I'm fortunate to be in close proximity to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. It being one of the finest of the many art museums I've been to, it's beauteous to have an original Dali and Heironymous Bosch in my back yard, so to speak, but also because the National Gallery has been home to Thomas Cole's "Voyage of Life" series. Or rather, it now contains half of the series in conjunction with the Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute in Utica, New York. At one point, the entire quartet of paintings occupied four perpendicular walls in a walkthrough at the National Gallery. I'm blessed to have seen them many times in their entirety and I've sometimes spent up to a half an hour moving from painting to painting studying them intimately.
Cole's "Voyage of Life" series focuses on the various stages of humanity ranging from birth to old age utilizing a boy-to-man journey aboard an exquisite river craft forged of spiritual descent. The allegory Cole used with the craft and the accelerating periods of his muse's lifespan is also accented by backgrounds ranging from exotic to tumultuous to hopeful.
If you've followed metal a long time, you know this artwork splashed across the spread of Candlemass' Ancient Dreams. It is the second of two albums Candlemass used from Cole's "Voyage of Life," the other being "Old Age" on the cover of Nightfall. This one is the second painting in Cole's set, "Youth," purposefully sprawled with fantasia and decorum to bring out the subject's vibrance and imagination. A brave new world lies ahead of our muse, though Cole's next two paintings "Manhood" and "Old Age" take the muse into his adult trials and ultimately his soulful transition into Heaven.
Musically, Nightfall is the superior album, yet Ancient Dreams stands as a visual masterpiece by benefit of Cole's triumphant work. No bet needed if you owned Ancient Dreams back in the eighties as Candlemass was just cultivating a worldwide doom audience, you were lured by the "Youth" painting on its cover. Ancient Dreams remains a decent though beatable recording for Candlemass, yet there was a mission accomplished by utilizing Thomas Cole's artwork. It was strangely easy to get lost in the somber tone of Candlemass' dirge odes while basking in its apposite, bright visual.
Mind rape, but gloriously so.