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Nightwish Once album cover
3.63 | 214 ratings | 40 reviews | 23% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 2004

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Dark Chest of Wonders (4:28)
2. Wish I Had an Angel (4:03)
3. Nemo (4:36)
4. Planet Hell (4:39)
5. Creek Mary's Blood (8:29)
6. The Siren (4:45)
7. Dead Gardens (4:26)
8. Romanticide (4:57)
9. Ghost Love Score (10:00)
10. Kuolema Tekee Taiteilijan (3:34)
11. Higher Than Hope (5:35)

Total Time 59:32

Bonus track on 2004 double-LP edition:
12. Nemo (maxi sound)

Bonus CD from 2004 SE:
1. Live to Tell the Tale (5:02)
2. White Night Fantasy (4:04)
Video. Nemo (director Antti Jokinen)

Line-up / Musicians

- Tarja Turunen / vocals
- Emppu Vuorinen / electric & acoustic guitars
- Tuomas Holopainen / keyboards, piano, co-producer
- Marco Hietala / bass, acoustic guitar, vocals
- Jukka Nevalainen / drums

- John Two-Hawks / flute & chanting (5)
- Olli Halonen / slide guitar (5)
- Paul Clarvis / percussion (5)
- Sonia Slany / electric violin (6)
- Sami Yli-Sirniö / sitar (6,9)
- Martin Loveday / solo cello (6)
- Anthony Pleeth / solo cello (10)
- Marc Brueland / voice (11)
- The Metro Voices (Tessa Bonner, Hellen Brooks, Andrew Busher, Michael Clarke, Michael Dore, Susan Flannery, Donald Greig, Sarah McGill, Cherith Millburn-Fryer, Gerard O'Beirne, Helen Parker, Tom Pearce, Samantha Shaw, Helen Templeton, Rosalind Waters, Rachel Weston, Karen Woodhouse) / chorus vocals
- Jenny O'Grady / choirmaster
- The Orchestra / 19 violins, 9 violas, 8 celli, 6 basses, 1 flute, 1 flute/piccolo, 1 oboe/cor anglais, 1 clarinet/bass clarinet, 1 bassoon, 5 French horns, 3 trumpets, 4 trombones, 2 bass trombones, 1 tuba, 1 harp, 1 timpani, 1 percussion
- Frank Ricotti / tuned percussion
- Gavyn Wright / orchestra leader
- Pip Williams / orchestral arrangements, orchestrations & direction
- James Shearman / orchestra conductor

Releases information

Artwork: Markus Mayer

CD Spinefarm Records - SPI200CD (2004, Finland)
2CD Spinefarm Records - SPI200SP (2004, Finland) Bonus disc with 2 tracks plus a Video

2LP Nuclear Blast ‎- NB 1291-1, (2004, Europe) With a bonus track

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to projeKct for the last updates
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Buy NIGHTWISH Once Music

NIGHTWISH Once ratings distribution

(214 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(23%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(41%)
Good, but non-essential (22%)
Collectors/fans only (8%)
Poor. Only for completionists (7%)

NIGHTWISH Once reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Gatot
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
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.

Review by Vanwarp
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"'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!

Review by ClemofNazareth
3 stars Nightwish is a band I first heard on progarchives, and one of the growing number of new progressive groups I've come to enjoy because of the site.

This is a band I have mixed feelings about, and the Once album is a good example why. There really isn't a bad song here, although some border on boilerplate composition and production such as "Planet Hell", "Romanticide" and "Dead Gardens". These three are typical of the sound heard on pretty much every Nightwish album, but none of them tell any particularly compelling story or demonstrate any really progressive elements. That said, the work as a whole is quite good, and my other comments are generally minor suggestions of how the band could have improved the work.

"Dark Chest of Wonders", the opening track, is a bombastic, attention-grabbing whirl of sounds, with the trademark operatic voice of Tarja Turunen piercing the multitude of keyboards, drums, strings, and backing vocals with alacrity and force. 8/10.

"Wish I Had an Angel" features an intoxicating guitar power riff and very catching and appealing chorus, which unfortunately is repeated at least six or seven times too many. This song demonstrates what happens when a great idea by the composer is not completely developed, but is apparently rushed right into the studio and filled out with repetition and filler supporting instruments. 7/10.

