Hall of Fame Countdown: Candlemass’ Nightfall

It’s the late ’80s. You just put out a debut LP that will eventually be recognized as one of the most influential albums in the history of doom…but you don’t know that yet. What you do know is that your singer, drummer and lead guitarist just bailed like Harrison Ford at the beginning of The Fugitive, and your record label followed suit after deciding your gloomy Black Sabbath/Trouble worship would never compete with the era’s most beloved cock rock purveyors. What do?

Well, if you’re Leif Edling, you throw two middle fingers in the air, recruit three powerhouse musicians who would go down in history as doom royalty, and churn out an iconic album that retains its power and sophistication a whopping 29 years after its initial release. The 47th entry into our Hall of Fame (you can purchase the January 2009 issue here), Nightfall is a marvel of mid-tempo despair—a commanding, resonant blend of crushing riffs, mournful vocals, blazing guitar solos and poignant atmosphere. Its big brother may get most of the attention (and rightfully so), but Candlemass’ sophomore LP has more than enough potency to sit on its own throne.

Ranking Nightfall from “worst to best” is utter madness since it’s a stone cold masterpiece from front to back…but that’s never stopped us before!

10. Gothic Stone
This is pretty obvious. There’s nothing inherently wrong about starting an album with a 48-second track that could easily be folded into the following song, but hey, you have to start somewhere on a countdown list. Despite its worthlessness as a stand-alone tune, “Gothic Stone” does a good job of setting an epic tone for the 46 minutes that follow. If I was a pro wrestler, I’d put together a five-minute loop and use it as my entrance music.

9. Marche Funebre
Speaking of pro wrestling, here we have The Undertaker’s theme music as performed by one of the greatest trad doom bands ever. I feel like doing a metal version of Chopin’s “Funeral March” held a little more sway back in 1987 than it does today, but only because we’ve been inundated with so many dark re-workings of classical pieces since then. Regardless, “Marche Funebre” works well in the context of the entire album, and you gotta love that timpani keeping a steady, ominous beat.

8. Codex Gigas
Nightfall’s first proper instrumental plays a crucial role by acting as a respite between two of the album’s most epic songs, but it’s also pretty awesome on its own. The giant Sabbath intro elicits a powerful urge to display invisible oranges, and the steady guitar chugs that flow through the remaining 90 seconds create a sense of urgency that pairs well with the serpentine melody lines of Mats Björkman and Lars Johansson. Also, the title sounds like a rad Neo Geo game.

7. Black Candles
Mike Wead’s falling out with Candlemass is one of those classic “what if” scenarios in metal. If he would have stayed, who knows what kind of epic material the Swedes would have produced? But because he left, we got to spend the next two-plus decades (and counting) with the left-handed shred demon Lars Johansson…so, doesn’t that make it a push? Either way, Wead left his indelible mark on the band with “Black Candles,” Nightfall’s closing instrumental piece. The guitar layering is the main star here—a gentle acoustic intro leads to fluid doom riffs and a lead melody that was born to be crooned by a crowd.

6. Dark Are the Veils of Death
The opening riff in Nightfall’s second-longest song is on the short list for Candlemass’ all-time best. It is doom incarnate, born of Iommi and swathed in its own mystical atmosphere. The rest of the song is adequately epic, but every time they come back to that opening theme, I can’t help but twist my face into a Messiah grimace and bang my head until my ears ring. It also has the best guitar solos on the entire album. Where can your salvation beeeeee?

5. Mourners Lament
“Mourners Lament” is about as Sabbath-y as Candlemass get, and for a band that clearly takes most of their inspiration from the Birmingham Four, that’s saying a lot. I always find it interesting to contextualize Candlemass’ Sabbath worship at this early point in their career—when you stop and think about it, the Brits’ debut LP and Nightfall are only separated by 17 years, which isn’t much time at all. That’s the same as a post-black metal band in 2016 being heavily influenced by Agalloch’s Pale Folklore. Anyway, this song rules. Check out Leif’s bass peddling during the chorus: a subtle touch from a doom master.

4. Bewitched
Candlemass have worked with some truly amazing singers over their 32-year lifespan, and I have to think each of them has relished the moment when they’re standing in front of a raucous crowd and belting out the three simple words that comprise this monster chorus: “You are bewitched!” Of course, they’re all trying to live up to the untouchable performance of Messiah Marcolin, whose earnest delivery lends even more power to an already mighty song.

3. At the Gallows End
Skid Row fans who stumbled upon Nightfall in their local record stores may have mistaken “At the Gallows End” for a power ballad when they heard that opening lament, but for those in the know, it was just another example of Candlemass’ ability to convey sorrow via mournful melodies and delicate instrumentation. And once the tears stop flowing at the 1:05 mark, pummeling riffs and an enormous chorus set a new, malevolent tone.

2. The Well of Souls
There was no getting around it: Johan Längqvist was a great fucking singer, and it was going to be a pain in the ass to replace him after he decided his appearance on Epicus Doomicus Metallicus would be of the “one and done” variety. Luckily for Candlemass, help was on the way in the form of a robed madman named Messiah, who would front the band on three of their most important albums. “The Well of Souls” was his official introduction, and his operatic style and emotional delivery made an instant impression. This song is a perfect example of how naturally Messiah’s vocals meld with Leif Edling’s riffs—even when the two are following the same melody lines, the combination is undeniably effective, especially during the main theme and chorus. This one will always be a Candlemass staple, and for good reason.

1. Samarithan
“Solitude” will likely be Candlemass’ signature song until their dying day, but if we’re talking about a close second, it’s hard to argue against “Samarithan.” This is quintessential, textbook doom: lyrics that tell a compelling, easy-to-follow story; speaker-crushing riffs; and a chorus section that was crafted by Lucifer himself. Messiah is in top form throughout, and I don’t believe I’ve ever heard someone sing so passionately about pennies and having lots of food to eat. Simply put, this is an all-time doom classic that probably birthed 467 bands that you really like, so you show some goddamn respect.