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Nightwish - Once CD (album) cover




Progressive Metal

3.63 | 192 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars This is the best symphonic metal album I've heard. NIGHTWISH turn up the volume and the power, and deliver a sequence of crushing songs with immediate appeal.

This album represents both a refinement of their previous work - they still deliver a combination of power metal and ballads, with an epic or two thrown in - and also a sea change in production terms. The addition of an orchestra and the prominence given to the guitar creates a much fuller sound even than their previous album. NIGHTWISH are now the biggest sound in symphonic metal, a genre where bigger is definitely better.

The album begins with three outstanding tracks. 'Dark Chest Of Wonders' is a great opener, with the extra jaw-dropping moments one expects from a band high on self-confidence. 'Wish I had an Angel' is a sensational track, with HIETALA's vocals finally delivering on their promise, his guttural delivery providing the perfect counter to TURUNEN's operatic tones. The new sound is exactly what is needed to capitalise on such superior songwriting. 'Nemo' is the first slower song, but it still delivers a punch along with it's beauty.

What you're getting here is a band at the top of their form. Read the reviews to find out how difficult long-time fans of the band found this new sound to accept: but for the first-time NIGHTWISH listener, this is the place to start.

Things settle down for a moment. 'Planet Hell' isn't a great track. 'Higher Than Hope' could have been placed here. The album marks time - until 'Creek Mary's Blood', which is an interesting conceptual piece based around a contribution by John Two Hawks. NIGHTWISH are developing a sense of how to construct an album, giving the listener some space rather than a full-on assault for an hour, and this track serves that purpose. In less confident hands it could have sounded cheesy at the least and, at worst, racist.

Three competent tracks follow, none of which would be disgraced on any NIGHTWISH album but which are a little overwhelmed here. Perhaps I'm being a little unkind: 'The Siren' is an excellent track. Then comes the album's outstanding track, the evocative, climactic 'Ghost Love Score.'

It's inevitable that something so outrageously dramatic is criticised for - well, being outrageously dramatic. Sorry for those whose emotions embarrass them. I luxuriate unashamedly in the rush I feel when this track plays. I don't need to tell you what it's like: the title says it all, really. A movie soundtrack for some dark gothic fantasy or other, to be listened to at window-shattering volume.

Some songs follow, a couple on the 2002 release, four on the 2004 re-release. I don't care about them. 'Higher Than Hope' is pretty good, actually, the highlight being the excellent guitar. 'White Night Fantasy' is also popular. But my emotional energy is spent. The album ought to have finished with 'Ghost Love Score'.

This is by no means a perfect album. But it is hard to conceive of its heights being any higher. If you want to add symphonic metal to your progressive music collection, start here.

russellk | 4/5 |


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