"Nemo" was, I believe, the first single from the album, and had a killer video I've read, although I personally haven't seen it. An interesting tune that benefits greatly from Tuomas Holopainen's very active and appealing keyboard work. 8/10.

"Planet Hell" also features some very good keyboard work and brilliant support from the Session Orchestra of London (who also accompany most of the rest of the album). I gather this is kind of an apocalyptic 'Beauty and the Beast' power ballad, nothing really special but very listenable and fits the mood of the rest of the album. 7/10.

"Creek Mary's Blood" has to be considered the pinnacle of this album. It is interspersed with chants and supporting instrumentation from some Lakota native Americans, very familiar to me since they are very prevalent here in my home of South Dakota. The message here is quite dark and pessimistic, basically a tale of ethic cleansing, greed and lust for conquest, massacres and bloodshed. The music builds to a kind of crescendo meant to demonstrate a building storm of bloodlust and destruction. Heavy use of the orchestra on this song, which clocks in at over eight minutes. I have no idea what the Lakotan speaker is saying at the end, but I assume there's some sort of moral or spiritual message there. Quite a departure for the band, while still retaining the core of their sound with a persistent drumbeat and Tarja's distinctive voice. 10/10.

"The Siren" strikes me as a bit of filler, although with pleasant enough vocals and a somewhat airy accompaniment. 6/10.

"Dead Gardens" and "Romanticide" as I mentioned before are a couple of rather by- the-numbers dark metal tunes with nothing to really distinguish them. Nothing wrong with them, really, just nothing noteworthy either. 6/10.

"Ghost Love Score", like "Creek Mary's Blood", is a notable departure both lyrically and musically for the band. This one clocks in at ten minutes, and appears to be an attempt to jam every instrument and voice on the album into a single track. It is hard to keep track of who is singing and playing (and what they're playing) as this one steamrolls to a climax. Very unique sound that frankly left me ready to take a break out of exhaustion. 9/10.

"Kuolema Tekee Taitei" is the next track, and I have no idea what this song was about, as it was sung in Finnish (or what I assume was Finnish). A very appealing little ballad to soften the mood though, and Tarja's voice approached a softness that can only be heard elsewhere on the opening track. 7/10.

"Higher Than Hope" is another metal epic with that builds to something of a crescendo and features the distinctive vocals and guitar sounds Nightwish is known for. A very nice closing piece to this album. 8/10.

All told this was a very worthwhile purchase, and although it is unlikely to stand the test of time as one of the top progressive albums of the decade, it is a CD that will undoubtedly get plenty of playing time by anyone who buys it (except possibly by the most banal prog elitists). A high 3 stars.

Review by AtLossForWords
3 stars A best selling album in Finland, a burst in popularity, and a questionable release according to veterean fans.

Nightwish's 2004 album Once, is an even more symphonic endeavour than the previous studio album Century Child. The album recieved amazing support in Finland, as the femme vocaled ensemble had brought metal into the more mainstream. Veterean fans do not give the album such positive reviews. The album isn't anymore poppy than previous releases. It's actually much more symphonic and progressive, so Nightwish were definately not going for bigger popularity. What's the problem then?

The guitars are the most notable negative point of the album. They are much more distorted and much more prominent in the mix than on previous albums. They sometimes seem to be misplaced throughout many of the songs. I would have prefered to see more melodic guitar playing than overpowering rythymn lines from Empuu Vourinnen.

The vocals are another negative point. Tarja Turunen's vocals lack both range and dynamics. Turunen's vocalsseems to be inferior to female singers of this genre like Floor Janssen from After Forever. Marco Hietala's vocals don't contrast or compliment Turunen's vocals. Hietala's power metal style is a little to rough around the edges to fit in this more symphonic oriented album.

The keyboards from Tuomas Holopainen are the saving grace of the album. Holopainen mangages to use a variety of synths for each song, and still shows excellent ability to play the melodic lines that give substance to the song. Nightwish has always been a band more focused on keyboards than other instruments. Holopainen also did a great arranging the orchestral parts.

The orchestra is the other reason why this album is worth a listen. The orchesta has a variety of uses throughout the album, each song features different ways to best use parts of the ensemble between strings, reeds, and brass.

The drums and bass don't factor too much in the quality of the album. They are present, but not prominent.

