Honestly, I think this a suitably grandiose sounding record with enough polish and depth to allow the guitars to shine and Messiah, obviously, takes the spotlight in the mix.
However, I do wonder what critics were expecting from a song with that title? I could imagine Messiah in theatre. Maybe having a bit part in Shakespeare where the actors — given the frequently minimalistic use of props — have to create the setting using their words only. Of course, the other more pressing criticism seems to be that this is one record wherein Candlemass coast by on their fantastic sound, capitalising on the success of two stellar records before it.
Which is a shockingly stringent criticism, if ever there was one. The same can be said for Ancient Dreams. So, consider that a massive benefit! It might be a somewhat nebulous issue to take, but Nightfall is just a little stiffer rhythmically than Ancient Dreams and it seems that the band are slightly The Bells Of Acheron - Candlemass - Ancient Dreams (CD developed in their roles ironically, the band used a click track on this record for the first time.
Of course, Lars Johansson is a masterful player and, it seems to me, that he would be more than capable of being a guitar-hero bandleader in any other project he is, however, too astute of a player and knows that the songs have to shine first and, therefore, plays accordingly — not accordion, that would be weird.
Sitting here on the Christian holiday of Candlemas, listening to Ancient Dreams, surrounded by lit candles, and drinking the Iron Maiden beer Hallowed: I am feeling pretty in the zone. So I think a review for my favourite Candlemass album is in order. What is it that makes me prefer this album over the monstrously regarded Epicus Doomicus Metalus and Nightfall?
I think it comes down to consistent hooks. While Epicus undoubtedly starts out with probably the greatest song that Candlemass ever wrote, and the rest of the album is excellent, I find that my attention can start to wander at times.
Even more damning for Nightfall, is that I find myself rather bored throughout most of the album, with the notable exception of "At The Gallow's End". But there's something about the tracks on Ancient Dreams that keep me allured and engaged throughout the entire runtime. In some ways it sounds like a cliche, "oh, the metal band singing about a magic mirror" but dayum, they do it well.
Marcolin's voice really elevates the topic of the mirror to another plane. It literally sounds like a corpse is slowly creeping its way out of the crypt towards you. Yes, it's definitely the riffs that make this album stand out to me. Marcolin's operatic voice is amazing, but it's also amazing on Nightfall and Tales Of Creation, so that can't be what elevates this above the others, although it's still an integral part of what makes this outstanding.
Most of the lyrics seem to be inspired by Biblical stories, which certainly suits the origin of the band name, and fits the epic sound well. The musicianship is solid, and the songwriting is gold. Slow parts that resemble "Children Of The Grave" type Black Sabbath, with sporadic bursts of speed bordering on thrash, not too different from early Trouble. Lots of the rhythm guitar tends to be slow and is played with lots of staccato, which gives it a kind of doomy trot, as though a dark figure is slowing shuffling along a castle corridor.
Funny enough, the only thing that doesn't work too well on here is the Black Sabbath medley. Not that it's bad, but it belongs on a bonus disc, not tacked onto the end of the album. All in all I don't have too much more to say about this album, except that it's great! If you already know what early Candlemass sounds like, but you haven't heard this album, you will most certainly enjoy it. It has that same galloping, pounding, epic doomy trot to it that complements the operatic vocals so well on all their albums.
And if you haven't heard any Candlemass yet, here wouldn't be a bad place to start. Heck, any of their first four albums would be a splendid start. Even Nightfall is a good album, I just descend into an illogical boredom with it most of the time. But I always remain engaged during this beauty! Evolution was the name of the game even for the leaders of the doom metal ship, Candlemass.
However, here these expressions take the upper hand threatening to tumble the whole doom ship down, but all in a good way. It dominates the landscape with such authority that there are moments from the album where it deafens the guitars even. You can hear the glasses and the plates shake in the kitchen if you play the music louder… it could even shatter the foundations of a small shack; no kidding.
Bass burps aside, said opener is a fabulous way to begin this morose saga. More metamorphoses followed including another stint with Marcolin the self-titled, until the band found their stride again with none other than Robert Lowe Solitude Aeturnus behind the mike.
Hopefully, by the end of this review my reasoning will be explained. However, I'd like to start with the album cover, a copy of Thomas Cole's painting 'Youth'. That cover is a lot for any band to live up to, isn't it? There's a gorgeous, primal countryside with a foreboding mountain lurking at the horizon, above which we can see a temple in the sky - the celestial city.
In the foreground is a tiny boat with 2 figures reaching towards that distant and unearthly emblem, straining to touch the unreachable. And yet, that scene describes Candlemass so exactly. The band sound, in a completely non-denominational sense, utterly godly as they stretch a musical finger towards the perfect city in the sky that, as we can tell from the fact they are playing doom metal, they know they will never reach.
