Released in 1988, one year after the masterpiece Nightfall, Ancient Dreams had the daunting task of reaching the level of excellence of the band’s second album. Ancient Dreams did it with an almost-scary easiness. The short time between records was not something out of the ordinary for Candlemass; they did that for their first four albums, showing an unprecedented amount of creativity.
Three albums into their illustrious career, the quintet had engulfed themselves in the cold embrace of mid-tempo doom. These songs average at least six minutes, and are content with the type of unsettling pace that makes the weak-in-spirit beg for a fast break. The band were wise to add a few more pushy sections on “Darkness In Paradise” and “Mirror Mirror,” though nothing beats the painful weight of riffs on “Epistle No. 81” (the only track to make four minutes feel like 20).
Nightfall was the point where the band really fit themselves into a niche, so Ancient Dreams is more about staying comfortable in this niche than breaking free. Edling does all the writing again, save for “Epistle No. 81” and the killer Black Sabbath medley. His approach is to oppress the listener with so much heaviness that it’s tough to escape, and unlike past albums, there isn’t a cheeky interlude like “Marche Funebre.”
This was the second Candlemass album with howler Messiah Marcolin on vocal duty. He had a major presence on these songs, and though his emoting is a little ham-fisted, no other vocalist could give this material the passion that he does. Lead guitarist Lars Johansson gets props for some of the best solos of the band’s existence, including the scorcher on “Bearer of Pain” and the soulful guitar wails on “A Cry From The Crypt.”
In what seemed to be the fate of the majority of metal bands in the ‘90s, Candlemass treaded water with a few undistinguished releases. They broke up and reformed several times, making a mini-comeback in the latter part of the ‘00s. Nothing beats their early albums, and on Ancient Dreams, the band was at their peak in dishing out classic doom metal. For making its mark in doom metal lore, Ancient Dreams gets the nod for this week’s Retro Recommendation.