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Nightwish - Once CD (album) cover

ONCE

Nightwish

 

Progressive Metal

3.61 | 163 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Vanwarp
Prog Reviewer
4 stars When I last reviewed an album by Nightwish, I talked about the bands devotion and commitment to a metal subgenre like no other. When bands dedicate their lives to music and create album after album of nothing but exciting music within that particular style or metal subgenre, they are bound to leave their mark on the music world for centuries to come. Bands like Dream Theatre (progressive metal), Opeth (progessive death metal) and now Nightwish (symphonic metal) will all be revered for their contributions.

When I first discovered Nightwish, I was instantly hooked on them. I have since turned many of my friends into Nightwish fanatics as well. Enough small talk already, lets get into the meat and potatoes of this album.

In a recorded interview, Tuomas explained that "they doubled all the elements"; he said they added more heaviness and more orchestrated parts into this new album. Further, most of the music is "based on very riff-laden song structures." The band also hired the London Session Orchestra to help keep that true "symphonic sound" in their music. For those of you wondering, the London Session Orchestra is also responsible for the Lord of the Rings soundtrack trilogy. Maybe that explains why there's a very strong "soundtrackish" feel to the album!

Like on all their albums, Nightwish demonstrates some really "heavy" interaction as you will find on most tracks. And they may have doubled the heaviness on some of the tracks but I don't think this album ranks as their very "heaviest." Perhaps their most varied piece of work but as a whole, not their heaviest. Each song goes through some pace changes with various musical ideas thrown into the mix. This is where the progressive elements come into play. Tuomas is a very good songwriter and you will find the album contains some wonderful musical arrangements and killer riffs, just makes you want to hear the album over and over again.

Tarja showcases her incredible vocal abilities and she sounds more relaxed and soothing than ever before. This is good as Tarja's voice can be somewhat overpowering at times. (I can't believe I just said that...) Her flexibility helps the music by allowing Marco the opportunity to shine and to let other instruments cut through the mix like Emppu's much improved guitar work.

There's also a lot of interesting little musical surprises spread out throughout the album. For instance, "Kuolema Tekee Taiteilijan" is performed in Finnish, and we find a guest appearance by one John Two-Hawks, a native Lakota indian on "Creek Mary's Blood", and then there's even a song with "techno" influences! Should I give that one away? Not just yet, but everything comes to those who wait!

So what's so great about this CD? Well, besides being slightly ahead of its predecessor Century Child, Nightwish has found a way to mix a lot of different influences into their songs! There is more variety crammed into this new album than you will find on any other Nightwish release.

Song by Song review:

From the opening whispering moments of "Dark Chest of Wonders" when the guitars move in, I immediately had a happy smile on my face. The choir and orchestra blend into the music perfectly. Tarja's soft soothing voice sounds fresh to me. It's like she's well rested and having a lot of fun. In fact, the whole band feels well oiled and ready to go. This track is one of the highlights on the album.

"I Wish I Had An Angel" also put a smile on my face. Tarja along with several backing vocalist harmonize for an excellent intro just before the electronic elements make an entrance. You heard me right. It is a pure unashamedly techno beat juxtapose with the chorus of this track! And it works. Remember, it put a smile on my face, one of those little surprises I was talking about. Tarja and Marco share vocal duties on this one and the band simply delivers a great performance. I have to admit that after this track I was wondering where the band might be heading exactly? (Not to worry...that techno influence disappears just as fast as it appeared.) "Nemo" was the first single. Very typical Nightwish track, reminds of previous single releases. The blending of the classical music created by the London Session Orchestra and the metal elements of the band have never sounded better.

"Planet Hell" opens with orchestra and choir. At the one minute mark the band kick it in. Marco and Tarja share the vocals again and give a great performance. This track moves along rather quickly. The choir parts make you "jumpy"...you'll have to experience this for yourself!

"Creek Mary's Blood" is an eight minute long epic track. It depicts the ethnic cleansing and massacre of entire native tribes. The song features everything from acoustic guitars, flutes, a full orchestra and a spoken poem read by John Two-Hawks. This is a highly emotional song, very dramatic. Me thinks a risky track for the band...but it certainly adds an element of surprise that's for sure.

"Siren" is an eastern flavored track with sitars and full orchestra reminding one of "Pharaoh Sails to Orion", an earlier track found on their Oceanborn release. Great vocal performances! More variety to round out the album...

"Dead Gardens" is a little heavier, more metal than symphonic. There are some interesting atmospheric elements here that requires time to digest. Very heavy riff, very heavy ending!

"Romanticide" continues where "Dead Gardens" left off. Very heavy track, great guitar solo, classic "beauty and the beast" vocal effect, although Marco does not growl like the best of them. You can still make out what he is "raging" about. This is a very complex track, a lot of technical stuff here, one of my favorite songs on the album.

But the albums apogee finally arrives with "Ghost Love Score." The band should be proud of this one. It is simply the hugest song Tuomas Holopainen has ever written. "Ghost Love Score" contains a little bit of everything the band is all about. Heavy guitars, choirs, orchestrations, varied tempos, different mood swings, soft parts and a killer chorus to boot. What else do you want? They doubled the efforts on this one for sure. This is so much bigger than "Beauty of the Beast" on Century Child. Simply the best song of the bands career? And no, I'm not kidding!

The album contains a soft ballad named "Kuolema Tekee Taiteilijan." The title translation goes something like this: "a death creates an artist!" They are proud to be Finnish and they are not afraid to let it show. Tarja sounds great and the choir, cello, piano and orchestra all work beautifully to create some outstanding atmosphere and soothing melodies. Simply beautiful, there's no better way to describe it.

The album closes with another power ballad "Higher Than Hope," another sad song and yet another powerful vocal performance by Tarja.

Concluding Remarks: "Once I had a dream and this is it..." are the first words Tarja whispers at the beginning of the album. And listening to the album once is all you need to experience the wonderful artistic expression that it is. At times intense and bombastic, sometimes atmospheric and soothing, a perfectly balanced and well rounded powerful symphonic metal album from beginning to end!

Vanwarp | 4/5 |

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