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Surprisingly a classic! - 95%

Whackooyzero, February 19th, 2010

I should establish right away that I do not consider myself a Nightwish fan. Most of their material seems to be overly poppy, the lyrics are too whiny, the keyboards just sound cheesy and overly Gothic like, and for the most part they are just overrated and lacking most metal elements. Sure they have had a few good songs throughout their career, but have never put out a memorable ALBUM. That is, other than Oceanborn. This album is quite simply a masterpiece. It is pretty much the only Nightwish album to have no fillers, to be completely power metal and the only to lack most of the annoying pop elements. Yes, this album does indeed deserve to be held in the same league as other 90's power metal masterpieces such as Stratovarius' "Episode" and "Dreamspace", Gamma Ray's "Land Of The Free", Virgin Steele's "Marriage" albums through "Atreus", and Angra's "Holy Land". Granted it's not quite as good as a few of those, but pretty close.

One of the strongest points of this album is the fact that it doesn't really sound much like any other power metal albums. Structure-wise it's pretty similar, but the melodies are quite different. It's kind of hard to describe, but if you listen to it you will see. Also, the atmosphere is very strong in this album, bringing up images of mystical serenity. Musically, this is relatively reminiscent of Stratovarius. In fact, the opener "Stargazers"(pretty much the best straight ahead song they ever made) has a VERY Jens Johansson sounding lead intro, and the riffs at times sound Timo Tolkki esque. This song storms forward with great power while the fantastic vocals of Tarja Turunen weave entrancing melodies leading to an epic finale.Everything is at it's best here. Never again would they ever write a song as aggressive as "Devil And The Deep Dark Ocean"(it's pretty aggressive by Nightwish standards), or as catchy as "Sacrament Of Wilderness". Emppu delivers a much more powerful guitar performance then he usually does, the keyboards don't sound too processed and fake like later. Tarja Turunen delivers potentially her most powerful performance in "Passion And The Opera" with lyrics not too unlike "Nymphomaniac Quest" from the previous album. However musically, it's superior, and the ending opera-esque section is a fantastic closing to probably their most operatic song.

Another anomaly on this album (for a lot of PM bands but especially for Nightwish) is that, even though there are THREE BALLADS, they all are fantastic. They really do a romantic atmosphere quite well, although I have to admit these songs ("Swanheart", "Walking In The Air" and "Sleeping Sun") do get stale more so than the other songs on the album. But the height of this band's ability is found in "The Pharaoh Sails To Orion". I don't know where to begin with this one. The first section is probably the most metal we'll ever find this band, with the male vocals fitting in perfectly. The melody that comes in half way through is also amazing. I just can't tell you how strong this song is, and how it encapsulates everything that could possibly be good about this band. The end also includes some great guitar shredding.

Now, before you start to think my original statement is invalid, there are some flaws here. First off, as I said earlier, this album is not QUITE up there with the other classics of this era because the album isn't too varied. The music is very influenced by romantic era classical music, and it basically sticks to that the whole time. Secondly, emotionally the album doesn't change much the whole time, and like all Nightwish albums, this album lacks almost any conceivable form of aggression(other then the aforementioned "Devil And The Deep Dark Ocean" and "The Pharaoh Sails To Orion").

So although it's not quite as brilliant as some other albums from the same era, because of it's musical originality(it's hard to think of bands who sound similar to this) it in many ways it still deserves to heralded as one of the all time great metal classics. Yup, right up there with "Painkiller", "Abigail", "Invictus", "Episode", "The Spectre Within", and "Darkness Descends". It is really sad the band so quickly sold out. They never really captured the atmosphere and originality of this album, and eventually their quest for musical forgetfulness actually became admirable by other bands such as Evanescence. So much so, that being caught listening to anything from any of their albums(aside from this one, Angels Fall First, and a few select tracks from the rest) is actually quite embarrassing. Although that rarely happens since I almost never listen to the rest of their material other then what I have already mentioned. As there really are better bands in the genre to listen to.

But at least we'll always have "Oceanborn".