I first heard of doom metal when my coworker proposed an idea for me to play organ in his self proclaimed “heavy, depressing, doom band”. I’ll admit, at the time it did not seem very appealing at the time and I politely declined.
A couple years later, I stumbled upon a video of Oceans of Slumber covering Solitude by Candlemass, which admittedly was the first time I had even heard of Candlemass. This prompted me to seek out the original version and I was immediately mesmerized. Between Johan Längqvist’s strong vibrato and the dark, at time melodramatic lyrics connected me to a very familiar place . . .
As a voice major in college, I was trained in classical voice and I sang a variety of arias, masses, art songs, and oratorios. My love of opera started when my high school choir teacher took us on a field trip to see Puccini’s Madam Butterfly at the Virginia Opera House. Immediately, I fell in love with the artistry, the impeccable mastering of the human voice, the sensationalism. Spoiler alert: After being strung along by a married man, Madam Butterfly kills herself to end her heartbreak. Not before singing a dramatic aria first, of course.
This is pretty common in opera. Perhaps one of my favorite arias is Thy Hand Belinda also known as Dido’s Lament, which immensly reminds me of Solitude. In this aria, Dido is heartbroken that her love has left and betrayed her, prompting her to sing one of the most devastating arias of all time.
When I am laid in earth/ may my wrongs create no trouble/ Remember me/ But ah! forget my fate.
And then, in true opera fashion, she stabs herself and slowly dies as her love sails away.
Solitude presents this same subject matter in a very similar manner. “I long for my time to come/Death means just life/ Please let me die in solitude”. Honestly, Solitude could be Dido’s aria in an updated, angsty re-imagining of Dido and Aeneas. Besides the lyrical aspect, Candlemass, as well as other doom bands, often embrace operatic vocals, which further exaggerates the despair. There is no subtlety in opera and likewise, there is no subtlety in doom.
Unfortunately, in the US at least, Candlemass is far from being a household name. Perhaps they got lost from public memory in the landslide of prolific bands that dominated the 80s’. Nevertheless, Epicus Doomicus Metallicus is arguably one of the most important doom albums to date, as it paved the way for doom bands to follow. It’s legacy deserves to be remembered, not to die in solitude.
Listen to Epicus Doomicus Metallicus here: