Κυριακή, 17 Μαΐου 2020

We must be over the Rainbow! The story of RAINBOW Rising.

written by Andreas Andreou

Originally released on May 17th of 1976, Rainbow Rising is one of the greatest albums of the '70s and a very important album for the continuation of heavy metal music in the '80s. It can be viewed as one of the cornerstones and the foundations of epic heavy metal and (European mostly) power metal, even if the "Kill the King" track off the next album Long Live Rock 'n' Roll (1978) is THE iconic track for the roots of power metal. However, "Kill the King" is actually a Rising-era song and was written as a show opener for their tour since it was first heard during the 1976 live shows, making its first record appearance in the live album On Stage (1977). 

Rising was recorded in February 1976, at the Musicland Studios in Munich, Germany, produced and mixed by Martin Birch, with all songs credited to Ritchie Blackmore and Ronnie James Dio. Blackmore is mostly responsible for the music and Dio for the lyrics, vocal lines and the "melody" side of the tracks that was built around Ritchie's riffs. That epic hard rock / heavy metal, the medieval aura of Blackmore's music, Dio's voice and lyrical themes are among the absolute cornerstones for metal subgenres in the decades that followed. Already older than the others (even Blackmore), Ronnie James Dio (born Ronald James Padavona) was nearly 35 years old during the recordings of Rising and already started establishing his own vision of what he wanted to do. Ritchie Blackmore though, was an important key to that, if you will consider the fact what Dio was doing before joining Rainbow. Ritchie Blackmore actually led Dio to that path and from that point and on, Dio always walked his own path, cleverly keeping what he was learning from the great musicians he worked with, starting with Blackmore, followed by Tony Iommi in his Black Sabbath first years, and kept all those elements and "lessons" in his Dio (band) career. Needless to say, that his role was also important in both Rainbow and Black Sabbath but if we will consider that the greatest albums he ever sung to, were (probably) Rainbow Rising and Black Sabbath Heaven and Hell (and Mob Rules), those songwriters-persons (Blackmore and Iommi) were most likely the puzzle pieces created the greater image.

When Rising hit the stores, there was also that image on the cover. The iconic image, the cover art of Ken Kelly that made people think at once that there was something huge in that record. And they were all right. Ken Kelly's art for the cover of Rising is not just colours on a piece of paper, it is part of the album's DNA, the first thing people saw back in 1976, the first thing that draw attention, the image that comes in mind when you think of Rainbow Rising, an idea of Ritchie Blackmore, perfectly brought to life by Ken Kelly.

Music is what it is, created under certain circumstances and inspiration, performers are who they are, the producer and the recordings is another important step and when everything is finished, you cover them in an image - a package and the "product" is ready to go public. Musicians, songwriters, producers, executive producers, artists, the perfect cooperation of all parties, the momentum and the moment, is what creates transcendent pieces of art available to the public. And Rising is one of those historical pieces of art where everything worked perfectly. From the moment where Blackmore understood that there were musical differences with his Deep Purple bandmates, the moment he started discussing with Ronnie Dio about the Quatermass "Black Sheep of the Family" song, how he started working with Dio and his Elf bandmates on a single that ended as a full album under the band name Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow, mostly for people and press to know that Blackmore left Deep Purple and started a new band, that became just Rainbow.Everything was destined to led to the perfection of Rising.

Line-up changes were already in the mind of a few people, meaning Ritchie Blackmore and label executives, who believed that Rainbow could be something huge, similar or even bigger than Deep Purple. Drummer Gary Driscoll was replaced by Cozy Powell, something that Dio didn't really like. Bassist Craig Gruber was replaced by Jimmy Bain, unknown at the time but a very easy-going person, so Blackmore had the concise rhythm section he really wanted, less "busy" and more "on the beat". Keyboarist Tony Carey completed the line-up and Rising was recorded in less than two weeks!

Lyrically, Blackmore suggested Dio to write a song about a tarot reader and "Tarot Woman" was born. "Her love is like a knife, should cut away your life" sings Dio, using themes he kept visiting in the future, especially about the female nature of things and women ("Lady of the Lake", "Lady Evil", "Country Girl", "Gypsy" and many more). "Can you feel the change begin" and "Run with the Wolf" is actually a song about werewolves inspired by old horror films, while in "Starstruck" Dio is talking again about a woman, this time about a Blackmore's stalker, "she's there, somewhere and looking back at me". "Do You Close Your Eyes" is one of those simple lyrics that just came to Dio's head when he was asked to write something for a faster song but then, "there's no sun in the shadow of the wizard, see how he glides, why he's lighter than air". "Stargazer" is the ultimate Rainbow saga and one of the most iconic Dio tales; a story told by a slave, about a "wizard", that enslaved an army of people to build him a tower of stone, so he will go to the top of the world and fly to the stars... just to fall down and die. "All eyes see the figure of the wizard as he climbs to the top of the world. No sound, as he falls instead of rising. Time standing still, then there's blood on the sand, oh I see his face!" and after that, "A Light in the Black" follows the story of the slaves that are now free... "Can't forget his face, what a lonely place, has he really let us go?"

While the song credits mention only Blackmore/Dio, we can't deny other members' contribution and ideas, like Tony Carey's keyboards and synths, starting with the album's opener first minute. "Tarot Woman" is one of those great album openers with a mystique vibe and besides Uriah Heep's Ken Henslay, the presence of Tony Carey in Rising is an important part of how keyboards were used in many heavy and power metal bands in the decades that followed. When "Run with the Wolf" starts, you have that clear and precise beat, courtesy of Cozy Powell, an important person to the final result, offering also one of the greatest and most iconic drum intros for "Stargazer", whose riff, Blackmore originally wrote on the cello. A transcending song where Blackmore also gives credit to Dio for his songwriting contribution, a song that features the Munich Philarmonic Orchestra and inspired the album title with the line "I see a rainbow rising", as also the cover art. Side B of the vinyl record is always sounding as a concept with "A Light in the Black" following, another influential song that many people consider very important... except Dio. Being a singer, he didn't really like the long music parts and all those guitar and keyboard solos that sounded to him mostly as a musicians' exercise. The funny thing is that Dio always liked more the debut album of Rainbow and despite Rising's importance, the band mostly performed live just "Stargazer" and "Do You Close Your Eyes", even if they tried just a few times "Starstruck" and "A Light in the Black".

The Rising Tour was a huge success and at that time, Deep Purple were already disbanded. However, that line-up didn't last, the band changed direction but back in the '70s (and the '80s) history was written in just a few years (even months) and everything was spread faster than the new, digital age. Incredible how, but influence and legends were raised very, very fast. It didn't take more than a few months to make history, in some cases even with a few live shows or a few-days recording session.

At the time this article is written 3 out of 5 of the musicians that performed in this legendary album, are no longer with us. Ronnie James Dio, Cozy Powell, Jimmy Bain, you will never be forgotten and your legacy will live forever.

There in the sky, I see your star.

Δευτέρα, 27 Απριλίου 2020

SCALD in Greece during the Coronavirus Apocalypse.

COVID-19 came and changed our lives. Nothing is the same. Daily routine, jobs, everything is different and our generation hasn't seen anything alike. While we don't know what tomorrow will bring and when everything will return to normality, among others the world of music also was hit by the pandemic. Since Crystal Logic is mainly a music blog, we decided to view one of those countless cases as detailed as possible.

SCALD, the legendary epic doom metal band, was formed in Yaroslavl of Russia, when singer Maxim "Agyl" Andrianov and drummer Aleksandr "Ottar" Kudryashov of ROSS (POCC) changed the name to SCALD and were joined by ANAMNESIS VITAE members Ivan "Harald" Sergeev (guitar) and Ilia "Velingor" Timashev (bass), in order to play epic metal in the vein of MANOWAR and BATHORY. The line-up was completed by the second guitarist Vladimir "Karry" Ryzhkovskiy, and adding the CANDLEMASS influence, it was clear that SCALD wanted to write and perform a specific style of music. After the North Winds demo of 1994, SCALD recorded the album Will of the Gods Is Great Power in 1996. SCALD managed to play a few shows in their hometown and few cities nearby, but on September 6th of 1997, tragedy shook SCALD. That day, Agyl was found dead in a railroad, hit by a train.

The album was finally released after Agyl's tragic death and not in 1996 (according to Velingor) on cassette tape only, since it was very difficult to find a record label outside Russia, and SCALD decided not to exist anymore. A few years later, Will of the Gods Is Great Power was finally re-issued on CD and vinyl and more people discovered the magic of SCALD. However, times are changing, so in 2019, the band was reunited for selected live shows, with Felipe Plaza (PROCESSION, CAPILLA ARDIENTE) on vocals.

During the Coronavirus Apocalypse, SCALD offered us the detailed saga of their adventure between March 11th to 15th of 2020. A story they won't easily forget.

Story told by Velingor

Translation by Arkadi Borissov

After our very successful performance at the German festival Hammer of Doom (Würzburg, Germany) in the fall of 2019 we all, of course, were looking forward to performing on the 13th of March 2020 at the Greek metal festival Up the Hammers in Athens. Many of our fans who witnessed our show in Germany said that they were planning to go there and our vocalist Felipe told us that Greek fans are something special and we should definitely perform to such an audience. We heard that there are a lot of SCALD fans in Greece (it is worth mentioning that the first vinyl edition of SCALD's album Will of the Gods is Great Power was released in Greece in 2004). We, the Russian part of SCALD musicians, have never been to Greece and we certainly wanted to go there.

By the time of our departure to Greece, on the eve of the 10th of March, the situation with coronavirus (COVID-19) in Russia and Greece was relatively calm. In both countries there were less than ten infected in each country (all of them were put in quarantine) and just a little more than one deceased. Of course, Italy was not far from Greece and everything was much worse over there... But everyone (including the organizer of the festival) hoped that everything would be fine in Greece. We flew to Athens on March 11th and found a rather calm and relaxed atmosphere, although we saw some people wearing masks on the streets and in the subway. All the shops, restaurants, coffee stores and even the flea market near the place where we settled - everything was open for business. We met our friend Arkadi from Ireland, who kindly agreed to be our interpreter (since he is Russian-speaking, but has been living and working in Dublin for a long time and therefore speaks better English than us). We walked around the center of Athens, enjoyed the warmth (it was still cold in Russia), delicious Greek food and looked forward to a successful performance...

That evening, in the apartment where we were accommodated, we watched the English-language news on TV and realized that the situation in Europe was getting worse every hour. More and more sick people, more and more fatalities... Later in the evening our vocalist Felipe arrived from Sweden and said that "Scaldocalypse" was taking place in the world and showed us a video on his smartphone sent by his friend from Italy. Army was brought in to patrol the streets of Rome... If I am not mistaken, on the evening of March 11th WHO officially announced the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

The next day, in the morning of March 12th, Manolis, the organizer of Up the Hammers festival broke the news that the festival was officially canceled. All American bands (including the headliners TOXIK and FIFTH ANGEL) either didn't travel, to those who managed to fly to Europe, immediately flew back to the USA (in connection with the statement by US President Trump about the immediate ban of all flights from Europe); ATLANTEAN KODEX from Germany also had to cancel.

The situation in Athens began to change - many coffee stores and restaurants were already closed or were working only for takeaway and it was no longer possible to sit in them. There were more and more people wearing masks on the streets. We all had non-refundable return tickets for the 15th of March (booked by Manolis in the summer) and we didn't have much cash with us. We decided not to rush to evacuate to Russia. Our guitarist Karry and vocalist Felipe decided to still do a rehearsal on March the 12th, which was planned in advance with the organizer of the festival. Felipe contacted the owner of the rehearsal studio (they had known each other) and agreed with him that everyone who wants to listen to SCALD would be allowed to attend the rehearsal for free, meaning those who came to the festival from Europe, United States and other countries,  and didn't go back yet. Manolis agreed to rent the rehearsal studio for three hours  and we can't thank him enough for that. So, we finally decided to stay in Athens.

Our manager Tatiana (she was not with us in Greece) posted on the SCALD facebook page about the rehearsal / mini-concert and we left for the place. We were surprised and disappointed at the same time, when we saw a crowd of 25-30 metalheads on the street near the studio who wanted to listen to us... and the studio owner, who told us that he was ready to let in only 3-5 people, no more. Felipe explained everything to the metalheads, who were quite disappointed with the whole situation, and said that the band invited them to the Underground Café bar in the evening to chat and hang out.

The rehearsal room was really small, but when we started playing the owner of the studio started letting people in. As a result 10 or more people from different countries somehow fit in. We played the entire concert program for them and repeated several songs for the encore. This resulted in a sort of mini-concert combined with rehearsal. Those in attendance and the band were very pleased. It is a pity that not everyone was able to get to this impromptu event.

In the evening we all went to Underground Café, which was packed with metalheads from various countries. Of course, we all understood that we were quite at risk of getting infected and that we all had two weeks of quarantine immediately upon return. But we all didn't care what would happen next. We were just glad that we played at least a small show in Athens and that we had an opportunity to hang out with our fans. All this action was reminiscent of a "A Feast in Time of Plague" - countries imposed a lockdown one by one, numbers of sick and dead people increased hour by hour, and all SCALD members and all the metalheads hung out, talked and drank beer and sang along to BLACK SABBATH's "Heaven and Hell" and W.A.S.P.'s "Love Machine" and other metal anthems which were aired at the bar. We had a lot of fun and there was no anxiety and fear whatsoever.

The next day we walked in Athens (we didn't care much because if we were at risk of infection we would've been infected already), climbed the Acropolis and Mount Lycabettus from where we enjoyed amazing panoramic views of Athens. We went to the seaport (for us who live far from the sea it was interesting). The streets of Athens were almost empty and our vocalist Felipe, who had already been here several times, said that he saw this for the first time - at any time of the year there were crowds of tourists in the streets of Athens, especially in the city center. Many restaurants and coffee stores were closed, there were almost no people in the subway and almost everyone we met wore masks. In the evening we had a small party in our apartment for ourselves with Metaxa and barbecue, which we managed to buy in a takeaway in one of the few restaurants still working nearby. Addresses to the people from leaders of many countries and opinions of experts in connection with the coronavirus pandemic were broadcasted on television without interruption. It was clear that the situation in the world had actually gotten out of control and many countries (who didn't have time to do this already) closed their borders and introduced total quarantine. The numbers of sick and deceased in the world increased every hour, although in Greece and Russia the situation so far remained one of the most stable.

Early in the morning of March 15th, Felipe left for the airport and a little later wrote to us that he was OK and he got on a plane to Stockholm. Arkadi also said that he was already on a plane to Dublin which is now taking off. We decided to check how things are going with our flight. We went to the airline's website (it was a Greek airline) to check our flight to Moscow and... our flight was canceled. Our drummer Ottar suggested that we should urgently pack the bags and go to the airport to clarify the situation on the spot and fly out of Greece as soon as possible. We contacted Manolis and explained the situation to him. He replied that in 30 or 40 minutes a minibus would come to take us to the airport and that Yannis, the driver of the minibus, will help us to deal with the airline representatives (in Greek, because our English may not be effective enough in this situation). The situation at the airport was rather deplorable. There was a huge number of people, all of them were agitated, some of them were crying. There were long queues to airline help desks. Our queue was not very long which inspired some hope. On the large screens we could see the situation at the world's largest airports. It was real HELL happening everywhere - giant crowds of stranded people, people desperately storming the airline offices. Even the Athens airport looked calmer in this regard. Finally after an hour of waiting we reached the representative of our airline and she immediately began to look for a solution to our situation (Yannis helped us a lot, many thanks to him for that) and tried to solve the issue of getting to Moscow without surcharges based on the tickets that we had. We had several flight options to Moscow (all of them with transfers via other countries).

As time passed nothing was sorted. In the end, the representative of the airline told us that nothing can be done today. "We will try to sort it tomorrow, now go to the hotel to have a rest, dinner and breakfast are included", she said. We followed her advice as it was already late and everyone was exhausted. We already heard that from tomorrow Greece will close its borders, all flights will be reduced to a minimum. We could only hope that somehow we could still fly back home. To our surprise the hotel turned out to be simply gorgeous. We had a great dinner in the restaurant, ordered the cheapest (by the standards of this hotel) bottle of wine, drank it calmly and were ready to go to bed and then... After we left the restaurant a hotel employee ran up to us and said (pronouncing our names) that the problem with our flight to Moscow has been resolved that the check-in for the flight is about to begin and that we are flying with a transfer... in Yerevan (Armenia)! In the end she wished us good luck and showed the devil horns. "Wow!" was our reaction as we didn't expect such an early solution to our problem and such an exotic route and none of us has ever been to Yerevan! Our guitarist Harald said: "Ivan in Yerevan - sounds cool!" (Ivan is his real name). Ottar added: "Yerevan sounds good, we can even get from Yerevan to Yaroslavl (our hometown) by trolleybus!" (which was of course a joke, there is quite a distance between the two cities). We quickly grabbed our gear and literally ran to the airport for check-in.

During check-in for a flight to Yerevan it turned out that we would have there almost half a day before the flight to Moscow. We all decided not to miss the opportunity to visit Yerevan itself and considered at least a little walk in the city center. As a result we flew out of Greece late in the evening of March 15th as originally planned. The plane landed in Yerevan about 6 in the morning or even earlier. We met a very serious medical check up of all who arrived. All the border guards, customs officers and airport service personnel wore masks, there were many doctors around, not only in masks, but also in special protective medical suits. Everyone at the exit of the aircraft was checked with a stationary thermal imager and people standing in line for border control were selectively approached by doctors and checked with a hand-held electronic thermometer. We did not have any problems, so we left for the arrival zone of Yerevan Airport.

After some rest we took a taxi (in Armenia, as it turned out, a taxi driver is any driver you can negotiate with, especially since everyone speaks and understands Russian, after all it is the former USSR republic!) and so we arrived at the center of Yerevan. Yerevan is a rather exotic city, where the old Soviet architecture (with a local flavor) is adjacent to the newly built office buildings, hotels, casinos and restaurants. What really impressed us was the grandiose view of the snow-capped Mount Ararat in the distance, the top of which was obscured by clouds. This huge mountain was visible almost from everywhere we walked. On this early morning of the working day the center of Yerevan was completely empty, there were almost no people there and those whom we met (they were obviously rushing to work) looked with surprise at our exotic "northern" appearance. The only place that was open was a small 24h supermarket where we immediately bought the famous (according to numerous positive reviews) Armenian cognac and then drank it on a bench with a view at one of the central streets. We wandered around the center of Yerevan and finally found an open restaurant where we had breakfast, quickly negotiated with the next "taxi driver" and left for the airport.

In the departure zone we sat right next to the huge panoramic window from which Mount Ararat was perfectly visible in all its glory. We also did not forget to drink Armenian cognac from Duty Free. After boarding the plane to Moscow we learned that from tomorrow Armenia would close its borders and this is the last scheduled flight. "We made it in the last moment, will of the gods is indeed a great power!", we all thought. And finally, Moscow Sheremetyevo Airport! Now we were almost home. We have already prepared for serious medical checks and questions like "where were you, how long have you been there, whom did you contact with, how do you feel", etc. We were struck by how empty the airfield was - there were only a few planes of the Russian airline Aeroflot. We saw that for the first time. Upon leaving the plane, to our surprise, there were no checks at all. Only at the far end of the corridor (50 meters from us) we noticed a thermal imager and two doctors with bored looks. Apparently, Armenia by Russian standards was still considered a safe country in relation with coronavirus. However here, as in Armenia, all border guards, customs officers and maintenance personnel were wearing masks and gloves. Finally we got all our luggage, went outside, breathed in almost freezing air and sighed with relief - that's all, our adventure is over! We loaded into the shuttle bus (ordered in advance) and went to our hometown of Yaroslavl. We had yet another 4 hours of travel and two-week home quarantine, and tests for coronavirus. But we were very pleased with the fact that we visited Greece and that we still managed to play at least some kind of concert and meet the fans. We got a lot of positive impressions in general, although there were a lot of frustrations and worries. As a result none of us got sick - all the tests turned out to be negative and we all, including Felipe in Stockholm and Arkadi in Dublin (who reported that they feel fine after two weeks of home quarantine), immersed in our regular life.

We all would like to return to Greece again and play a proper, full show on the big stage for all fans who want to see us. But better without these sudden adventures that happened to us this time. Many thanks to all who supported and helped us on this trip!

Prologue by Andreas Andreou

Story told by Velingor

Translation by Arkadi Borissov

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Δευτέρα, 20 Απριλίου 2020

Black Sabbath - Headless Cross: The story of the album.


Sometime in 1988, Tony Iommi and Black Sabbath were left without a record label after working for years with Warner Bros and Vertigo. Shortly, Iommi signed with I.R.S. Records after the label's owner, Miles Copeland, told him: "You know how to write albums, you know what people want. You do it and I'm fine with it." Later, Iommi asked drummer Cozy Powell to join him and they considered calling Ronnie James Dio but Tony Martin was finally the singer of Black Sabbath. There was a possibility for Geezer Butler to work again with Sabbath, but Geezer prefered to join Ozzy Osbourne's band since he was more successful than Sabbath at that time. Laurence Cottle played bass in Headless Cross, but mostly as a session musician since Neil Murray was brought as a full-time member for the upcoming tour. The song "When Death Calls" has a guest guitar solo by Brian May of Queen, and the titles of two tracks of Headless Cross were changed because Ozzy Osbourne's No Rest for the Wicked album that was released a few months earlier had the same ones; "Call of the Wild" was originally titled "Hero" and "Devil & Daughter" was originally titled "Devil's Daughter". Everyone also knows the story of Tony Iommi, that when Sabbath had the first record out with I.R.S., Cozy Powell and himself went into record stores in Toronto, Canada, and no one carried the album...

All of the above is the kind of information you can find in Wikipedia and all those articles that just copy and share these (known) details from Wiki, so let's dive deeper and try to elaborate more in one of the most underrated albums of the late '80s, the way it deserves it and not by just writing "one more article".

written by Andreas Andreou

Chapter I: Cut the crucifix half to the ground - Before the album.

After the release of Born Again (1983) and the supporting tour for the most disturbing Sabbath album, the band was falling apart and Tony Iommi was left alone, so he had the idea to record a solo album. The result was Seventh Star and you can read about it at Metal Nerdism Vol. 3: Five cases of albums that were not meant to be under that BAND name. "It was supposed to be a solo album. I certainly didn't want to release it as a Black Sabbath album, because I hadn't written it as a Black Sabbath album", Tony Iommi wrote in his biography and Seventh Star was finally released in January 1986 under the name Black Sabbath featuring Tony Iommi, with Tony alone on the cover sleeve; exactly as a solo project. The recording line-up besides Tony Iommi, was singer Glenn Hughes, bassist Dave Spitz, drummer Eric Singer, keyboardist Geoff Nicholls, and Jeff Glixman was the producer. The supporting tour was a commercial failure and just after a few shows, Glenn Hughes was replaced by Ray Gillen. Tony Iommi couldn't do anything else, so he continued using the name "Black Sabbath" and started working on his next album under the title The Eternal Idol, with Jeff Glixman once again producing. That album was very difficult to be completed with Iommi working like a solo project once again.

Bob Daisley was brought by producer Glixman to help with bass duties and even if the name of Dave Spitz also appears in the credits, Daisley had said that he played all the parts of the album. Daisley also wrote many of the lyrics since Iommi doesn't write lyrics and most of Gillen's parts were reworked because no matter how great his voice was, he was never a songwriter. It is said that Geoff Nicholls also contributed a few ideas but in the credits "all tracks written by Tony Iommi".

Back to the recordings though, they were started with Jeff Glixman and then he was replaced by producer Vic Coppersmith-Heaven, after Iommi's request because Glixman was very possessive with the project. Ray Gillen recorded his parts and then left the band (we will analyze it when an article for The Eternal Idol will be written). Bob Daisley was never an official member and just helped with recordings, but when he returned to Gary Moore's band, drummer Eric Singer also followed him... So at the end, Iommi was left with a nearly finished album but without a band. At the final stages, producer Chris Tsangaridis was brought to complete recordings and mixing, but most important, to lay down the new singer's performance because there was no chance for Tony Iommi to release an album and then go on tour without the singer of the album... And the new singer was Tony Martin.

Albert Chapman, a lifelong friend and old manager of Tony Iommi, suggested him Tony Martin of The Alliance, a band he was manager of [Read the story of Tony Martin & The Alliance]. Tony Martin recorded the vocals for the songs that were already written note by note in a few days and The Eternal Idol was ready for release. A difficult album, with many changes, a different touring line-up and another supporting tour that was a commercial failure, with just a few dates. Tony Martin's first live show with Black Sabbath was in Athens, Greece, on 21st of July 1987. In a few of the rest shows, Virgin Steele was the opening act.

Chapter II: To the hill of the Headless Cross - The album.

Once the few tour dates were completed, Tony Iommi entered 1988 with a huge uncertainty and without a record deal since Warner Bros dropped Black Sabbath. When he decided to ink a deal with I.R.S. Records, that was a huge step down but only with a smaller record label he could keep doing what he wanted. On the other hand, it was difficult to sign a deal with one of the major labels like Warner Bros because they would definitely want something that would be closer to real Black Sabbath and not something that was closer to a "solo project using the Black Sabbath banner". If Iommi wanted to continue releasing music under the Black Sabbath banner with a major label, he needed to have another major name also with him, something like Ozzy Osbourne, Ronnie James Dio or David Coverdale.

Both Seventh Star and The Eternal Idol were great albums and had a few positive reviews despite the fact that had much less press coverage than the past when Ozzy and Dio were fronting. The poor sales, in contrast to the time it took them to be completed, the money spent for them and the tours that followed, didn't help at all. No one could actually consider them as a "real band" after 1984, since Seventh Star was supposed to be a solo album of Tony Iommi, The Eternal Idol was a record that had a different line-up started the recordings, a different line-up competed the recordings and another line-up completed the supporting tour...

Later in August 1988, legendary drummer Cozy Powell joined as an equal member with Tony Iommi and started working together on a new album. They even discussed getting another (most known) singer, considering Ronnie James Dio and David Coverdale, but Tony Martin was finally chosen for Black Sabbath; a wise final decision that was probably taken mostly thanks to Cozy Powell. David Coverdale was just a name they had in mind (mostly Powell) but he was never officially asked, probably for the better, because there was no way for Coverdale to let aside his successful career at that moment with Whitesnake, especially just one year after releasing the same-titled 1987 album, that sold more than all the latest Sabbath albums combined.

It was Powell also, who brought bassist Laurence Cottle to the project in order to record a few tracks, but in the end he recorded all of the album, since original Sabbath bass player Geezer Butler didn't finally join the Sabs again because he ended with Ozzy's solo band that was slightly more Sabbath-esque in 1988-'89, mainly during the live shows. Cottle was a jazz bass player and he was playing in a jazz club in London, so he completed his parts in just a few days overdubbing mostly. However, he was never meant to be a touring band member, even if he appears in the video clip of "Headless Cross" and is mentioned as a regular band member in the album credits.

The recording line-up of Headless Cross was Tony Martin (vocals), Tony Iommi (guitars), Laurence Cottle (bass), Cozy Powell (drums) and Geoff Nicholls (keyboards), while the album was produced by Tony Iommi and Cozy Powell who had the complete control of the project. The album was recorded in the United Kingdom with pre-production at Rich Bitch Studios in Birmingham, while recordings started when Iommi met Powell in August '88 and completed until November '88 in different studios: The Soundmill, Woodcray and Amazon Studios.

For Headless Cross, Tony Martin wrote the lyrics using a few Satanic themes in contrast to the older '70s lyrics of Geezer Butler that were more focused in the fear of Satan, society, anti-war themes and the dark future of the world. However, despite the general idea, Martin worked a lot in the lyrics, finding the most suitable words and phrasing that could perfectly fit with his vocal lines. According to what Martin has stated, the album's title was actually inspired by a village close to Birmingham, where it was hit hard by the Black Plague centuries ago. This time, writing credits are mentioned as "all songs by Black Sabbath".

Music wise, Black Sabbath brought many elements of the past, adding also a few new ones and presented a different album in their catalogue, even if The Riff is still there. The same-titled track has a strong Dio aura, even in the way Martin sings "Look through the people and on through the mist..." or "on a night such as this". What you can also clearly listen from the beginning (not "The Gates of Hell" intro...), is the fact that the album is very Powell-driven and also we need to add that Nicholls' keyboards create a perfect atmosphere. "When Death Calls" (with a guest solo of Queen's Brian May, Iommi's close friend) is one of those great epics of the Martin-era Sabbath with a great vocal performance, something that worked perfectly in the studio; so perfect that the expectations were set sky high and weren't easily reached in the live shows. Even "Devil & Daughter" is a very difficult song to perform live... and Tony Martin knows that very well!

The album also had a few more melodic moments that bring to mind even the AOR and melodic metal side of the late '80s, something that you could listen to during the verses of "Kill in the Spirit World". Even another Powell-driven cut like "Call of the Wind" has a melodic aura, something that a few Sabbath tracks had during the Martin-era. This is probably something that needs to be credited to Martin himself since he was also a part of the songwriting process, adding also the fact that he released a melodic solo album himself in 1992 (Back Where I Belong). "Black Moon" is a song that was written during The Eternal Idol sessions when producer Chris Tsangaridis was brought to complete the album. It was recorded as a single b-side and ended on "The Shining" single, just to be re-recorded and added again for Headless Cross. As for "Nightwing", this is the essence of an underrated track that, by the way, was remixed in a different session. "Cloak & Dagger" is another song that was recorded during the Headless Cross sessions and was finally used as a single b-side and bonus track.

Headless Cross was released on April 24th of 1989.

Chapter III: Where all witches meet - After the album.

It seemed that Sabbath were still waiting for the possibility of Geezer Butler joining them for the upcoming tour but in the end, bassist Neil Murray (former member of Whitesnake, Gary Moore and Vow Wow, among others), joined them. It is said that at some point after the release of The Eternal Idol, he was asked to join Sabbath but the first time he said "no". This is also something that should be credited to Cozy Powell since he introduced him to Tony Iommi.

The Headless Cross Tour in the United States started on May 31st of 1989 with Kingdom Come and Silent Rage supporting, but ticket sales and attendance were very low, so after just a handful of shows up to mid-June, all of the rest shows until mid-July were cancelled. Black Sabbath returned defeated in Europe and continued a European Tour (mainly in September, with Axxis supporting) with most dates in the UK and Germany. In October, Sabbath visited Japan for a few shows and later in November and December they went to Russia for more shows, where they played for around 20 dates with Girlschool supporting. It is said that Black Sabbath performed twice for a few days but the correct information is that they performed twice only during weekends, meaning just 4 or 5 days, where the first show in evening was around 60 to 70 minutes, and the next one later at night, was around 1 hour and 45 minutes. There is a rumour that these shows "burnt" Tony Martin's voice but this can't be considered as a fact. After all, it was just 5 dates maximum with a total of performance of 2 hours and 45 minutes for those 5 days. This sounds mostly as an "excuse" for future Sabbath performances where Tony Martin didn't reach the expected performance, according to a few people. Still though, the second longest serving frontman of Sabbath after Ozzy, never missed a show, even if he was sick.

Headless Cross had a better acceptance than The Eternal Idol but Tony Iommi wasn't really satisfied with the I.R.S. Records' distribution in North America (actually the album was released by the I.R.S. Metal sub-label). There is a story of Tony Iommi, who said that when Sabbath had the first record out with I.R.S., Cozy Powell and himself went into record stores in Toronto, Canada, and no one carried the album. However, Headless Cross charted higher than The Eternal Idol, even if none of them entered the Billboard 100 in the United States. And keep in mind, that The Eternal Idol was released by a bigger label but it wasn't easy for Iommi to blame a major label like Warner Bros or Vertigo, a label that even made him release a solo album under the Black Sabbath name. Most likely, I.R.S. was used as a scapegoat for the low ticket sales of the first shows and the cancellation of the rest of the Headless Cross North American tour.


Headless Cross is a great album, even if it lacks originality. It is one of those perfect '80s heavy metal albums that you're never tired of listening to. For a few people, it is the "best" Black Sabbath album and for a few more among their Sabbath Top-5 albums. Subjectively, anyone can say that this is the "best" (correct word is "favourite") album but objectively it can't be the best Sabbath album, probably not even in the Top-5 Sabs albums, if you have a wider view of what BLACK SABBATH actually is. If the album will disappear from Sabbath's discography, a favourite album of many people will disappear from their lives and memories but the history of metal music won't change. You can't say the same for albums like Black Sabbath, Master of Reality or Heaven and Hell where many things will change in the lineage of heavy music in general.

Along with Tyr, this is probably the best album of the Tony Martin-era and Headless Cross nowadays, seems to be more related with the name of Tony Martin than Black Sabbath (the band) and that's a huge credit for Tony Martin; the man, the voice, the artist.

Τρίτη, 14 Απριλίου 2020

Doomicus Metallicus: The Chronicles of Doom Metal - 13 Chapters of Sorrow.

The rites of Doom Metal through 10 (+10) albums. 

Prologue: What is this that stands before me?

Sabbathian Magick. Clean vocals. Slow suffering and sorrow. Sorcery and pain. Heaviness and Metal. The power of The Riff. These are the chronicles of Doom Metal and Epic Doom Metal.

You will read about 10 + 10 albums (one from each band). A few of the musicians that created those classic albums (and a few more) will talk about them and comment on albums and bands... but not on their own albums. They will talk about  the doomed art of the others and within those albums and bands presented here, doom metal stories and insights will be revealed, making this feature, "The Chronicles of Doom Metal".

Adding detail to the chronicles, you will read new comments, stories and memories, insights and mini interviews by Tom Phillips (WHILE HEAVEN WEPT), Tom Björn (MEMORY GARDEN), Gerrit P. Mutz (DAWN OF WINTER), Ilia "Velingor" Timashev (SCALD), Kimi Kärki (REVEREND BIZARRE, LORD VICAR), Father Alex (THE TEMPLE), Michael Stavrakakis (DOOMOCRACY), Chad Davis (HOUR OF 13, THE SABBATHIAN), Howie Bentley (BRITON RITES), Jonathan "Sealey" Seale (IRON VOID), Leo Stivala (FORSAKEN), John Gallo (ORODRUIN), Karl Simon (THE GATES OF SLUMBER), Steve Jansson (CRYPT SERMON), Brooks Wilson (CRYPT SERMON) and Annick Giroux (CAUCHEMAR)

BLACK SABBATH is the starting point of Doom Metal, but besides their overall strong influence in heavy (metal) music in general, the Birmingham sorcery was spread even more. The difference with other "brand names" and influential metal bands (f.e. JUDAS PRIEST, IRON MAIDEN), is that Tony Iommi and Co. didn't influence only metal acts. The Sabbathian Magick of the first albums was spread beyond doom and heavy metal, including what is known as grunge music and the Seattle scene, and other sub-genres close to the slowness and heaviness of doom, like stoner, sludge, and similar styles. But being inspired by SABBATH, playing "slow" and "heavy", or "retro" music, doesn't make them "doom metal", since other mixed influences and musical background will separate them. CANDLEMASS and REVEREND BIZARRE are not the same with CROWBAR and HIGH ON FIRE, so what you will read here, is about pure Doom Metal and Epic Doom Metal, only.

To make things clear, this is a short example of bands that are not Doom Metal yet they have elements of the genre: AMORPHIS, ANATHEMA, DRACONIAN, KATATONIA, ORANGE GOBLIN, TRIPTYKON, TYPE O NEGATIVE, WITCHCRAFT.

To continue with more examples, even in the "regressive" world of traditional metal, ATLANTEAN KODEX and DOOMSWORD are epic metal bands with doom metal elements and not the opposite. In a more general view, few of the early ANATHEMA albums are death/doom metal, while they have nothing to do with the genre in their later career besides the feeling of sorrow. Just like PARADISE LOST or TIAMAT, which had a strong death metal element in the first years, while other elements took the leading role in later years, along with doom; gothic metal, even rock in a few cases-albums. There's plenty of grief and sorrow in their albums, we respect their art and emotional music, but are not the DOOM METAL we're talking about. A few songs here and there are not what we have in mind, no matter how great they are.

The intent is not to include all doom metal bands out there. It makes no sense to add in the same article the best and most influential acts, and then add any other band only because it is labeled as "doom metal". This is not the alphabet of doom. However, besides the 10 (+10) albums, you will read many more band names (rule: with at least one full album) and if you will search among them you will discover a few more treasures of doom metal.

We will try to keep things as close as possible to what we analyzed above, but there will be few exceptions in the main feature; you will read about them below. Still though, there will be no acts that balance in death and/or gothic metal, and we will limit the names in the wider field of "slow" and Sabbathian music. There are plenty of printed and online articles including doom/death (or slow death metal, according to the Circle of True Doom), sludge, drone, stoner, heavy rock and atmospheric music out there. This is not what we want to do here.

written by Andreas Andreou

Chapter I: The Hand of Doom

BLACK SABBATH is the Big Bang of Heavy Metal and Doom Metal, but the four blokes that formed the band in the late '60s in Birmingham, are something more. The starting point for all-thing-heavy and Doom Metal is among them, as the heaviest subgenre of metal music, the music of despair, the soul of metal, according to DAWN OF WINTER.

Heavy music's roots came from bands like CREAM, IRON BUTTERFLY, JIMI HENDRIX, BLUE CHEER, BUDGIE and LED ZEPPELIN among a few others, mostly after the mid-60s, but BLACK SABBATH introduced to the world the complete offering of outcast heavy music with a huge variety of lyrics including songs about the fear of Satan, society, anti-war themes and the dark future of the world. They were rebellious, full of madness and heavy riffs, ALL combined. Heavy metal riffs and not just guitar distortion. For example, you can't place anywhere close to SABBATH, the debut album of COVEN, despite their evil image and lyrics, because they lack heaviness and The Riff. Simple.

Many bands and musicians placed their "rock" on the foundations of hard and heavy music but SABBATH set the biggest boulder and upon it the foundations of heavy metal were built. If we need to set a zero moment for the birth of heavy metal with just one band, one album and one musician, it has to be: BLACK SABBATH, Black Sabbath album and Tony Iommi. Heavy metal would exist without them but it would be different; so much different that might end as something else... But we will never know that, since history is already written. And if you will place a zero point for the subgenre of doom metal, it is BLACK SABBATH but this time it is undeniable. Especially Master of Reality, a perfect heavy/doom metal album, before the existence of the term, and before the formation of all the other metal subgenres.

During the '70s, music was evolving rapidly and by late '70s, SABBATH was already an "old" band. When everything is evolving rapidly, time is running differently. Then, you had JUDAS PRIEST and a few other bands that completed and shaped the foundations of heavy metal, until we will reach the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, that was probably the most important movement in the history of metal music because of its influence in the '80s and the subgenres that followed. During the NWOBHM, there were also bands like WITCHFINDER GENERAL and PAGAN ALTAR, and even if it took many years for PAGAN ALTAR to be established, WITCHFINDER GENERAL released two iconic albums, Death Penalty (1982) and Friends of Hell (1983). However, both WITCHFINDER GENERAL and PAGAN ALTAR might not be exactly "doom metal" for a few people, and of course, there were a few more bands that played heavy/doom music around the world, but mostly in dark basements without having a full-album release back then. Most notable, the ram family of Bobby Liebling and names like PENTAGRAM, BEDEMON, MACABRE, DEATH ROW. However, very soon, PENTAGRAM gained the fame they deserved.

Meanwhile, other bands that were already formed around the same time with DEATH ROW, managed to release their debut albums in 1984, and were the next heavy stone to the foundations of doom: SAINT VITUS and TROUBLE. There was also a talented guy in Sweden that was heavily into BLACK SABBATH and the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. His band was called NEMESIS, he released in 1984 The Day of Retribution EP, and his name was Leif Edling...

Chapter II:  CANDLEMASS and Epicus Doomicus Metallicus (1986)

...and after the release of The Day of Retribution EP, Leif Edling started a new band, CANDLEMASS. At this point, we have reached a defining moment in the history of doom metal. The debut album of CANDLEMASS was released in the summer of 1986 by Black Dragon Records. The album's title, Epicus Doomicus Metallicus didn't just name the genre we're talking about, but this is one of the first times that also the term "epic metal" appears. It is said that Mark Shelton of MANILLA ROAD used this term sometime in the early '80s, but in the cover of that album, everyone would see it for the first time, before it started to appear in adverts, label promos, the press and other bands to describe their music. Epicus Doomicus Metallicus is not just an album; it is the ultimate statement, a bold idea, the greatest album of Doom Metal and Epic Doom Metal.

What can someone write for that album that hasn't been written already? Epicus Doomicus Metallicus is one of the biggest influences for everyone that released an epic doom metal album afterwards. Ilia "Velingor" Timashev, bass player of SCALD, the cult epic doom metal band from Russia, offered a brief history of his connection with that album: "Epicus Doomicus Metallicus was first given to me on a tape by a Bulgarian friend, who said something like "they play slow metal which is called doom - it's like BLACK SABBATH, only heavier". By the way, it was the first time I ever heard about this style - doom metal. That was back in 1989, when I was 15 and already a huge metal fan who would listen to nothing else. I did know BLACK SABBATH already, mostly by their early albums featuring Ozzy, but to be honest, I never really liked them much. My preferences in those days were thrash and death metal, so I was far from being enthusiastic when I first played that tape... I was utterly surprised! It was not at all what I expected. It sure was "slow" metal, but how amazing it was! Mystical atmosphere, mesmerizing guitar riffs and profound vocals of Johan Längquist who sounded to me like a wizard doing his spells... It was breathtaking and I listened to the whole album over and over again. My first impression was that the guys tried to take thrash metal and make it as slow as possible, but also augmenting it with this mystical component."

Velingor continues: "I loved "Demons Gate" and "A Sorcerer’s Pledge" the most. I know many fans would say "Solitude" was their favourite, but not for me in 1989. The appreciation for this song came much later, when I managed to somehow translate the lyrics using a dictionary. Since then I felt some kind of a personal connection with the song, it reflected my teenage fears, lack of understanding on the part of society etc. And that's how I came to appreciate not only the speed and aggression of the music but also its atmosphere, feelings and emotions that music is capable of creating. Obviously, I did my best to find other CANDLEMASS albums and listen to them; I loved them as well, including very different but also brilliant vocals of Messiah Marcolin. But it is Epicus Doomicus Metallicus that is to this day my favorite CANDLEMASS album and that never left my personal Top-5 ever since the first time I heard it. After all these years I realize that it was Epicus Doomicus Metallicus that made me want to play doom metal."

Check also: KRUX and Krux (2002)

When Messiah Marcolin joined CANDLEMASS on vocals and they were finally a touring band, the Swedish bringers of heaviness and sorrow released Nightfall (1987), Ancient Dreams (1988) and Tales of Creation (1989), a few of the albums that shaped doom metal. Then, Messiah Marcolin left and after the release of the album Chapter VI (1992), CANDLEMASS entered a period of uncertainty and took them a while until the moment where they were really accepted as the masters of Doom Metal. CANDLEMASS broke up in 1994, so their founder, songwriter and bassist Leif Edling, formed ABSTRAKT ALGEBRA with an extraordinary line-up including Mats Levén on vocals, Mike Wead and Simon Johansson on guitars, Jejo Perković on drums and Carl Westholm helping with keyboards. The same titled debut album of ABSTRAKT ALGEBRA was released in 1995 and it is something really different; something you could label as a progressive power doom metal release. Two years later, Leif Edling wrote the second ABSTRAKT ALGEBRA album but the events that followed made him record it and release it under the CANDLEMASS moniker but without any former member of the Swedish doom metal titans. So CANDLEMASS were back in the map with a different line-up, rooted deeper in the Sabbathian Magick with two overlooked albums (Dactylis Glomerata - 1998, From the 13th Sun - 1999) of abstrakt doom but after a while, Leif Edling formed another band, joined again by singer Mats Levén and the name was KRUX. Keeping the weirdness of the last two C'MASS albums, the same titled debut release of KRUX included a few of the best post-1990 songs Edling wrote, like "Omfalos" and "Pococatépetl". There is an excellent use of keyboards that add an extra weirdness and atmosphere but there is definitely less depression and a different approach on doom topics. That album sounded like a breath of wicked air in a passage through the dark. A breath of mould that whispers "you creator of revolution and doom".


Chapter III:  SOLITUDE AETURNUS and Beyond the Crimson Horizon (1992)

Formed in 1987 as SOLITUDE, the "aeturnus" was added later and by the end of the decade, the metal titans from Arlington, Texas, had already shaped a mystical vision of epic doom metal. The classic line-up of the early releases featured Robert Lowe (vocals), John Perez (guitars), Edgar Rivera (guitars), Lyle Steadham (bass), John Covington (drums), and just like Melissa or Don't Break the Oath, Into the Depths of Sorrow or Beyond the Crimson Horizon is one of the best and most difficult debates in metal history. SOLITUDE AETURNUS were influenced by CANDLEMASS but they managed to combine a diversity of inspiration, even from US power metal, with most notable a few early-FATES WARNING (Awaken the Guardian era) elements, and added them in their crystal clear vision; a vision of of majestic music. You can find plenty of sorrow and mournful chants here, but this is not just gloomy doom metal, since you also have uplifting moments. Having Robert Lowe (one of the best post-1990 singers) with his unique vocal lines and the suitable lyrics of Lyle Steadham, added to the brilliance of the musicians' skillful performance, SOLITUDE AETURNUS are the ultimate unsung heroes of metal music in general.

Beyond the Crimson Horizon was released by Roadrunner / Roadracer Records in 1992, a label that became major those years, with recording artists like SEPULTURA, TYPE O NEGATIVE, FEAR FACTORY and MACHINE HEAD, while at the same time, the atmospheric gothic and death side of doom metal from the United Kingdom started to dominate the metal scene. Maybe it was destined for SOLITUDE AETURNUS to remain an underground act and that's how they continued for the next few years, releasing Through the Darkest Hour (1994), Downfall (1996) and Adagio (1998). There was a gap until the next studio album Alone (2006) and that was the last one until now. The line-up changes and the fact that the band wasn't a "job" or career for the members, put them in a sort of "inactivity". After the release of "Alone", Robert Lowe joined CANDLEMASS until 2012, releasing with the Swedish doom masters the albums King of the Grey Islands (2007), Death Magic Doom (2009) and Psalms for the Dead (2012). Few months after his debut with CANDLEMASS, Lowe can be heard on the only album of CONCEPT OF GOD, Visions, featuring SOLITUDE AETURNUS members minus John Perez.

Leo Stivala, singer of FORSAKEN, the mighty doom metal band from Malta that released impressive albums like Anima Mundi (2004), Dominaeon (2005) and After the Fall (2009), says: "I consider SOLITUDE AETURNUS and their ominous discography as a true inspirational source in my musical and vocal journey with FORSAKEN and epic doom metal in general. All their albums are different from each other but all retain a magical and mystical element, which characterises the band and places them among the best this genre has to offer."

Leo Stivala's own story about the album is: "My first listen to Beyond the Crimson Horizon, happened a few months after its release in the early '90s. I had already been positively touched by the debut and this one did not disappoint either. In my opinion the debut has more memorable songs but Beyond the Crimson Horizon has a better production and heavier songs which make it much more my taste. Musically speaking, it is very intelligently composed. Songs have many elements that make this album a whole enjoyable journey from start to finish. You have heavy chugging songs with exceptional uptempo middle sections , and also some clean parts which nearly make you shed a tear or two."

"It is more than clear that the guys in the band have been fully concentrated when composing this album", Leo adds. "Everything is top notch stuff, crushing riffs, exceptionally crafted solos and dual melodies by Perez and Rivera who are definitely in the level of the CANDLEMASS duo. Count Lyle delivers thunderous bass and last but not least, total drumming tightness featuring both power and technique by Mr. Covington."

When the moment comes, for another singer of the genre to comment on the divine voice of Robert Lowe, Leo says: "What about the vocals? HERE IS WHERE I MELT. There are not enough words to describe Robert Lowe's vocal prowess and I can't hail this man enough for what he is capable of. Totally in a league of his own. On this album he delivers with fire, power and soul. Such a unique voice... One of the best ever. WHAT A PERFORMANCE!"

To continue with the album, Leo Stivala completes: "As regards to the songs on the album my favourite is "Black Castle". That opening riff just crushes the hell out of my soul accompanied by Lowe's magical touch. But as I said before there is nothing to complain about. Other stand out tracks for me are "The Hourglass" and the immaculate "Seeds of the Desolate". Great album, but still Through the Darkest Hour is my all time favourite SOLITUDE AETURNUS album... But that's another review (laughs)."

Check also: SORCERER's early demo years and spells.

SORCERER is a very special case. The band was formed in Sweden in 1988 and recorded the demo tapes Sorcerer (1989), The Inquisition (1992) and then disbanded when bassist Johnny Hagel left to join TIAMAT. It took three years until the moment when John Perez of SOLITUDE AETURNUS formed BrainTicket Records and the first release of his label was a CD including nearly all of the demo recordings of SORCERER. Those demo recordings remain until today as one of the greatest achievements underground epic doom metal ever offered, and those years  it was the closest thing to CANDLEMASS' debut album.

SORCERER's fame in the underground metal scene was highly respected and during the '90s and '00s you could see their name mentioned every time someone would speak about the greatest bands of epic doom metal, even if they hadn't officially release any album, so in 2010 they briefly reunited to perform one show at Hammer of Doom Festival and one year later they also played at Up the Hammers Festival. At that point, SORCERER decided to record a new album, so a line-up including original singer Anders Engberg and original bassist Johnny Hagel, was joined by guitarist extraordinaire Kristian Niemann (ex-THERION), Peter Hallgren (guitar), Robert Iversen (drums) and adding a strong '80s BLACK SABBATH vibe, they finally recorded their first album under the title In the Shadow of the Inverted Cross that was released by Metal Blade Records in 2015.

SORCERER kept going and the band was introduced to a wider audience, even if a few of the older fans didn't follow the albums but keep praising the old demo tracks that have been reissued a few more times on CD and vinyl. Richard Evensand, drummer of the old demo years rejoined sometime in 2017 when the second album The Crowning of the Fire King (2017) was released, even if he didn't perform on the album. The legacy of the SORCERER is strong until today and keeps casting the spells with more live shows and another album entitled Lamenting of the Innocent.


Chapter IV: SOLSTICE and New Dark Age (1998)

It was somewhere during 1990 when Rich Walker decided to walk the path of doom metal. BLACK SABBATH, CANDLEMASS, COUNT RAVEN and SAINT VITUS were the bands he had in mind at that point, as the guidance to that heavy and doomed path. Rich was a strong personality, weird and extreme character for some, talented for sure. During the years, many members entered the fortress SOLSTICE and many left, but Walker's mark in the path of doom metal is undeniable for many reasons. From all those demo recordings and the drunken dungeon sessions up to the crushing epic doom metal of the official releases, SOLSTICE was a triumph. Starting with Lamentations (1994), continued with Halcyon EP (1996) and then forging New Dark Age (1998), the quality of those releases is matched only by a few; the strong ones.

New Dark Age is not your typical doom metal album, it is epic beyond words. The lyrics are complex, inspired by H.P. Lovecraft and Robert Howard, using words you don't see very often. Furthermore, Morris Ingram performs those words with a very unique style upon the masterful structure of songs like "The Sleeping Tyrant", "Cimmerian Codex" and "Hammer of Damnation". As for it's legacy, bands like ATLANTEAN KODEX and TERMINUS are among those who are deeply influenced. Sometime in 2002, SOLSTICE collapsed and Walker formed ISEN TORR performing (what he called) Anglo-Saxon Battle Metal at Mighty & Superior EP (2004). SOLSTICE reformed in 2004.

The best person to comment on SOLSTICE and New Dark Age is no other than Tom Phillips of WHILE HEAVEN WEPT. Tom briefly joined SOLSTICE and had a strong relationship with Rich and the band. Tom remembers about his first "meeting" with SOLSTICE: "I first became acquainted with SOLSTICE via my brother John Perez of SOLITUDE AETURNUS; being that WHILE HEAVEN WEPT and SOLITUDE AETURNUS were the only two epic doom metal bands in the USA for a long time - and two of perhaps 7-8 worldwide at one time… A time when CANDLEMASS was on hiatus, we naturally gravitated towards each other and have been mates ever since. Anyway, John said, "man, you've got to check out this Lamentations album" and actually sent me a copy - I instantly fell in love with that record… It REALLY resonated with me, so I wrote to Rich Walker immediately. This was back in the pre-internet era, where we were all tape trading and contacting bands from ads in fanzines or from flyers included with trades. Needless to say, Rich and I traded demos, merch, CDs and a lifelong relationship (of varying temperaments haha) unfolded."

Tom continues on his first personal meeting and how he joined SOLSTICE: "Fast forward a few months and in late 1995, I was heading over to the UK with my university choir - who I prompted ditched upon arrival and I took a bus up to Dewsbury to meet the band - who at the time, all lived in the same flat. They had just completed the Halcyon EP and obviously I was quite keen to hear the results. "To Ride With Tyr" heralded an even more epic sound that foreshadowed an evolution beyond doom into a more purely epic metal territory - whilst still being bastard heavy. "Graven Deep" also resonated as it was clearly coming from a sincere place - the same kind of place that all things WHW come from - true anguish.  Anyway, it was during that visit that I was told they'd parted ways with singer Simon Matravers and after a couple nights of drunken debauchery and hooliganism as one might expect from "the drunkest band in England", Rich pulled me aside and said, "if you want the job, you've got it" - I didn't hesitate… despite being more than a half a decade into WHILE HEAVEN WEPT - which at that time, still had a singular mission: to pen my epitaph successfully… However, life kept throwing me these twists and turns. So that was it… I went ahead and joined SOLSTICE." 

"At the same time, I was helping a new band of brothers back at home over the past year and change too - that band ultimately becoming TWISTED TOWER DIRE - so over the remaining months of 1995 I was tending to WHW business, bouncing ideas around with the first stable incarnation of TTD (as the initial jams included more personnel from Scott Waldrop's previous band GOLGOTHA), and making final preparations to uproot - yeah, I decided to move to the UK in the same way Chuck once went off to join SLAUGHTER in Canada.  Arriving in early 1996, hand-carrying the first TWISTED TOWER DIRE demo to Europe - at least the early mix that I had done the day before I boarded the plane - I made my way back to West Yorkshire and we settled in."

"Not long after my arrival Rich began revealing various riffs that would later evolve into "The Sleeping Tyrant" and "Cimmerian Codex" - he even had ideas extending onward into "To Sol A Thane" at that time. We'd sit around in the room we shared trading riffs - but I never felt like anything I had on tap was "British" enough - SOLSTICE had a distinct sound that no Yankee was ever going to bring to the table.  Really, everyone who was involved at the time was throwing around ideas and the relationships were quite different at this time - it was a very positive time overall, though the "Halcyon" EP kept being delayed by the original label and it was an ongoing point of frustration. We kept soldiering on, forging new ideas - many of which ended up being on the album - but from my recollection, almost all were Rich's - at least of the songs mentioned previously. What I mean is - as that album took more than a couple years to materialize, some later ideas were brought in by subsequent members but the basic gist was already there even back in 1996."

Tom's story includes more insights and moments: "Ultimately, most of our time was spent inebriated - sometimes at the pubs, sometimes terrorizing the neighborhood… It wasn’t uncommon to have various folks from ANATHEMA or BLASPHEMER turning up and of course there's the infamous incident where the police were called in on account of us breathing fire in the back garden one night. Great times! I'm sure with enough time I could break out more stories about absconding with steaks or folks tumbling down flights of stairs with leather waistcoats full of pint glasses, but we'll save some of those for the official documentary!  In the end, I had to get back to WHILE HEAVEN WEPT as it was my therapy - how I expressed myself… There were times of great loneliness and introspection during my days in England, and I hold virtues like always finishing what you start very close to my heart… So eventually, I had to get back "home" to WHW."

"Unfortunately, the promise of a true collaboration with Rich was never fulfilled but you never know what could happen these days…" summed up Tom, "I mean, consider that I recently answered another "what if" question by reuniting with Scott Waldrop 20 years later for his WALPYRGUS project after all. When New Dark Age was finally forged, it was bittersweet for me but it was a crushing statement nonetheless, and those songs that I knew from the gestation period had evolved into epics that will last forever - and the newer passages were very much welcomed just the same. It was a landmark indeed - and it complemented our own Sorrow of the Angels album in a very powerful way… At that time, we were the ones holding the banner of Epic Doom Metal high while many of our colleagues were still at a demo stage or evolving into something else."  

Check also: ISOLE and Throne of Void (2006)

Crister Olsson and Daniel Bryntse formed FORLORN in Sweden in the beginning of the '90s, releasing various demo recordings until early '00s. In 2004, they changed the name to ISOLE and one of the greatest epic doom metal bands of the '00s was born. Starting with Forevermore (2005), it was the second album Throne of Void (2006) that led them to the very best releases of the genre for that decade, something they nearly did with the next two albums also, Bliss of Solitude (2008) and Silent Ruins (2009). CANDLEMASS, early SOLSTICE, some of WHILE HEAVEN WEPT's sorrow, great arrangements and suitable production, mournful lyrics, everything cries "classic", while songs like "Autumn Leaves" and "Demon Green" can stand among the best of their catalogue. FORLORN's additional BATHORY influence was left aside for Olsson and Bryntse other band EREB ALTOR and the best albums of the Quorthon-inspired metal they wrote and performed under that name, were By Honour (2008) and The End (2010). ISOLE had such great momentum in the '00s but they kept going (EREB ALTOR, too) until today, writing and performing the music of their heart.


Chapter V: REVEREND BIZARRE, In the Rectory of the Bizarre Reverend (2002) and The Circle of True Doom

Formed sometime in the mid '90s, REVEREND BIZARRE from Finland is one of the most iconic doom metal acts ever. Magister Albert (vocals, bass), Peter Vicar (guitars) and Earl of Void (drums) had planned to release 5 albums with Songs from the Funereal World as the title of the third, Heavier Than Life the fourth and How It Was Meant to Be the fifth and final album. However, it seems there was a huge amount of personal mental pressure, which probably had its roots in REVEREND BIZARRE being alive, so this plan was abandoned in autumn of 2006. Up to that point, they released In the Rectory of the Bizarre Reverend (2002), II: Crush the Insects (2005) and the last studio album, that was finally named III: So Long Suckers, and saw the light of day in 2007. They also recorded two 70-minute EPs, Harbinger of Metal and Return to the Rectory; yes, two EPs with a duration of an album, each. They released many more EPs and split releases until 2008, which can be found in the Death Is Glory... Now compilation.

Among those EPs and split releases, there was one with ORODRUIN in 2004 including the "Demons Annoying Me" 15-minute track (recorded in 2003), while on the other side of the vinyl, there was ORODRUIN's "Ascending Damnation" and "Master, the Tempest Is Raging". That was supposed to be a 10" split but ended as a 12" split vinyl release and "Demons Annoying Me", a personal song Sir Albert Witchfinder wrote, was edited to be exactly 15:03:25. Not a random number. Albert had a vision sometime in mid to late '90s and he believes that something will happen on the 15th of March, 2025.

John Gallo of ORODRUIN remembers: "I recall us in the studio around 2002 finishing up recording "Epicurean Mass" when the REVEREND BIZARRE debut full length came out. It was definitely a new standard for doom metal at the time. The foreboding vocals of Albert, the barbaric riffs and desolate drumming imprinted an everlasting impression on my brain from that day forward. Was blessed to play their only American tour along with THE GATES OF SLUMBER. Good times..."

Starting with the infamous Slice of Doom (1999) demo, REVEREND BIZARRE established from the early years a form of propaganda against all those who claim to be doom metal but are not. Something that the members shared in each of those early interviews in various publications and fanzines. When the debut album In the Rectory of the Bizarre Reverend was released, it shook the traditional doom metal community. It was pure doom, the essence of doom metal, that according to Peter Vicar, as once said at Crystal Logic, is "The traditional Sabbathian riffing, clean vocals, full of intensity and power. It’s music that will, if done right, shake your foundations." And so it did.

The archaic deep accent of Sir Albert sounded like echoes from an ancient past. He feels each and every word and every song sounds personal. Even if the lyrics look like something that cannot be personal... He makes them personal and deeply emotional. Darkness, biblical themes, misery, when you listen to In the Rectory of the Bizarre Reverend for the first time, there is a feeling of sin. The tone and behemoth riffage, the low frequencies, the crushing drums of doom, the Lovecraftian atmosphere of decay and slumber, everything sounds like sin; like something that is forbidden and opens the gateways to Hell and sorrow. REVEREND BIZARRE isn't an easily accessible band but no one said that true doom metal is easily accessible for everyone.

REVEREND BIZARRE is one of those bands that started the infamous Circle of True Doom (C.O.T.D.) along with WHILE HEAVEN WEPT, SOLSTICE and a few more, trying to hold high the banner of true Doom Metal. A strict ideology, a close-minded brotherhood of puritans against all those who claim to be doom metal but are not. A form of propaganda against slow death metal, gothic and stoner.

Tom Phillips of WHILE HEAVEN WEPT recalls: "What I can say about the Circle of True Doom... It was just an idea that Albert of REVEREND BIZARRE and I had. The premise was simple: at the time there was this growing trend of lumping all things slow and heavy under one umbrella… You would see it in all the distro lists and magazines… How it was convenient to combine stoner rock, slow death metal, and doom metal as if the same thing… and most of us know that - however many of us took umbrage with this. Some more intensely than others (ahem… Rich Walker *cough*). But we ALL loathed being misconstrued as something that we were not. Hell, I didn’t even particularly see a connection to the majority of the Hellhound Records bands outside of REVELATION, UNORTHODOX and COUNT RAVEN personally."  

"But the basic idea was to define things for once and all - via a unification of a specific group of bands through a series of split releases, festivals, and tours. The bottom line is these bands would feature clean vocals, discernible (and extremely heavy) riffs and melodies, a dark atmosphere, sincere emotions and would exhibit a direct influence of either BLACK SABBATH or CANDLEMASS. That's it. That's what true doom metal was - and is - to us.   Anything else is some kind of hybrid or variation and thus, not PURE doom metal. That doesn't mean I personally had any contempt for stoner bands or slow death metal bands… In fact, I enjoy quite a few of the latter to this day and to be clear, even WHILE HEAVEN WEPT very rapidly evolved beyond a point of being PURE doom metal with our progressive tendencies/natural evolution. I seem to recall saying that with "Of Empires Forlorn" we'd pushed about as far as we could the boundaries of what doom metal is… Before it became something else. I still think that is true today, although I do tend to view the album as more of a then-modern, much heavier take on '70s symphonic rock albums ala NOVALIS, PULSAR, or JANE."

At some point things got out of control according to Tom Phillips: "It was only later that the C.O.T.D. became more aggressive and by then it was out of our hands really… It actually got a bit out of control in the same way things did in Norway but stopped short of murder and arson. On the plus side, the ideals did eventually yield festivals like Doom Shall Rise and relationships that have been maintained to this day. Truth be told, it wouldn’t be hard to see that what I’m doing at Cruz Del Sur Music is fulfilling the ambitions from all those years ago by uniting as many family members together as possible - albeit in their current incarnations. Think about it: WHILE HEAVEN WEPT, APOSTLE OF SOLITUDE, ARGUS, PALE DIVINE, ORODRUIN, OGRE etc. all together. So yeah, really the original premise of the C.O.T.D. is still alive but the reality is, I simply believe in these bands and they're brothers to the death!"

Check also: ORODRUIN and Epicurean Mass (2003)

Faithful to the rites of early TROUBLE and SAINT VITUS, the Sabbathian Magick and the power of The Riff, the debut album of ORODRUIN was something exciting for the underground traditional doom metal scene. Karl Simon, singer/guitarist of THE GATES OF SLUMBER, that released magnificent albums like Suffer No Guilt (2006), Conqueror (2008) and Hymns of Blood and Thunder (2009), says: "I love the Epicurean Mass record. I remember first hearing ORODRUIN’s demos and their SoundClick or whatever it was called. It was a demo site back in like 2002-03. It was cool to find bands that were trying to keep the doom sound going. Meeting and talking with the guys was also awesome. It was cool; still is!"

The sound of rain in the opening instrumental takes you back to the roots of doom metal and the Iommic Riff dominates the album. Epicurean Mass wasn't a game-changer, it wasn't something "new", nor as iconic as other albums presented herein, but it is a great album written and performed by people who breathe the heavy retro sound that inspired them, since even the production sounds "old". "Born too late", someone might add and actually the "late" or "slow" element is stronger in ORODRUIN since it took them 16 years to return with a new studio album. However, we never forgot them and never stopped visiting Epicurean Mass. And we never will. Let's only hope that the doomed trio from Rochester, New York, will be back in less than 16 years.


Chapter VI: WHILE HEAVEN WEPT and Of Empires Forlorn (2003)

Originally formed under the name DREAM WYTCH in late 1989, it wasn't until late 1990 when the name WHILE HEAVEN WEPT appeared in tears and shortly the band became Tom Phillips' personal vehicle expressing his emotions and grief. After a few recordings and releases including Lovesongs of the Forsaken EP (1995) and a split 7" with COLD MOURNING in 1996, the first full-length Sorrow of the Angels was finally released in 1998. An extremely emotional release where every note and every word sound like echoes of sorrow and melancholy.

Sometime in May of 2011, I did a phone interview with Tom Phillips, before the release of the upcoming then, WHILE HEAVEN WEPT album, Fear of Infinity. I was the last one who talked to him that day and that was such a beautiful chat that lasted much more than an hour since there wasn't anyone else afterwards. Two months prior to that interview WHW performed live in Athens, Greece, at Up the Hammers Festival, along with PROCESSION, DAWN OF WINTER, SORCERER and SOLSTICE; what a great doom metal gathering! At that time, I was deeply in the music of WHW and that was a life-changing period for me, so the music of WHW was the soundtrack of my life back then. I still remember Tom saying to me at that interview, "Expressing everything through music is one way of saying things that you cannot say otherwise, for many different reasons. This has nothing to do with being able to speak simple words, but the reality is that sometimes there are no words to express what needs to be said." How great is this? Creating and performing music beyond words. Their unique and emotional music is for everyone and not just the doom metal audience.

Of Empires Forlorn is the last album of "the first period of misery and sorrow of WHW", and a few of their classic songs are here; the opening ode to sorrow entitled "The Drowning Years", "Of Empires Forlorn", "Soulsadness"... WHW offer melancholic and personal music, yet, every individual can relate to them, through the feelings of loneliness, depression, sorrow and broken hopes, since many of us have felt like this sometime in our lives; others more, others less. Within those songs, there is a part of Tom Phillips' soul and a spiritual connection like the songs-feelings write themselves... However, every time, you listen to Of Empires Forlorn you get a feeling of redemption once the journey is finished. Even if you stand alone above the vast ruin...

It took awhile for WHW to return, and when it happened in 2009 with Vast Oceans Lachrymose you could FEEL the shock of disbelief, belief in dreamy hopes and denial. The roller coaster of emotions continues in the follow-up album Fear of Infinity (2011), starting with anger and then sadness, which is very deep and at the end comes the excess and the cleansing as it seems literally in the last minutes of the album. The soul of music is the emotional world of composer Tom Phillips and you can feel it. I can't think of many bands with such a soulful and emotional aura. When Suspended at Aphelion was released in 2014 the progressive metal element had already taken the leading role but you still could feel the power of grief and Phillips's soul.

The last time WHILE HEAVEN WEPT performed live in Greece, in November of 2018, it was a lovely day. Just before people started entering the venue for their final show in Athens, heaven wept.  

Check also: WARNING and Watching from a Distance (2006)

Formed in 1994 by guitarist and singer Patrick Walker, WARNING from the United Kingdom stands as one of the most depressive doom metal acts. After two demo tapes, they finally released the debut album The Strength to Dream in 1999 and somewhere after that point, Patrick seemed like letting aside for a while the books of Lovecraft and grabbed Shakespeare. WARNING was laid to rest since Patrick became progressively concentrated in theater and acting.

When WARNING returned, Patrick was no longer following the underground scene but the second album, Watching from a Distance, was a release that shocked that scene. 50 minutes and five songs for denial and depression ("Watching from a Distance", "Footprints"), loneliness ("Bridges"), anger and desperation ("Faces"), heartbreaking dreams that fly away ("Echoes"). Watching from a Distance is a strong and sincere album, a doom metal milestone.

Father Alex, singer and bassist of THE TEMPLE recalls the first moment he listened to that album: "It was a rainy, moody and misty morning of 2007. A usual routine back then, when things were totally not fine with me. Personal failures that I had to cope with and a reality I had to fight in order to survive and not drive insane. That morning and completely out of nowhere, a guy that is not worth to be mentioned anymore, introduced me to this band called WARNING and the album Watching from a Distance. He was familiar with my situation, so he insisted not to listen to this album unless I was emotionally stable. These words however increased my curiosity level as I was pretty sure that nothing could motivate me any more. Suddenly my world collapsed..."

THE TEMPLE released their debut EP As Once Was in 2015 (including a WARNING cover of the song "Footprints") and one year later, the full-length Forevermourn, one of the best mournful doom metal albums of the last years. "Watching from a Distance started", Father Alex continues, "This mournful first riff that entered got me forever. The haunting vocals then came and destroyed everything inside me. That was it. A new day's dawn. My whole world and perspectives changed under this musical and lyrical perfection of lost love and suffering."

I always believed that the emotional state of the listener is a factor that can make a difference sometimes and this is the perfect example. Father Alex adds: "Doom metal will never be the same again. Excruciatingly slow riffs combined with solemn and pounding drums and sincere, heartbreaking introspective vocals come to fulfill this melancholic gloominess of maybe one of the most depressing offerings doom metal has ever delivered. An album that makes you think about life and your point of view on many things. An inner meditation of gratefulness for things we consider stable and always take for granted. The emphasis when we appreciate something the moment we've lost it."

Albums like Watching from a Distance stay with you for life. They creep in your soul and add their mark forever. "Years have passed, things have changed and are much better, but this album remains the same", Father Alex concludes. "All those years, this monument of doom metal is here to remind me of certain things and feelings. A strong influence for myself and for my band, THE TEMPLE. In our first EP, we pay tribute to this major influence by covering "Footprints", a thing that made many people compare us with WARNING, as similar sounding bands. This is one of the two greatest honours ever for us. The second is when we were asked to play at the Hammer of Doom Festival along with them, where they performed Watching from a Distance album in its entirety. A dream that even during the most hopeful days I wouldn’t even believe."

WARNING are still active, while Patrick Walker also formed 40 WATT SUN in 2009 and keeps following his personal vision of music and art.


Chapter VII: SAINT VITUS and Born Too Late (1986)

Formed in the end of the Sabbathian decade as TYRANT, they changed the name to SAINT VITUS clearly inspired by the "St. Vitus' Dance" song off BLACK SABBATH's Vol. 4 album. The original line-up was Scott Reagers (vocals), Dave Chandler (guitar), Mark Adams (bass), and Armando Acosta (drums), releasing Saint Vitus in 1984, Hallow's Victim and The Walking Dead EP in 1985.

When SAINT VITUS started, there wasn't a "doom metal" term and VITUS, more or less, just wanted to play like early BLACK SABBATH and keep that sound alive since after Ozzy's departure, SABBATH's style changed. Dave Chandler didn't really know about TROUBLE or PENTAGRAM. After all, they were mostly involved within the punk rock and the crossover scene of California during the early years, starting with live shows along with BLACK FLAG and by joining SST Records, the label of BLACK FLAG's guitarist, Greg Ginn.

Despite being a doom band, SAINT VITUS always had a strong punk attitude and they're actually a respectful name for a wider audience, including punk rockers, stoner fans and the Maryland heavy/doom scene. Speaking of stoner and the inspiration of VITUS' name, Vol. 4 is one of the most important albums for all those "slow" and "stoned" sub-genres that were shaped in the later years.

Back to VITUS, that early line-up didn't last for more and in 1986 Reagers was replaced by Scott "Wino" Weinrich and the same year, Born Too Late was released. Gerrit P. Mutz, singer of DAWN OF WINTER, remembers the first time he took Born Too Late in his hands: "I remember holding that ugly cover in my hands, looking at the pink cover in disbelief. It was the ugliest cover I had ever seen by then (apart from RIOT)! Pink!!! But the small live pictures on the backside looked promising so I bought it. Having heard that VITUS was a band in the vein of SABBATH and CANDLEMASS, I could not leave it behind because of a shitty cover really!"

SAINT VITUS is a special band. A disease without cure. Once you're affected, it stays with you forever. Gerrit is one of the most die-hard fans of VITUS, so he has a lot to say: "Upon hearing Born Too Late,  it had nearly nothing to do with CANDLEMASS but a lot with old SABBATH. The lyrics immediately spoke to me and a sentence like 'they say my songs are much too slow but they don´t know the things I know' was exactly what I was thinking and feeling like. The whole album is perfect from start to finish. And Wino has never sounded better than on here, at least for me."

"There are rumors that there does exist an earlier version of that record with Scott Reagers on vocals and I would still kill to hear that if that really is true. I forgot to ask the band if it's fact or fiction. But the fact is that whenever I met them I was very nervous and could not really think about questions. I once partied with them a whole night after I sang two songs with them at Hammer Of Doom 2014 and this all was so surreal to me that I tried not to be too fanboy-like and ass-kissing all the time that I again forgot to ask stuff that I would like to know still."

