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Nightwish - Oceanborn CD (album) cover

OCEANBORN

Nightwish

 

Progressive Metal

3.98 | 177 ratings

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Prog Sothoth
4 stars When I first heard this album back in 2001, it was quite a new experience for me. As a longtime metal fan, as well as being fond of female vocals in general, I knew a small number of female fronted metal acts, but nothing quite like this. Nowadays there's a massive catalog of similar sounding acts, so it's borderline difficult to review this with the fresh mindset I had back then, but Oceanborn deserves to be treated in that respect because for better or worse, it was a hell of a trendsetter.

As the speediest Nightwish effort to this day, it also remains my favorite, not for being my initiation to their sound, but for simply having the best collection of tunes with little in the ways of mid-tempo middling tracks. There's a lot of fast anthemic power metal tunes alongside some gorgeous ballads, as well as a couple of bombastic epics ("Passion And The Opera", "The Pharaoh Sails To Orion"). The musicianship is sound and clearly skillful, with a suitably bombastic production that adds a good wallop of "oomph" thanks to a loud but not overbearing drum mix. "Stargazers" starts things off on a first-rate high-flying pace, and "Sleeping Sun" ends things on a sad, beautiful note.

Of course it would be ridiculous to bring up my first experience with early Nightwish without mentioning the vocals of Tarja. Female operatic vocals and metal didn't seem like something that should have gelled well, but damnit was I enthralled back then. Not only did her voice fit seamlessly with the music, they added some serious punch to the heavier tracks and an extra ethereal air to the ballads. Her delivery back then made the lyrics a bit tough to discern, but that didn't matter as the voice alone was what captured my attention.

As their best release, only "The Riddler" keeps things from being a full-fledged front-to-back pleasure, but it's not really a bad song, and quite good compared to a large portion of songs from other releases by the band.

It's kind of weird now with so many later acts out that came and went or still plug away aping their general format to remember that back then this stuff was so fresh and original. It really doesn't seem that long ago for me, but yeah...the turn of the century is long past. Oceanborn, by not going to over-the-top in trying to ape an orchestra, has actually aged a bit better than a good portion of similar sounding albums that came out a couple of years afterwards, including their own followup Wishmaster. This is pretty much a seminal work by the band and their most energetic for sure.

Prog Sothoth | 4/5 |

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