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Axis (1987)
Rating: 9.9/10

Nightfall is Candlemass’ second full-length album (discounting the Nemesis EP) and shows a huge leap forward on their debut, Epicus Doomicus Metallicus, which is in itself is an essential buy for any true metal fan.

What I find exciting about this band most of all is their ability to play music so powerful (not fast, but powerful) that any genuine heavy metal fan cannot fail to succumb to their charms. On Nightfall we get six main tracks – each one a gem – which should appeal to everyone from the hardest thrasher to the average Iron Maiden or Judas Priest fan, and of course all those in between too.

Put simply, Candlemass have mixed some early Black Sabbath (circa Master Of Reality), some early Rainbow (circa Rising) some Metallica (no rip-offs though) and added plenty of their own original style to produce a unique sound. Why the hell can’t any English bands realise that this is the sort of heavy metal fans really want to hear, not some watered down American AOR sounding crap.

So on to the songs. The LP opens with the haunting intro of ‘Gothic Stone’ before launching into ‘The Well Of Souls,’ an epic in the ‘Stargazer’ mould but heavier. Check out the middle section which is unbelievably intense; at all times though the song retains a powerful melody.

‘At The Gallows End’ is up next, and from a slow acoustic intro a riff of mammoth proportions bursts through. This is one of the two more uptempo songs, which is a headbanger’s delight and also has a stunning lead break from the new Yngwie, Lars ‘Lasse’ Johansson. ‘Samarithan’ closes the side and we’re at real doom pace here, but this sounds as though there are ten rhythm guitarists playing at the same time. The chorus is remarkably haunting as well. Bassist Leif Edling’s lyrics are at all times faultless and sung brilliantly by ex-Mercy vocalist Messiah Marcolin, who has a unique voice which is so suited to the changing moods and tempos in Candlemass’ music. Each song tells a different mythical tale and is lyrically far more intelligent than anything Dio has ever come up with.

Side two opens with a revamped version of that old Chopin classic death march, ‘Marche Funèbre’, which will surely become the band’s theme song! One of the best tracks of 1987 is next; ‘Dark Are The Veils Of Death’, which surpasses everything for heavy riffing.

‘Mourners Lament’ is pure doom, which grows into an epic after a couple of plays. This is the story of a father whose son is lost and his torment over the boy’s death. Again, an ultra-heavy middle section which I’m sure Metallica would’ve loved to have created.

‘Bewitched’ is the LP’s closer and is another melodic but heavy epic, and again the rhythm guitar of Mats ‘Mappe’ Björkman is working overtime. Leading to the ominous outro of ‘Black Candles’, the LP ends in the style it began. Power, heaviness, class; Candlemass have discovered a formula to keep everybody happy.

A special mention must go to the production on this platter for Ragne Wahlquist, who has achieved a crisp heavy sound that compliments the Candlemass style perfectly.

All in all, a truly devastating release which should also be available in the USA through Metal Blade Records shortly.

Bernard Doe

Review taken from Metal Forces, Issue 25 (1987)

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