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In the interest of full disclosure, this was my first Nightwish album. I worked at my college radio station and discovered them through my asking the metal director's opinion of Evanescence (I was a young idiot too once, sue me). The first couple of timesI played it through I absolutely loved it, "Finally! an unashamed METAL female fronted band" but it just didn't hold up to repeat listens. In historical context this sounds more like Evanescence trying harder to be metal rather than Nightwish continuing the legacy started by Oceanborn. Which was the direction past me needed to head towards to find the true great essence of this band. Upon hearing Wishmaster I simultaneously jumped for joy and shouted in despair "What the hell happened?"
Well what happened was Tuomas forgot he was in a speed metal band. Granted the guitar should always be the lead instrument, but the keyboards can share equal space as long as they have a heavy tone (see also: Jon Lord) or are particularly shredding (see also: Thunder & Lightning) or sinister (see also: Seventh Son of a Seventh Son). But the role of the guitar is offensively reduced to that of a trebley, distorted, mid-range-esque bassline, while symphonies get all the attention.
The most glaring example of this is Ghost Love Score, a masterpiece my ass. This song is the biggest missed opportunity for Emppu's Stairway to Heaven moment. Even something over the symphony interlude itself would have been fine. The fact that the band uses this dumb section as an "ambience" break and flat out leaves the stage during it is one of the biggest anti-metal statements one can make. And no, I am absolutely not counting that little noodling after Tarja's bridge as a guitar solo. When it just copies the melody of the vocal, it is not a guitar solo. Period. I'm not asking for Emppu to shred maniacally like Robbie Robertson on cocaine during the Last Waltz. A Claption esque, feeling based slow solo would have been perfectly fine here (and we kind of started to get during the last four measures). I spit on this song and all the furry fanfiction losers who use this as their rock out moment.
There are perhaps three or four solid songs that would have been fine on Century Child, particularly its second half. Planet Hell being the strongest one with it's thrash riff, if slightly diluted from the Vinnie Paul rhythm sensibility. This would be another great guitar solo moment, but we get a keyboard one instead, which is actually pretty good as far as Tuomas' solos go. Too bad he's never able to replicate it live, opting for a laughable oldies medley in its place (how bout you just put the songs back into the setlist? Dick.)
Other tolerable songs include Dark Chest Of Wonders, The Siren and depending on the day Romanticide. The Siren is why Emppu's writing is an important critical component of the band, as that riff is absolutely fantastic. Easily the best thing he's written since Passion & The Opera. As for Romanticide, I'm iffy about this one for a couple reasons. First of all that is an awful song title, even by Nightwish standards. Second of all, the song is essentially Slaying The Dreamer part 2. The first half of the song is fine enough (and we even get a guitar solo here for once), but then here we go again with the fucking breakdown. Fun fact: the band referred to this as "The Testament song," which I think should be plenty of good indicator how this band has no idea what's quality and what isn't. It's fairly accurate, if they called it the Overkill or the Exodus song that would be more offensive than Floor saying Slayer is crap! Try listening to The Legacy next time, Dickyokeio.
It's extremely laughable when people say Nightwish went completely downhill after Tarja left. The substandard songwriting on Once is proof that the ship was already starting to sink before that. I would give Tarja credit for having the foresight to abandon the ship while it was above water if her solo albums weren't even worse than this. Go pinch Planet Hell and Siren from iTunes. If your life depends on hearing more, go pickup Showtime, Storytime.
Contrary to popular belief, Nightwish is not the best symphonic metal band out there, they have never been, and from what can be seen nowadays, nor will they ever be. For the most part, they play generic power metal with female vocals, mixed with symphonic elements that can be hit or miss. Sometimes the orchestra really adds up to the songs, but in most occasions it is just there.
Once is a step toward mainstream waters, with catchy, light and simple compositions. Nemo and Wish I Had an Angel are songs that any person would listen to, and even heavier tracks like Dead Gardens are structurally accessible. Power metal influences here are not so obvious, but at the end of things, it made them good. This is the best album with Tarja on the vocals, and one of the two really above average works of theirs. So, if you have never given them a chance, this would be the right choice for a first contact with the band.
The guitar work is good, which means that riffs can at least be remembered. The Siren's solo is perhaps one of the best things ever heard in their music. The keyboards are not loose beasts shadowing everything else. Tarja's voice is at its peak, and her duets with Marco Hietala are beautiful.
Nightwish's lyrical content is passable at best, but here it had not yet reached the unhinged levels of egolatry, personal drama and pointless fantasy drivel seen in subsequent albums. Planet Hell actually is interesting, as is Kuolema Tekee Taiteilijan.
Ghost Love Score is a ten minutes well composed epic. It is Nightwish's best song until this day. The orchestra and the band are a whole entity, and Tarja's voice gives the emotional charge needed for it to work.
While there's nothing wrong with pretentiousness, a song must deliver what it intends to. This is not what happens in Creek Mary's Blood, the worst song of the album, that should have been left out.
The problem with Once is that most of the songs are just good, but not great. Some of them will be stuck in your head for some days, but because they are catchy, not spectacular. Overall, it is one of the best efforts of an overestimated band.
Highlights: Dark Chest of Wonders, Romanticide, The Siren, Ghost Love Score, Kuolema Tekee Taiteilijan.
This was the last Nightwish album with Tarja, and also their last really great album so far. This was a definite change in direction toward more commercial and mainstream waters, but for all that, it's one of the best examples you'll find.
It's a very direct, confident, varied and unified sounding record and I don't mind having it represent metal as a more commercial entity. It's got a lot of different faces to it and boldly goes wherever it feels it has to without fear of repercussion or people not liking it. There are some very catchy, straightforward tracks opening the album up and yet all of them are different. Later on you get a slew of more metallic, heavy tracks, a few folk ballads and even a genuine 10-minute rock opera epic – it hits all the boxes and despite all these songs having disparate, distinct elements that make them different, the album flows really well and has a wide appeal for people who may not have been into metal otherwise.
