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Nightwish - Oceanborn CD (album) cover




Progressive Metal

3.96 | 269 ratings

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Queen By-Tor
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Tough to put into words.

The second album by Finish prog-metallers is one that has always struck a peculiar chord with me. At the time of buying it I was a pure headbanger who had only listened to Dark Side Of The Moon the night before. I obtained this album on a trip to Sweden (to instruct hockey, of all things). While there I couldn't help but notice all the banners and posters advertising this band that I'd never heard of before in North America. After a recommendation from one of the Canadian born, Finish citizens that was instructing along side me I decided to go pick up the first album I saw by them. That album would be Oceanborn.

Immediately noticeable is the band's style. Heavy Metal riffs backed by the occasional folk sound and the ever present vocals of the talented opera singer Tarja TURUNEN. While it's very easy to be thrown off by the vocals first time around, they do really grow on you. The vocals in this album are a lot less accessible than some of her work on their later albums (due to production value no doubt), but that gives them a very interesting kind of feel to them. Dark and moody, this is definitely not easily listening. Also good to note is that the album almost has a supernatural feel to it, the lyrics drawing from various inspirations and none of them being very ''down to Earth''... when is actually a very good thing! After all, what prog has had good ''Down to Earth'' lyrics?

Definitely for the heavier of tastes, the album opens up with some quick, shocking riffs on STARGAZER. This is also the first taste of the vocals on the album, and one of the standouts in terms of performance. Other heavy songs on the album can prove to be just as good. Songs like GETHSEMANE, SACRAMENT OF WILDERNESS and PASSION AND THE OPERA all providing dark, heavy music that rocks the ears.

Standouts? Nearing the end of the album THE RIDDLER is a great standout with a clear chorus (something not always evident in their music) and a great keyboard riff that make it more accessible than many of the other tracks. Prior to that, however, was the masterful instrumental MOONDANCE. It sounds just as the name suggests, floaty and whimsical to start until the guitars kick into high gear and the song goes on. A gothic dance tune, this has been a song that has always stood out to my ears. Moving into the more progressive side of things THE PHARAOH SAILS TO ORION is a dark prog track with some excellent atmospheric piano mixed into some truly grinding riffs and Turunen's vocals put into the background in favor of a grumbly death metal vocalist (for the first half, at least). Excellent soloing and some very unique melodies make this song te standout of the album.

There's also a plethora of slower songs, each with a mixed degree of effectiveness. SWANHEART is a pleasant song with a good use of flute and vocals that makes a nice addition to the album. The two ending songs are slower and also rather pleasant, but with the rest of the album being so heavy, the listener likely just wants more bloody by this point. WALKING IN THE AIR mixes some heavy elements into some more subdued melodies and SLEEPING SUN hosts a very nice chorus. Good songs that both seems almost out of place the first couple listens through but eventually catch on to the listener.

Well, at the time of writing this far I still haven't decided on a rating... time to resort to counting down. Is it an essential piece of progressive music that I would recommend to all? No, not likely, it's focus is thinner than that. Is it an excellent addition to any prog music collection...? I'd say yes, just so long as you know what you're getting in to. 3.5 stars, really. Recommended for anyone who loves a strong female vocalist or metal mixed with some prog and (a little bit of) folk elements. Others will likely not be able to get into it.

Queen By-Tor | 3/5 |


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