There is a hopeless crushing quality to the music and lyrics that in no way undermines the joyous celebration that those epic riffs seem to create: the vastness of the sound and vision is matched only by the emptiness of the reality, because without that mirage on the cover, it only shows a man in a boat and without those sublime ideas Candlemass are only 5 Swedes with instruments and dodgy haircuts seriously, The Bells Of Acheron - Candlemass - Ancient Dreams (CD "Leif Edling's mullet". Ancient Dreams is not the best Candlemass album, though it might contain the most perfectly realized songs of the band's career.
Aside from those exquisite moments, there is a good general mixture of signature Candlemass elements. Slower songs are well balanced alongside faster riffs and sections, the leads are usually creative and satisfying, and Messiah gives perhaps his best performance with plenty of nuance alongside his famous power.
Sad to say but 'Incarnation of Evil' does not really sound like a Candlemass song, nor does it sound like a song by any other band I want to listen to. It's an example of a great band forgetting what makes them great, as the most bombastic epic doom machine in the world has a crack at subtletywhich isn't what this kind of Album) is about at all.
The performance is flat, too slow and lifeless, and the riffs and vocal lines are very forgettable, not to mention the horrible cliche of the lyrics. Candlemass and Sabbath are very different bands, whatever the debt of influence owed, and those very classic riffs sound horribly out of place after the last rites of the closing 'Epistle 81'.
A few minor points to grumble about might be the slightly flat guitar tone it attained levels of impeccable crispiness on the following full-length or the moments that wander in the more generic 'A Cry from the Crypt' or the way that 'The Bells of Acheron' repeats a riff that isn't that interesting. The drums could sound a bit tighter as well, bearing in mind that I'm reviewing the remastered version, but I can't help but feel that these complaints are caused by the utter hugeness of 4 of the tracks on here, plus the don't-touch-anything beauty of 'Epistle 81'.
I also award one bonus point for Leif Edling's description of Milton Keynes where I currently live in the liner notes with the apt summary that it's all roundabouts, but "where are the people? If those 2 nasty songs mentioned above were removed from the release at least from disc 1Ancient Dreams would contain 7 songs and be 45 minutes long, which is plenty of time for a doom metal album, especially when the songs are as well developed as they are here.
Of those 45 minutes, there is ONE other fault that I can find, which is the high note that Messiah hits in the chorus of 'Bearer of Pain', though even that's growing on me. Everything else, however, is just sublime.
Everything else makes me feel like I could touch that castle in the sky. When you've recorded an album like "Nightfall", the best you can do is split up your band, and spend the rest of your lifetime becoming a legend in eternity. No, I'm kidding of course, but it is only natural that "Ancient Dreams" couldn't possibly match the previous one.
It is both natural and acceptable. But that doesn't mean we should underestimate it, right? Like we wouldn't like to underestimate " Absolute Premiership, if you ask me. So the recipe is well-known, heaviest, most desperate doom, injected with shots of up tempo riffing like rays of light in a gloomy crypt. Three or four ultimate classics reside in here, "Up From The Crypt", "Mirror Mirror", "Darkness In Paradise" and maybe "Incarnation Of Evil" do stand out from the rest-and that's the difference in comparison to "Nightfall" where you just can't make a choice.
The rest of the songs in "Ancient Dreams" are great, but not classics. It seems Leif Edling is a guy who just can't compose a bad song, just good, great and classics. But Edling's great is other people's classics and so on. To be honest, most doom metal bands would cut off one of their testicles to have recorded "Ancient Dreams". For any, and I mean ANY, other band, this would be a crystal clear perfect In a way, it is deeply unfair that this album is in the shadow of its predecessor.
It's so damn heavy, so damn good, so damn well-played and well-produced, Album). The artwork is great, the vocals will make the hair of your back stand like barbed wire, the riffs are like funeral bells in your bedroom, it is a quintessential doom metal album. Don't overlook this one, you will miss a lot.
If I had to make a choice, you all know what it would be. But that doesn't mean I can't enjoy "Ancient Dreams" with all my soul, right? There's room in my shelf for both of them actually, for all Candlemass albums in existence so it's no big deal anyway. This is perhaps one of the most overlooked Candlemass albums — like other reviewers have said, most people point you to Epicus Doomicus Metallicus and Nightfall as the two best candlemass albums, however, Ancient Dreams is quite a strong release, and perhaps, dare I say, one of the best doom metal albums ever created.
Of course, doom metal takes a lot of cues from Sabbath — and Candlemass is no exception. The riffing here is similar to any early Sabbath. However, Candlemass takes what Black Sabbath had and expands it. They took what Sabbath had and made it darker, longer, and more epic than anything Sabbath put out. There are no happy riffs here — every riff on here is sinister and morbid.