I think a lot of this is just down to the performances, as the band never sounded more confident in themselves. These are loud, heavy, bombastic, sometimes beautiful, sometimes deranged songs – each of them takes whatever emotion they were going for and does it up 110% with gusto and style. Marco Hietala is a force to be reckoned with on here and gives the best performance he ever gave on a Nightwish album – his throaty, tuneful shouts and screams mixed in with genuine Dio-esque soulful singing is instantly captivating. The keyboards and orchestral flourishes are forceful and make you sit up and fucking pay attention, and the guitars groove and thrash with the vitality of a band at the top of their game.
But the real star is Tarja Turunen – one of the most charismatic women in metal and fronting the band at the last stage of their genre-defining period that started with Oceanborn. She's less operatic on here than she used to be, but she still sounds good and sings her heart out, and her forceful soprano voice is instantly recognizable. Her voice combined with Emppu's guitars and Tuomas's keyboards creates an iconoclastic and towering sound that brings the songwriting to another level – it's very much in the Nightwish brand and I like that their style was so rock-solid identifiable as themselves here.
“Dark Chest of Wonders” is a power metal tour de force with a hooky chorus and soaring vocals, basically a recitation of the band's past up to now condensed into a four-minute opener. “Wish I Had an Angel” has a dancey electronic beat, chugging guitars out of a Tarot song and Marco Hietala's most venomous performance this side of Suffer Our Pleasures - it's a nasty, venomous song and pretty atypical for Nightwish, but man do they sell it and make it work. “Nemo” is the album's radio star track and has a great, catchy chorus and some soulful piano work that somewhat recalls Savatage's Edge of Thorns at the beginning of the song. The way this song plays out is so predictable you know exactly what it's going to be, but the band sounds so good doing it that you don't care.
Further songs stray from that path and deliver more varied forms of intrigue, showing off the band's power metal roots with “Planet Hell,” “The Siren” and the chugging riff-storm of “Romanticide,” which is another very angry, vitriolic track. “Dead Gardens” has some Pantera-esque riffing going on with no real soaring vocals as usual for the band, and is one of the songs here that sounds the least like Nightwish, but its placement in the album makes sense and the song has grown on me over the years. “Higher Than Hope” is a killer end to the album, starting off slow and balladesque and then rocking out with a slow-burning, majestic sort of chorus section.
I can't say I care for the two folk ballads here, “Creek Mary's Blood” and “Kuolema Tekee Taiteilijan,” and the former has a set of lyrics that make me think Tuomas was watching too much of Disney's Pocahontas at the time, but they do provide for some breathers in between the heavy stuff on the rest of the album, so they serve a purpose at least.
The real standout of the album is “Ghost Love Score,” which is a 10-minute epic that goes through multiple different sections, woven together by great keys and orchestrations, as well as Tarja's haunting vocals. It's just a great tune and not a second is wasted – certainly something Tuomas could have done better on the epics on the next couple albums after this. But “Ghost Love Score” is the real fucking deal – from its creeping opening basslines and Tarja's softer vocals building up to higher and higher vocal and instrumental peaks, the song is damn near perfect and probably Nightwish's best overall track.
This album is a masterwork of song construction and placement. Every song is different and they're put together in the best possible way to show off what the band wanted to evoke, with lots of tension, build and then release as the runtime goes on. It's really quite a masterfully put together work of music, without a wasted second. The songwriting is tight and the band sounds unified and solid as hell. For an album this big and commercially-oriented to work, you need to have that kind of polish and professionalism on display, and Once pulls it off with aplomb and theatrical flourish to spare. I like some of their older albums like Wishmaster more, but this one has really grown on me over the years and I can see how well put together it is now. If you're a fan of the band, Once was their last great album to date and basically a perfect "mainstream" metal album for all the good and bad that might entail.
Count me among the few that consider post-Wishmaster Nightwish rather enjoyable. I mentally bifurcate the band's career at some point between their aforementioned 2000 opus and the oddball Century Child. The latter was certainly an atypical release for it's time, but featured a lot of great tunes like "Bless the Child," "End of all Hope," and "Dead to the World." In fact, Nightwish records are almost always front-loaded like that, and Once is certainly no exception to this standard. Following the pattern Tuomas has more or less decided to adhere to going forward, we get a number of winners right out of the gates, followed by some experimental duds and the fluke epic "Ghost Love Score," which we will definitely get to later.
So in many ways, Once is Century Child all over again, only this time with an orchestra and less emphasis on the lithe leadwork normally telegraphed by Vuorinen. To address the controversial aspects immediately: I don't have any major qualms with the more stripped down, measured delivery of the riffs this time around. It goes without saying that Vuorinen's style here would clash heavily with Nightwish's earlier records, but the same can certainly be said regarding the airy, power metal backbone of the prior material if applied directly to Once's bombastic template. The driving force for the lion's share of this record are undoubtedly the orchestrations, and Holopainen can always be relied upon for some truly breathtaking, meticulously crafted arrangements. He takes great advantage of the ensemble at his disposal and out of the other end comes a number of songs that are worth multiple spins on an instrumental level alone.
This certainly helps Once's case, as Turunen is rather restrained and rarely emotes like she used to. Perhaps the tension that eventually resulted in her less than amicable departure was already being felt during the recording sessions? I can only speculate, but the bottom line is that she rarely ascends beyond the realm of "passable" - certainly far from the stratospheric heights she reached on Oceanborn and the like. The one track where she really slides into her prior comfort zone is the aforementioned "Ghost Love Score." This song exemplifies why I find modern Nightwish enjoyable, as it definitely makes a strong case for the band's modern formula and has to be experienced to be believed. While it is certainly nothing to scoff at during the first few minutes, the forever immortalized orchestral break shortly after the guitar solo is easily one of the highlights of the album. Tension accrues during the more moody, waltz-like respite afterward, and the final two minutes is just a pure adrenaline kick without cessation. The final melodic line fluttering away when the song fades out makes me wish it was longer! Certainly an unusual songwriting decision for Nightwish at the time it was composed, but the risk certainly yielded great reward in this case.
