The search for the “beginning” of a particular genre can be really fraught with difficulties, from the sheer effort of figuring out which albums might be the best candidates, to the inevitable bickering over alternatives or whether or not the artist is close enough to that genre. Given that no genre was ever invented whole cloth on one record, it’s kind of a stupid thing we do. But we do it.
This album gave doom metal its name. So, much like with death metal and Death, that’s a fact that’s hard to avoid in writing a history of doom metal that begins earlier than this record. But, much as with Death and death metal, a sound that approximates the sound of doom metal could be said to sort of exist prior to this record. Moreover, it’s possible that when many of us think of doom metal, we do not think of the pseudo power metal singing of Johan Lanquist.
Personally, I find the desire to go back to Black Sabbath and attribute them with the invention of various modern genres (such as doom metal) to be kind of silly. There are many reasons for that – listen to Sabbath! – but one of them is that nobody felt the need to call Black Sabbath “doom metal” until after somebody called Candlemass and its followers doom metal. The same line or reasoning probably applies to all the different bands between early Sabbath and this record which have been retroactively credited with inventing doom metal.
Enough about that silly debate.
Candlemass are way slower than their contemporaries as you would expect for any band credited with inventing doom metal. They do play faster than many later doom metal bands, and there is some variation in tempo.
There is more musical variation than you might expect, including acoustic guitar and female backing vocals. That’s a good thing (and not at all what I remember of Nightfall, which I stupidly listened to first).
I’m sorry to say I don’t remember what the new singer sounded like on Nightfall but the weirdest thing about this, and arguably the least “doomy” thing, is their guest lead singer. As I said earlier, he’s a power metal singer (a style popular mostly in Europe in the UK) and not remotely close to the types of singers emerging through thrash who were helping to transform metal vocals. His vocals are the most archaic aspect of all of this. (I mean, there’s something very close to blast drumming, for example, albeit slower blast drumming.) And I suspect it’s his voice more than anything that creates controversy around whether or not this album was actually the first doom metal album. He sounds like he belongs in another band OR this band isn’t doom.
I can’t decide whether or not to give this full marks for influence, in part because of the singing and in part because I really do not know enough about the evolution of the genre to know if someone was really playing something closer to what we would now call “doom” at the same time.
Still, a pretty damn important record.