Imagine wading through tar after a heavy dose of psychedelic drugs, and you get the idea of the riffing on this album. The way Candlemass manages to incorporate these kinds of riffs fluently into their songs is what sets them apart from other doom metal bands, which often end up being too slow and plodding instead of heavy and epic, which is what Candlemass does perfectly.
On top of all this they also manage to have many thrashy riffs thrown in, obviously nothing as fast as something off of Bonded by Blood or Darkness Descends, but crushing and heavy.
It is also obligatory for a metal album to have guitar solos, and Candlemass does this quite well. The solos on this album are perfectly adapted to the songs — imagine a slowed down Yngwie Malmsteen, but more sophisticated. The whammy bar is not used recklessly here, unlike many bands which relentlessly abuse it. Now about the vocals of Messiah Marcolin. This guys voice is perfectly suited for Candlemass.
His soaring, operatic vocals perfectly compliment the slow, heavy guitars riffs and the slow, crushing drum work. The thing that makes this guy different though is that he has an awesome vibrato — the power in his voice is unmatched, and probably the epitome of doom metal vocals. The drumming of Jan Lindh is quite simplistic. Definitely not very fast — there is no blast beats or ferocious thrash breaks here. The drumming matches perfectly with the guitars, and the minimalist approach Jan uses works quite effectively.
The lyrics here are pretty interesting, and are just like the music - dark and sinister. Many of the themes of the lyrics here are fantasy, but with a dark, evil twist, and that gives the listener an impeding sense of doom, and along with the majestically creepy riffs, creates a perfect atmosphere for a metal album, or any album in general, and for 52 minutes you are subjected to some insanely talented songwriting and musicianship, and some of the best doom metal ever.
Overall, I think this is an album that most metal fans can enjoy. It's not too slow, or too fast, but interesting and unique, accessible and easy to listen to, The Bells Of Acheron - Candlemass - Ancient Dreams (CD, and a true classic in the doom metal genre. This is one of those albums which helped define my adolescence. It was the first time I'd heard doom. It was the first time songs had actually Album) me! This might sound quaint in these days of sicko extremity and blacker-than-thou blackness in blackest of black metal!
Candlemass eschewed the gore and deliberate attempts to offend that characterized Slayer. They were also less fixated on horror movie theatricality than King Diamond. Candlemass, to me, can be mentioned in the same breath as Celtic Frost in terms of their scariness.
But CF were much more radical, leftfield, experimental, avant garde. Candlemass were simpler; more obvious, perhaps. On Ancient Dreams, they deal with fairly stereotypical lyrical themes of dark fantasy and demons and devils and etc on the whole. But the songs are delivered with such panache, such skill, such emotion and such a fantastic ear for melody that you'll forgive them that.
And, anyway, Epistle No 81 is a completely unexpected and unusual song. It's a mourner's lament, a heart-rending ode to mortality which has its origins in the imagination of 18th century Swedish poet Carl Michael Bellman.
It's an oft-overlooked doom metal classic. But then, I'd say every single song on the album is a classic in its own right. You'll weep at the crushing, monumental beauty of the riffs the band come up with on song after song. Sacrilege though it might be to say it, I actually prefer the Black Sabbath Medley that closes Ancient Dreams to the originals it distils so perfectly!
And I haven't even mentioned Messiah Marcolin's phenomenal voice yet! He was truly one of the greatest frontmen metal has ever seen with a highly distinctive sound that is simultaneously so pleasing to the ears and powerful. Wonderful as his performances on the other Candlemass albums might be, Ancient Dreams represents the pinnacle of his career. It is also the band's best work to date. But I think Ancient Dreams is just as good in many ways.
Darkness In Paradise 4. Incarnation Of Evil 5. Bearer Of Pain 6. Ancient Dreams 7. The Bells Of Acheron 8. Epistle No. Black Sabbath Medley. Mirror, Mirror  Mirror, mirror upon the wall Magic demon eye A realm of madness Awakened by the call Speak the ancient words of mages Try to take control The essence of evil, A challenge for your soul The battle of minds The riddle the rhymes Beware of the darkness behind Usurped and enslaved Redeemed and betrayed The devil in the mirror, obey!
Iridescent pulsation light Glowing in its heart The surface is reflecting Nightmares of your mind Green mist swirling deep within A dark dimension takes from The grip of clawed hands drags you inside The battle of minds The riddle the rhymes Beware of the darkness behind Usurped and enslaved Redeemed and betrayed The devil in the mirror, obey! Enchanted with powers to conquer your soul Good or evil it won't mind The mirror of darkness is blind Feel the presence, the voice of the dark Break the balance, intrudes your mind Try to deny, oh master of fools Captured forever, the loser learns the rules 2.
The unborn has tasted no life Sharing the rest of the dead Not aware that the years that go by Lurking in the shadows Twisted shape of creeping terra Guarding something special Gone since ages, dead and buried I believe
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