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Where to begin when something as goofy as this album is praised as a masterpiece of “symphonic power metal”? First of all with all the limitations as to what is and isn’t accepted as metal on this site, I find it ironic that this band is included. Let me break it to you, there is nothing remotely metal about this album. Layers of keyboards and operatic vocals do not constitute a metal album.
Metal is based on guitar riffs. Many bands support guitar riffs with keyboards, piano, strings, mouth harp or what have you. Nightwish however is keyboards and vocals supported by guitar. Heck the main songwriter is the keyboardist. If the guitar riffs were anything unique or creative, maybe I could get past their buried performance but rest assured the guitar is nothing you haven’t heard a million times before. It comes and goes only to be buried under multiple tracks of keyboards.
With all the time given to the keyboards it’s really too bad this album has such a sterile and cheesy sound. No warmth or creativity in sounds are employed here. When listening to this I want to think that in 1998 this might have sounded original. But in reality it was just as goofy sounding as it is now. The average song on this album consists of bombastic keyboards in various modes, strings, flutes etc along with up-tempo to fast drumming. Highlights of this style are opener Stargazers and Devil & the Deep Dark Ocean.
The vocals of lead singer Tarja are obviously the most enjoyable aspect of the album. A trained vocalist, her technical ability is unquestioned. Her vocals are some what of an acquired taste as they have operatic traces, but are they only truly unique and redeeming quality to the album. I just wish she had better material to sing over. Her melodies at the intro of Walking in the Air are my favorite of the album.
While the appeal of this music is understood, it’s generally catchy and easy to digest; I fail however to see it as something original or progressive. The popularity of this band probably has more to do with the looks of their lead singer rather than heavy songs or truly progressive songwriting.