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To me, this is Nightwish's masterpiece, the first of two albums continuting the distinctive style of their debut, but making several noticable alterations to their sound, taking a little risk in melding the keyboards and guitars more firmly together, but creating the definitive Nightwish feel! A little more adventurous as far as songwriting goes, and more daring than the straightforward "Wishmaster" album. The band waste no time in slamming into a storm of their trademark energy with my favourite song "Stargazers". The stage is set for a magnificent album, not as shifty in mood than the last album, mainly sticking to energetic numbers for the first five tracks. This album feels a lot more enchanting and theatric overall than the debut, mainly due to a major presence of keyboards and other additional instruments (such as violins and flutes). It still sounds much better to me, satifying the appetite for the grand and elegant that was so obvious in "Angels Fall First". After five tracks, "Swanheart" introduces the soothing power ballad style that is synonymous now with this band, veering away from the title track of the debut, while the calm beginning of instrumental "Moondance" delightfully decieves and unfolds into a feast of energy and enthusiasm this band have yet to top. "The Riddler" follows the album's upbeat energy on to its logical conclusion, and up to this point, wow, can this band even play just one note that sounds dull at all?! The more dark, and epic "The Pharoah Sails To Orion" gives us yet another metal classic, that's what 9 so far?! But the most striking piece is to come, the cover of "Walking In The Air" from "The Snowman" is simply captivating in it's beauty and quality of the performance. "Sleeping Sun" closes brilliantly, but just seems to finish too quickly.
Can I go without a special mention of both Tuomas and Tarja? "The Poet" is back in fine form, his writing and themes improving and getting more and more interesting, fitting together with his compositions incredibly. Tarja must have the most wonderful voice of all time, and this is by far her best performance, she puts so much feeling and spirit into every note it really gives the album that something special that can't quite be described in words. The rest of the band hold up mighty fine, Emppu always pleasing me with his energetic guitar playing.
This was the start of something big for Nightwish, and they deserve their place as the most popular metal band in Finland, never disappointing, and releasing such a classic album as "Oceanborn"!