CANDLEMASS: NIGHTFALL (1987)
1) Gothic Stone; 2) The Well Of Souls; 3) Codex Gigas; 4) At The Gallows End; 5) Samarithan; 6) March Funebre; 7) Dark Are The Veils Of Death; 8) Mourner's Lament; 9) Bewitched; 10) Black Candles.
Only their second album, and already they have a new record label (Axis Records), a new drummer (Jan Lindh), a new lead guitarist (Lars Johansson), and a new vocalist (Messiah Marcolin; and no, "Messiah" is not his real name, just a sacrilegious substitute for the much more difficult to pronounce Bror Jan Alfredo). And has this changed anything? Heck no! This is still Leif Edling's band, and its primary purpose is still to craft an atmosphere of theatrical doom, because there's no better way to distract yourself from the mundane apocalypse of your own universe than to immerse yourself in a magical mystery apocalypse of a universe where old men in crypts of despair form circles of magic and prayers, where your life will be put to the test as you drink the chalice of divine ambrosia, where the Devil's fingers dance upon the strings like fire, where only the vultures will come to see you hang... well, you get the picture.
As far as the technical and personnel changes are concerned, I would not define these as drastic. The new vocalist is rather a change for the worse — Marcolin is a higher-pitched quasi-operatic screamer without the tiniest speck of grit to his voice; Längqvist was cheesy enough, but at least the man could shoot out a good growl or bark, whereas Marcolin seems dedicated to the idea that Candlemass are producing a doom metal version of Tristan, and that his task is to get into character. On the other hand, the new lead guitarist is a good acquisition: they are still quite parsimonious with their solos, but Johansson, coming from the Van Halen school of thought, has a good way of combining first-rate technique with melodicity, and on those rare occasions when he is given full rein, I like what he is doing (for instance, the solo on ʽDark Are The Veils Of Deathʼ). However, the production still largely sucks: the new drummer gets the same tinny tone as the old one, and the guitars still have a «lo-fi» feel to them that does not allow to fully appreciate the good old Crunch worked out by Björkman.
The riffs, as usual, alternate between leaden-slow doom and thunderous mid-tempo doom, of which I far prefer the latter (ʽDark Are The Veils Of Deathʼ, which sometimes develops into chuggin' thrash) and am somewhat indifferent towards the former (ʽWell Of Soulsʼ, ʽMourner's Lamentʼ, whatever). The overall number of tracks here is higher due to the presence of short instrumental interludes, sometimes decent (ʽCodex Gigasʼ, where they seem to try to recreate the atmosphere of a Gregorian chant with heavy metal guitars) and sometimes not (ʽMarch Funebreʼ: whoever said it was a good idea to make a doom metal arrangement of Chopin?), but the overall makeup of a Candlemass song remains the same — five to seven minutes of a leaden riff, a tale of medieval woe, a couple of short solos, and maybe a nice key change or two in the middle. And again, Eidling and Björkman demonstrate that they are no Tony Iommi when it comes to crafting a nicely thunderous doom metal riff — they have the tone right, they have learned their Devil's interval, but it does not work nearly as well. I believe one reason for this might be that they are too influenced by classical music: some of these melodies, if you mentally transpose them to orchestration, almost seem like Wagnerian leitmotifs, and it never does anybody any good to play Wagnerian leitmotifs with heavy metal guitars.
Still, once they get in a bit of speed and energy, the results are decent — ʽDark Are The Veils Of Deathʼ, for instance, is a really cool song as long as the wounded Tristan keeps his mouth shut (and he does not do it for too long), with a howling doom riff sliding into a funkier one and then into a chuggin' third (gotta love the mood shifts). And on the whole, I do appreciate the musicianship — I just find it hard to get excited about it even on a cheap fantasy level. (Also, the lyrics are atrocious, but that kind of goes without saying; once again, I miss the deep poetic level of Geezer Butler).