Other unusual inclusions include the more riff-driven "Romanticide," which is for all intents and purposes "Slaying the Dreamer" part two. The whisper section near the end is pretty lame, but the riff underneath has some balls. Some of these more experimental numbers fall a bit short though, as "Creek Mary's Blood" comes off as monumentally insincere and forced to my ears. It is also far too long for it's own good. I can also do without the rather featureless "Dead Gardens." Like typical Nightwish, much of the latter half of Once just sort of meanders about, occasionally earning some merits when the orchestra gets cooking and delivers the goods. This is far from a perfect album, but it streamlines and hones the concept that Century Child hinted at during certain junctures, and several live-staples naturally came out of the whole ordeal after the smoke cleared. Fans of Nightwish's older appeal were rightfully repulsed by much of Once, but I try to appraise everything I review on it's merits alone, and Once certainly has plenty. Not Turunen's finest hour, but it's a good listen.
Any Nightwish fan who looks at the track list for this album will instantly notice that a lot of Nightwish’s well-known and classic songs are on this album. For example Dark Chest of Wonders, Wish I Had an Angel, Nemo, Planet Hell and of course Ghost Love Score are all on Once. Looking at that list I just typed I can divide those songs into two categories; Wish I Had an Angel and Nemo are both well-known because they were successful singles whereas Dark Chest of Wonders, Planet Hell and Ghost Love Score are fan favourites and often considered classics . Based on the singles I can see why a lot of people thought this album was Nightwish selling out or going commercial. However if you listen to the whole album it becomes apparent that Nightwish have by no means sacrificed quality for radio play.
The sound of this album can be described by one word; full. The London Philharmonic Orchestra provides the bombast on this album and since they were the orchestra who did the Lord of the Rings soundtrack it’s safe to say that the orchestral arrangements on this album are breath taking. A prime example of how to use orchestra in metal is Ghost Love Score which opens with a choir over strings and a horn. The beginning of that song blows me away every time and then when Jukka’s drums come in to punctuate the choir, soon followed by some nice guitar work from Emppu the song gets even better.
The intro is so good that when Tarja comes in over the band and orchestra the first time I heard the song I actually thought that it was impossible for a song this good to exist; the vocal melody is just so beautiful. Obviously in retrospect that was taking the praise slightly too far but this song still impresses me each time I hear it. There’s then a very lovely sounding instrumental break which never gets boring thanks to the lack of any repetition. However there’s still more awesome to come! After the instrumental section Tarja comes back in with the line “Bring me home or leave me be” which sends shivers down my spine and conjures up an image of a lonely ghost trying to find its way home.
I wish I knew how Tarja manages to sound so sweet and innocent but also incredibly creepy in the next bit of the song. It helps that the lyrics are suitably sinister; “Take me, cure me, kill me, bring me home”. The song closes with more brilliant use of the orchestra and that gorgeous vocal melody courtesy of Tarja again.
I may have ended up getting a bit overexcited about that song but it’s a fantastic example of why Nightwish and this album are brilliant. Ghost Love Score could have all the vocals stripped away and it would still be an amazing piece of music. The reason for this is that Tuomas Holopainen, the keyboardist and songwriter, is a wonderful composer and this shows in their music. He knows just how to arrange a song so that it never gets boring or too repetitive.
Dark Chest of Wonders is the perfect introduction to the album, opening with a whisper of “Once I had a dream, and this is it” before breaking into a catchy, heavy guitar riff with more tasteful use of the orchestra and choir. Then Tarja comes in with the verse and we get another memorable guitar riff before it breaks into the epic chorus which features some nice fantasy lyrics; “Fly to a dream, far across the sea/All the burdens gone, open the chest once more/Dark chest of wonders seen through the eyes of the one with pure heart/Once so long ago”.
I imagine most people reading a Nightwish review have heard Wish I Had an Angel and Nemo so I won’t spend long on them. Wish I Had an Angel is a catchy song which sounds like a mix of Nightwish and dance music. To me this is not a bad thing and although I can see why some people might dislike this song I actually really like it, especially the combination of Marco and Tarja's vocals on the chorus. Nemo is a top notch power ballad with one of the simplest but most moving piano melodies I've ever heard. Tarja's singing is spot on in this track and to me it's a toss up between this and Ever Dream for best Nightwish power ballad.
There are two other songs I want to talk about and these are Planet Hell and Creek Mary's Blood. Planet Hell is one of Nightwish's heavier songs. It starts with a pounding drum beat with a choir chanting over it before all hell breaks loose with a sweet guitar riff. Marco handles the first verse aggressively and powerfully, Tarja takes the second verse in a suitably sinister manner, Marco and Tarja each deliver another verse and then we get to the best part. The chorus. This is one of the catchiest, angriest choruses Nightwish have ever written in my opinion. The way Tarja and Marco both handle the first two lines followed by a solo line from Tarja makes for an excellent contrast. This song also has some very good lyrics such as "Save yourself a penny for the ferryman/Save yourself and let them suffer".
Creek Mary's Blood is the other lengthy song on the album, clocking in at just over eight and a half minutes, but it's worth every second. They got a Native American musician, John Two-Hawks, in to contribute Native American instrumentation to this song and boy does it work. He was a fitting choice of guest musician since the song is about the Native Americans being kicked off their land. It's a very emotional song with a memorable chorus and a beautiful guitar solo. It also has a John Two-Hawks reading a poem in the Native American language at the end which acts as a nice end to the song.
