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Nightwish - Once CD (album) cover




Progressive Metal

3.63 | 189 ratings

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5 stars The beauty of this album lies on its catchy melody, heavy riffs, soaring and symphonic keyboard, wonderful operatic vocals, great orchestration and tight composition. Its music is heavily influenced by power metal and progressive metal ( such as Dream Theater, Symphony X., Ice Age, etc). If you like energy, power and headbanging, this album is for you. Especially in this album, Nightwish delivers their compositions with symphonic orchestra in full scale. For my personal taste, it suffices to say that this album is a remarkable performance by the band. It's a bombastic and ambitious venture that results an enjoyable music. For those of you who love neo prog music must learn to listen heavy guitar riffs before starting your journey with this album. Why? Neo prog bands rarely produce heavy riffs in their composition (exception is for Arena's song "Chosen" from "Immortal?" album which has sort of guitar riffs).

Composition-wise, this album is terrific; the music brings you smoothly through all passages of the album with various emotions. Almost all tracks are performed in an upbeat tempo with nice transition pieces augmented with beautiful orchestra. With this album, Nightwish has pushed their music further into a sort of symphonic progressive metal performed in operatic style. It leads their music unique with practically no competition. Some may compare with Rhapsody (featured also in this page) but the two are different. I love both of them and you may look at my review of latest Rhapsody's album Symphony of Enchanted Lands II.

This album blasts off with an energetic track Dark Chest of Wonders characterized by heavy riffs with soaring and classical keyboard by Tuomas Holopainen in fast tempo. The orchestration piece has successfully accentuated the song. The operatic voice of Tarja Turunen is really powerful. Halfway through the track, it has a short break (with no music at all)- very nice break- followed by heavy riff. This is a bold decision as it has made the music uplifting.

The next rack is a single Wish I Had an Angel with almost the same platform with previous track: fast tempo and melodic. It starts off with a choir led by the bass player, Marco Hietala. This time the keyboard plays at the background like a mellotron sound in typical art rock or neo prog music. Sometimes it accompanies guitar riffs during transitions. The vocal harmony between Tarja and Marco is really good. As this track is a single, the structure is simpler than opening track.

Another single Nemo starts off with a simple piano touch reminiscent of a nu-metal music (like Evanescence). After two fast tempo and uplifting tracks, this one is performed in a moderate tempo with nicer melody that tends to be poppy. The choir and orchestra are really good. During interlude there is a lead guitar solo by Empu; simple but nice.

Planet Hell kicks off with an ambient symphonic orchestra choir with violin / cello solo that provide excellent nuance for the song. It is then followed by a heavy riffs and Marco / Tarja vocal harmony. It's a very uplifting opening! The music then flows in a power metal stream. The background choir during Marco / Tarja duet is really nice. The interlude part with keyboard solo reminds me to Royal Hunt.

Creek Mary's Blood is probably the most melodic and mellow track compared to others. The band has removed the "heavy " riffs that characterize the metal vein and leave alone the pure voice of Tarja and the orchestra to perform the song. Story-wise, this song is based on a novel by Dee Brown with the same title about the life of Mary Musgrove who was the Creek wife of John Musgrove, an Indian Trader in 1731. It took place in 18th Century Georgia, U.S.A. Composition-wise it's definitely an amazing work combining catchy and memorable melody with a full stream of symphonic orchestra. It opens with a flute sound and an ambient choir in Indian language followed by stunning acoustic guitar with background orchestra. The beautiful voice of Tarja enters ."Soon I will be here no more. You'll hear my tale through my blood ." . uuggghh . what a sad (but nice melody) opening! In the middle of the track the music turns higher with amazing orchestration and flute work followed by soft riffs and drumming in moderate tempo. At the end of the track the band concludes with superb chanting, oration (in Indian language!) and flute performed by John Two-Hawks. No doubt, this track is wonderfully crafted, a masterpiece and has become my all-time favorite. Oh man . I love the band! [Tuomas, thank you for writing this superb track!].

The Siren is another favorite of mine. It opens with an orchestra followed with simple riffs. Tarja voice is backed by a nice choir and Marco's singing. The orchestra takes a stunning lead of the music with excellent violin solo in heavy riffs nuance. The female backing vocal / choir at approx. minute 2:50 reminds me to the music of Cirque du Soleil. (my apology for those of you who never watch or listen to the music of this circus. I recommend you to get the CD as well - it's definitely a progressive music!).

Dead Gardens brings us back to the heavy guitar riffs nuance and upbeat tempo with full energy; chanting voice of Tarja. It's an excellent track. It flows in similar vein with the next track Romanticide. The guitar melody appears more in this track. It's more on power metal vein where the orchestra does not appear much this time.

Ghost Love Score is an excellent epic that combines stunning orchestra, heavy riffs and operatic vocal and choir. The melody is really nice. This track is performed in relatively slow tempo. So, it serves similar purpose like "Creek Mary's Blood" to calm down from previously thumping beat tracks. In the middle of the track, I can sense myself as watching a kind like "Lord of the Rings" movie. Superb!

Kuolema tekee taiteilijan is very melodic and melow track with powerful delivery by Tarja. Even though I do not know the meaning (in Finnish?) but the melody is really touching, backed with great orchestra to accentuate the texture of this nice track. Higher Than Hope starts off with stunning acoustic guitar followed with Tarja's voice. The opening part is mellow but it turns higher in the middle of the track.

My CD is an enhanced CD Roadrunner's version and it has two bonus tracks White Night Fantasy and Live To Tell The Tale plus video clip of Wish I Had An Angel. Based on information from some friends of mine, the Roadrunner's version is the best one.

Conclusion : it's definitely an essential album and a masterpiece! There is no such thing as "mediocre" track, all are excellent! The minor critic about this album is on the volume of the record; it's too loud and sometimes disturb the purity of sound produced. But I understand the complexity of mixing this album as it combines metal with orchestra. Otherwise, superb! GW, Indonesia.


Thanks to the administrator group of progarchives who has approved my request to feature this band in this site. The band deserves for inclusion in this page as their music contains progressive passages.

Gatot | 5/5 |


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