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Nightwish - Oceanborn CD (album) cover




Progressive Metal

3.96 | 269 ratings

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Easy Livin
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars Passion and the opera

"Oceanborn" was Nightwish's second album, and my first experience of their music. Even with prog, first impressions are important, and the album's intro grabs your full attention immediately. An orchestral burst is rapidly followed by the first taste of female vocalist Tarja's distinctive operatic vocals. She comes across like a Kate Bush on steroids. There's loads of sweeping keyboards, soaring metal guitars, and walls of sound. If the opening track "Stargazers" doesn't make you sit up and listen, move along quickly, there's nothing for you here. The track sums up perfectly what's on offer on the album.

"Gethsemane" has a wonderful guitar vs. flute section, which abruptly gives way to a symphonic orchestral break, before the band bursts back in with a driving yet stunningly melodic climax of power metal.

There are occasional death metal type vocals on tracks such as "Devil and the deep dark ocean", but these are kept well in check, and actually offer a very effective counterpoint with the operatics of Tarja.

Just when the album seems to be settling down into a pattern, "Passion and the opera" catches your breath with a delightful operatic vocalisation which then builds and weaves to a wonderful fading conclusion. The haunting ballad "Swanheart" follows, with a tear-jerking solo violin. The track is devoid of the pounding double beat of most of the songs. The Finnish origins of the band are more apparent here in the pronunciations, but this make the track all the more endearing. A magnificent vocal backed guitar solo on a powerful base make the track a real highlight. The piano intro to "Moondance" briefly misleads you into thinking a Renaissance track has mistakenly been added, but the pomposity of the full blast of the orchestra soon dispel the illusion. This is the only entirely instrumental track, brief and fun!

Towards the end of the album, there's a pretty faithful rendition of "Walking in the air" from "The snowman" (also covered instrumentally by Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow). The track highlights the beauty of the song, with only a heavier than traditional drum beat and slight lifting of the pace giving away the band's metallic roots.

The album closes with the melancholy "Sleeping sun". The chorus of this track is truly haunting, Tarja sounds as if she's making her last dying wish before the angels carry her off in an ethereal chorus, quite wonderful.

Those who do not appreciate the symphonic metal of bands such as Rhapsody will find little to enjoy them here. The music is highly melodic with a strong metal basis. It's wonderfully original, especially in view of the unique vocals. There will be those who question the prog credentials of the band, and to some extent that is a valid debate. For that reason alone, I have resisted the urge to award the full five stars. For me however what is indisputable is the quality, originality, and excitement of the music.

Easy Livin | 4/5 |


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