Monday, March 21, 2011

In The Beginning: Nemesis - The Day of Retribution

It's no secret that I am a fan of doom, I think I've made that very clear over the years. For some reason, the long songs, droning passages, skilled vocals, and overwhelming sense of despair really reaches me. It's not like I have a horrible life or consider suicide ever, but someone singing about demons, gods, war, death, and shitty life gets my blood pumping. I mostly like traditional doom, or power/epic doom; probably that sub-genre of doom more for the operatic and clean (mostly) vocals. While I'm not against it, I don't need the screeching or screaming of some of the other sub-genres of doom, I instead would prefer my singers to sing, not wail/scream.

I think, the best band to signify this genre of epic doom metal is the group that coined the term: Candlemass. Their debut album, Epicus Doomicus Metallicus, a loose translation from the semi-Latin for Epic Doom Metal, was a genre-defining album. It was the first major release to include operatic vocals with simple, and somewhat empty, background music. It relied mostly on the power of Johan Langquist's voice (his only recording with the group) to carry the momentum of the music. Don't get me wrong, the guitars and drums did wonders too, methodically plodding and grinding along, emphasizing the feelings of doom and dread, but it was the vocals that moved the album into the head of a new genre.

Before all of this, before Candlemass, before epic doom metal, there was Nemesis. You see, Leif Edling (who would remain the main driving force of Candlemass) was putting out music as Nemesis, laying the ground works for what sounds Candlemass would fall into. Nemesis starts what would become staples for Edling's future projects: long, slow songs, brooding lyrics, chugging guitars and drums, ideals of despair and loss - things that I love from doom as a whole!

Their only release, the EP The Day of Retribution (later added with some demos and other songs to make a full LP), is a groundbreaking release. While not widely distributed, you cannot doubt its influence on the doom metal scene. Before this EP, doom metal had just been early Black Sabbath and a handful of bands who played 70s blues rock 'n roll a bit slower and downtuned. Their music wouldn't hold up as doom today, just as Led Zeppelin isn't quite metal by today's standards, but Nemesis (and Trouble, whose debut album was released in the same year) changed all that. They made doom into its own genre, something aside from the main metal family. Its slow passages and the pairings of guitars and drums are still emulated to this day!

A couple of the songs released on this album, would be later re-recorded for Epicus Doomicus Metallicus; "Black Stone Wielder" and "Demon's Gate," where they were refined and cleaned up (recording-wise). While I like the Candlemass version of "Demon's Gate," I actually find that I enjoyed the Edling-version (vocals-wise) of "Black Stone Wielder." I think the non-operatic style gives a needed gritty feel for the song. A couple of the other sonds, "Black Messiah" and  "God Is Dead," I would like to see re-done. I could easily imagine this pair converted into the new era of doom very well indeed.

While not as good as the future Leif Edling's projects (Krux, Abstrakt Algebra, and of course Candlemass), Nemesis was snuffed out before it could evolve beyond so-so recordings and demos. I wonder what the world of doom metal would be like if this band had continued on... or if they had never recorded a thing (and thereby, no Candlemass). Perish the thought, I shudder thinking about it. Let's all just be thankful that this is how life worked out.

No comments: