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Nightwish - Once CD (album) cover




Progressive Metal

3.63 | 189 ratings

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Queen By-Tor
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Going commercial and getting better while doing it

By the time Once was released, Nightwish had turned into a strange phenomenon. I was traveling through Sweden near that time and I remember walking down the streets of Stockholm, and where ever a music store could be seen they would all be slathered with Nightwish posters, cd releases (all their albums and singles), and banners all down the street hanging from buildings. I can't say I wasn't fascinated by this, and I'd had a couple of their albums already, so I wound up walking out of the stores with a special edition of the album. I guess their selling schemes work after all. Anyways, this has always been an interesting album to me just because of the press and interest around it.

As for the album itself it seems that Nightwish has fallen prey to the general music industry that demands some kind of normality from bands, but combined with the obscurity of some of their older works this makes for a great mix! Tarja has tuned down her voice a notch so that she's less of an opera queen and more of a (*gasp*) singer. The opera feel is still there in many tracks, but as visible right off the top of the album things have changed quite a bit. The band seems to also have noted how to write singles by this point, because there's quite a few on this album. Most of the commercially successful songs on this album are very enjoyable despite the fact they've grown a bit big on the commercial side of things (there's not many bands that can say they've had singles printed on coffee mugs as Nightwish have with Wish I had an Angel). This album does what Nightwish has always done very well - short songs well structured with good hooks and choruses as well as longer songs with a less conventional structure that stand out among the others. Someone else noted in a review for this album that this is where everything the band was trying to do since the beginning all came together, and I agree.

Where the short songs are at their best is when they're heavier than hell. The first four songs on the album all do this, whether it be the frantic almost fearful Dark Chest Of Wonders, the ultimate bass test for any speaker system Wish I Had An Angel, the cold hearted Nemo or the frightening Planet Hell. Each of which is the pure metal side of the band, but each very satisfying. The guitars are mean, the bass is heavy, the drums are less predictable than they used to be and the vocals are much easier to inject than some of the band's early works. Also notable is the more forward presence of the conjoined male vocal parts which have been more far-and-few up until this point. Planet Hell is almost completely voiced by someone other than Tarja. Some of the other short songs are more progressive (less conventional) in structure such as the single The Siren and the song with one of the biggest jumps in tone and speed in the middle of the song that the band has ever done with Romanticide.

Then we have what is of more interest to the proggers, the long songs - which are each very well done. The first of which on there is Creek Mary's Blood, a brooding and evil sounding song with a surprisingly folk feel behind it's malevolence. Wonderful orchestration met with chanting in the middle makes for an excellent lead into some more heavy instrumentation and orchestration in the song coming to the end. However, then we get to what is likely Nightwish's greatest achievement (with Tarja at the helm anyways) with Ghost Love Score. This is the prog song the band had struggled to make up to this point. Wonderfully winding instrumental passageways led by an evil string section and a heavy bassline introduce the vocals and the guitar kicks in once more when the harmony parts come in. This one just builds and builds until it finally reaches an excellent ending which will leave any prog-metaller satisfied.

While unfortunately this album would be the end of an era for the band this remains as likely the best release by the band with Tarja at the helm. Everything that Nightwish does right comes together here and makes for an excellent release. Fans of the band will be absolutely amazed while many other prog metallers should be kept interested for quite song time. 4 dead gardens out of 5, recommended to people who like dark, heavy music.

Queen By-Tor | 4/5 |


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