Candlemass – Ancient Dreams (1988)

“Ancient Dreams” holds a special place in my heart as this was the album that, as a youngster who mostly listened to traditional metal such as Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and Metallica really got me into the Doom-metal genre and got me totally hooked up on the masters of epic doom and gloom, Candlemass.

As an album, there are some things to be said about “Ancient Dreams” and although it is one of my personal favourite albums, all things might not actually be all  good fun and happiness.

The main man himself, Leif Edling has aired his displeasure with the recording, stating in interviews that “Ancient Dreams” was the rushed result of heavy pressure from the record company to release a new album to an oncoming US-tour and besides having some opinions on the included songs, he seems to have been really disappointed in how the sound on the album turned out. Me not being an audiophile I have no problem with the soundscape on Ancient Dreams although it may be a bit “thin” and honestly I do not find the difference between the original release and the later remastered re-releases, that according to Edling “fixed the problem”, being that audible.

Besides being dissatisfied with the sound, I guess Leif’s second beef with “Ancient Dreams” was the inclusion of the old Nemesis-song “Black Messiah”, here under the name “Incarnation of Evil”. According to the story, Messiah, who like me but contrary to Leif, loved the song, with a fair amount of nagging got it to be included on the album despite Leifs opinion on the song and I guess that the somewhat bad blood between Candlemass and their former singer isn’t helping here either.

Enough with the negative stuff, in my opinion this is Candlemass second best release (up to date), only beaten, on the finish line, by their debut album “Epicus Doomicus Metalicus” and it kind of sets the standard of how epic Doom Metal is supposed to sound!

Starting off with one of their most classic songs “Mirror Mirror” that can only be seen as a blue print of the late eighties metal edge Epic Doom, combining somewhat “fast” tempos with intricate melodies and, of course some slow grinding, really heavy parts that kind of have become Candlemass trademark!

The strong opening is followed by more Doom Metal-goodies in form of the kind of Classic Doom meets Epic Doom-monster “Bearer of Pain” and the, although admittedly a bit poppy, pièce de résistance, “Darkness in Paradise” showing of a Messiah in his peak of performance!

Things then get really heavy in the already mentioned “Incarnation of Evil” and, besides maybe leaning to be a bit repetitive, I find this Doom Metal Colossus to be magnificent! After that it’s time to pick up the pace again with the driven riffs of “Bearer of Pain” (but don’t you worry, the interlude is heavy as hell) before it’s time to go all in on the epicenes in the whirling melodies of the title track, “Ancient Dreams”, which singlehanded shows of Candlemass supremacy compared to most other groups giving the epic style of Doom a try.

“The Bells of Acheron” continues to show off Candlemass sense of putting together great melodies and memorable songs, before the album is concluded with Leif Edlings phenomenal Doom Metal-arrangement of Carl Michael Bellman’s “Epistle No. 81”.

The original CD-release of the album did also include a Black Sabbath-medley along with the rest of the songs of the LP, which actually is quite fun to listen to since Candlemass performs the old classics real good and makes the transitions between the included songs quite seamless.

Overall, Ancient Dreams makes up a good mix of what made the eighties Candlemass stand out from most competition. Not only dominating the, a bit narrow Doom-metal genre, but as a metal album in general, as they manage to combine the, in Doom oh-so important ultra-heaviness with both epicenes and beautiful melodies, without ever feeling cheesy.

Despite what the creator(s) of this record might think in hindsight, “Ancient Dreams” is truly a necessary album in the collection off every “metal head” as this is one hell of an album!