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With the new singer Messiah Marcolin at the helm, Candlemass had a great challenge before them. They had set out to surpass their first album 'Epicus Doomicus Metallicus', which was already a well-respected doom classic, a masterpiece in and of itself. To obtain a sound more hopeless, more drenched in an ominous, and yet inviting atmosphere was the objective, and throughout Candlemass' entire discography (and perhaps doom metal's history), this album is the only one to perfectly capture such a sound and use it to its fullest extent, passing 'Epicus...' with flying colors.
And yet I feel as if what I say is an understatement. Every single track in succession to one another blends so perfectly together to create the perfect 47-minute gothic dirge that will more than likely leave one bewildered. How they could not? All the individual songs are classics within themselves, and some more so than others. For example, 'Samarithan' and 'Bewitched' I find more enjoyable than say 'Mourners Lament'. That isn't to say that the other works aren't great, as I've explained earlier - I find much enjoyment out of 'Dark Are the Veils of Death' and 'The Well of Souls', all of which are fan favorites of the Candlemass catalogue, and understandably so.
I even get quite a kick out of the small instrumental segues in between the aforementioned songs. Very well implemented, with 'Gothic Stone' being a great introduction to the album, and to 'The Well of Souls', and while it might not have been written originally by the band, their rendition of 'Marche Funebre' serves its purpose as sort of a breather. 'Black Candles' serves its own purpose as well, being a calm, memorable end, a final gasp of breath before inevitable death, an acceptance. 'Codex Gigas' gives us a brief sampling of what's to come on the next track 'At the Gallows End'.
Allow me to explain why I haven't mentioned that song yet. I don't believe I can accurately put across my love for 'At the Gallows End' with words alone (even though it's my objective as a writer). It deserves its own paragraph. It may have all the attributes of nearly everything else on the record, but never have I heard such a flawless arrangement. Other than on 'Samarithan', Marcolin gives the performance of a lifetime, emotion pouring out of every word he recites, almost overwhelming the listener. When combined with the extremely memorable, simple guitar lines, aligning perfectly with the vocal patterns, it is sure to induce the listener into a trance. How it flows from a soothing, acoustic introduction to a passive-aggressive, creppy and haunting mid-paced headbanging section combined with some of the most effective, breathtaking solos is the apex of songwriting in my opinion, and I have yet to find one song that can bring these elements together without scathing it a bit.
Speaking of an emotional vocal performance, as mentioned before, Marcolin does deliver quite a bit throughout the whole album, not just on a few songs. While you may think it's melodramatic, cheesy, or overbearing, his operatic vocal style drenched in vibrato is what I find fits the theme of this album perfectly. A beautiful commentary on death and sorrow is what one will find here. The lyrics are fairly clear without being too direct and teenaged in tone, but not too archaic in diction, and are delivered effectively. One can easily get an idea of what the theme is.
"With sad emotions, I sing this epitaph
My swansong, my headstone, the farewell of my heart
The hills of Tyburn, up where the gallows stand
Only the vultures will come to see me hang"
It's also good to know that all the other members find their own space within the album to be brought forth. Leif's bass rings through clearly, mostly following the guitars as is usual with conventional songwriting, though this is not to the detriment of the album. The guitars, while distorted quite a bit, balance out within the mix and create a smooth dual-guitar attack, making the melodies played throughout the album not cringe-worthy when heard. The drums do have some attack to them without being too loud, with the bass drums not being obnoxious and kept back a little bit, giving more attention to cymbal hits. Marcolin's vocals do soar over everything to a certain degree with a fair amount of echo, though not enough to drown everything else out. For a 1986 recording, it has nearly world-class production values.
Unfortunately, with all I've written here, I'm afraid my writing is not enough to portray to you, the reader, the experience of this album. I can only hope you might take it upon yourself to set your ears upon this masterwork, as I - let alone anyone, find it impossible to give this album enough justice. It's hard to believe Leif Edling alone composed something like this, but needless to say I am quite thankful that he did.
Candlemass were one of the first doom metal bands I had ever listened to before I had ever come to realize what on Earth doom metal was, and I’m definitely not the only one whom Candlemass was their first experience. So it was not long before I started investigating the genre further and with a righteous fury at that. While “Epicus Doomicus Metallicus” is a testament for time, it was “Nightfall” that made its mark. This was the album that made me feel as if I had found something truly otherworldly. This would be the world of grief and despair. As crushing as it may be.
The instrumental tracks on this record all detail a sense of progression (a funeral procession?) and do not stray from the feel that Candlemass portray; thick and heavy and full of sorrow. Plus it is always magnificent to see a take of classical composers in metal, especially when it’s Chopin’s “March Funebre”. Now with that out of the way, the tracks that do indeed have lyrical content are all brilliant and I will endeavor to not go into all of them in depth, at least not too much. The first two are “The Well of Souls” and “At the Gallows End”, and I find that they are very much similar whilst having their own uniqueness. Here we’ve got some slow and brooding guitar work with some upbringing leads here and there. Standard fare. Messiah Marcolin has a brilliant vocal performance here and can hit just about any note and it is most impressive. It leaves nothing more to desire.
As far as I am concerned, the undisputed masterpiece on this album is the track entitled “Samarithan”. While the vocals here do not shine as much as with the rest of the songs on the album, it does not set the track back from being a supreme entity of the doom metal master class. The lyrics reek of sadness, gloom, and hope, and I get a sense of some sort of personal touches from the lyricist. The riffs are as enjoyable as your mother’s cooking and just as tasty, and the bass and drumming live up to their standards while not always standing out. The other standout is naturally “Bewitched”, a song so catchy and cheesy you just can’t help but love it. This probably has one of my favorite riffs of all time as well, and you know you’ve tried to sing them...somehow. I really do not wish to say it, but I’m going to anyway. It’ll leave you bewitched (Brb, necking myself).
