written by Michalis Stavrakakis (Doomocracy)
When I was asked to write some words on Candlemass’s majestic 2nd album “Nightfall”, I was skeptic as to what to write because I did not want this tribute to be a review of the album, but I would rather express the feelings that prevail when I listen to it. After all we are talking about the best Doom Metal album of all time. Surely one can consider “Epicus Doomicus Metallicus” the real breakthrough, especially at that time, and indeed it is a milestone of an album as it created Epic Doom Metal and has songs that are mythical. Someone else can even suggest that “Beyond the Crimson Horizon” by Solitude Aeturnus is a greater album than “Nightfall”…, or others would quote bands like Saint Vitus, Pentagram, Trouble, Cathedral or Memento Mori as better… My personal view is that “Nightfall” has all the necessary elements to be considered the best Doom Metal album of all time. Starting from the album cover and the magnificent painting by the American painter Thomas Cole: The Voyage of Life/Old Age that has you staring in awe, as the angel guides the old man to his death. Still the old man is not sad, instead he reaches to the angel, for he knows that faith has sustained him through life and it is faith that will now lead him to immortality.
It I s important for one to consider that at that time Candlemass had just been dropped by Black Dragon and was the first band to be signed by U.K. label Axxis which heard the demo of “Bewitched” and was of course be witched! Also the band went through important lineup changes as charismatic vocalist Johan Lanquist was not keen in joining the band live and Mats Ekstroem, the band’s great drummer in “Epicus…”,who was with Leif the founding members of Candlemass, could not afford touring with the band at that time (he later joined Count Raven for a brief period of time).Most of Candlemass’s faithful fans have heard the story of Messiah Marcolin singing “Solitude” a capella in the middle of the night through the telephone to Leif Edling begging him to accept him in Candlemass as he was already a big fan, which of course Leif did! So Leif, Mappe and Messiah joined forces with drummer Jan Lindh and guitarist Lars Johansson and on they went to record “Nightfall” at Thunderload studios in Sweden. The album was then mixed by the amazing Mats Lindfors (R.I.P.) who gave it a legendary sound, just listen to the snare of Doom! Right before the recordings Lars Johnasson broke his arm while the band was touring with King Diamond. The band then replaced Johansson with Mike Wead (Memento Mori, Hexenhaus, Mercyful Fate, King Diamond) who wrote an instrumental song for the album, the wonderful “Black Candles”, although rumor has it that he recorded way much more than that…Mike Wead was replaced again by Lars Johansson, allegedly because his solo playing was too fast for the musical style. Filled with energy this new lineup was to record an album that would make history.
When someone listens to “Nightfall” for the first time comes across the amazing intro of “Gothic Stone”, the whole album actually was to be named “Gothic Stone”, but Messiah convinced Leif to name it “Nightfall”. This epic and symphonic intro prepares the listener for something great that is about to happen… And indeed as the intro comes to an end, the magic voice of Messiah Marcolin is heard and the first lyrics of “The Well of Souls” sound like a holy incantation…“I bind unto myself, today the strong name of the trinity”…One feels chills as he hears the opening riff take over this amazing narration by Messiah! The vocals on the verse of the song follow the riff which can be boring in some cases, but in this case it’s simply stunning! Messiah’s vocals sound majestic as he reaches the lyrics “…its evil must never arise I can tell”. Messiah finishes the verse with a great falsetto voice which he used a lot in his former band Mercy, listen to the song “Pains of Golgata”, and which Leif wanted him to use more, but Messiah refused to…Leif later got his…revenge when Thomas Vickstrom replaced Messiah for “Chapter VI” and used some really high pitched vocals.
The chorus of the song is heavy as hell itself and Messiah’s voice gives the listener goosebumps. The bridge riff soars with Messiah’s performance reaching amazing heights and feelings! In the solo part Lars Johansson gives us a small but significant glimpse of what he will present in this album and the albums to come. The incantation returns as the band enters a slow and extremely heavy pace, while Messiah “awakens the twisted souls with his chanting”. The lyrics of the song are amazing and they really get you going as you listen to the song, which ends in the symphonic and epic way of “Gothic Stone”. Now like I said, I did not want to turn this article to a personal review of an album that has been released 30 years ago. Still I felt the need to share the feeling that filled my heart when I listen to “Well of Souls” and all the other songs in the album. All remaining songs are beautiful and at the same time dark and mysterious, just the way Doom Metal should be. “At the Gallows End” could easily be the best Candlemass song of all time. The lyrics on all songs are sheer poetry based on biblical and mythical stories.
The story of a hanging in “At the Gallows End” is amazing from start to finish as we witness the final moments of a sinister man…“it’s no fun to burn in hell’s fire but I sure have enjoyed my life”. “Samarithan” with its slow pace and beautiful story is breathtaking. The lyrics of the song are like blessings from Heaven and Messiah’s performance is stunning! “Dark are the veils of death” is ideal for head banging and “Bewitched” the band’s only video clip from the album is a cult song that will have you doom dancing from start to finish. “Mourner’s Lament” is one of the best songs in the album and its story will bring tears in your eyes.The three instrumental pieces of the album (we already talked about the intro) are there for a reason. “Codex Gigas” is a pounding progressing theme that makes a transition from “Well of Souls” to “At the Gallows end”. “March Funebre” is Candlemass’s tribute to Frederic Sopin’s “Funeral March” and has become the ideal intro for every Candlemass concert! “Black Candles” is the only (?) Candlemass song composed by Mike Wead and that alone makes it significant. It just makes me sad because I would have loved this to be a whole song and not just an instrumental progressing theme.
I can easily say that “Nightfall” is one of the most enduring and exciting releases I have ever witnessed. I’ve heard the album more than 1000 times and I still get the same stunning feeling I had when I first listened to it.And then you have Messiah Marcolin, transforming Leif’s beautiful words to feelings and melodies with his phenomenal performance. I know many Candlemass fans prefer Lanquist over Messiah as the best singer of Candlemass, but I will have to disagree (although I love Lanquist’s voice), Messiah’s voice is simply unique and filled with passion and his performance in the album is flawless from start to finish and in the end for all of us who have seen him live, there is no question as to who is the most suited Candlemass singer. Lars Johansson’s guitar playing is excellent and you can easily say the man is not a guitarist but a painter, as he paints his solos with the most unique and lasting colors. Just listen to his solo licks on Samarithan, which for me is one of the most beautiful guitar solos ever recorded!
Every metal fan and not justevery doom metal fan, should own this amazing album. And if you decide to acquire it, go for the vinyl version so you can admire the amazing album cover/paining! I recently heard that Candlemass are celebrating 30 years since the release of “Nightfall” by performing it live in its entirety. Although this is great news it would be essential for this 30 year celebration concert to include the two people who made this album what it is today, Leif Edling who composed it and wrote all the lyrics and Messiah Marcolin who brought Leif’s lyrics to life in the most magical way. And though I hear Leif will play a few shows with his new band The Doomsday Kingdom, there is small chance for him to participate in the “Nightfall” shows and it is highly unlikely to see Messiah Marcolin joining Candlemass for this celebration, which is really sad. I do feel lucky though as I have seen Candlemass with Messiah three times and that is something I will never forget. Thank God and Leif (Leif is God) for the monumental album called “Nightfall”.