"Back to the record though." Gerrit elaborates: "Born Too Late is the perfect doom anthem and a perfect way to start that record. "Clear Windowpane" follows with more speed and drug-fueled bravado, Side A closer "Dying Inside" was the soundtrack to my drinking years a decade later in the goddamn '90s. No song that I spinned more times while being drunk and stoned. "H.A.A.G." (still no idea what that stands for) was my first favourite track on that album and they played it live when I saw 'em in Switzerland three years ago! That part "Look into the void… beware of the dark!" FANTASTIC! "The Lost Feeling" was the second song that I always listened to during my dark years in the 90s. Music can be so healthy and soothing. And the final track is such a great anti-war song with tons of wisdom and insight. "The War Starter" rules!"

"I saw 'em live on their first european tour in '88 or '89. My mind is not as good as it was anymore. It was a great show and Wino was a fantastic frontman! I still prefer Scott Reagers but that doesn't mean that Wino is not brilliant, too! In my opinion Born Too Late should have sold more than e.g. the over-praised Master of Puppets. It is the much better and way more important record in my humble opinion. By far. But life is not fair and so most metal people think of Master of Puppets when they look back on 1986 instead of really life-changing records like this one. "I will never be like you! And I don't want to be like you!" to quote "Born Too Late" once again. How fitting. VITUS changed my life forever. All hail to the masters of doom!!!"

With Wino fronting, VITUS also released Thirsty and Miserable EP (1987), Mournful Cries (1988) and V (1990), the last one on Hellhound Records, after SST Records dropped them. It was then, when Wino decided to leave VITUS and resurrect THE OBSESSED, soon to become a heavy/doom/stoner icon, involved with many more acts like SPIRIT CARAVAN, THE HIDDEN HAND, SHRINEBUILDER and solo, just to name a few.

Christian "Chritus" Linderson of COUNT RAVEN (later TERRA FIRMA and LORD VICAR, among others) replaced Wino for the next album C.O.D. (1992) but then, original singer Scott Reagers rejoined SAINT VITUS and they released Die Healing (1995), one of their finest albums. In 1996, VITUS decided to disband and reunited after a few years with different line-ups mainly for live shows but albums were also recorded.

Check also: DAWN OF WINTER and In the Valley of Tears (1998)

DAWN OF WINTER were formed in Germany in 1990 and were fronted by Gerrit P. Mutz, an extremely active person in the underground metal scene. Guitarist Jörg M. Knittel shares the vision of true doom metal and the classic line-up is completed by bassist Joachim "Bolle" Schmalzried and drummer Dennis Schediwy. Mutz and Knittel have also played together in TRAGEDY DIVINE and SACRED STEEL but that's another metal chapter. After their early recordings, DAWN OF WINTER finally released the debut full-length album In the Valley of Tears, in 1998.

Jonathan "Sealey" Seale, bassist and singer of the traditional doom metal band IRON VOID, remembers the first time he listened to DAWN OF WINTER: "My first encounter with DAWN OF WINTER from Germany was via a cassette tape that my old friend Pat Walker (WARNING, 40 WATT SUN) copied for me in the late '90s. It featured their "Doomcult Performance" recordings from 1994 which was unreleased at the time. I liked some of the songs including "Ritual Magic" and "Black Revelations" but felt the poor production let the music down somewhat. The main thing that grabbed my attention and left a lasting impression were the theatrical vocals of Gerrit P. Mutz which were and still are very unique and instantly recognisable. Full of power and dark melancholy with an emotionally charged tone and delivery. Although I don’t know the band personally, my band, IRON VOID were lucky enough to share the stage with DAWN OF WINTER at the Malta Doom Metal Festival in 2012. This was the first and only time I have witnessed the band live and they certainly didn’t disappoint!"

IRON VOID is a respectful doom metal band from the UK, performing with heart and soul, while  "Sealey" is also a fan himself, something that you can't say for every musician. He also shares the same passion with Gerrit P. Mutz about SAINT VITUS and he gladly commented on the debut album of DAWN OF WINTER: "I've been asked to share my thoughts on DAWN OF WINTER's 1998 album, In the Valley of Tears, which was officially their full length debut album, although several demos and EPs preceded this. It’s a solid doom record throughout and I'm pleased to say the production is much better than "Doomcult Performance" which allows their well-crafted songwriting prowess to shine. Musically the riffs are rooted in slow to mid-tempo doom stylings not unlike the masters of the genre - the mighty SAINT VITUS! The thing that makes this unique are the vocals as mentioned previously. They provide a sense of epic melancholy which permeates throughout the record. My favourite song is definitely the title track which is a tale of lost love. I listen to this song on a regular basis and I can assure you it has helped me overcome the sadness and grief of my own personal relationship breakups over the years which I am eternally grateful for!"

"I can’t recommend this record highly enough and it is certainly very underrated in my opinion", says Jonathan Seale and adds "I would also recommend their more recent full lengths, The Peaceful Dead and Pray for Doom." Actually, DAWN OF WINTER return with a new full-album every 10 years (The Peaceful Dead - 2008, Pray for Doom - 2018) - having also an EP somewhere in between - so let's just hope the next one won't be in 2028!


Chapter VIII: PENTAGRAM and Pentagram (aka Relentless, 1985)

By now, the main story of PENTAGRAM is known to most, even if there are many chapters that dwell somewhere between myth and reality. The documentary film Last Days Here (2011) presents a few of those chapters, trying to balance the personal struggles, the drug addiction and demons of Bobby Liebling, his multiple sides and psychological issues, the music, the band, the other musicians and how PENTAGRAM were resurrected by the underground metal community. What you see there, might be something close to reality and the man-child named Bobby Liebling.

PENTAGRAM were formed sometime in the early '70s and during that decade, many songs were written and recorded, occasionally changing the band name and line-up, but there wasn't any full album released, even if they were close to that a few times. Those tracks were re-recorded for the official PENTAGRAM albums and even released in their original demo form in various compilations. When guitarist Victor Griffin and bassist Lee Abney formed DEATH ROW in 1980, they were joined by drummer Joe Hasselvander and later by singer Bobby Liebling, while Abney was replaced by Martin Swaney. That line-up recorded the All Your Sins demo that was released in 1982 and included new written songs by Griffin and a few older songs written by Liebling. However, Liebling wanted to change the name to PENTAGRAM and so they did in 1983. The same-titled debut album of PENTAGRAM was released in 1985 and it actually is the All Your Sins demo with a different track list, few re-recorded parts and a new mix. That album is now known as Relentless and was released for the first time with that title in 1993 restoring the original All Your Sins demo cassette mix and track list. Songs like "Death Row", "All Your Sins", "Sign of the Wolf (Pentagram)" and "Relentless" are among the best ones of the PENTAGRAM catalogue.

Chad Davis of HOUR OF 13 and THE SABBATHIAN among others, remembers: "The first time I had heard Relentless I had bought it from a record shop in Atlanta, GA called Wax-n-Fax. The vocalist of my band at the time was flippin through some records and saw it and handed it to me so on a whim I bought it. We got back to my house and gοt seriously baked αnd put it on and were floored! It was the heaviest thing ever. It's been a staple album ever since, and one that I go to every time I need that PENTAGRAM fix."

PENTAGRAM is a very important band and it doesn't matter if they never reached the fame of other known acts in the history of heavy music. Among fans and musicians, their importance will always be there, no matter what. Chad Davis is one of those that will confirm that statement: "PENTAGRAM is one of those bands that you just can't deny their legacy. Not every album is 100% but the conviction in each one is no less than the others. The super early stuff will always be my favourite. So much atmosphere and RIFFS. Definitely a very important band in the genre of heavy music."

The second album Day of Reckoning was released in 1987 with Stuart Rose performing drum duties in almost all of the tracks while all his parts were re-recorded by Joe Hasselvander for the 1993 reissue. The unmatchable guitar tone of Griffin is still there and also great cuts like the opening same-titled track, "Broken Vows" and the crushing "Wartime". However, after the album release, things started to get confusing again and Liebling tried to come up with a different line-up including '70s members but nothing really happened. Black Widow and Peaceville Records have their share in helping the fame of PENTAGRAM to be spread in the metal community. The line-up of Liebling, Griffin, Swaney and Hasselvander was brought back together in 1993 when Peaceville reissued the first two albums and one year later released the third great PENTAGRAM offering, Be Forewarned.

The instability continued and after a while, Liebling was left alone with Hasselvander but once again, a record label contacted them and tried to help them release one more album. Finally, the duo recorded two albums for Black Widow Records, with Liebling singing and Hasselvander playing all instruments. Those albums were Review Your Choices (1999) and Sub-Basement (2001) but shortly after, Bobby Liebling was once again alone... The name of PENTAGRAM started breaking through a wider audience, there were requests for live shows, there were many compilations released including unreleased demo and live material, re-releases and new albums, while Liebling was briefly rejoined by Victor Griffin. But always there was an uncertainty that stopped things moving to the next level due to Liebling's personal struggles, no matter if there were many people and record labels that wanted to help and offer to PENTAGRAM another chance.

Check also: COUNT RAVEN and High on Infinity (1993)

COUNT RAVEN remain until today as one of the most underrated doom metal acts. Started as STORMWARNING, the band switched name in 1989 and one year later their debut album Storm Warning was released with the line-up of Christian Linderson (vocals), Dan Fondelius (guitars), Tommy "Wilbur" Eriksson (bass) and Christer "Renfield" Pettersson (drums). Sabbathian, gloomy and groovy, that was the beginning of a true revelation in the name of rock n' roll. Or doom metal, to be more specifically. COUNT RAVEN always had a more street and rock n' roll attitude, closer to the feeling of bands like SAINT VITUS and less to some of their Swedish fellow mourners. Clean and monolithic, the debut album sets high standards for every traditional doom metal album that will follow in the '90s.

After the departure of singer Christian Linderson, guitarist and founder Dan "Fodde" Fondelius took care of vocals and while at the same year (1992) Tony Iommi was reunited with Dio and BLACK SABBATH released Dehumanizer, COUNT RAVEN's Destruction of the Void is the album that Iommi would be proud to release if he was reunited with Ozzy, instead. That album is Fondelius' triumph and the beginning of the classic trademark COUNT RAVEN sound. Not so much different than Storm Warning but yet you can clearly understand there is a different vibe, even if for some people the debut remains as their best effort. Fondelius' vocals are so similar to the Prince of Darkness, that in moments you just wonder if he does it on purpose.

"Tomorrow's child he cries but only in his mind. He gets so cold inside, he leaves his ones behind"... line from "An Ordinary Loser" off the third COUNT RAVEN album, High on Infinity, sums up what doom metal from the gutter is all about. True in every sense, COUNT RAVEN delivered the ultimate SABBATH-worship feeling, sounding unique at the same time, adding social and political lyrics, something that most doom metal bands are not doing. COUNT RAVEN introduced more unique elements even from the opening track, "Jen", a fan-favourite and a great opener. And the best is yet to come, with songs like "Children's Holocaust" or "Masters of All Evil", where the keyboards and lyrics expand the atmosphere and the artistic expression.

After hammering the final nails to the coffin of REVEREND BIZARRE, guitarist Peter Vicar followed his vision and brought to life LORD VICAR that stood in the circle of the most arcane form of metal. Having released a few great albums, LORD VICAR's Fear No Pain (2008) could easily be added to the list of the "greatest ones". Father Peter Vicar started using his real name since then (that is Kimi Kärki) and there is nothing better than letting Mr. Kimi Kärki (REVEREND BIZARRE, LORD VICAR) speak about COUNT RAVEN:

"I love High on Infinity, matter of fact it’s my favourite COUNT RAVEN album. Obviously there is a bit of connection to the band, as LORD VICAR singer Chritus sang on the first album, Storm Warning, another COUNT RAVEN favourite of mine. The first time I heard this album was late '90s, first things to capture my attention were Dan’s vocals that are very Ozzy-esque, and the lovely clunky feel of the rhythm section of Wilbur and Renfield. First time I witnessed them live was at the second Doom Shall Rise festival in 2004, and I have to say that’s still one of my favourite live gigs ever. Especially I remember the shivers when they opened with "Jen", my favourite COUNT RAVEN tune... Heavy! Later shared the stage with them as well at least three times, I think twice with REVEREND BIZARRE, in Finland, with also MIRROR OF DECEPTION joining us from Germany, and once with LORD VICAR in The Netherlands, playing the same fest but different day, if I remember right... I think by then Wilbur and Renfield were sadly not in the band any more."

Messiah of Confusion, the fourth COUNT RAVEN album, was released in 1996, and in 1998 the band broke up, just to return in 2003 for a few live shows and another album in 2009 (Mammons War), only with Dan Fondelius from the classic line-up.


Chapter IX: TROUBLE and Trouble (aka Psalm 9, 1984)

Formed in the late 70s, TROUBLE were inspired by BLACK SABBATH and combined the Sabbathian Magick with the double guitars of early JUDAS PRIEST, the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, plus members' personal influences by bands like UFO, DEEP PURPLE, even THE BEATLES. In the early years, TROUBLE had a spiritual lyrical approach and the band's first record label (Metal Blade) tried to market them as a "white metal" act, while press also mentioned them alike. "Black metal" was already there as a term (thanks to VENOM), while satanic imagery and evil lyrics were dominating a big part of the metal scene, especially when more extreme metal subgenres started taking shape. Truth to be told, TROUBLE never liked the "white metal" label, even if singer Eric Wagner was raised a Catholic and wrote most of the lyrics using biblical references.

After three studio albums with Metal Blade Records, TROUBLE joined Rick Rubin's Def American and released another album titled Trouble. Prior to that, later repressings of the debut album started to appear with the title Psalm 9 so people won't get confused with two studio albums using the same title. That "new" title (Psalm 9) remains until today as the one used most of the time.

Just like SAINT VITUS, TROUBLE didn't want to intentionally play doom metal, let alone the fact that there wasn't such a term in 1984 and at that time, you could read many different characterizations used to describe their music. Keeping the context of this feature, we will approach TROUBLE and their early era, with the safety of the written history and not how it was described in real time back in 1984. Diversity and originality are the key words. There isn't any "doom metal template" used, so TROUBLE wrote and performed original music. They don't keep a slow tempo for the 40 minutes of the album, since there are a few mid-tempo and also a few faster tracks. You have the power of The Riff of course, but also heavy/power riffing ("Assassin"), even thrash-y riffs ("Bastards Will Pay"), adding to that the fact that the guitar duo of Bruce Franklin and Rick Wartell is one of the most underrated in the metal history. There isn't also a certain mood. The album is DOOM but not a regular mournful album. Wagner's performance and lyrics are an important element to this diversity. From "On earth there are men who take lives of those who care enough to help" to "You bastards, you're gonna pay" and then "Eternal death in the lake of fire" reminding even CIRITH UNGOL's Tim Baker on that line.

The debut's style is very close to the second album The Skull (1985), since most of the songs were already written before the first album. TROUBLE continued in the same vein with Run to the Light (1987) but after 1990, their style started changing, still with great records, but not exactly in the doom metal path. Simple Mind Condition (2007) is the last studio album featuring Eric Wagner on vocals, and he has also released albums with LID and THE SKULL.