Other tracks which get honourable mentions would be Siren, Dead Gardens Romanticide, Kuolema Tekee Taiteillijan and Higher Than Hope. Siren sounds different in a good way with some interesting vocalisation from Tarja and a nice chorus sung entirely by Marco. Dead Gardens is a heavier song with some nice keyboards at the start and good guitar work, a hidden gem. The lyrics are about writer's block I believe. Romanticide is a live favourite. It's probably the heaviest song on the album with the instrumentation bordering on thrash metal at times, however the ever melodic vocals of Tarja make for a good song with a catchy pre-chorus and of course an epic actual chorus too. Kuolema Tekee Taiteillijan is a beautiful ballad sung completely in Finnish which sounds different but very good. Higher Than Hope is the album closer and it does well to round off an amazing album in a relaxing way with yet another catchy chorus provided by Marco.
In conclusion this is an incredible album and any fan of metal or classical music should give this album a try because it's a masterpiece. My only criticism is the track order, I think that Ghost Love Score should be placed last because anything else seems weak and unmemorable after it so the two songs after it seen worse then they are if the album is listened too in the original order. However this is a small gripe given it's easy to play the tracks in any order. Why am I still typing? I should be listening to Ghost Love Score Just go buy the album!
This is literally the last Nightwish's studio album. The last from their heavy metal music repertoire. Although each release of theirs is excellent, Oceanborn, Century Child and Once belong to the trinity of their perfect studio albums. Perfect means each song is 5/5. They left heavy metal world after 10 years, but they made enough excellent songs for whole eternity. It would be foolish to think that they could go on in this world where money is what really matters, and band members change too, and become greedy. There are lots of examples where bands lose their identity and their roots in order to heave more fans who are not metalheads, more money and to secure regular appearance on tv screens, but not all of them are as gifted, talented and creative as Nightwish.
Tarja Turunen sounds great as usually. Thanks to her, these songs sound very unique and unforgettable. This time she preformed less operatic, even less than on Century Child, mainly with ordinary higher register. In ballads she preformed with softer approach. Operatic moments can be heard in Dark Chest Of Wonders, The Siren, Romanticide, Ghost Love Score and Higher Than Hope. The most impressive thing here are duets of Tarja Turunen and Marco Hietala in Wish I Had An Angel, Planet Hell and The Siren. Their powerful and divine voices took the this to a whole new level. It sounds like a symphony of angels. Amazing thing is how Tarja managed to put so much emotions in each song, as if she wrote the lyrics. Of course, Tuomas Holopainen was the one who wrote lyric about passion, lust, his thoughts about the world and a tribute to his friend who died, in Higher Than Hope.
Emppu Vuorinen created so many heavy riffs, which can cause serious whiplash. Dark Chest Of Wonders, Wish I Had An Angel, Planet Hell, Dead Gardens and Romanticide are full of intense, head-crushing riffs, and their speed depends on the song. Good thing is that he used lots of distortion to make his guitar sound notable while playing along massive orchestrations. That's perfect balance between electric guitar sound and symphonic arrangements in order to make real symphonic metal. Other songs are softer, and some are ballads, so he placed power chords well in those songs. He put nice leads wherever he could, and made amazing solos. Guitar solo in Nemo shows his incredible feel to fit that power ballad, but with technical approach too. Same thing for Creek Mary's Blood, but that solo is not technical.
Romanticide's solo shows the beauty of fast technical playing combined with guitar squeals and use of tremolo. For a change he made nice acoustic solo in White Night Fantasy. Although he had enough space for more solos in Wish I Had An Angel and Planet Hell, Tuoms filled those parts with keyboards. Emppu could have done something in The Siren and Ghost Love Score, but he followed orchestrations only. Jukka Nevalainen did excellent job too. He took care that everything sounds fantastic. He gave his maximum wherever he could. Even in the very slow power ballad Creek Marry's Blood he made sure that he makes things enjoyable to listen. He never repeats exact faceless beats throughout the song, but always changes them. Where it fits well, he uses double-bass pedal, and it's always exciting to listen to his rhythms. That makes him one bad-ass drummer, one of the best heavy metal drummers in fact.
Good sides of this release:
This release has pallet of various songs, from ballads, power ballads to mid and fast songs. Everything they did sounds fantastic, and production is really great. This killer combination of heavy metal music influenced with classical music gave birth to this symphonic metal masterpiece. The amount of talent which band members posses is infinite, and impressive orchestrations make its artistic value priceless. There's no better way to end an era of heavy metal domination than release like this one. This is the essence of true Nightwish's sound, before they started with commercial style, and abandoned their heavy metal roots.
Bad sides of this release:
Emppu could have made more guitar solos.
Whole studio album.
Nightwish is praised by the power metal community. Their unique style, which mixes orchestra elements with high-pitched, operatic vocals and catchy solos and riffs have conquered the hearts of many headbangers, and won some of the most hardcore fans there are in the metalhead community. That said, why would Tuomas suddenly give up on everything he had done so far in a single album? Would it be to satisfy the mainstream? I might never know, but one thing I know for sure: the result was terrible.
Just to make it clear, the album is not impossible to enjoy. Actually, the opening track, "Dark Chest of Wonders" and the acoustic one, "Kuolema Tekee Taiteilijan" are quite nice to listen to. The point is that Nightwish took a sudden turn that they should have never taken: the epic, operatic power metal that Nightwish used to play was suddenly substituted by mallcore. And it is not good mallcore either: it is the kind of cartoonish music where everything is downtuned and uninspired. The riffs are dull in their attempts at being brutal, the drums reduces music to its most basic level and by the end of "Higher Than Hope" you can't help but wonder why the band that delivered "Wishmaster" and "Century Child" would bother to release this soulless recording.
