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Candlemass : Nightfall (30th Anniversary)

A full-fat, triple-disc version of Candlemass's stone classic sophomore release.

So, where to begin? Candlemass's sophomore outing 'Nightfall'. A genre classic. The band's definitive work (argue about that one all you like). The album that begins with the one riff that Tony Iommi forgot to write, and a record that trailblazed the way for a million operatic vocal copycats down the subsequent years. Thirty years later, 'Nightfall' still stands up, still packs a punch, and still delivers everything you could want from a Doom-laden Heavy Metal record. But, it might never have been at all were it not for the enthusiasm of someone calling himself Messiah Marcolin.

After the release of 'Epicus...' the band found itself more or less in ruins, with no singer and no label. What to do? The answer to that dilema came in the form of a loud, hyped-up lunatic on the end of a suprise telephone call taken by Leif Edling. The caller was belting out 'Solitude' from their debut album by way of an audition, and proclaiming himself to be their new singer. The phone call worked, something later clicked between Leif and Messiah over pizza and horror movies, and the band re-grouped and delivered something nothing short of a masterpiece.

'Gothic Stone' sets the stall out in suitably dramatic fashion and despite the slightly 'Scooby-Doo' sounding keys the music still somehow manages to sound perilously foreboding as it ushers in the menace of Messiah's opening gambit, by way of an esoteric sounding verse delivered by the larger than life black-clad monk that he is. And yes, 'Well of Souls' boots you in the face with one of the most powerful grooves this side of a mid-seventies Sabbath jam. Second instrumental, 'Codex Gigas', with its Hammer Horror vibe leads the way to one of the albums many highlights, 'At The Gallows End'. Candlemass have always been great songwriters, and 'Nightfall' is a start to finish example of this.

If 'At The Gallows End' wasn't good enough then 'Samarithan' ticks practically every Doom box possible, even if overall, the album is far more Heavy Metal in sound than it's predecessor. The song writhes away with a complete story unfolding in the lyrics as good as anything conjured by Guy de Maupassant, while the single note riffs give way to twin leads, and provide a backdrop to the massive vocal attack Messiah is so well known for. Did we already mention Hammer Horror? Well, just to make sure there's a rendition of 'Marche Funebre', its layered guitars sounding like something Brian May's evil twin might produce under a dark cloud. 'Dark are the Veils of Death' on the other hand has more than one riff that has been plagiarised countless times down the years, and boasts one of the best guitar solos on the album. Lars Johansson's leads are always a joy to behold, in equal parts melodic, as well as being wonderfully chaotic. 'Mourner's Lament' delivers the sort of straight forward Doom-riddled atmosphere that sounds so easy to achieve, and yet one that so many others seem to fail miserably at trying to capture, while 'Bewitched' pretty much beats everyone at the Epic Doom game before they've even begun. 'Black Candles' signs off in suitably harrowing fashion and provides yet another example of how to do great instrumentals.

So that's 'Nightfall' then. Thirty years old and still as good. But what of this Peaceville anniversary edition? Anyone who bought the two CD issue on Powerline back in 2001* might wonder if this throws up too much in the way of incentive to shell out yet again. Well, I think it does, but let's be honest, these reissues are generally reserved for fans and completists or perhaps even for people coming on board for the first time. (Let's ignore for a moment the idea that record companies just want to keep milking their sacred cows). CD two offers an expanded equivalent of the rough mixes and demos on the second disc of the previous reissue without the live tracks, and it's interesting to hear more of the songs in rough form, with sections of songs completely different, lyrics missing, or, as on 'At the Gallows End', Messiah struggling to get all the original words in at times. Between the two extra discs you do get the impression that many of the lyrics were changed fairly often and songs were undoubtably honed over time and lovingly forged to perfection. This CD also gives ample evidence of how well the final mix brought forth the power of the band. The drum sound on 'Nightfall' is about as good as it gets for this style of music.

Third and final CD in this package has a rather nice curio by way of a rehearsal from some time back in 1987, featuring six tracks from the 'Nightfall' sessions including a frankly blistering rendition of 'Dark are the Veils...' and a track from a cassette that Leif Edling found in a shoebox! Perhaps of more interest to newbies and long time fans alike is the information contained within the accompanying booklet. Fittingly, the opening article comes from Leif himself, and it is warming to hear his praise and admiration for Messiah's role in literally pulling him from a sorrowful flu-ridden state in order to reignite the fires within the band, who, as previously mentioned, were not even much of a going concern at that time. There is also a lengthy article detailing the creation of the album along with biographical notes on various band members who themselves shed some fascinating light on the recording process as well as their own thoughts on the albums impact both in the world of Metal and the band themselves.

'Nightfall', then, more Metal than 'Epicus...' according to Leif Edling, and for rhythm guitarist Mats Bjorkman, the band's most important album. People will always argue the toss, as they do with Sabbath, about line-ups and vocalists as well as the albums themselves. Which I suppose, in the end, is what it all comes down to really, personal preference. Undeniable though is the fact that 'Nightfall' is generally held in high musical regard, and rightly so.

One last point to make about Candlemass, and particularly this record, is that their appeal has always crossed over into more mainstream Metal territories. With good reason too. They are one of those bands who not only transcend their appointed genre but make it wholly enjoyable to the lay person. 'Nightfall' is perhaps the crowning personification of that quality, being neither too lost in the depths of elitist Doom or randomly wandering the fields of Heavy Metal in search of critical or trendy acclaim. With 'Nightfall', Candlemass planted a heavy boot in both camps, asserted their own identity for their foreseeable future, and for many of us back then they changed the shape of great sounding heavy music in some style.

* Editor's Note:The Powerline 2 CD version was subsequently re-released in 2007 by Peaceville as part of their series of expanded remasters of all Candlemass albums up to and including 1998's 'Dactylis Glomerata'. The bonus tracks are largely different to those included on this 2017 version.

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Reviewer's rating: 10/10


Tracklist :
Disc 1
1. Gothic Stone
2. The Well Of Souls
3. Codex Gigas
4. At The Gallows End
5. Samarithan
6. Marche Funebre
7. Dark Are The Veils Of Death
8. Mourner's Lament
9. Bewitched
10. Black Candles

Disc 2 (Alternate Early Guitar Mixes)
1. Dark Are The Veils Of Death
2. At The Gallows End
3. The Well Of Souls
4. Mourner's Lament
5. Samarithan
6. Codex Gigas
7. Bewitched

Disc 3 (Rehearsal 1987)
1. Dark Are The Veils Of Death
2. Codex Gigas
3. Dark Are The Veils Of Death
4. Well Of Souls
5. Samarithan
6. Mourner's Lament

Duration : Approx. 121 minutes

Visit the Candlemass bandpage.

Reviewed on 2017-12-25 by Matt Halsey
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