This is some essential doom metal listening right here. Giving Solitude Aeturnus a run for its money since ages ago. Not that there’s much problem on that side of the fence, either.
1992 was the year of my first meeting with Swedish Candlemass. This album was called “Chapter VI”. And after listening to it, I thought “quite good heavy metal band”. But at the time “When the Runes Still Speak” song seemed to be most interesting on the album. What is more, it rather didn’t fit to the entirety due to its very slow and monumental structure. Anyway I decided to check this band out, and bought the rest of discography, or better the rest of un-original tapes copied in my country, because there was no chance to get the original ones. Definitely the best one was the tape entitled “Nightfall” with incorrect track-list (standard thing here in Poland in the old times).
“Nightfall”, the second performance of these Swedes, was another test for the young band. Even if they released “Epicus Doomicus Metallicus” one year earlier, I treat “Nightfall” as the second debut. Why? Because after the releasing of debut, the band lost three members: vocalist, guitarist and drummer were gone. Fortunately these significant changes weren’t heavy loss for the crew, on the contrary the new guys pumped some new blood to the organism. Especially the vocalist Jan Bror Alfredo Marcolin, or better known as Messiah Marcolin, became an identification mark for Candlemass. His unique vocals (resemblance to opera singers) were complete contrast to the previous Johan Längquist, moreover Marcolin’s kind of singing perfectly fitted to the music, in addition his scenic image gained reputation among the fans, just like another surname “Mr. Doomdance”. Of course, gifted and original vocalist does not mean successful album. Yes, this is an elemental truth, but when it comes to the musical entirety of the second Candlemass recording, another elemental truth is coming: the music is simply… superb. “Nightfall” beat the debut, but the quality jump wasn’t gigantic, because the first epic doom revelation in Candlemass career was pure metal greatness too, and the successor is a continuation of the chosen way.
The amount of the songs may lead into error. Only six of them are with vocals lines, so can I write about laziness or musical tardiness in composing? No, of course not. The debut album also had six songs, so I think there is no surprise here. These four instrumental tracks are small additions, the first of them, called “Gothic Stone” is an introduction to “The Well of Souls”. The same is with the next ones: “Codex Gigas” based on heavy guitars, “Marche Funebre” (taken from F. Chopin) and the finishing track “Black Candles” written by Mike Wead, full of sorrow and revery, right choice to end the recording. Of course that four isn’t the salt of the doom earth. And when I start to think about the best song on the album, “At the Gallows End” comes to my mind immediately. What is more, I treat it the best doom song ever written. It has calm beginning with warm solo lead and some acoustic tunes, after thirty seconds powerful guitar riffs and drums enter the stage, just like phenomenal vocals. With words “…sunrise I greet you, the beauty of your light…” the band creates excellent, unforgettable catchy melodic lines, then after one minute the song becomes typical Candlemass work with all epic doom riches. Guitar riffs are maintained rather in faster tempo as compared to hypnotic and slow “The Well of Souls”, these beautiful vocals/melodies are shown once again, in addition the song is decorated by memorable guitar lead by Lars. To be honest with myself, without any difficulty, I can define “At the Gallows End” as summary of the album. Obviously, these impressive moments are also served in other songs, but such beautiful melodies are played rather rarely. Nevertheless each of them is a classic track of epic doom metal. I nearly forget about debut thrilling rawness during listening to “Nightfall”, yet musical and harmony arrangements are better and more interesting on the second album. Joining Lars Johansson as a new guitarist was also very good idea. Mixing incredible heaviness and specific melody lines (more hidden than in my best track, but also marvelous), these agents of doom metal recorded an absolute thing: by no manner of means the mighty cruel time cannot spoil this doom monolith.
This album is a good example where four elements like music, lyrics, production and front-cover are inseparable unity. The artwork that ornaments “Nightfall” is a picture of American painter Thomas Cole, entitled “Old Age” and completely fits to the entirety. The death motive is present here, when an angel guides an old man sitting in the boat and waiting for eternal redemption and simply better reality. This journey runs through the dark and ominous clouds, but on the end there is a light (or the entrance to paradise) giving hope to the tired human being. Lyrics written by Edling don’t vary from this subject matter shown by Cole, the title word of the album is a consequence of life, because the death or the nightfall of man is something inexorable. The Swedes also told about the moment of death and profound sadness during whole life, like in “Mourners Lament”, where father bewails child’s death. For me this story is most dismaying on the album, effigy of death is very sensible and while listening to this monumental song, I couldn’t feel indifference. Simply I can understand the message coming straight from the song, because I am also father of two children. The lyrics are supported by music full of total sadness, it perfectly fits to the story: colossal, crushing riffs bathing in slow tempo with paralyzing Lars solo lead. And this atmosphere where readily noticeable vision of merciless death befogs the human senses…
The realization of sound helps the music to conquer my metal heart. My cd is a re-edition, everything here is audible (but the same was with my unoriginal tape), so what do I want more, if the music itself is served on the highest metal level. That’s obvious Candlemass reached an epic doom peak, as well as they defined (also with the debut album) the idea of the style. “Nightfall” is a denial to the boredom, by creating slow and monumental anthems, these five Swedes recorded masterful slab of doom or metal in general. They smuggled life truths, yet life searchings of something better not only on earthy valley. Sadness, grief, despair, downheartedness, fatality, loss of life… but there is (always?) a small light of hope sparkling in the deep dark, just like in “Samarithan” song, where the man becomes an angel after his death. Musically I get once again slow superb piece of paralyzing doom with beautiful chorus.