I'm going to start with the guitars. Downtuned all the way to the ground, it tries to be br00tal in order to satisfy the mallcore kids. Downtuning by itself doesn't make anything bad, but the guitars are simply dull as fuck: the "riffs" are basically the same power chords being played over and over again, the solos are extremely uninspired (with the possible exception of Nemo's solo) and in some songs they simply don't exist. Leads are rather absent, but even when they are not they fail to generate emotional response from the listener.
What surprised me most about this album is that the vocals suck badly. Tarja simply ignored her classical training and switched to pop-oriented vocals that are as far away from metal as it is possible to be. She seems to have expanded her low range a little - but that fact only adds to the insult, since it strengthens the feeling of wasted potential. Marco's presence is barely felt: his only relevant vocal appearances are in "I Wish I Had An Angel" (a song that manages to be more mallcore than Slipknot's ones) and "Planet Hell". Being the vocals what got Nightwish most of their true fans, it is sad to say that they are extremely boring here, and will probably never fully recover since Tarja got fired.
The bass and the drums are... Well, what do you expect from them? Tuomas never bothered to make them extremely noticeable, but since the other elements sucked so badly, it is natural to guess that he would like to make the bass and the drums more noticeable. Well, he does make the bass more noticeable, but that is because it managed to be even crappier than the rest: it is so heavy, downtuned and loud that sometimes it even manages to hide the guitars. The drums also suck in their own way: the omnipresent mid-paced tempo makes Jukka unable to deliver anything impressive or interesting.
Perhaps the band understood that their work sucked, because they used London's Philharmonic Orchestra as much as they could. It does work sometimes, like in "Dark Chest of Wonders" and "Planet Hell", but most of the times it simply makes everything worse.
Don't expect to listen to Nightwish here. This recording makes the band barely recognizable. Don't expect to listen to anything impressive either. Instead of bothering to buy this album, listen to "Dark Chest of Wonders", "Planet Hell" and "Kuolema Tekee Taiteilijan" in YouTube and you will have heard everything that Once has to offer.
There are few albums out there which have garnered such mixed attention as Nightwish's fifth release, Once. Is it mallcore or symphonic perfection? Is it filler or masterpiece? Is it weak or heavy? Commercial or sincere? Good or bad?
In truth, Once is a typical Nightwish release that shines in certain places and falls short in others. It's a good album with countable flaws. The ideas were all there; it had all the workings to become one of their best albums, but some of the more experimental changes fell flat. For example, 'Creek Mary's Blood' is a unique track drawing influence from the native people of America. The melodies are memorable, beautiful, and distinct. The guitar solo is heartfelt and the vocal lines are perfect. But then there is the 2 minute long narrative at the end that kills the track entirely. Is there anyone who doesn't skip through that part? Anyone at all? This song is so overstuffed that it becomes a bit unbearable. And there are tracks like Nemo, which is a good two minutes shorter than it should have been. In interviews, songwriter Tuomas Holopainen said that he had to force himself to write all the songs short (for radio play, presumably, to sell the tracks), though naturally he would have them a good deal longer.
So did Nightwish 'sell out'? Possibly; Once is quite a departure from the early releases. All traces of power metal are long gone. Even compared to Century Child, which was a mere 2 years prior to Once, it's an entirely different listening experience. The distortion on the guitars has become less clean, lower, and they now sound buzzy and almost like an afterthought, "mallcore-style" even. I believe they have almost no spotlight in the album, aside from perhaps a short solo on the two longer tracks. This is almost unprecedented from a band like Nightwish, who, although never really allowing Emppu's guitar-work to take the forefront, always seemed to have a few good riffs throughout most of their work. Also present on Once are some more experimental ideas, like the heavily themed Creek Mary's Blood, the industrial-esque Wish I Had An Angel, the assertive yet wistful The Siren, and of course the first all Finnish track, Kuolema Tekee Taiteilijan. Regardless of whether or not such experiments were successful (which I feel most were, aside from the joke of a track, Wish I Had An Angel [and that's coming from someone who can appreciate a little of the industrial style]), they are undoubtedly worthy of a bit of recognition.
Or perhaps did Nightwish find their true niche in Once? Though I am one of the majority who assert that Oceanborn is their untouchable best, I've found that Once has the best replay value of all of Nightwish's releases. Its light, catchy nature is pleasant to listen to, but doesn't distract you into deeper thought. Beneath the scattered filler, there are jewels of ideas. Sure, it is not their best, not even close. But it is a good album and regardless of the obvious changes, it is a good NIGHTWISH album. We all knew their downfall album was imminent, but it didn't hit until 2007.
Highlights: Dark Chest of Wonders, Ghost Love Score, Kuolema Tekee Taitelijan
Maybe because this was my first Nightwish album, I'm a bit biased towards it. Still, looking at things objectively, I think that I can safely say that this is an awesome album that, while it doesn't surpass that of their earlier works, is pretty impressive in its own right.
One of the most notable aspects of the album is Tarja's vocals. They are still phenomenal as always, but for this work, she has considerably retracted from her traditional classical/opera voice. Rather, she opts for a more relaxed vocal style in the vein of Simone Simons of Epica or Christa Belle of Hungry Lucy. While this shift was also seen in Century Child, that album still had a good bit of opera, while this one has very little. Fans of the band's older material who haven't picked up Once yet might be put off by this change. The only songs where Tarja sings operatically are Planet Hell and Ghost Love Score. She actually pulls off this shift very well, and her voice on the album is still as beautiful and mesmerizing ever, just in a different fashion. In fact, because of this more subdued singing style, Once is a good album for a new Nightwish fan to start off with who may not be all that familiar with classical singing, or at least not used to hearing it in metal music.
