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Nightwish: Once

For the past five years or so, Nightwish have been a hugely popular band in their native Finland with albums and singles commonly reaching the top of the charts. Here's hoping they can translate that success to the international community because Once is not only the band's best album by a country mile, it also happens to be a modern metal classic.

At its core, the Nightwish sound hasn't changed that much, but the band have taken a quantum leap forward in terms of songwriting and production, not to mention some wildly successful experimentation. The fact that The London Symphony Orchestra and a large choir are fully integrated into nearly every song without ever overpowering the band just amazes me.

"Dark Chest of Wonders" comes barreling out of the sound system in typical Nightwish fashion and two things quickly become evident: Lead vocalist Tarja Turunen now complements her operatic tone with more conventional singing and she sounds better than ever, if that's possible. Lead guitarist Emppu Vuorinen plays with more crunching riffs and has all but left the Yngwie Malmsteem-isms far behind.

"Wish I Had an Angel" features bassist Marco Hietala's gruff vocals on the chorus and believe it or not the song manages to marry dance music with heavy metal! But Once is hardly a sellout: typical Nightwish fare comes to the fore on tracks like "Planet Hell", "Dead Gardens" and "Romanticide". The only difference is that they leave everything on albums like Wishmaster and Oceanborn in the dust.

Special mention must be made of the two epics. The eight minute "Creek Mary's Blood" is the boldest Nightwish composition ever. Depicting the plight of Native American Indians, the song features John Two-Hawks, a Lakota musician on flute, chants and vocals. I have no idea how a Finnish metal band happened upon John Two-Hawks, but the results are simply stunning.

As moving as "Creek Mary's Blood" is, the ten minute "Ghost Love Score" is even better. I'll go so far as to call it the band's single greatest achievement. "Ghost Love Score" is suicidal gothic melancholy to the hilt, particularly evident in the choral refrain of: "My fall will be for you/My love will be in you/If you be the one to cut me/I'll bleed forever". As relentlessly depressing as the lyrics are, the musical arrangement is triumphantly uplifting and bears as much resemblance to Emerson, Lake and Palmer's "Pirates" as it does to prime Nightwish. In fact, it is the best integration of orchestra and rock band I've heard in many years.

In short, Nightwish have well and truly arrived. If there's any justice in the world, the band will dominate over all pretenders to the throne, including Evanescence, Lacuna Coil and The Gathering. Once is among the most magical, emotional and grandiose works I've heard in a very long time. Absolutely essential.

Track Listing

  1. Dark Chest of Wonders (4:28)
  2. Wish I Had an Angel (4:06)
  3. Nemo (4:36)
  4. Planet Hell (4:38)
  5. Creek Mary's Blood (8:29)
  6. The Siren (4:45)
  7. Dead Gardens (4:28)
  8. Romanticide (4:58)
  9. Ghost Love Score (10:02)
  10. Kuolema Tekee Taiteilijan (3:58)
  11. Higher Than Hope (5:38)
  12. White Night Fantasy (4:04) (bonus track)
  13. Live to Tell the Tale (5:00) (bonus track)

Added: April 7th 2005
Reviewer: Steve Pettengill
Score:
Related Link: Official Nightwish Home Page
Hits: 7676
Language: english

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» SoT Staff Roundtable Reviews:

Nightwish: Once
Posted by Ken Pierce, SoT Staff Writer on 2005-04-07 07:03:00
My Score:

Finland's finest certainly has to be the band Nightwish. For several years they have been raising the bar of operatic styled heavy metal music and continue to astound fans and newcomers alike with each release. Their latest CD entitled Once shows that this band still has a fresh amount of ideas and the well they draw from shows no sign of being dry any time soon. The piece does not waste any time in showing how hard it will hit you with the opener "Dark Chest Of Wonders". As a matter of fact I would have to label
this release as perhaps the heaviest piece that Nightwish has unleashed on their fanbase yet. "Wish I Had An Angel" chugs along, and features a lot of bassist Marco Hietala on vocals. This could have easily been a Tarot tune as well. "Creek Mary's Blood" is a well-put together tune but I found it pretty interesting for Tarja to be singing about the people who came and took over America from the Indians especially being from the lands of the Vikings. The CD is full of the lush orchestrations you expect on a Nightwish piece and this is most apparent in the track "Ghost Love Score". There really is a lot for the fan of this style of music to sink their teeth into. I would have to say my preferred tracks are all of those that were listed above. I never tire of listening to them.

This will be the first release for Nightwish under the Roadrunner Records banner as they were previously handled by Century Media records. The band is smart in giving the audience some extra tracks and even a video of the song "Wish I Had An Angel". I was actually a bit curious why they did not include the video for the more radio friendly metal hit "Nemo" as not only is it a good song, it is a better video entirely, having very vivid imagery and effects while "Angel" is more a straight performance video. As with most
Nightwish CD's they are still including a full-color booklet for the fan to have the lyrics to the songs. Yet omissions seem to happen with the words for "White Night Fantasy" and "Live To Tell The Tale". Of the bonus pieces, I would think "Higher Than Hope" is perhaps the best of them. "LTTTT" has an opening which harkens more to 80's New Wave than that of metal, before it kicks in. The lineup has fortunately not changed over the past few releases and still is comprised of Tarja, Jukka, Tuomas, Marco and Emppu which is a good thing. I think this is a solid lineup and I hope they stick with this for the long term.

If there is some reason you are still waiting to get into this band, make it your business to rectify that quickly. There is something for everyone on this piece.




» Reader Comments:

Nightwish: Once
Posted by Mike on 2005-01-18 03:49:23
My Score:

Nightwish is a great band, but so are some compositions by the others mentioned. The review is correct in it's approach to the Once record, but let's not cloud great albums with shoddy comparisons, even when they're supposedly saying that an album supercedes said other bands. I may not like Evanescence, or I may love them, but either way, I don't want them or any other band compared in a review for a single album. If this was a review specifically for the purpose of comparing two bands, I'd be content, but too long have reviewers tried to compare and place on ladders that which should be examined on a singular pedestal.

Let's review records, not the entire scene.

M.

Nightwish: Once
Posted by Michael Austin on 2004-11-30 17:37:51
My Score:

I really enjoyed this review. However, I must take exception to the comment made about Evanescence. They aren't pretenders to any throne. Somehow the idea has emerged among some people that Evanescence is trying to do something which it isn't. If you will carefully read especially the comments made by Amy Lee, it seems clear to me that she doesn't view Evanescence's music as fitting into any particular genre. For instance, I have seen a number of comments by metal fans unhappy that Evanescence isn't a true metal band. In my opinion, they've never tried to be anything like that. Sometimes their music just comes out with somewhat of a metal sound. I love their music and the "Fallen" album is my favorite album of all time. But this doesn't mean I can't also enjoy great music from all the bands mentioned in this review. Music is a form of art and tastes in music are affected by subjectivity.




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