And on the end, I’d like to set forth some words from the chorus of “Bewitched”, namely: “You are bewitched…”. Yes, I am bewitched… by this timeless classic metal music…
Well, here we are again, folks. Considering they were the first metal band I ever listened to, it's quite appropriate to come back to them after all this time. The last time I wrote a review for a Candlemass album was about three years ago. That was for "Ancient Dreams", and I am considering writing a new review of said record to coincide with these upcoming reviews of their other classic albums.
Not to digress, however. In terms of influence, power, and compositional excellence, Nightfall in its greatest moments is up there with the likes of Painkiller, Piece of Mind, Somewhere In Time, Master of Puppets, Peace Sells, and many other famous metal albums. At the same time, it's not a patch on its predecessor, frequently going way over the top into levels of cheese not rivaled until Painkiller came along. And that was by Judas Priest, so it wasn't so unexpected. Here, it's like Sabbath mixed with the worst excesses of Maiden, and a hint of Rainbow and Dio - all fantastic, but sometimes taken way too far.
That's not to say it isn't an excellent album. On it are four of Candlemass's most well known and highly regarded songs - The Well of Souls, At The Gallows' End, Samarithan, and Bewitched. There's also Dark are the Veils of Death, which is also pretty popular amongst the band's fans, and Mourner's Lament, probably the only less well known song on the album. Unfortunately, strength after strength doesn't change a few fundamental things that, in my opinion, make this album a lot weaker than Epicus.
First, there's Messiah Marcolin. His operatic delivery works wonders on many songs. Unfortunately, both he and in particular this record (far more so than the two that followed, interestingly) suffer from what I call the Dickinson syndrome. Don't get me wrong, Bruce Dickinson is a great singer. But he also had that tendency to go way overboard, making some songs painfully cheesy to endure. Notably, it's taken me several years to even listen to Aces High, and I didn't actually like it until just a few months ago - most of which is related to Bruce's performance. This is more than a lack of subtlety; it's disdain for the very concept.
And Messiah often does the exact same thing, throwing himself so far into his roles that he ends up looking silly. On this record, the only time this element doesn't matter is when the songs benefit from extreme cheesiness - Bewitched being a good example. Other times, it's just plain embarrassing.
This isn't a new problem either. Ever since I got into Candlemass, I remember listening to parts of Nightfall, Ancient Dreams and Tales of Creation after immersing myself in the crowning glory of metal majesty that is Epicus Doomicus Metallicus, and fervently wishing that Johan Langqvist had stayed on instead. Like Bruce, Messiah goes into the highest registers imaginable too often for my liking. When he sings deeper or more mid-range, it's so much better. Johan had a slightly less powerful high than Messiah, but his low intonations were incredibly strong - without being cheesy. It's for this reason that I've always preferred the first album.
On the other hand, this record and the two that followed wouldn't be what they are without Messiah. His vocal style is still pretty unique, and there's no denying his talent. Indeed, some of the songs on here are truly amazing. Others, not so much.
The Well of Souls is a good example of a fantastic song, that nevertheless is for both better and worse ridiculously cheesy, and not in the manner of a song like Bewitched. With its mixture of grinding Sabbathian tones and aggressive, chugging riffage equally reminiscent of Maiden and Dio, plus a hint of Mercyful Fate and early thrash, it's a classic metal song with all the right elements. Unlike Epicus's monumental opener, though, it doesn't attempt even a single thoughtful moment. It's just crushing heaviness, evil riffs with middle-eastern overtones, and a totally over the top performance by the Mad Monk. No matter how good it is, when this song is played to the wrong audience or at the wrong time, it's so absurd that it stops being powerful and becomes laughable. Of particular notice is this part:
"Cold wind blows out the candles
The air grows cold and threatening
Dark shadows wicked laughter
Brings darkness to your heart
Behold the Goat of Mendes
Red burning evil eyes
Lord's prayer holy water
Just faith can save you now"
Erm...what? Is this some kind of Christian Metal parody? No, of course it isn't. I know that. But lyrics like this, especially the way they are delivered here, are quite ridiculous. This shouldn't matter, but I find that unless I'm drunk, it's hard to take the song seriously. What's being described is so horrific and evil that it couldn't possibly not be laughable when delivered in the manner that it is. It's even worse than that, though, because Messiah sings said passage in a ridiculously high register, over a fast paced middle eastern riff, with an extreme amount of emotion!
So, yeah. But for the most part, it works anyway, provided you're either listening to it through headphones on a dark evening, playing it through your car's CD player while driving to a satanic ritual, or rocking out with your mates at a very, very metal party. As for it working in any situation, at any time...well, just think about that one and I'll get back to you. But that applies to most metal anyway, so what the fuck.
The rest of the song is pretty reliable too: Lars Johansson's solo is cool, nothing great, but far from bad. Then we get the chugging riffage which is just a bit too thrashy for a doom band, and it works, but it sounds a little odd with the album's guitar tone. Then the breakdown: powerful, heavy, and Sabbathian. Though, whenever I hear it I get this image in my mind of Messiah doing his "doom stomp" which, again, is amusing, but perhaps too much so. Then comes the part that's supposed to be really "evil". "Disharmony...satanic, serenade! Black symphony! A tribute, to the plague!" Uh, yeah. It's times like this when I think of Candlemass as a more Spinal Tap-esque band than anything else. Unless listening to it while drunk, of course.
I'm not sure what they were going for here...either trying to sound cool, genuinely scary, or just be metal as fuck. For the record, in this case they only succeeded in the latter, but that's no bad thing. The song ends soon after this, following a repeat of the verse, chorus, and bridge, and fades out.
