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Nightwish - Once CD (album) cover




Progressive Metal

3.62 | 198 ratings

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Prog Leviathan
Prog Reviewer
3 stars Nightwish, the Finnish band that uses a hard-riffing combination of power metal, opera, and stage musical delivers a solid but not outstanding release with Once.

Nightwish is that kind of band that sort of takes a special person to really love, mostly because they combine not one... but two power metal gimmicks: female-led vocals, and use of symphony to support the aggressive guitar- driven riffing. The result is a lush, sweeping, romantic, heavy metal, and incomparably cheesy experience. Once pulls this off better than a lot of other bands that use these two gimmicks, but doesn't do so without a few yawns in the mix.

First off, the good stuff: the musicianship on this album is first rate, and the symphony inclusions are actually quite smart. Unlike some metal bands which sort of just have the violins provide a counter-melody for the guitar players, Nightwish finds very creative and organic ways to make use of the full symphonic experience. The result is an exciting and very full sounding experience. At times, it really does feel more like the guitar and drums are accompanying the symphony. This gives the best parts of Once a feeling of gravitas that is unique and a lot of fun. There aren't much in the way of stand-out instrumental soloing, but the result of the compositions is strong and sweeps you up.

The writing is very hit and miss though. A few standout tracks like the massive opener, Dark Chest of Wonders, the highly nuanced and evocative Creek Mary's Blood, and the cinematic spectacle of Ghost Love Score are the clear standouts. The other tracks are largely forgettable, though their powerful melodies and moments are fun while they last. A few songs feel directionless when taken as a whole, or make easy choices and become more standard, 4-minute head bangers.

Finally, let's talk about the vocals. This is the last Nightwish album to feature vocalist Tarja Turunen. Read the reviews above and you'll see adjectives like "angelic," "beautiful," or "elegant," used to describe her voice. In my opinion, this is fanboy gushing. Her voice is demure and largely inflectionless, especially during the powerful moments. I'd take a less classically trained singer who could at least emote genuinely any time. Her voice is a unique part of the album that gives it a nice charm, but is definitely not a selling point, nor are the eye-rolling lyrics she sings. The male backing vocals, which are gruff and aggressive, are more appealing. Vocals are the second gimmick that just doesn't work for me here.

So even with a few marks against it, Nightwish's Once remains a worthy purchase for fans of power metal, and especially those seeking something especially theatrical and artsy. This isn't the place to begin listening to Nightwish though, I recommend the band's following two albums for that, which feature more interesting songs and better female vocals.

Songwriting: 3 - Instrumental Performances: 4 - Lyrics/Vocals: 2 - Style/Emotion/Replay: 4

Prog Leviathan | 3/5 |


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