The production is excellent except for the guitars. They are quite overpowering and misplaced. The bass is a little dirty though, but it adds contrast with the full orchestra.

A three star rating is all that can be afforded for an album with such flaws. It has bright points, but it's far from perfect and caters to more recent Nightwish fans.

Review by sean
4 stars An excellent album, but not my favorite of Nightwish's work. Sometimes it just feels to heavy, and Tarja's voice seems weaker than on previous works. It is also less technical than their previous albums. However, it is still excellent. Especially "Ghost Love Score", which i think is one of Nightwish's best songs. The use of orchestra is very good, and does add much to the album.
Review by russellk
4 stars This is the best symphonic metal album I've heard. NIGHTWISH turn up the volume and the power, and deliver a sequence of crushing songs with immediate appeal.

This album represents both a refinement of their previous work - they still deliver a combination of power metal and ballads, with an epic or two thrown in - and also a sea change in production terms. The addition of an orchestra and the prominence given to the guitar creates a much fuller sound even than their previous album. NIGHTWISH are now the biggest sound in symphonic metal, a genre where bigger is definitely better.

The album begins with three outstanding tracks. 'Dark Chest Of Wonders' is a great opener, with the extra jaw-dropping moments one expects from a band high on self-confidence. 'Wish I had an Angel' is a sensational track, with HIETALA's vocals finally delivering on their promise, his guttural delivery providing the perfect counter to TURUNEN's operatic tones. The new sound is exactly what is needed to capitalise on such superior songwriting. 'Nemo' is the first slower song, but it still delivers a punch along with it's beauty.

What you're getting here is a band at the top of their form. Read the reviews to find out how difficult long-time fans of the band found this new sound to accept: but for the first-time NIGHTWISH listener, this is the place to start.

Things settle down for a moment. 'Planet Hell' isn't a great track. 'Higher Than Hope' could have been placed here. The album marks time - until 'Creek Mary's Blood', which is an interesting conceptual piece based around a contribution by John Two Hawks. NIGHTWISH are developing a sense of how to construct an album, giving the listener some space rather than a full-on assault for an hour, and this track serves that purpose. In less confident hands it could have sounded cheesy at the least and, at worst, racist.

Three competent tracks follow, none of which would be disgraced on any NIGHTWISH album but which are a little overwhelmed here. Perhaps I'm being a little unkind: 'The Siren' is an excellent track. Then comes the album's outstanding track, the evocative, climactic 'Ghost Love Score.'

It's inevitable that something so outrageously dramatic is criticised for - well, being outrageously dramatic. Sorry for those whose emotions embarrass them. I luxuriate unashamedly in the rush I feel when this track plays. I don't need to tell you what it's like: the title says it all, really. A movie soundtrack for some dark gothic fantasy or other, to be listened to at window-shattering volume.

Some songs follow, a couple on the 2002 release, four on the 2004 re-release. I don't care about them. 'Higher Than Hope' is pretty good, actually, the highlight being the excellent guitar. 'White Night Fantasy' is also popular. But my emotional energy is spent. The album ought to have finished with 'Ghost Love Score'.

This is by no means a perfect album. But it is hard to conceive of its heights being any higher. If you want to add symphonic metal to your progressive music collection, start here.

Review by Moatilliatta
4 stars This is Nightwish's pinnacle. Everything they have wanted to do with their sound is actualized on Once. Complete with a full orchestra and choir, the band is able to harness the full capabilities of opera and symphony music and implement them into their trademark sound. This result is a huge, epic sound that maintains the accessibility of before. The highlight of this album is the over-10 minute "Ghost Love Score," which showcases the band's writing at full force. I would have been happy with just that one song, but luckily the rest of the album is great too. They were never as ambitious as Therion, but, they didn't need to be. This album solidifies that.
Review by Queen By-Tor
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Going commercial and getting better while doing it

By the time Once was released, Nightwish had turned into a strange phenomenon. I was traveling through Sweden near that time and I remember walking down the streets of Stockholm, and where ever a music store could be seen they would all be slathered with Nightwish posters, cd releases (all their albums and singles), and banners all down the street hanging from buildings. I can't say I wasn't fascinated by this, and I'd had a couple of their albums already, so I wound up walking out of the stores with a special edition of the album. I guess their selling schemes work after all. Anyways, this has always been an interesting album to me just because of the press and interest around it.

