5 ESSENTIAL DOOM ALBUMS

Review by Mark Dillon [03.29.14]

 

5: Count Raven – High on Infinity

 

Count Raven is a tragically overlooked band. Hailing from Sweden these Sabbath worshipers have released 5 full length albums, but it’s their 3rd release, 1993’s “High on Infinity”, that is by far my favorite. The album was released on the now defunct German label Hellhound Records, a label that also sported such acts as Saint Vitus, The Obsessed, Iron Man, and Lost Breed. “High on Infinity” is giant slab of doom metal that is both familiar and original.

 

What Count Raven crafted on “High on Infinity” is 13 stories set to crushing doomy guitar riffs and lyrically each song tells a compelling story. For example, “The Mad Man from Waco” is about cult leader David Koresh, “The Masters of All Evil” is about the Illuminati, and “In Honour” is about Jack the Ripper. While I don’t buy into or believe all the stories told they do make for an interesting listen.

 

The production is bass heavy but also very wide and airy, which just serves to further draw one into the rich tapestry that is “High on Infinity”. I don’t know why Count Raven is so often overlooked when people talk about doom bands; they have released 5 strong albums all of which should appeal to fans of the sub-genre. Do some hunting and find a copy of “High on Infinity”, you won’t be disappointed.

 

 

4: Saint Vitus - Born Too Late

 

Saint Vitus’ third full length “Born Too Late” was the band’s first release to feature Scott “Wino” Weinrich on vocals. It’s the addition of Wino that sets this album apart from the group’s previous releases. While ‘84’s “Saint Vitus” and following year’s “Hallow’s Victim” are both considered doom classics, “Born Too late” is a cut above. The group’s previous vocalist Scott Reager’s delivery was much more reminiscent of the NWOBHM style - what Wino brought was a much more soulful sound. The addition of a vocalist with a lower register and a more melodic approach seemed to mesh much better with the band’s musical style. Guitarist Dave Chandler’s guitar tone drives Saint Vitus’s sound, a fuzzed out wall of guitars almost devoid of treble. The riffs crawl along like a plodding gigantic beast, heavy and thick yet memorable.

 

The title track “Born Too Late” has become a doom anthem. The lyrics touch on the genre’s ‘70’s roots and speak to feeling like an outcast for liking this slow heavy music. It’s likely that the song reflected how the band felt in 1986 when “Born Too Late” was released when every other underground metal band was trying to play faster than the next. Not Saint Vitus though, they created a doomy master work that still sounds fresh today.

 

 

3: Cathedral - The Carnival Bizarre

 

When I first decided to write this list I had planned to include Cathedral’s sophomore release “The Ethereal Mirror” (which is no doubt a great album) but I couldn't stop listening to “The Carnival Bizarre” instead and it has taken me almost 20 year to realize that the latter is the superior album. While the band’s debut, “Forest of Equilibrium” and “The Ethereal Mirror” are both purer doom albums and important to the sub-genre their third release sees the band really finding their voice.

 

What “The Carnival Bizarre” lacks in slow plodding doomyness it makes up for in catchy well-crafted songs. On this album the band started to drift more towards the stoner rock sound of their later career. There are still plenty of doom-laden  tracks like “Night Of The Seagulls” and the title track, but there are also songs with plenty of head bobbing groovyness like “Hopkins (The Witchfinder General)” and “Utopian Blaster” which features an appearance by the farther of doom himself, Tony Iommi.

 

Cathedral are an important band for many reasons. They are probably the most popular group on this list and the only one to be an a major label, however briefly. Vocalist Lee Doriran has kept the doom metal sub-genre vibrant by running the doom/stoner rock label Rise Above Records.

 

Cathedral’s “The Carnival Bizarre” is a huge slice of ‘70’s inspired groovy doom metal that will leave you wanting more.

 

 

2: Trouble – Run to the Light

 

Trouble is one of my all-time favorite bands and it’s hard to put into words how much I adore this group. The guitar duo of Rick Wartell and Bruce Franklin rival the likes of Tipton/ Downing and Muray/Smith. I know that’s a big claim but you just have to listen to the harmonies and tradeoffs on “Run to the Light” to know that there is something special when these two players get together.

 

When most people speak of Trouble they usually mention the first two albums “Psalm 9“ and “The Skull” as doom classics but I believe their third release is the superior album. “Run to the Light” has the band really defining their sound which is a mix of Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Judas Priest. The album that is our subject sees the band add some faster sections to their songs. I don’t believe this takes away from the doom aspect of Trouble, on the contrary, the tempo changes add more dynamics to the song structures and increase the overall dramatic impact of each piece. The album begins with a slow synth and guitar harmony on the track “The Misery Shows” and ends with a tape speed up effect on the closing song “The Beginning” - this juxtaposition is used to good advantage throughout the record.

 

I have to mention Eric Wagner’s vocal performance - his distinct delivery, which is in the high register but with grit, never sounded better. I have always enjoyed a vocalist that brings something original to the table. Wagner’s vocal style may not be for everyone but I think it meshes perfectly with the music.

 

When I first got my hands on “Run to the Light” I had a hard time understanding why this band wasn’t more popular. I still find myself wondering why they didn’t catch on. They seemed like they should appeal to a wider audience, especially on the later recordings released on the Def American label. Alas they remain a highly respected underground band: Trouble’s “Run to the Light” would make a great addition to any metal collection.

 

Honorable mentions:

 

My Dying Bride – Turn Loose the Swans

Paradise Lost – Gothic

Sleep – Sleep`s Holy Mountain

 

1: Candlemass  - Epicus Doomicus Metallicus

 

Picking a number 1 on a list like this is always tough but I had to go with Candlemass`  “Epicus Doomicus Metallicus” - the title says it all: this is epic doom metal. Candlemass are pioneers of the doom metal sound and it is not often that a band’s debut album is so well crafted. Many metal band’s first releases are well regarded; “Kill em`All``, `Show No Mercy` and “Holy Diver`` come to mind as examples and “Epicus Doomicus Metallicus” is often cited as the band’s pinnacle. Considering that they have released 10 albums since this 1986 debut why do people still gravitate toward ‘Epicus’? The answer is simple: it’s a collection of 6 great songs that defined a sub-genre.

 

What Candlemass did on “Epicus Doomicus Metallicus” was create something new. While the argument could be made that Black Sabbath is responsible for doom metal, Candlemass doesn’t sound like Black Sabbath and their music could be deemed as Classical based as opposed to Black Sabbath’s blues based sound. The riffs on Epicus don’t sound like they could have been written in the 70’s nor do they sound anything like what was happening in metal in the 80’s; they are truly genre defining.

 

Johan Langgvist’s vocal performance on Epicus is just incredible. His operatic delivery accented with occasional high pitched screams add an essential element to the album. It is truly unfortunate that Langgvist was a session vocalist and never performed on another Candlemass album.

 

There is a rerelease version of “Epicus Doomicus Metallicus” that features bassist/ songwriter Leif Edling providing commentary on each song and if you can track it down it’s an incredibly engaging listen. If you are a doom metal fan you need to have a copy of Epicus, it deserves to be number one on this list simply for its sheer importance to the development of the genre.

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