A second notable aspect is the lack of many keyboard-heavy songs. In the past, Tuomas' skillful keyboard playing gave many Nightwish songs an organic, fluid feeling. The lack of keyboards is quite sad, as it removed a unique aspect of the band's music, and causes Nightwish to sound more like just another heavy metal band with a female singer. But in the place of the keyboards are magnificent orchestrations. While Century Child skillfully used the talents of a local Finnish orchestra, Once makes use of the prestigious London Philharmonic Orchestra. The orchestra plays a major role in songs like Dark Chest Of Wonders and Ghost Love Score, giving the album a far more sweeping and epic feel to it than in previous albums. The orchestra still plays backseat to the actual metal band, but its presence is made far more known than on Century Child.
Also like on Century Child, Marco provides his Dio-esque vocals to the album. Marco's sings a good bit more on Once than on Century Child, but Tarja still sings roughly 85% of the album's vocals. On Dark Passion Play, Marco uses the full range of his voice, from ear-shattering screams to soulful crooning. But on Once, he rarely deviates from his aggressive wailing, singing in a manner very reminiscient of Bruce Dickinson's classic style. While he does his job well and definitely adds to the album, his contributions are somewhat one-dimensional, acting as little more than a male aggressive counterpart to Tarja's feminine vocal style.
As to the songs themselves, they are a mix of things, both in terms of style and quality. The first four songs of the album are outstanding. Dark Chest Of Wonders kicks off the album nicely with an energetic, sweeping style that would fit perfectly in any Disney film. Wish I Had An Angel keeps up the energy with a heavy dance beat which has often been compared to Rammstein (if you listen to the demo of the song, the pseudo-industrial nature of it comes out even more prominently). Nemo is one of the band's best ballads, and Planet Hell deftly makes use of some great orchestration. Beyond those, the album is very much of a mixed bag. Dead Gardens, Romanticide, and Higher Than Hope aren't necessarily bad songs, but they seem to blend together too much and aren't too terribly memorable. It's because of these songs that I just can't give a higher score for this album, since they really slow down the overall pace. The Siren and Creek Mary's Blood are a bit better, especially Creek with it's authentic Native American chanting, but they too do not equal up to the quality of the songs at the beginning of the album. But there are some real gems towards the end in the forms of Ghost Love Score and Kuolema Tekee Taiteilijan. Clocking in at over ten minutes, Ghost Love Score is one of the band's longest songs, and despite its long length, it does not seem to drone on. Tarja pulls out her best classical vocals, and together with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, they help to deliver a performance that is mindblowing. Kuolema is a soothing ballad sung by Tarja completely in Suomi (Finnish). There had been no Finnish-only songs fron Nightwish since Angels Fall First, and it's very refereshing to hear her occasionally singing in her native language. Finally, on the American release of the album, there are two bonus songs: White Night Fantasy and Live To Tell The Tale. Besides Tarja's interesting puntuated singing style at the beginning of White Night Fantasy, it's a largely forgettable song. Live To Tell The Tale, however, is quite good, and an excellent way to end the album.
In terms of the lyrics, it's generally the usual Nightwish fare, with some noted exceptions. Most of the songs alternate between fantasy themes (Dark Chest Of Wonders, Ghost Love Score), and personal/romance themes (Wish I Had An Angel, Higher Than Hope). Creek Mary's Blood introduces historical lyrical content, telling of the Cherokees' expulsion from Georgia in the 1830's, and Planet Hell has a distinct environmentalist message. The album has no circular themes as were seen in Century Child.
Overall, this is a very good album, with lots of strong features, but it is also burdened with a handful of lackluster songs. The album lacks much of Tuomas' fine keyboard playing skills, but has some of the band's most impressive orchestral material, at least until Dark Passion Play was released. In comparison with the band's earlier work, Once pales significantly; but taken by itself, it's a very impressive package that deserves most of the critical and commercial success that it has received.
So here is Nightwish, the creators behind four very good albums, and following up on their newest, most successful, and probably the best album to date. Tuomas decides, after Century Child's success, to add even more orchestra elements to his music. Tuomas may as well have held a gun to his head. Most of the die hard metal fans loathed this album because the band "sold out" to the goth girls and the mainstream media.
This is not the case, the album still has many of the things that made Nightwish good. The guitar solos are there more than ever, Marco growls along even better than before, the keyboards are often a major part of the music. The orchestra is used well in most of the songs, and there are some very good orchestral arrangements for Tarja's voice. The album starts with a very solid opener, Dark Chest of Wonders. In this song everything seems to fit perfectly together. This song also doesn't have Nightwish's dark feeling to it, in fact it's rather uplifting to hear. It is an extremely good opener. The next standout song on the album is Planet Hell, which is the best song on the album by far. The song is almost fiery, starting out with nearly a minute of classical music, and building up the whole time. The following explosion of keyboard and guitar playing simultaneously is awesome. Then for the rest of the song Tarja and Marco do a pretty awesome call and answer part.
It is no wonder the mainstream media loved this album, they exchanged some of their power metal for symphonic metal. It's easier on the ears for some(hopefully not anyone on this site), and many of the songs are as good as the mainstream media says it is. However the mainstream media never has paid attention to decent metal so they fail to recognize some of the bad elements of this album.
The first problem with this album is that Tuomas's lyrics seem almost dead on many of the songs. They are repeated over and over again and even though I'm supposed to be writing about the music, I'm going to complain about this. Tuomas needs to realize that we know he loved Tarja, but he needs to get over it and write some lyrics that make the music interesting. The next problem is that Tarja is misused on this album, some of the later songs on the album she either tries to do metal vocals(Romanticide) or does annoying vocals(White Night Fantasy). On a few songs she even sounds drowned out or just plain bored, and it is almost painful to listen to how far she fell. The third problem is that on several songs the guitars are very very simplistic, so simplistic that you are reminded of them when you turn the radio on to your average nu-metal station. The last problem with the album is how small a part Marco has compared to Century Child, without the power metal pieces or Marco's voice the music feels sort of dead. The few songs his vocals are used on are good, with the exception of Romanticide where he is just used for a sound effect.