As for the album itself it seems that Nightwish has fallen prey to the general music industry that demands some kind of normality from bands, but combined with the obscurity of some of their older works this makes for a great mix! Tarja has tuned down her voice a notch so that she's less of an opera queen and more of a (*gasp*) singer. The opera feel is still there in many tracks, but as visible right off the top of the album things have changed quite a bit. The band seems to also have noted how to write singles by this point, because there's quite a few on this album. Most of the commercially successful songs on this album are very enjoyable despite the fact they've grown a bit big on the commercial side of things (there's not many bands that can say they've had singles printed on coffee mugs as Nightwish have with Wish I had an Angel). This album does what Nightwish has always done very well - short songs well structured with good hooks and choruses as well as longer songs with a less conventional structure that stand out among the others. Someone else noted in a review for this album that this is where everything the band was trying to do since the beginning all came together, and I agree.

Where the short songs are at their best is when they're heavier than hell. The first four songs on the album all do this, whether it be the frantic almost fearful Dark Chest Of Wonders, the ultimate bass test for any speaker system Wish I Had An Angel, the cold hearted Nemo or the frightening Planet Hell. Each of which is the pure metal side of the band, but each very satisfying. The guitars are mean, the bass is heavy, the drums are less predictable than they used to be and the vocals are much easier to inject than some of the band's early works. Also notable is the more forward presence of the conjoined male vocal parts which have been more far-and-few up until this point. Planet Hell is almost completely voiced by someone other than Tarja. Some of the other short songs are more progressive (less conventional) in structure such as the single The Siren and the song with one of the biggest jumps in tone and speed in the middle of the song that the band has ever done with Romanticide.

Then we have what is of more interest to the proggers, the long songs - which are each very well done. The first of which on there is Creek Mary's Blood, a brooding and evil sounding song with a surprisingly folk feel behind it's malevolence. Wonderful orchestration met with chanting in the middle makes for an excellent lead into some more heavy instrumentation and orchestration in the song coming to the end. However, then we get to what is likely Nightwish's greatest achievement (with Tarja at the helm anyways) with Ghost Love Score. This is the prog song the band had struggled to make up to this point. Wonderfully winding instrumental passageways led by an evil string section and a heavy bassline introduce the vocals and the guitar kicks in once more when the harmony parts come in. This one just builds and builds until it finally reaches an excellent ending which will leave any prog-metaller satisfied.

While unfortunately this album would be the end of an era for the band this remains as likely the best release by the band with Tarja at the helm. Everything that Nightwish does right comes together here and makes for an excellent release. Fans of the band will be absolutely amazed while many other prog metallers should be kept interested for quite song time. 4 dead gardens out of 5, recommended to people who like dark, heavy music.

Review by Conor Fynes
3 stars 'Once' - Nightwish (5/10)

Nightwish is a band with a very distinctive sound; characterized by the powerful operatic voice of their singer, Tarja Turunen. While theres incredible talent to be found here, there's something that feels very lacking here. There are some great, mind-blowing tracks on here such as the film score inspired 'Ghost Love Score,' but alot of this music is nothing more than general symphonic metal; and were these instrumental tracks, there would be no way of telling this great band apart from the countless symph-metal bands in a sea of mediocrity.

Tuomas Holopanien has proven to be a very able and brilliant composer, and if he utilized his talents to the extent he does on the more serious compositions more consistently, I would have no problem giving this a great rating.

As it stands, the only two amazing songs for me to be found here are 'The Siren' and the aforementioned 'Ghost Love Score.' 'Ghost Love Score' in particular is of special note because it uses orchestration to the point of giving the song a true motion picture soundtrack-like quality to it; it is a song that would not sound out of place resonating in any theater.

'The Siren' delves into greek mythology, and has a strong neoclassical feel to it. The chorus works wonders, and is a magical moment I kept rewinding to listen to over and over again. Tuomas really knows how to counterpoint vocals very well.

The rest of the music here though is very mainstream metal sounding. Mind you, being 'mainstream' does not by any means automatically condemn, but I really wish there could have been more ambitions involved with this project. It's alright, and I gave it the few listens it deserved, but now is time to move on... Three stars.