Since the post '90s albums of the legendary US band don't fit exactly in the "true" doom metal feature, we will add in this chapter a few acts that are in a wider doom/hard/heavy metal field, but still are suitable (somehow) for the Void of Doom.

Check also: HOUR OF 13 and Hour of 13 (2007)

HOUR OF 13 is a very special act. The hour they were conceived as known today is lost somewhere on a rainy November night of 2006 when multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Chad Davis completed the first tracks. Once the demo versions of the 8 tracks that complete the same-titled album were finished by Davis, he sent them to singer and lyricist Phil Swanson and he recorded his parts. The album was released by Shadow Kingdom Records in 2007 and that was the label's second release.

"The HOUR OF 13 debut is a unique album", says Howie Bentley of BRITON RITES, a great guitarist and composer, mostly known for his work with CAULDRON BORN. Bentley formed BRITON RITES sometime around 2006 in order to do a couple of albums as a homage to '70s BLACK SABBATH and WITCHFINDER GENERAL. I remember receiving his 2-track demo sometime around 2009 and one year later, the debut album For Mircalla was released on CD via his own label with the mighty name, Echoes of Crom Records. There was a familiar voice in all those songs, no other than Phil Swanson of HOUR OF 13.

"I had all the songs written for the BRITON RITES debut and was planning on singing them myself, then I heard that HOUR OF 13 album and said, 'I need to get that singer to sing these songs. He would be perfect.' Fortunately, Phil was all for doing the album", admits Bentley, adding detail to the story, "I was talking on the phone with Phil a few weeks ago and telling him how no one had written any lyrics like that in doom metal before. The lyrics are Satanic, but there is a realism about them as they are devoid of fantasy elements. They are stark and dismal like nothing that came before them. Listen to "Missing Girl". No one was writing anything like that then. Phil's vocal arrangements are catchy and Chad David writes some seriously well-crafted music."

There is definitely a connection between HOUR OF 13 and BRITON RITES but it's not the same at all. "I haven’t listened to any HOUR OF 13 albums after the debut" says Bentley, "because there is already too much comparison between the two bands and I don't want to be accused of copying anyone. That being said, I have nothing but respect for Chad Davis as a songwriter and musician. He is very talented and original."

The debut album of HOUR OF 13 is one of my personal favourite releases of the '00s since the first moment I listened to it. From that moment, I kept following the band and everything they did so I am feeling a strong connection with HOUR OF 13. However, what's most intriguing is the relationship between the two members, Chad Davis and Phil Swanson, both of them, champions of their league. Chad Davis, using the name Drathrul, was part of ambient and black metal acts like PROFANE GRACE, ANU and SET among others, while he also recorded or was part of many other personal projects or bands in all kinds of music. On the other hand, Phil Swanson is a legend on his own, since he sung in the first ATLANTEAN KODEX release (The Hidden Folk/Two Stones split 12"EP with VESTAL CLARET) and also bands like SEAMOUNT, BRITON RITES, NIGHTBITCH, VESTAL CLARET and SUMERLANDS, to name a few. HOUR OF 13 released three albums as a duo, and Davis split with Swanson also three times... Once after every album! 

A few interesting trivia:
i) The first and only video clip that HOUR OF 13 filmed, was for the song "Who's to Blame?" from the third album "333" (2012). While being a duo, they needed two persons as "band members" so the persons that appear as "members" in the video, are Arthur Rizk on drums and Jason Tarpey on bass, both of them friends of Swanson and members of ETERNAL CHAMPION.
ii) Phil Swanson used again the lyrics he wrote for HOUR OF 13 debut album, for VESTAL CLARET's "Bloodbath"
iii) When THE GATES OF SLUMBER bassist Jason McCash died on April 5th of 2014, Chad Davis wrote and recorded the incredible song "Upon Black Wings We Die" in one night, as a final document (then) of HOUR OF 13, dedicated in the memory of McCash. 


Chapter X: SCALD and Will of Gods Is a Great Power (1996)

...that was the first title of the first physical release on tape, but all later versions/re-releases on CD and vinyl are known as Will of the Gods Is Great Power.

As it is mentioned in the prologue, ATLANTEAN KODEX and DOOMSWORD are epic metal bands with doom metal elements and not the opposite. Bands like SMOULDER from Canada balance between epic metal and doom metal but someone can place them under the epic doom metal banner, while CIRITH UNGOL was a heavy metal band with epic and doom elements before those terms appear, having already released Frost and Fire (1981) that was also '70s and hard-rockin' driven and King of the Dead (1984) that was darker and more epic. In the early MANOWAR albums, you could also find doom metal elements in a few songs (like "Dark Avenger" and "Secret of Steel") and all those could partially use the Epic Doom Metal term that was officially presented on the debut album of CANDLEMASS, Epicus Doomicus Metallicus in 1986. There are also bands like ARGUS from the United States that are actually heavy metal with doom and a few epic elements, even if rarely we see them mentioned as a "doom metal" act. The Asatru period of BATHORY was another strong "epic" influence that you could locate in many later bands and albums, from underground stallions like EREB ALTOR to more mainstream acts like GRAND MAGUS. At this point, we have to give justice to SCALD, a band that was formed after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Steve Jansson, guitarist of CRYPT SERMON says: "As much as I would very much rather talk about other band's music rather than my own, I often find it challenging to translate my passion into words to do it justice. This album is special for a myriad of reasons but two of the things that always blows my mind is the time it came out and where it came from."

SCALD was formed in Yaroslavl of Russia, when singer Maxim "Agyl" Andrianov and drummer Aleksandr "Ottar" Kudryashov of ROSS (POCC) changed the name to SCALD and were joined by ANAMNESIS VITAE members Ivan "Harald" Sergeev (guitar) and Ilia "Velingor" Timashev (bass). ROSS wanted to play epic metal in the vein of MANOWAR and BATHORY but besides Agyl and Ottar, the other members didn't want to follow, so Harald and Velingor from the doom metal band ANAMNESIS VITAE joined them and the line-up was completed by the second guitarist Vladimir "Karry" Ryzhkovskiy. Adding the CANDLEMASS influence, it was clear that SCALD wanted to write and perform a specific style of music, adding Nordic myths and themes by recognizing BATHORY as a main source of inspiration and the first viking metal band. After the North Winds demo of 1994, SCALD recorded the album Will of Gods Is a Great Power in 1996. The recordings were very difficult because both the band and the studio didn't know exactly how this kind of music should be recorded, since this wasn't the most normal thing to write and play in Russia, in 1996...

Steve Jansson of CRYPT SERMON adds: "I'm not entirely sure what exactly was "hip" at this time in the underground scene in 1996 as I wouldn't really start my journey into heavy music until three years later. However,  I'm going to go out on a limb and assume that this was probably the least "cool" or trendy kind of music that could have come out during that time period, as the death and black metal booms had happened a few years prior in the decade."

"Imagine if CANDLEMASS, MANOWAR and BATHORY had a baby", someone said to Steve Jansson when he decided to listen for the first time Will of the Gods Is Great Power. "I was sold on that description alone as the three are among some of my all-time favorite bands", Steve remembers "and while this is true of their sound, its so much more than that", he adds and continue: "All of those elements are certainly in there but in the end, they have a sound that is completely their own. One of the things that makes this record extra special is its sound and atmosphere. For lack of better words, it has this obscure and cult-ish sound that simply can't and won't be replicated no matter how hard anyone tries. The songs themselves are jam packed with these massive powerful guitar melodies along with Agyl's insane and unique sounding vocal performance."

"As I listen to the album again and type this", Steve Jansson adds, "I can also say that nothing overstays its welcome, which can be extremely challenging to pull off in this style of music. The album is five minutes shy of being an hour long but it feels like it could be 35 minutes due to how grand and captivating it is. I really can't say enough about this album and I'm admittedly getting frustrating because I feel as though nothing I say about it will do it justice but to those reading, you don't need me to explain just how special this record actually is."

SCALD managed to play a few shows in their hometown and few cities nearby, with Agyl performing, somehow in a state of trance, like "living" within the songs. On September 6th of 1997, tragedy shook SCALD. It is said that Agyl was a very emotional person and had some family problems. That day, Agyl was found dead in a railroad, hit by a train.

The album was finally released after Agyl's tragic death and not in 1996 (according to Velingor) on cassette tape only, since it was very difficult to find a record label outside Russia. As for the press, at that time there was interest only from a few underground metal fanzines. SCALD decided not to exist anymore and the rest of the members formed TUMULUS. A few years later, Will of the Gods Is Great Power was finally re-issued on CD and vinyl and more people discovered the magic of SCALD.

In 2019, the band was reunited for selected live shows, with Felipe Plaza (PROCESSION, CAPILLA ARDIENTE) on vocals. Steve Jansson completes: "I'm very happy to see that these guys have decided to start playing again and from the footage I've seen, it looks like Felipe is doing a tremendous job filling Agyl's very large shoes. I'm not usually one to make lists but anytime I hear or see anyone discussing the greatest epic doom albums of all-time, Will of the Gods Is Great Power never fails to be brought up or mentioned. A true and timeless masterpiece that while mostly dwelling in obscurity for decades, is finally getting the attention it deserves and that says a lot about just how great it truly is."

Check also: CRYPT SERMON and The Ruins of Fading Light (2019)

CRYPT SERMON was formed in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania of the United States in 2013 and the same year they recorded the 3-track Demo MMXIII that drew attention in the underground metal community. In the late summer months of 2014, the line-up of Brooks Wilson (vocals), James Lipczynski (guitars), Steve Jansson (guitars), Will Mellor (bass) and Enrique Sagarnaga (drums) recorded the debut album Out of the Garden, a shocking epic doom metal release that was unleashed in 2015. In 2017, Decibel magazine hosted a 7" flexi-disc with CRYPT SERMON covering the classic MAYHEM track "De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas", changed to "De Mysteriis Doom Sathanas" and in the late autumn of 2018 they entered again the Creep Records studio in Philadelphia, PA, with sound engineer Arthur Rizk, to record the second album, The Ruins of Fading Light.

Frank Chin is the new bassist and The Ruins of Fading Light was released in 2019. While the previous album was already the best epic doom metal release of the decade, CRYPT SERMON had a clearer vision of what they were capable of and presented a much more cohesive and deliberate album. There was a huge growth in all of the musicians and they carefully worked on the arrangements, layering and track flow. From the opening track "The Ninth Templar (Black Candle Flame)" to the same-titled closing opus, everything sounds perfect for the genre they serve. CRYPT SERMON's vision doesn't let lyrics aside either; they aren't just words for the singer to speak. In The Ruins of Fading Light, they keep the biblical and historical references of the debut album, adding more esoteric aspects of late medieval christian practices as a backdrop to overlay lyrics that are more personal and existential. The Ruins of Fading Light is the best epic doom metal album of the 2010s. And their debut album is next to that "best of" list. Embrace this band.


Chapter XI: MEMENTO MORI, Rhymes of Lunacy (1993) and the power/technical side of doom metal.

There is no doubt that doom metal took its shape in the '80s, but that decade there were only a handful of bands playing that style of music. Doom is a child of the '90s and that decade the gloomy and slow genre was expanded and evolved, just like everything during that era. In the prologue, we mentioned a few of the genre's hybrids but there is one more, the one with the fewer acts, the hybrid of doom metal (in the vein of CANDLEMASS) mixed with power metal and technical elements, something you could also listen in the early SOLITUDE AETURNUS albums, even if the doom element is stronger there.

When CANDLEMASS released Chapter VI in 1992, their first album after the departure of iconic singer Messiah Marcolin, they actually played a sort of that doom/power metal hybrid, but just one year later, the newborn demon of MEMENTO MORI released Rhymes of Lunacy, a masterpiece of technical doom/power metal. Formed by guitarist Mike Wead, while he had written most of the material during the activity of HEXENHAUS, he was joined by Messiah Marcolin and decided to continue, using the band name MEMENTO MORI. The line-up was completed by Nikkey Argento (guitars), Marty Marteen (bass) and Snowy Shaw (drums), and that debut album had a huge impact on a few people. One of them is Tom Björn, drummer of MEMORY GARDEN, who remembers the seeds of hatred...:

"This is an album that made a huge impact on me, around 16 years of age. Even the cover is very cool in its simplicity, making the band members look like freaking demons in that purple light! The album brought something new to my ears, a dark ominous feeling that really appealed to me! I had listened a bit to CANDLEMASS, which also had this dark veil wrapped around them, and I already loved Messiah Marcolin's mighty voice. But MEMENTO MORI had more to offer, in my opinion. This was my first encounter with Snowy Shaw's drums of doom... and they knocked my socks right off! The way he twisted the songs with offbeats, accentuations, rolls and bass drum work... He became one of my favorite drummers right there! He did stuff on those drums I could only dream of, but I got very inspired and did my best to try and develop my own playing in a similar direction. "The Caravan of Souls" is a great example of Snowy's impressive skills! Countless hours I spent trying to figure out what the man was actually doing, and even to this day I'm not sure of it all!"

"This album doesn't sound like any other album", Tom Björn adds. "It really has it's uniqueness and Mike Wead's guitarwork tops it off perfectly. I still give it a spin now and then and appreciate it just as much as back in the day. I listen a lot to newer metal albums, trying to find new favorites or sources of inspiration. Still, nothing really sticks like the old ones... Maybe it comes with age or the quantity of good bands with blinding skills nowadays is just overwhelming, I need to kind of reset my brain with some older stuff now and then."

It was during that period when MEMORY GARDEN were also formed, and Tom Björn (also using the name Tom Johansson back then) was just 18 years old when his band released their classic nowadays Forever EP in 1995, followed by the album Tides. It was then, when MEMORY GARDEN needed a new guitarist and they found Simon Johansson, who performed guitar duties along with Mike Wead for ABSTRAKT ALGEBRA, Leif Edling's band after disbanding CANDLEMASS. Sometimes, life is unexpected and adding detail to the story, Tom Björn continues: "A couple of years past MEMORY GARDER needed a new guitarist and we found Simon Johansson, a great guy with lots of talent. He happened to be somewhat best friends with Mike Wead, they came from the same northern town Boden and had both moved to Stockholm, and I was kind of starstruck when I met Mike the first time. Sometimes MEMORY GARDEN rehearsed at Simon's space in Stockholm, and we hung out with Mike or he came by our rehearsals."

"One day, Mike asked me to be the drummer for the next MEMENTO MORI album, and I couldn't believe it", Tom Björn completes. "I was really flattered but also a bit unsure of my capability to fill the spot. But Mike was very determined and supportive. So we did some rehearsals and it went pretty well! All of the guys were really cool and humble, not like the demons on that album cover... I joined the band for that fourth album (Songs for the Apocalypse Vol. IV) and we did just a handful of shows, if that, but I will always be grateful for the opportunity to be in my own favorite band!  I would love to see MEMENTO MORI come alive again with the original members but I guess it's not likely to happen."