All in all this album is at neither of the extremes that people say it is. I recommend you check it out, but don't expect it to be another Century Child.
Despite what some reviews claim, “Once” is a typical Nightwish album, and it’s not bad at all. There are not big musical changes to be found here; I’d say it’s the logical evolution after “Century Child”. The main elements on “Once” are the London Symphonic Orchestra, which plays a big role throughout this album, and the guitar sound, heavier than before. Imagine a mixture of the bombastic sound from “Wishmaster”, the heaviest moments from “Century Child” (think of the song “Slaying the Dreamer”) and some epic movie soundtrack such as “The Lord of the Rings” or “Gladiator”, and you’ll get a good picture of what you’ll find here.
Tarja sings in the same way she did in “Century Child”: a bridge between pop and opera. Marco Hietala’s vocals can be heard in several tracks as well. The bombastic choirs also play an important role in many songs, especially the epic “Ghost Love Score”. There’s not much space for instrumental parts, but this has never been the purpose of Nightwish. The guitar riffs are very heavy and powerful, but somewhat monotonous; anyway, as there’s a lot of melody played by the orchestra and vocals, it’s not a negative point. Actually, the contrast between the aggressive guitar sound and the melodic orchestral and vocal performance is one of the coolest things to be said about this album. Overall, “Once” can be simply described as massive and bombastic.
The highlights of “Once” are “The Siren” and “Ghost Love Score”. “The Siren” is probably one of the most magical and atmospheric songs of the entire Nightwish career. Tarja’s vocals sound really seductive and the chorus sung by Marco is simply wonderful. Best Nightwish chorus ever, if you ask me. The song contains lots of arabic melodies that add an extra charm to it. “Ghost Love Score” is a 10 minutes track with awesome orchestration and extremely emotional choirs. Very impressive!
The album contains a number of other good songs such as the opener “Dark Chest of Wonders” and “Planet Hell”, both heavy songs with bombastic orchestral arrangements, the melodic and emotional single “Nemo” and, of course, the epic “Creek Mary’s Blood”, featuring the guest appearance of musician John Two-Hawks, who sings, plays the flute and reads a poem in his native language. The song evokes images from and old Western. “Dead Gardens” and “Romanticide” are the heaviest songs ever created by this band, with some thrash/death guitar riffs and dark atmosphere.
The weakest songs are “Wish I Had an Angel”, which is pretty repetitive and commercial, though it contains some cool parts in the middle, and the two ballads that end the album. They’re not bad, but somewhat generic, especially compared to the great ballads Nightwish has created in the past.
“Once” is the heaviest and most bombastic Nightwish album so far, accessible but not too commercial, modern but still true to the band’s musical roots. It might not be their best release. However, it contains some of the best compositions of the band’s career. And, of course, it represents the end of an era for this Finnish band.
These guys need no introduction, everybody knows them. What we have here is the band trying to be commercial: Tarja sings like your average mainstream MTV gothic chick and not like an opera singer, the guitars sound oh so br00tal with the stupid downtuning and the orchestra sounds like a c-class gothic album. This formula is better known as 'commercial gothic mallcore'.
The opener is easily the best song here, even though it features the vomit-inducing guitar tone as the whole album does. Some vocal lines are rather memorable and the chorus is pretty good, so it is quite enjoyable after all. But when you get to track 2, the disaster begins. 'Wish I Had An Angel' features the most childish voice to ever come out of Tarja's throat as well as gothic start-stop bullshit guitars. The bass is actually the most tastefully used instrument in this album, with a thick sound and a nice approach to the songs.
Next comes 'Nemo', a track that starts with a nice piano but after a few moments the nu-metal shit starts and at this point you realize that this album is impossible to rescue. The guitar is so much fucking disgusting that ruins everything that remains acceptable, not to mention the un-use of Tarja's incredible vocal abilities, reducing her to an Evanescence clone. The only good thing about this song is the melodic kick-ass although too short solo halfway through.
'Planet Hell' is the second best track, with some nice hooks and an above-average vocal performance by Marco. Emppu insists on the start-stop shit but that is not gonna change so don't bother. This song is maybe saved by the well-achieved vocal lines and the somewhat good chorus, but nothing else is remarkable here.
It's useless to review the rest of the tracks since each one has the same flaws the previous one have, and to be honest I'm tired of hearing this shitty album for reviewing purposes.
If you plan on buying this album, forget about hearing solos, operatic vocals or good riffs (in fact, forget about hearing riffs at all). You won't buy symphonic/power metal, you will buy gothic mallcore Suckin' Temptation would be proud to compose.
Nightwish were always hard to classify when it comes to genre. They are known as gothic, symphonic, power or operatic metal. I like to think of them as a power metal band with symphonic elements. The only gothic elements that their songs contain are the lyrics (particularly on their latest 2 albums). So, you cannot buy this expecting gothic metal because you'll end up disappointed. Despite of the gothic artwork, this isn't a gothic metal album.
Now, "Once" is a love it or hate it album. Even if you look at reviews around the net, you'll realize that not a lot of people have mixed feelings about this. Personally, I feel that it is one of those albums which are full of flaws, yet you cannot help enjoying. It's better than "Wishmaster", but doesn't surpass the other 3.
This album is very similar to "Century Child". Like CC, it lacks operatic vocals from Tarja. Personally, I see that as a slight downfall. Although I couldn't stand it when Tarja always sang operatically, this is the other extreme. However, when she sings normally, her voice still sounds amazing. It's just that it's a big change from "Oceanborn". As for Marco, he sounds a bit out of place in some tracks. The only track which I would've put him in is "The Siren". The rest could've all been sung greatly by Tarja alone.