Review by Mellotron Storm
3 stars I was expecting to like this album a lot because I do like female singers fronting Metal bands, and obviously NIGHTWISH have been fairly successful. I was surprised at the Power- Metal style here as I wasn't expecting that. I don't mind that style but it's not a favourite by any means. The other thing was the vocals which just don't do much for me surprisingly enough. Just not a fan of her vocal tone really. The added orchestra and choir are also things i'm not big on but don't mind. I do like the heaviness though, and I can appreciate why this Finnish band is so popular.

"Dark Chest Of Wonders" kicks in heavily with some nice riffs. The keyboards are prancing around. Vocals after a minute. It turns even heavier and we get that Power-Metal-like rhythm. "Wish I Had An Angel" has these catchy riffs before it settles with reserved vocals. We get male and female vocals on this one. "Nemo" opens with piano as heaviness kicks in. Themes are repeated. Nice guitar solo after 2 1/2 minutes. "Planet Hell" features the orchestra and choir rather prominantly. It kicks in around a minute. Male and female vocals on this one too.

"Creek Mary's Blood" is a nice change with the native chanting, acoutic guitar and flute. Strings too and it's pretty uplifting around 2 1/2 minutes. Native spoken words come in late. "The Siren" sounds really good to open and it settles when vocals come in. Some sitar in this one as contrasts continue. "Dead Gardens" builds to a nice crunchy sound quickly. Vocals join in. Love the sound from 3 1/2 minutes to the end. "Romanticide" is a top three track with the excellent guitar and drumming. "Ghost Love Score" features lots of orchestra and we get some choir early. "Kuolema Tekee Tateihjan" is sung in Finnish with some orchestration and acoustic guitar. "Higher Than Hope" is mellow with reserved vocals before it kicks in before 1 1/2 minutes. Contrasts continue.

Good album but not a 4 star record in my books.

Review by ZowieZiggy
3 stars Business as usual.

Same metal lines, same opera-oriented vocals (even if special), same recipe than their previous "Century Child". Some sort of Broadway musical with a metal edge topped with the appearance of an orchestra. Same comments as before: it sounds more and more as an "Ayreon" clone to my ears.

Can't get thrilled by such a work to be honest. I only came to this band on the tip of my niece (seventeen years old) and I was quite favourable to their debut album which was quite original. But the band was unable to renew themselves and the music offered sounds as déjà vu for a hundred times.

The magic is gone as far as I'm concerned. Creativity sits next door and there are hardly any surprise to listen to this album. Some decent metal, with a slight prog angle; that's what I retain from "Once". A song as "Planet Hell" is a real downhill to? hell! Really cliché and pitiful. It is compensated by a more original "Siren". Oriental mood are quite welcome: it finally breaks the unity of sounds available on most of the album.

All songs (but two) are again shortly formatted (three to five minutes range) and offer little room for inventiveness. "Dead Gardens" is the archetype of a heavy metal partition without any attraction and the pompous "Romanticide" is just too much, frankly. Only growling are missing.

Under these circumstances, the sweet, light and peaceful "Kuolema Tekee Taiteilijan" provides such nice and moving moments. Quite welcome should I say. and one of my preferred track on this album. I also quite appreciate the mix acoustic / metal riff of "Higher Than Home". At least it sounds some more diverse than their usual production.

Let's now talk about the two longer pieces.

They are indeed much better. Closer to my concept of progressive metal; which means a definite prog flavour: melody, harmony, good balance between the band and the orchestra, not too many metal lines. In all "Creek Marys Blood" is a quite well achieved song. The closing section with some American Indian words sounds truly different. A highlight.

The longest song from the album "Ghost Love Score" is also on the plus side even if it seriously leans towards a musical. At least, the vocal harmonies are fine and some folkish passage is also more than welcome.

In all, I would say that this album is being saved by the two mini epics and a couple of softer/acoustic songs. Only therefore, I rate this album with three stars.

Review by Prog Leviathan
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

Review by kenethlevine
3 stars As I travel back in time through the NIGHTWISH discography, the prog quotient dwindles somewhat, and the symphonic metal tag is more accurate, characterized by crunching riffs and actual orchestrations. For the first time, a non-Finnish orchestra is employed, the London Philharmonic.

