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"Oceanborn" is definitely Nightwish's most melodic work yet. It continues on the same path of the perfect debut album, while making a few alterations here and there.
Like any Nightwish album, Tarja's vocals are the absolute highlight. Although her vocals aren't as bombast as on "Angels Fall First", they're still in the operatic range. In songs like "The Pharaoh Sails to Orion" and "Sleeping Sun", there are a couple of lines that Tarja sings with amazing power that makes you shiver. I'd also like the point out the increased presence of Tarja. On the debut, songs were divided 50% vocals and 50% music. Not here. On "Oceanborn", Tarja takes over more than 50% of each track. I don't find this as an upside really, because I really enjoyed the great music present on "Angels Fall First", but you cannot possibly view it as a downside either.
Musically, this album is very different from the debut. It's much more melodic. Guitars are not used as much, and it's more focused on synths. When I say more focused, I mean it's at least 75% of the music. That was the only slight downside that I found on this album. The excessive use of keyboards doesn't leave room for Emppu and Jukka to unleash their true talent. This problem is also present on "Wishmaster". However, it seemed to be fixed on "Century Child".
Besides the slightly overused keyboards, this album is pretty much flawless. The artwork is amazing, and also one of the best things of this album. I'm not joking. I love it when the artwork of an album is so meaningful. It shows everything this album is about. It shows an owl, the ocean, planets, and a crying woman alone in the open sea. In my opinion, it's exactly what this album is all about; astrology, nature, freedom and sadness. By the way, I'm talking about the original artwork, not one on the Drakkar release.
And what can you really say against the lyrics? The same beautiful poetry that was present on the debut. I was especially struck by the lyrics of "The Riddler". They're amazingly beautiful and magical.
The highlights of the album are "Stargazers", "Devil & the Deep Dark Ocean", "The Pharaoh Sails to Orion" and "Sleeping Sun". The former is my personal favorite. It's an epic track which combines Tarja's operatic vocals with heavy, Egyptian-themed music. There are also a few growls added to the song. Overall, "The Pharaoh Sails to Orion" remains a Nightwish jewel until this very day. It's definitely among their finest songs ever.
So, in conclusion, "Oceanborn" is an amazing album which transports you to a different world. It has a magical, ocean-like atmosphere that's too great to explain. However, I still prefer "Century Child" and "Angels Fall First" over this. This is in third place in my Nightwish list. It’s still an amazing, epic release. Definitely recommended.