Now, on a fundamental level, as well as a purely musical one, this is a great song. Unfortunately, it's so over the top and cheesy that it makes Mercyful Fate's first two records and even parts of Painkiller seem normal in comparison. Well, ok, not really. Messiah isn't anywhere near as outrageous as King Diamond, and Rob Halford's singing is often far more cheesy. I've got mixed feelings on it, to be honest. It's awesome really, but a little subtlety could have gone a long way into making it more dynamic.
The rest of the record continues in a similar vein - attempts to either be evil and/or sinister, or to be morose, doomy and depressing, or in one case, somewhat uplifting as well as sad. This is intermingled with silly little interludes, such as the utterly pointless "Codex Gigas" which does absolutely nothing, Gothic Stone, which is the intro to The Well of Souls, Marche Funebre, which is a cover of the famous Funeral March by Frederic Chopin, and finally Black Candles, which is a fittingly, and actually effectively creepy closer. In between these are various tales of death, pain, sacrifice, doom, sorrow, and evil that at times do create a pretty palpable atmosphere.
As a whole, though, this record doesn't work for me the way Epicus does, or the way Ancient Dreams and Tales of Creation do. The biggest reason for that, which I've barely touched on so far, is that it's just too depressing.
Nightfall isn't a concept album. However, nearly every song featured on it revolves around death. The Well Of Souls is about some priest trying to stop the evil dead rising out of the "black hole to hell", which is pretty objectively ghastly. At The Gallows' End is about an execution. Samarithan is about one good man's life and how he then dies and goes to heaven - positive, but he still dies, and I don't have much faith in Christian ideas about the afterlife. Dark Are The Veils Of Death is about, guess what, death! Mourner's Lament is about a man mourning his dead child. Can you think of anything more depressing? Oh yeah, and we've also got Bewitched, which is about Satan luring some poor dude to his doom, proclaiming "no one will see you again! Muahahahahaha!" minus the evil laughter. Not exactly full of joy and light, now is it?
Perhaps that's the point of doom metal. Many people would say it is, and I imagine most doomsters would too. I don't really agree though, and in that case, if an album like Epicus Doomicus Metallicus is less of a pure doom album for having more variety, then so much the better. If Nightfall could do all these things and still be as epic as its predecessor, none of this would matter so much. Which brings us rather nicely to my next point: the "epic" element in Candlemass's music and metal in general, or in this case, the lack thereof.
This is one of the biggest issues I have with the album. There are two genuine epics here, The Well of Souls and Samarithan. I've already talked about the former. The latter is far less cheesy, which to me proves that Messiah is better at singing emotional songs than evil ones. However, I wouldn't say that any of the other four real songs on Nightfall are really "epic", especially when compared with what followed or with the preceding record.
The other three classics on here are a mixed bag. At the Gallows' End is considered by many Candlemass fans to be their best song ever. I strongly disagree. Like a lot of stuff on here, it is often very cheesy due to Messiah's delivery of his lyrics. Additionally, there's a fair amount of Christian bullshit to be found here, which is also scattered throughout the rest of the album, and to a mostly lesser degree its two successors. Here, we have a song in which the main character is being killed for...what? "Drinking to the Devil with Servants"? What the hell is wrong with that?
Moreover, what does it even mean? Sacrificing a virgin to the devil, yeah, that's indeed questionable, if only because it's murder. But what even is drinking to the devil? That the man feels he deserves to be executed just for being a Satanist, to me, reeks of apologist Catholic bollocks from Messiah's upbringing. I strive to respect the rights of individuals to believe what they wish so long as they do not force their beliefs on others. But I can't and won't respect, nor stand for bullshit.
This doesn't ruin the song, but I don't think it was that great to begin with. It's also far too speedy. It's not epic either, and it's a rather tired concept, used far better by a classic band that had at least some influence on Candlemass's more epic side - Iron Maiden with Hallowed by Thy Name, obviously. That worked, because it was subtle, in its own unique way. This isn't, it's just some Christian nonsense that says, basically, if you disobey the rules of the church, you deserve to be hanged. Hell, if you even toast to the devil with your mates, you're pure black evil and deserve to die horribly because you're a sinner! Oh yeah! No more of those sins baby!
In the words of Dr. Evil...Riiiiiiiiiight.
Dark are the Veils of Death is, apparently, another Candlemass classic. Again, I compare it to Under the Oak, to Mirror Mirror, to Darkness in Paradise, to Ancient Dreams, to Dark Reflections, to Where the Runes still Speak, and this just doesn't cut it. Like a lot of the songs on Nightfall it's very cheesy. Even worse, it tries to be groovy, bluesy, evil, thrashy, and doomy all at once, which is an overblown mixture of ideas so different that they couldn't possibly all work in the same song. Yet that's what they did, throwing in a blues like opening riff as the intro, then speeding up to a groovy riff that's designed for headbanging. Is that the purpose of doom?
The next riff is speedy, almost like thrash, and all this is interspersed with some silly lyrics about "passing to the other side" by Messiah. Again, I ask, is this Candlemass or is it Spinal Tap? Seriously, Candlemass accidentally parody themselves, metal, rock, and the whole doom genre so many times on this album that one has to wonder if it was accidental. Perhaps they were trying to be tongue in cheek here, feeling that Epicus was too serious, so it would be better to create an album with even darker undertones, yet put such an absurd spin on it with ridiculous lyrics, cheesy delivery by an nevertheless very talented singer, and overly obvious riffs that it would be funny. Yeah, funeral doom rock, or metal with a humour slant. Great idea, guys. I laughed so hard when I first heard some of these songs that I nearly shat myself. Not.
I must apologise for all of the sarcastic potshots I'm taking here. I really do love Candlemass, they are actually one of my favourite bands of all time. Epicus, Ancient Dreams, Tales of Creation and Chapter VI are all fantastic records. And Nightfall, objectively, is certainly a very good record at the least. It just doesn't work for me as well as the others do.
So yeah, Dark are the Veils of Death was never a favourite of mine. It just doesn't feel like the kind of thing that a band like Candlemass should be doing, really. Too thrashy, too groovy, trying too hard to be sinister, and with rather ridiculous lyrics.
Before I come to Bewitched, I'll quickly go over Mourner's Lament, which is feel is rather underrated. Again, Messiah goes way overboard in his vocal delivery, but considering what the song is about - a father losing his child - it's actually warranted this time. Not only that, but the riffs are great, pure doom here, crushing, dark, sad, and ever so slightly creepy without being too cheesy. Lars' solo is also fantastic, filled with emotion, and a strong neo-classical feel. If only they played this song more often, and not Dark are the Veils of Death or At the Gallows' End all the time.
And now we come to Bewitched, one of Candlemass's most popular songs ever, and with good reason - it rocks. It's one of those songs that shouldn't work, but somehow just does. The lyrics are genuinely evil, and yes, if you watch the video, it's funny. In fact, it's fucking hilarious. This time, however, I feel like I'm laughing with the band rather than at them.
I'm pretty sure that they knew when they made it that the video would be very amusing. Messiah is very charismatic here, his performance is genuinely quite evil in terms of the vocal delivery. "So take my hand, and understand, that no one will see you again!" Yes, it works. Perhaps also because it's fairly slow, grinding, and deliberate, and revels in its own humourous side rather than trying to be deadly serious.
So, that's Candlemass's second album. A doom landmark, to be sure, even if not on the same level as Epicus. The parts that work really do work. It's unfortunate that the opposite is also true, which is not something shared with their first, third, or fourth records.
If it seems like I've come down pretty hard on this album, well, I guess I have. One of the four interludes here sucks, two of the songs barely work for me at all, one can work but is oh so cheesy, but the other three are all great in their own ways. So, the score?
Well, to me, 86 is pretty fair considering that the stuff here that's good is really damn good. The weaker songs aren't actually bad as much as they are either absurd and cheesy or filled with annoying lyrics and overly speedy riffs. There's nothing actually horrible here. Just some irritating stuff that could have been great if it was done differently.
And that sums up Nightfall pretty well. A very good album overall, with some fantastic songs, but also lumbered by many problems that the first album lacked, and that the next two would attempt, and mostly succeed, thankfully, to fix. So many fans would disagree here, but again, I suppose that just shows that I prefer my doom the way it was originally made - slow, grinding and crushing, with its epic elements having an emphasis on the "broadly epic" as opposed to the "fast". Cases in point: everything that followed.
Nevertheless, it's a classic album, and one well worth owning if you like Sabbath, Maiden, Priest, Dio, Rainbow, or Mercyful Fate - or, for that matter, Trouble, Saint Vitus, Witchfinder General, or Pentagram. At its best, Nightfall, like Candlemass's albums in general, combines the doom and gloom of Sabbath and their other sucessors with the epic stylings of Maiden, Priest, Dio and Rainbow, and some of the evil and over the top absurdity of Mercyful Fate, and fuses them together in a way that just plain works.
To sum up, despite its problems, this record is still essential to any Candlemass or doom fan. Just skip tracks 4 and 7, and have plenty to drink before listening to 2 - trust me, you'll need it.
"You are Bewitched..."
Legend has it that Messiah Marcolin contacted Leif Edling after hearing "Epicus Doomicus Metallicus," telling Edling that he was going to be Candlemass' next singer. The rest is history. Aside from Edling and rhythm guitarist Mappe Björkman, the lineup was entirely different from the one that recorded "Epicus Doomicus Metallicus." Mike Wead, who would become a guitarist in such varied acts as King Diamond and Marcolin's own Memento Mori, was a member for most of the sessions for this album, but was replaced at the last minute by Lars Johansson. One of Wead's instrumental compositions, "Black Candles," appears at the end of the album.
The fact that four out of the album's ten tracks are either intros or interludes is a bit problematic. Momentum isn't really something that one would normally be concerned with on a doom album, but I wish that perhaps instead another song could be added to replace the two interludes in the middle.
Jan Lindh is an incredibly boring drummer. Matz Ekström knew when to go along with the music, but also would open up on occasion with fine results (see "Demons Gate"). Lindh just uses simple drums beats throughout and certain parts (like after the solo in "At The Gallows End") suffer.
Messiah Marcolin, despite having a powerful and charismatic voice, loves to go so over-the-top that at times his singing is either cringe-worthy or funny, depending on how you look at it (see "Samarithan's" "Lots of food to eat...woah-oh-oh-woah"). When coupled with heavy guitar riffs to bring the song back down to the ground, Marcolin's vocals work extraordinarily well. However, on some songs like "Samarithan" and "Mourner's Lament," the guitars are dialed back and the singing is just too much to bear.
However, on "Well of Souls," that formula of heavy guitar riffs countered with Marcolin's operatic vocals is unbelievably successful. Leif Edling's vision of taking the groundwork that Black Sabbath laid and bringing it to a whole new level can be evidenced here. Also, who says all doom has to crawl forward at a snail's pace? "At the Gallows End" picks things up a bit and the chorus line "Ring brother, ring for me/Ring the bells of hope and faith" is just classic. Oh, and that riff after the verses? Pure gold. "Bewitched" is another song that is a grower, despite Marcolin again trying to be too dramatic. The guitars save this one. Be sure to watch the unintentionally hilarious video that they made for it.
I may be in a minority here, but I can't help but wonder how much better this album would have been if Johan Langquist would have stayed in Candlemass instead of pursuing a career in pop music. Oh well, we still get a respectable doom album with more focus on the "epic" aspect and less of a focus on being heavy and crushing all in its path. The artwork for the album is excellent and can especially be appreciated if you have it on vinyl like I do. "Nightfall" comes with a recommendation, but to be honest, I prefer "Epicus Doomicus Metallus" and the albums that follow this.
Few bands can truly conjure despair through their music. But against all odds, Sweden's premiere gothic doom outfit, beneath the operatic vocals of Messiah Marcolin and the superb songwriting of Leif Edling, were one of the first bands to succeed. Overwhelmingly. In 1987, you didn't have today's widespread genres of drone, doom, funeral doom, and the like. You had Black Sabbath, Witchfinder General, St. Vitus, and a few other founders and contemporaries. The Candlemass sound embraces the heavier riffing style of Tony Iommi ("Symptom of the Universe", etc) and marries it with gothic lyrics of hopelessness.
Nightfall is their masterpiece, a flawless slab of crushing sadness drenched in Edling's archaic Christian lyrics. "Gothic Stone" is a short intro with some keyboards which perfectly sets up the grooving doom of "The Well of Souls". Immediately, the 'Mad Monk' Messiahs Marcolin's vocals offered a distinct alternative to basically ALL other metal music of the period with their operatic power. Yet these aren't calling at you from a theater balcony, but the walls of an abandoned castle, a decaying Medieval cathedral, or a roadside shrine in the Plague Years.
The instrumental "Codex Gigas" follows with its gorgeous gothic dirge, and after that comes one of the greatest doom songs ever written, one of the greatest METAL songs ever written. "At the Gallows Ends" begins with some sad acoustics under chords, then erupts into the best riff of its kind since "Symptom of the Universe". Jesus. When I first heard this song I was instantly hooked (I had picked up the single before the full-length). Marcolin's vocal line during the chorus is haunting, and the brief lead section near the close of the song is excellent. "Samarithan" is another beauty with its slow pace and story-driven lyrics. Chopin's "March Funebre" is covered with keyboards and guitars, and then the somewhat faster paced, groovy "Dark are the Veils of Death". "Mourners Lament", another slower song with some evil riffing. The last vocal track on the album is "Bewitched", one of their more popular numbers. And then "Black Candles" closes the epic, a haunting instrumental written by Mike Wead of Mercyful Fate.
The mix of the album was pretty much perfect for its day and it still sounds great to these ears. The band was a class act. This isn't a style of music where one expects any manner of virtuosity, but riff for riff it's one of the best albums of its type to date, if not THE best. The songs are perfect, even the instrumentals which may come off a little sappy. I hold the album as the standard for epic, crushing gothic metal, and the band's influence is still heard today as a landmark between Sabbath and most modern European doom.
After having released the excellent debut album "Epicus Doomicus Metallicus", which was unfortunately met with poor sales, Candlemass had acquired a loyal local and underground following. By the time the first album had been recorded they had also acquired a new singer in the form of Messiah Marcolin, a man classically trained within the fine arts of opera singing. This gave Candlemass a unique edge not only within the doom realm, but also in the realm of all things metal.
The production is excellent when it comes down to the fact that Candlemass was just an underground band at the time, but it's nonetheless very good. Messiah’s vocals are godly, and so are Lars Johansson’s leads. Edling’s bass playing isn’t bad either, but he’s no Steve Harris or Joey DeMaio.
The first real song is called ”The Well of Souls”, which is preceded by the short instrumental track called ”Gothic Stone”. Right at the beginning of the song, you’ll know that Candlemass’ new vocalist is not a bad one, but your head will most likely explode if you can’t tolerate operatic vocals.
The next song is called ”At the Gallows End”, and is probably one of Candlemass’ best songs ever. It has a very sad and very emotional mood, and Marcolin’s vocals and Johansson’s lead only enhances the song’s already existing excellence. This song is also preceded by a short instrumental track. This time it’s called ”Codex Gigas”.
”Marche Funebre” is a cover of a classic piece by the composer Frederyk Chopin. This is probably my least favourite song on the album, but it works amazingly well within the concept of the album.
The main driving force in the next two songs, entitled ”Samarithan” and ”Dark Are the Veils of Death”, are the vocals. The part where Messiah goes ”Begging for a penny to survive” in ”Samarithan” will stick in your mind for a long time.
”Mourners Lament” is a little more forgettable, but it is probably the most doomy track on this album and the lyrics tell a strong story.
And so the album closes with ”Bewitched” and ”Black Candles”. ”Bewitched” crushes everything in its path with a severe heaviness and an absolutely crushing lead played by Johansson. ”Black Candles” is another little instrumental track that closes the album in nice fashion.
This is an essential album for all doomsters, but you can definitely find some crossover appeal if you’re willing to look below the surface.
“…only the vultures will come to see me hang…”
You can call it history. You can call it history that early sludge vindicators Mercy were the sharpening stone for a voice already edged with vivid, booming eloquence.
You can call it coincidence. You can call it coincidence that Mercy and Nemesis/Candlemass tread the same Swedish mire, both chest deep and in echoing earshot, powerless to ignore the other’s rise in underground magnitude.
You can call it fate. You can call it fate that Mercy would splinter under its own planetary bulk after two albums just as Candlemass invokes its own gravitational pull.