Of this standard NIGHTWISH fare, "I Wish I had an Angel" and particularly "Nemo" (the hit single) are worthy romps, while wild and woolly opener "Dark Chest of Wonders", "Planet Hell", "The Siren", and moody closer "Higher than Hope" have their moments, but the latter part of "Dead Gardens" and the whole of "Romanticide" plumb pedestrian depths, the brilliant title to the latter notwithstanding.

In contrast, the 2 epics on "Once" are signposts to a prog-metal oriented future. Both ooze fantastical bombast and are more cinematic than most soundtracks, with "Creek Mary's Blood" being primarily folk based and "Ghost Love Score" symphonic and operatic. Apparently the chant by John Two-Hawks in "Creek Mary's Blood" was meant to be Lakota but is mostly gibberish. I'm not sure if the band was duped or not along with their fans, but it's such a heartfelt piece and Two-Hawks' flute does appear to speak Lakota! In any case, everyone seems to have bought in to this more ambitious approach, even though this was to be vocalist Tarja Turunen's last album. The band wisely follows this with a rare Finnish song, the melancholic ballad "Kuolema Tekee Taiteilijan".

Against the standards of fickle prog audiences, "Once" might be both too overwrought and not complex enough, but its unabashed blend of metal, symphonic and folk is certainly ambitious enough, particularly on the lengthiest numbers, reflecting where NIGHTWISH would gleefully go again and again in the years that followed. 3.5 stars.

Latest members reviews

4 stars #39 Review This album ramps up the production from previous ones by including a bigger real orchestra and chorus, while i skipped the previous album, i come to this one with a similar understanding of what to expect as the previous albums i have reviewed, since i have heard a ton of times 2 ... (read more)

Report this review (#2283840) | Posted by FalconBleck | Sunday, November 24, 2019 | Review Permanlink

2 stars Goddamn batman, how could it be so popular between teenagers and young girls t-shirts around here? Poor children of today. First of all, Tarja voice was incredible. I like her. And it had some nice keyboards sometimes. But I just can't understand the hype. The compositions are not speci ... (read more)

Report this review (#967755) | Posted by VOTOMS | Friday, May 31, 2013 | Review Permanlink

3 stars "Once" marks the farewell "Tarja Turunen" of the band. The album is heavier than "Century Child". The production quality develops further. It seems they have learned a little from the mistakes of the previous disc. "Dark Chest of Wonders" is full of riffs, aggressive bass ... characteristics ... (read more)

Report this review (#745258) | Posted by Vobiscum | Friday, April 27, 2012 | Review Permanlink

5 stars This album achieved massive success worldwide and even went gold. I can see why... Ok, I'm kind of annoyed at Nightwish, due to the fact that after Wishmaster, they stopped writing intresting neo classical sounding songs and went for a more Within Temptation sound (power chords and an orchestra ... (read more)

Report this review (#260954) | Posted by arcane-beautiful | Friday, January 15, 2010 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Nightwish at it's best, and some less inspired songs...The best track Nightwish ever made is on this album, and it's "Ghost Love Score". This track alone is worth the acquiring of this album. If you love great chorals, "classical" orchestra, melody and lots of dramatics, Ghost Love Score delivers ... (read more)

Report this review (#237841) | Posted by Soul Dreamer | Sunday, September 6, 2009 | Review Permanlink

4 stars This stuff is heavy. Way too heavy for me. But I really like it. I bought it without ever hearing the band and the reviews got me. I was intrigued by the orchestra being a part of it all but when Dark Chest of Wonders hit me for the first time, I wondered what the hell I was thinking. But the ... (read more)

Report this review (#231814) | Posted by johnobvious | Saturday, August 15, 2009 | Review Permanlink

2 stars It's amassing how a rock genre can change in only a decade. It was 1991 when Paradise Lost released "Gothic" a doom/death metal record that would set the tone for the goth metal bands that were to come amongst which was Nightwish. At first, goth metal was depressive with operatic influences and it ... (read more)

Report this review (#152258) | Posted by Zarec | Thursday, November 22, 2007 | Review Permanlink

2 stars Being a big Nightwish fan, I was really disappointed by this album. Former works contain very unique sound of this band, yet they tend to be underrated by the fans for some reasons I don't know. On "Once" we can hear much heavier music than usual + orchestra + choir. These things made their song ... (read more)

Report this review (#127639) | Posted by Surreality | Thursday, July 5, 2007 | Review Permanlink

