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As I am a crazy fanatic of orchestras in metal bands, I was glad when I heard Century Child was backed with an orchestra in some songs. Yet, the results were not that good. The arrangements were quite boring except for the ones in "Ever Dream".
Luckily enough, Nightwish had some problems with Riku Niemi (the arranger, which also arranged the orchestra in Stratovarius Elements), something about not being payed or whatever. So this time they had the chance to work with Pip Williams, apparently someone who arranged for other rock bands. Besides the orchestra used in Once is supposed to be the same used for the soundtrack of "The Lord of the Rings", so everything sounds very promising.
So if this single is a good proxy of what we will experience with "Once", I say YEAH!
Song by song:
Nemo - This is obviously the ultra-Nightwish hit the charts very high. Although some may accuse them of commercialism, I don't care, the song is beautiful. A simple piano riff, joined by the great power of the guitar, which sounds a lot like the raw guitar distortion of Century Child. It doesn't get boring, and if it does crank the volume up until it doesn't and you won't regret it. Vocally, although its less operatic, its not that much, and I like it a lot. But the greatest thing about this song is the orchestra, which goes backing the song until it comes in very powerful before the solo, together with the choir doing beautiful "aaaaahh"'s in the background. The solo is nice but short, and I expect a longer solo in the album version of Nemo. The end of the song with the chorus with a strong background orchestra arrangement,and later the piano riff again makes a winning sound. Lovely sweet great song!
Planet Hell - Starts with calm orchestra and choir and little orchestra hits with choir "aaah"s, nice orchestral intro. Then the band comes in with heavy rythmic riffing. The main verse is sung by Marco (which can be annoying if you concentrate in hating him, but you can also like him... not too much though). Tarja sings a fast part with her classic vocals, and later a softer, slower chorus with lower vocals, but always with nice melodies. The song features nice and original, but not too complicated keyboard solo. Very good song, of the heavier Nightwish kind. Again the orchestra adds a beautiful dimensions, though not as important as in the beggining
White Nigh Fantasy - Is that Tarja singing really??? I admit I had some doubts at first, until she sings the chorus in her normal operatic style. But she pulls out a very strange vocal performance, as well as the whole composition... Very strange for Nightwish, though it reminds me of the songs featured as bonus tracks in "Angels Fall First". Calm songs, with slow and low distorted guitar and distorted bass alone at times, acoustic guitar solo, easy piano. You have to hear several times to like it, and you probably will hate it the first time. But that is why it is featured as a single B-side, and not in the climax of the full-leght album.
Nemo (Orchestral Nightwish) - This is what it is. The same song, without drums, keyboards, bass or guitar, althought the guitar solo is left. Well, as I said before, the orchestra sounds great in the song, so listening it alone with Tarja singing is a great experience. The guitar solo is not that cool because the orchestra is off, or not doing what it does in the rest of the song, so the combination guitar-orchestra doesn't sound as amazing as it could have sounded.
Trick: Get an MP3 version of Nemo, or Nemo (orchestral version), and play it in winamp (or whatever Mp3 player you have), and played the other from the CD in windows media player. If you cincronize correctly you can listen them together, as the tempo is exactly the same. Then you can play with the two players volumes, adding and sustracting orchestra and metal band as you like. Its really fun... especially if you are such a symphonic metal freak as me.
Im filled with hope for "Once". This single shows that Tuomas can still write beautiful songs, and the new orchestration is simply amazing. Some may not like Tarja's new vocal approach, but I don't think there is that much difference.
Hail the finnish melody gods, Nightwish is back!!