So here we are, on the cusp of what will be a grand relationship between a most promising Swedish band and a vocalist that was already overflowing with a talent most uncommon. The only people who could’ve seen something startling right around the bend were those fans of both bands, few as they were compared to mainstream affairs, but the rest of us would catch this contagious syndrome quickly, this confrontation between two irresistible, symbiotic forces.
And this...you can call doom.
“…the priest he will pray for my lost soul…I’m sure he’s wasting his time…”
Come ’86, mind and mouth meet, probably not for the first time, but in this instance it’s for the sake of unemployment, necessity, proximity, and obvious kinship. Spark between the two seems inevitable, if not personally then musically. Old songs are laid with shiny new pipes. Canticles barely explored by Edling, the band’s creative vortex, find matrimony with a creamy voice of glory, a voice that can easily be seen billowing from a figure perched high on a snow-capped mountain peak, frost on his breath, hand raised as if to clutch a goblet of white faith or a skull of dark despair. Y’see, the band already had a sculptor of words in Edling, perhaps one of the most gifted of metal’s fantasy-focused wordsmiths, and these words swirled majestic whether rising from Johan Lanquist’s impoverished cries or the bassist’s own lips. But these verses deserved a declaration transcending the two vocalists’ famished beggar’s character, the hand-to-mouth existence of a pauper trudging the alleys of the river district. They needed a new lease on life. They needed an entrance to elegance, an upholder of the story. Well, they got one, their own messiah – all dauntless, frizzed, monked-out, 250+ lbs of him.
What this meeting awakened is more than something born out of a spirit-dampened virulence honed by Sabbath, Saint Vitus, Trouble, Witchfinder General, and of course, Candlemass’s cement-legged debut and Mercy’s past artifacts. Nightfall vitalizes and depresses simultaneously like an ornate crest on mace-crushed armor, thudding together seamlessly and painlessly. It pays tribute to Epicus Doomicus Metallicus by not swaying the doom balance and enhancing its elaborate carnage with a voice that can accompany kings as they stride to their thrones. Like the squalling start of “Gothic Stone”, it’s where heaven and hell meet, ‘cause it’ll be a cold day in hell when someone’s gonna convince me this melding of incorruptible alto and grandiose, yet disheartened atmosphere isn’t a match made in heaven.
Messiah Marcolin is trained in the operatic arts. So are hundreds of other metal mouthpieces, but while most trained (opera or otherwise) vocalists send notes into the clouds with regularity, Messiah resists all that, targeting the short expanse of alto, the highest male pitch sung by a bona fide opera singer, and only a short, lonely list of crooners can share the portly one’s scale to any length. He’s a copier of no one, and I’ve yet to hear a singer that aurally resembles the mad monk’s obscure talent or resonance to any close length.
“…no one would share my last chalice, so I drink to the ones that I know…”
With this forlorn ten-track campaign, Edling and his accomplished group take their beloved doom to its already memorable heights of isolation, enchantment, mourning, and hope, concocting substance not unusual for the style, but with dressed songcraft, absorbing lyrics, exploratory vocals, and Lars Johansson’s regal solos, this four-way union certainly conveys that presence. Here, story and song use the same respiratory system to survive. Imagery is not a babbling dash of thoughts masquerading as cohesion. With Nightfall and Candlemass, it is lifeblood.
“The Well of Souls” and its preface, “Gothic Stone”, entangle faithfulness and impending peril in their combined age, the latter giving birth to an atmosphere of angels choiring softly as not to stir a chorus that slowly rises from its knees, menacingly, like an elder rewarning against a terrible prophecy as the being who is destined to fulfill it continues to walk forward. Imagery. Titanic “Samarithan” is snail-slow and pillar-heavy, the tale of a tatterdemalion’s stroke of luck as a wealthy stranger takes him in, and then that stranger’s ascent to heaven for the deed is food for the mind's eye, meanwhile high-flown tandem guitars between verses glide hot and electrified. “Mourner’s Lament”, a tune the band save Messiah despise playing live, is a heartfelt quasi-epic chimed by lyrics earnest and pleading, meanwhile “Dark are the Veils of Death” and “Bewitched” can beguile with their unorthodox pace changes and rhythm shifts that are the hallmarks of inspired songwriting. But outweighing them all is the lp’s tour de force, the ode to treason “At the Gallows End”. Once again, the story runs neck and neck with rhythms that about-face on a dime. The chorus soars with a strange triumphant despair and looks to the sky as if to defeat it. Some of the album’s most provocative lyrics lie here and lead you to believe that he in the story who is waiting for death knows it is deserved.
Making up much of the remainder is what can only be dubbed as filler tunes, albeit short ones. There’s no way around this branding really, criminal when thinking of the breadth this lp throbs with, and I often wonder what really could’ve emerged as Nightfall if a collective 6+ minutes had been more than a famed Chopin interpretation (“Marche Funebre” – a song that was once the fitting soundtrack to a car accident I had in the spring of ’89 where everyone went to the hospital except yours truly), a string-of-chords instrumental that marches in place a minute too long (“Codex Gigas”), and another wordless ditty (Mike Wead-penned “Black Candles”) that trickles the record’s end. They’ve got a countertenor like no other, and we get a bevy of instrumentals trapped in a cul-de-sac. Yeah I know, Lindh, Johansson, Bjorkman, and Edling are a united force for sore ears, but here Messiah is like a new toy on Christmas, and you know how that goes.
All I have to say is, so why not the astonishing “Battlecry”? Why couldn’t this song, a mover and shaker that’s inexplicably demo-entrenched until ’01, kick off side two, drop the Chopin piece down to finale, and blow “Black Candles” onto one of the following eps? Finally exhumed, Candlemass brush off the dirt that hides this most combative track, streaking with anti-doom except where a future riff from Ancient Dreams’s “A Cry from the Crypt” lumbers through and a chorus that showcases the highest pitches in Messiah’s public repertoire. Maybe it would’ve blown the album’s doom trance off-course, but I sincerely doubt it.
“…sleep well my friend 'cause this tale's now to end, don't believe our world is as safe's we pretend…”
The magnetism of Nightfall has yet to subside. It’s still cemented on the ‘must have’ lists of doom enthusiasts, and rightfully so. Still, many are unaware of the band’s existence, and it’s proven each time “At the Gallows End” spins at the bar at top volume (hail the DJ) to a confused face or two. Even with my minor complaint, my Nightfall disc remains a heavily played one. With “Battlecry”, Nightfall probably would’ve garnered around a 95.
Fun fact 98d.3 – In “The Well of Souls”, the verse ‘twelve strokes to Candlemass, darkness descends’ unwittingly sparked a playful, tongue-in-cheek acknowledgement from the guys in Dark Angel, who rebutted with ‘as darkness descends I behold the Candlemass’ in their song “The Promise of Agony” from their Leave Scars lp. Nice.
"...it's no fun to burn in hell's fire but I sure have enjoyed my life..."
Candlemass second release called "Nightfall" is one of their best albums ever! 4 of the 10 songs on this album is short intros/interludes who sounds very cool if you're listening to the whole album at once. It starts off with "Gothic Stone" which is a short intro that leads us right on to "The Well Of Souls". This is a epic song with excellent lyrics and outstanding vocalperformance by Messiah Marcolin. I will just concentrate on the "real" songs and goes directly to "At The Gallows End" who has a acoustic intro with some solo-leads from Johansson, the first verse is slow and beautiful and the song raises tempo with a heavy and pretty fast (for being Candlemass) riff. Great chorus and great lyrics.
Next is the best song on the album called "Samarithan" , the song is slow and heavy with cool verses and a very beautiful chorus. Tempochange during the excellent solo and then the verse again and the chorus again with different lyrics, needless to say - the lyrics on this album is among the best ever written! Side two starts with "Marche Funebre", it's a pretty good choir intro with guitarleads. And then comes "Dark Are The Veils Of Death". The song starts with a drum intro and then comes the Sabbath-like riff, reminds about something from Vol 4. Then another riff that leads on to the fast verses with the double bass drum, awesome!
Next song is "Mourners Lament", another slow song with great vocals and lyrics about the loss of your child. The chorus is backed up by great drumming by Lindh.
"Bewitched" is next, this song is not bad, not at all, but it just does'nt appeal to me as the others do. Although it has some good heavy riffs, good lyrics and a long brilliant solo. Finally the album ends with a, i have to say, great outro called "Black Candles".
This album is just really kickass, if you're into to doom metal and never heard this, but then you probably have, but anyway... do yourself a favour and pick it up!
I've heard a lot of metal in my day, and a fair chunk of that has been Doom Metal. And out of all the doom bands that I've heard, a large chunk has been really shitty. Don't ask me why, but Doom Metal is one of those genres that seems to attract a lot of really shitty bands. It's not as bad as Black Metal (you wouldn't believe how many turd black bands are out there), but it's enough to give one a jaded impression of the genre. It's not that I don't like Doom Metal--I do. It's just that there is a real art to playing Doom Metal, and many bands miss the nuances that make the music really good.
Not Candlemass. They've got it right. The band has the solid combination of absolutely killer riffs and great vocals, and it all comes out on Nightfall. Everything is solid, and while it's not extraordinary, it's really worth the time to enjoy.
The riffage is supremely powerful here. The Well of Souls immediately nails you to the wall with a steady onslaught of riffs over a slow, steady drumbeat. It has a very morbid sound, and yet Codex Gigas, the next song, has some positively evil riffage. This ability to manipulate sounds to create different impressions upon the listener is one of the aformentioned Doom Metal Nuances that Candlemass has down cold. Other songs with noticeably cool riffage include At the Gallows End, Dark are the Veils of Death and the absolutely haunting Black Candles.
Candlemass's other strong point is its vocalist, who has a really great sound. He sings with clean vocals (as opposed to the undead-sounding harsh vocals of the doom variety), but that's not why they're strong--the fact is that his vocals are dark and brooding and really create the impression that if you tickle him he will not laugh. The two vocal styles you can pick up here are displayed in two seperate songs: Well of Souls, which has his darker, brooding sound, and At the Gallows End, which has the more midpaced, yet still quite doom-ish vocal style.
Bottom line here is that this is good Doom Metal, and that's not something you see every day. Doom fans would do well to pick up a copy of this, and those attempting to get more into the scene might enjoy this album, as the clean vocals are easier to get adjusted to than the harsh doom vocals of, say, Galadriel.
I didn't think I'd dig on Candlemass much... from my earlier experience (mp3s) they were all doom'n'gloom. Nightfall contains plenty of said doom'n'gloom, but enough solid metal riffs to get any head bangin'. Seriously a great disc, and, along with Trouble, these guys are the archetype for doom.
Opening track Well of Souls is just fucking killer... a mid paced thrash riff interpersed with moans of lament and sludge. Check out the Haunted's cover for some more metalness. There aren't any abysmal tunings, and the guitars focus more on single note riffs rather than chordage. Singer Messiah Marcolin (the ugliest fucker on the planet) has a great voice and the production is very pleasant... for it's 1987 release date this is pure gold.
My favorite song has to be To the Gallows End... well placed acoustic guitar alongside badass riff = m/. These guys obviously aren't big fans of clowns or dance music... "doom" metal is an honestly. appropriate term since everything is played at a dirge, and death seems to be their preoccupation. Somebody get them a hug and a trip to disney world.