Songs for the Apocalypse Vol. IV was the fourth and last studio album of MEMENTO MORI (third to feature Messiah Marcolin on vocals) and after that point, Mike Wead brought back the HEXENHAUS name, while he kept touring and releasing albums with MERCYFUL FATE and KING DIAMOND. As for MEMORY GARDEN, there's more to come...

Check also: MEMORY GARDEN and Tides (1996)

Though they never reached the fame of other doom metal bands, MEMORY GARDEN from Sweden remain one of best doom/power metal acts and released great albums like Verdict of Posterity, Mirage and Carnage Carnival,  but time and tide wait for no man. MEMORY GARDEN's debut full-length album Tides, was recorded and produced at Studio Fredman by Fredrik Nordström, in ten days. A complex and technical album, yet crushing, powerful and close to the essence of doom metal, that according to Tom Björn it is "heaviness, groove, melodies and variation; a good singer is also a must!", as he said in an older Crystal Logic interview of 2012.

Michael Stavrakakis, singer of DOOMOCRACY, one of the best epic doom metal bands with power elements of the last years, recalls the moment he discovered MEMORY GARDEN: "MEMORY GARDEN is a great doom metal band I discovered since its early stages, who actually took their name from the TROUBLE song "Memory’s Garden"! I learned about them in 1995 when a friend of mine suggested I listen to their incredible Forever EP. Forever is one of the best EPs in metal history in my opinion, especially the opening song "Warlord" is epic beyond words! Being fascinated by Forever I was really looking forward to their first full album which didn’t take long to be released."

Offering his memories and view on Tides, Michael continues: "In autumn 1996, Swedish underground metal label Heathendoom Music, released MEMORY GARDEN’s debut album Tides and I remember buying Tides as soon as it was released. The album cover showed a man haunted by demons, struggling with the tides of anxiety and sadness. Fascinating! The first thing I noticed when I pressed the play button, was the amazing sound production by the world renowned Fredrik Nordström at Studio Fredman. Especially the drums (played by the amazing Tom Björn) are to this day one of the best I've ever heard. The album has 8 beautifully crafted songs (no fillers...) one better than the other. My personal favorites are "The Rhyme of the Elder" with its haunting intro riff, "Trapped at the Pharaoes", "Judgement Day" and the melancholic ballad "Blissfull".  One has to note the incredible ideas and drum playing by Tom Bjorn (one of the best drummers out there and the nicest guy) and the special singing abilities of Stefan Berglund."

"I listen to Tides very often, even if 24 years have passed since I first heard it and it is one of my favorite doom metal releases", Michael completes. "In 2017 in Sweden, I had the privilege of sharing the stage with MEMORY GARDEN with my band DOOMOCRACY. It was a unique experience, because it was the first time I saw them live and of course I was sharing the stage with them, so you can say one of my dreams came true."


Chapter XII:  Personal reflections, the current scene and musicians's views.

A few years ago, I did an interview with COUNT RAVEN's mainman Dan Fondelius, where he told me: "Doom is more than just rock music, it is many things. SABBATH were the first ones to express that vibe in "Into the Void", were you literally 'leave the earth to find a new world unknown'. Doom expresses a wish and demand for inner and outer changes of yourself and this world, and by doing so, becoming a true child of God, and always living in His presence."

By now, everything is clear and already analyzed through what you've read, the albums, the bands and the artists. Brooks Wilson, singer of CRYPT SERMON adds: "Doom Metal is the primal essence of Heavy Metal. One need look no further than BLACK SABBATH to understand what both doom and heavy metal music are. It can branch off into all different genres, but so long as it comes back to that heavy, slow, evil riffing, that's doom."

Annick Giroux of CAUCHEMAR, founder of Temple of Mystery Records, and old fellow writer for Iron Fist magazine adds her view in the same vein: "The essence of Doom Metal is riffs and atmosphere – and of course, conjuring the essence of the masters; BLACK SABBATH. If you don’t worship at the altar of Tony Iommi, you don’t play doom. The music must be riff based with mournful melodies. The vocals have to sound haunted somehow, or sound like they carry the weight of the world on their shoulders."

As for the current scene, Annick states: "The doom scene is always crawling underneath the mainstream, and it is nowadays more underground than ever (though it has always been very underground except for a few peaks in the '90s and 2010s). A lot of bands are mixing genres now, bringing new life to the music. My favorite recent albums are from MAGIC CIRCLE and ORODRUIN!"

Howie Bentley of BRITON RITES is a die-hard metal fan besides a great guitarist and composer. His words sound different: "I don't really follow the current scene. All these bands trying to consciously recycle the same ideas and fit into some kind of mold isn't to my liking. It's a little too self-conscious for me. It's even worse when they dial back on the gain on their amps and add in that hippie shit to sound like something from the '60s. But that doesn't mean that I think someone else shouldn't enjoy it. I can only speak for myself."

But despite how different Bentley's opinion might look, his point is valid: "Everything is so clinical now. If a band plays a slow heavy song it is doom. If they play a fast song, they are playing speed metal or thrash. No one called BLACK SABBATH doom metal back in the '70s. There were fast songs, slow songs, mid-tempo songs; it was all just called heavy metal."

"When I started BRITON RITES I planned to do a couple of albums as an homage to '70s BLACK SABBATH and WITCHFINDER GENERAL, just as a sort of novelty. I called it doom because that is the word we use to describe that early BLACK SABBATH kind of music after CANDLEMASS had come along. By calling it that, fans of this kind of music know if they want to give it a listen."

Michael Stavrakakis, singer of DOOMOCRACY, that already have released The End Is Written (2014) and Visions & Creatures of Imagination (2017), recalls his early doom metal memories: "Doom Metal has a way of dealing with sensitive matters like depression, death and sadness without making you sad. I was only 14 when I listened to my first doom metal album, Nightfall by CANDLEMASS. I was mesmerized by the amazing album cover, the beautiful lyrics, the incredible heavy riffs and the majestic voice of Messiah Marcolin. It had a huge impact on me and I became an instant fan of the band and the genre!"

"So I searched on to find more gems from CANDLEMASS and doom metal…" Michael continues. "It was during the first years of the internet and I remember myself searching through an "ancient" search machine for the words "doom metal". Only a few bands came up, but one of them caught my attention as it said: "Epic Doom Metal with notable singer". So the next day I went to my local record store and bought Beyond the Crimson Horizon by a Texas doom metal band called SOLITUDE AETURNUS. Of course the singer was more than notable! For me, Robert Lowe is one of the best metal singers ever. Beyond the Crimson Horizon combines my three favorite heavy metal genres: Doom Metal, Thrash Metal and Progressive Metal. It showed me a new path for Doom Metal… it doesn’t always have to be slow, but it can be faster and more technical with sudden bursts!"

"As I dug deeper into the genre", says Michael, "I found out that Messiah Marcolin, who had by then left CANDLEMASS, had formed another doom metal band with guitarist Mike Wead and drummer Snowy Shaw. That band was of course MEMENTO MORI. I love all their albums, but my favorite is Life, Death and other Morbid Tales. Progressive Doom Metal at its best! An instant music highlight for me, as it featured amazing technical guitars and drums (best drum performance ever by Snowy Shaw), the excellent voice of Messiah Marcolin and great keyboards by Miguel Robaina. I consider this album a masterpiece!"

"I was enchanted by doom metal… but I was wondering where did it all start? Of course the first heavy metal song, "Black Sabbath" was also the first doom metal song… but which band established doom metal? I’d heard of SAINT VITUS and PENTAGRAM which are amazing of course, but more like a doomy rock side of BLACK SABBATH. Then I discovered TROUBLE. I heard their first album and I was totally blown away! Heavy, raw, sinister METAL! Incredible band with excellent vocals by the great Eric Wagner! For me this is when Doom Metal began."

Adding the present to the story, Michael says: "Nowadays there are a lot of bands playing Doom Metal, but only few of them can stand next to legends such as CANDLEMASS, SOLITUDE AETURNUS, MEMENTO MORI, TROUBLE, MEMORY GARDEN and SORCERER. Most of them sound like their predecessors and have little to offer. The scene could really benefit from a SOLITUDE AETURNUS reunion or even a MEMENTO MORI reunion (which would be really exciting), but with CANDLEMASS hanging in the balance for the last 10 years, the burden is now on the shoulders of new bands like CRYPT SERMON, CRIMSON DAWN, SMOULDER and B.S.T. and of course the reunited SORCERER who have been killing it with their three amazing reunion albums!"

Chapter XIII: Top-5 Doom Metal albums 

The musicians' choices - Albums that shaped them.

Howie Bentley (BRITON RITES)
1. BLACK SABBATH - Vol. 4 (1972)
2. WITCHFINDER GENERAL - Death Penalty (1982)
3. WITCHFINDER GENERAL - Friends of Hell (1983)
4. TROUBLE - Trouble (1990)
5. TROUBLE - Trouble (aka Psalm 9) (1984)

Brooks Wilson (CRYPT SERMON):
1. CANDLEMASS - Nightfall (1987)
2. SOLITUDE AETURNUS- Beyond the Crimson Horizon (1992)
3. SCALD - Will of the Gods is Great Power (1996)
4. BLACK SABBATH - Paranoid (1970)
5. BLACK SABBATH - Mob Rules (1981)

Michael Stavrakakis (DOOMOCRACY)
1. CANDLEMASS - Nightfall (1987)
2. SOLITUDE AETURNUS - Beyond the Crimson Horizon (1992)
3. MEMENTO MORI - Life, Death and Other Morbid Tales (1994)
4. TROUBLE - Trouble (aka Psalm 9) (1984)
5. MEMORY GARDEN - Tides (1996)

Father Alex (THE TEMPLE)
1. CANDLEMASS - Epicus Doomicus Metallicus (1986)
2. SOLITUDE AETURNUS - Into the Depths of Sorrow (1991)
3. TROUBLE - Trouble (aka Psalm 9) 1984
4. REVEREND BIZARRE - In The Rectory Of The Bizarre Reverend (2002)
5. SCALD - Will of the Gods is Great Power (1996)

Leo Stivala (FORSAKEN)
1. BLACK SABBATH - Black Sabbath (1970)
2. CANDLEMASS - Epicus Doomicus Metallicus (1986)
3. TROUBLE - Trouble (aka Psalm 9) (1984)
4. PENTAGRAM - Pentagram (aka Relentless) (1985)
5. SOLITUDE AETURNUS - Through the Darkest Hour (1994)

After commenting on DAWN OF WINTER, Jonathan "Sealey" Seale (IRON VOID) shares his Top-5 list with a few comments. "This is not an easy task, let me tell you!", reflects Jonathan. "There are several other albums which I would love to include, notably CATHEDRAL's The Ethereal Mirror and INTERNAL VOID's Standing on the Sun to name a couple but I’ve tried to condense this into the 5 doom metal albums which have had a lasting impact on me both musically and spiritually. So here goes…" :

1. BLACK SABBATH - Master of Reality (1971)

Masters of the art! I had to mention SABBATH, it goes without saying doesn’t it? They invented not only Heavy Metal but Doom Metal too. The self-titled song, "Black Sabbath" from their debut is THE doom metal blueprint; thunder and rain, heavy riffs, softer passages and the up-tempo build-up in the middle which concludes the song. A classic formula, repeated many times since by a lot of bands, IRON VOID included! It’s so difficult to pick a favourite SABBATH album as I love all eras of the band. The Ozzy and Dio eras are definitely my favourites though. If I had to pick one album, it would be this one. It’s definitely the heaviest SABBATH record in my opinion and also the most "stoned" sounding one if you catch my drift? They tuned down for the first time on this record (the first 2 were in standard tuning) which made for a darker atmosphere and I love the contrast of the acoustic tracks, "Embryo" and "Orchid" with heavier numbers such as "Lord of This World" and "Into the Void", the dynamics work perfectly.

2. SAINT VITUS - Born Too Late (1986)

SABBATH invented doom in the '70s, but it was the bands who followed in their wake such as SAINT VITUS, PENTAGRAM and TROUBLE who defined Doom Metal as a genre in the '80s. Again, it’s very hard to pick one particular album from a band I love so much but this is as classic as it gets. Stand out songs for me are "Dying Inside", which is a stark warning about the dangers of alcoholism and the title track, a doom anthem with lyrics every doom fan can relate to. I also love the Scott Reagers fronted VITUS and the Lord Chritus era too but Wino is one of my all-time favourite singers and guitarists so this album is as perfect as it gets for me. If I had more choices I would also probably have included an album from THE OBSESSED in this list, maybe The Church Within.

3. PENTAGRAM - Pentagram (aka Relentless) (1985)

Another stone-cold classic and the first record I heard by them. This album is just killer from start to finish. Victor Griffin's guitar tone sounds like a buzz saw (in a good way!), Bobby is genuinely sinister in his vocal delivery and Joe Hasselvander pounds the hell out of the drum kit throughout while Martin Swaney holds down the low end. So many classic songs too! There’s no filler on this album at all, every song just slays. You’ve got to love the cowbell in the middle of "Sinister" too! A close second choice to this album would be Be Forewarned (1994) but I adore everything they have released. It was a real honour and pleasure to play with them at Day of Doom Barcelona in 2015, a dream come true.

4. TROUBLE - Trouble (1990)

Most true doom heads would probably pick Psalm 9 or The Skull over this but I got into TROUBLE via Manic Frustration in the early '90s then worked my way backwards. I just really like the vibe of this album. The lyrics, riffs and solos are exceptional. Bruce Franklin and Rick Wartell are one of the best twin guitar teams in the business. I've seen them live several times with different line-ups and they don't miss a note, they're so tight! It's cool nowadays that we have both TROUBLE with Kyle Thomas on vocals and THE SKULL but I do sometimes wish this line-up (minus Barry Stern, R.I.P.) would get back together for a few shows, that would be ace!

5. SLEEP - Sleep’s Holy Mountain (1992)

Some would argue that SLEEP aren’t really "traditional doom". Although they kick started the whole stoner doom genre I still consider this to be a traditional doom album, heavily influenced by SABBATH's early albums and copious amounts of weed! Most SLEEP fans bang on about Jerusalem (aka Dopesmoker) as the best record but I disagree. Jerusalem has its charms but Sleep’s Holy Mountain is where it's at! When I first heard it, I thought it was so heavy, the bass is just off the scale! This was one of the first doom albums I ever heard and I still listen to it regularly now. I would also highly recommend their debut, Volume One.

Annick Giroux of CAUCHEMAR will close this chapter, so she added: "Aside from the essential BLACK SABBATH "doom metal" albums, my favorites are these (sorry I cheated haha)" : SAINT VITUS - Saint Vitus, BLACK HOLE - Land of Mystery, PAGAN ALTAR - Pagan Altar, PAUL CHAIN - Alkahest, WITCHFINDER GENERAL - Death Penalty, CANDLEMASS - Epicus Doomicus Metallicus, THE OBSESSED - The Obsessed.

Epilogue: Black Candles.