut album, Epicus Doomicus Metallicus, is certainly one of the finest heads ever to be defleshed and paraded to the metal masses. It’s one of the most iconic skulls in metal, and they have regurgitated it a lot. This skull, however, is just kinda there. It’s got an ancient-enough look to it, with a little crown atop its noggin. It would be a much more striking cover if we hadn’t seen, you know, 4,562 skull album covers before it. And no, we’re not complaining. Just sayin’.
King of the Grey Islands is probably the best of the Robert Lowe-era Candlemass albums — an era that has apparently come to pass, as he was booted for poor live performances. It’s also the first they recorded with the Solitude Aeturnus frontman, and while I like Lowe on the first few S.A. albums, and certainly here too, I always wished they would have gotten Mats Leven or Epicus singer Johan Langquist for the job. Still, the material is pretty great, especially highlights like “Of Stars and Smoke” and “Clearsight.” Album closer “Embrace the Styx” rams home that epic doom metal element the band christened and basically founded way back in the day. Great stuff.