1 stars I regret buying this album. The tone of the guitar is not to my liking. It is a very raw sound, but has some quality that disgusts me, I can't quite put my name on it (reminiscent of Metallica). The guitar is a major sound here too. A violent, distorted, growling, belching noise which makes ... (read more)

Report this review (#114857) | Posted by Prince_Rupert | Sunday, March 11, 2007 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Good but non-essential I love Nightwish, their dark lyrics and the symphonic-metal compositions of Tuomas Holopainen. I consider Tarja's operatic vocals are wonderful and so the contrast between heavy riffs and symphonic passages. Definitely all this features have been the brand of a transc ... (read more)

Report this review (#105034) | Posted by razifa | Sunday, December 31, 2006 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Nightwish, one of the only progressive metal, or metal for that fact, bands that has a tolerable virbrato voice. I personally am a person who dislikes the genre of Opra, and mostly because of the vocal styles. Nightwish however, is a band worth giving a shot. Once, is a great album, and a good ... (read more)

Report this review (#95553) | Posted by Xeroth | Monday, October 23, 2006 | Review Permanlink

5 stars The masterpiece known as Once, although updated with a brand new album art, which stands out much better than its predecessor. and complete with 2 bonus tracks. White Night Fantasy is nothing too special by the band, it sounds alot like a demo they were working on, but all in all the song is ... (read more)

Report this review (#94132) | Posted by LD4000 | Wednesday, October 11, 2006 | Review Permanlink

4 stars 9/10 I apologise for the length of this one but I felt nothing shorter could do this at times wonderful album justice. Great use of the London Orchestra also! Dark Chest Of Wonders: fast, edgy and loud. Vintage Nightwish. Some interesting experimental bits including the Rasputin Effect in the ... (read more)

Report this review (#72583) | Posted by | Wednesday, March 22, 2006 | Review Permanlink

5 stars After the disappointing "Century Child", I was expecting something better from Nightwish and indeed this album is a lot better. The duets Marco/Tarja work a lot better and the orchestral arrangements are much more present. The opening "Dark Chest Of Wonders" is a great Nightwish song - the spir ... (read more)

Report this review (#65752) | Posted by zaxx | Friday, January 20, 2006 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Nightwish are one of my favourite Progressive Metal bands of all time mainly of metal being the best genre in the world, in my view anyway!! You get the power of the metal fast/headbanging/power guitar riffs and is the best riffs you can get, I first got into thrash metal via Metallica and Sl ... (read more)

Report this review (#65406) | Posted by craig4 | Wednesday, January 18, 2006 | Review Permanlink

5 stars I'd heard a lot about this album through ProgArchives and several underground heavy metal publications, such as Metal Maniacs ( and Pit Magazine ( I also know that this record tends to cause an ungodly amount of debate over whether or not it is "progressive". ... (read more)

Report this review (#60521) | Posted by sbrushfan | Friday, December 16, 2005 | Review Permanlink

2 stars This is not a band for everyone. This CD hit me at first- yes, I heard "ghost love score" and was inticed almost instantly. But after listening to the entire CD- it felt very shallow and empty. There isnt much to offer here. Some of the songs are just filler- and some songs are just plain anno ... (read more)

Report this review (#46210) | Posted by | Saturday, September 10, 2005 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Nightwish are very popular,as expected all over Scandinavia especially in Sweden as i noticed copies of "Once" at every gasoline station throughout the country.It doesnt matter what negative comment is placed towards this album its hugely popular and the simple fact of the matter is its a bril ... (read more)

Report this review (#46198) | Posted by | Saturday, September 10, 2005 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Eventhough Nightwish is not a "progressive" band at all, this album is a remarkable piece of symphonic/power metal. I think it is the best Nightwish album sofar! I'd give 4 stars for this piece rather than 5 since it is not really "progressive" but as a very strong fan of progressive metal, I ... (read more)

Report this review (#43086) | Posted by | Tuesday, August 16, 2005 | Review Permanlink

3 stars If you are a fan of pompous, overblown heavy metal of the most glorious kind, this is one of the best albums you'll ever hear. Finland's Nightwish consistently up the ante with each release they put out, and in 'Ghost Love Score' they have pretty much closed the book on Operatic, Symphonic Met ... (read more)

Report this review (#33354) | Posted by | Tuesday, April 26, 2005 | Review Permanlink

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