Moving on to music. This is the part where most fans are disappointed (myself included). Drums are pushed too far back and are barely heard. Jukka's talent isn't as clear here as it was on CC, or any other Nightwish album for that matter. Also, guitars are downtuned, which makes this album a bit too mainstream. Having said that, I have to admit that keyboards and the orchestra are amazing. Just listen to "Creek Mary's Blood", where the orchestra is too perfect for words.
Now, I agree that some tracks are mediocre, at best, but some are probably among Nightwish's best tracks. The tracks that could be (actually, they must be) skipped are "Wish I Had An Angel", "Nemo", "Dead Gardens" and "Kuolema Tekee Taiteilijan". WIHAA is the worst song Nightwish has ever done. I was disgusted with the level of commerciality. "Nemo" also follows the same crappy pattern. Having said that, some songs are too good for words. "Dark Chest of Wonders", "The Siren", "Ghost Love Score" and my favorite; "Creek Mary's Blood" are all among Nighwish's best tracks. The ones I didn't mention at all are good, not great. Sometimes I skip them, sometimes I don't. I'd also like to point out that the two bonus tracks aren't worth it. They're both mediocre tracks which aren't worth the extra money.
Despite the few weak tracks, "Once" is one of those guilty pleasures. Not as mainstream as Lacuna Coil, yet every track has a bit of commerciality added to it. I know I spent more time complaining about it than I did praising it, but overall, I think it's another solid effort from Nightwish.
Coming from power metal, a genre rapidly becoming a stale self mockery, Nightwish as one of the few bands that have managed to keep the epic essence of power metal whilst taking themselves seriously and creating thick atmosphere and deep emotion. The key for their success is not just Turunen’s voice but Holopainen’s song writing. While most power metal bands tack a couple of riffs and a catchy chorus about the power of steel to a standard structure, and shred in the middle, Nightwish don’t do this. Sure they’re catchy and musically more than adept but they have so many more strengths and layers, Tuomas crates songs around emotions and feelings, and the melodies and sounds that befit them.
The bad side is that with this album Nightwish lose many of their operatic power metal elements, the guitars are down tuned and the vocals simplified even further than on Century Child. Certainly this is not a good thing to those of the true metal persuasion but they make up with this. The fantasy lyrics are largely gone, but they were always poorly written compared to Tuomas’s emotional lyrics, which continue on this album but without quite the genius present on Century Child. Tarja is clearly weaker at this softer vocal style as her gasps are often audible between lines, but her voice remains unique and extremely emotive.
The downtuned guitars can be irritating but there are still far more decent riffs than most ‘symphonic/gothic’ metal band that Nightwish are often compared with and the solos are still here and as melodic and emotional as ever and certainly don’t follow the typical Finn-power route of mindless shredding. The bass is fine but forgettable and the drumming does what you’d expect but nothing more.
The piano and vocal melodies are beautiful: despite the commercial nature of the single Nemo few power metal bands can claim to have ever written such a haunting melody. The true genius of this album is in the orchestra, both its composition and arrangement. This shines most of all in the album’s two huge epics: Creek Mary’s Blood and the jaw dropping Ghost Love Score, which are the albums best two tracks without a doubt. The massive soundtrack style symphony combines perfectly with the vocals and rather well with the metal instrumentation not leas due to the fantastic production. There are a couple of forgettable songs on this album such as Romanticide and Dead Gardens and a host of terrible bonus tracks, but most of the album is original, fresh and powerful. Even the blatantly out of place and mainstream Wish I Had an Angel has its charm.
This album is far from Nightwish’s magnum opus, and probably the weakest album since Angels fall First, but compared to other bands in the genre Nightwish still exceptionally tall. With its commercial success it’s bound to get flack from extreme and alternative metallers who cant appreciate melody and emotion or narrow minded power metallers who are turned off by anything that doesn’t sound exactly like Dawn of Victory. Those with an open minded appreciation for the epic, romantic and beautiful will find something of note in any Nightwish album; Once not excluded.
Nightwish has always been a tough band to categorize, mostly because their albums have always evolved quickly and because Tuomas’ lyrical pursuits have been deep and varied. Gothic could describe their image and words, Power and Symphonic could describe most of their music, while elements of Thrash and Doom metal exist in a smaller number of their songs. The operatic tendencies of Tarja’s vocals have always taken a high level of precedence, and this has been a factor that has truly separated this band from many of the other Goth and Power Metal outfits.
The title of my review underscores what I’ve heard on this album ever since I picked it up 2 ½ years ago, an effort at variety that reached just a little too far. Some have complained that the orchestra gets in the way of the metal elements on this album, while others argue that the fact that Tuomas got someone else to do the orchestrations suggests that there was some sort of sell out. While the orchestra is a bit overused at times, the lion’s share of these songs still rock hard, and Tuomas has proven himself capable of orchestrating songs himself based on previous albums. Sometimes bands like to get outside input on certain aspects of their work, so unless you can suggest that Tuomas appointed an outside orchestra director under duress, get over it.
Where the attempt at a progressive sound went overboard is primary seen through the uneven pacing of the album. You have a pretty standard Nightwish anthem in “Dark Chest of Wonders”, really powerful chorus, solid riffing and a beautiful atmosphere. Then out of nowhere we get a quasi-dance inspired Goth rocker in “Wish I had an Angel”. “Nemo” fits as your typical heavy and deep ballad by this outfit, which is followed by another curveball in the symphony-like “Planet Hell”, also a good song though it seems a bit abrupt coming after a ballad. “Creek Mary’s Blood” is a somewhat overlong epic ballad loaded with acoustic tracks, Native American flutes and narratives.
The pacing issues really begin to jump out at the listener when the eastern influenced “The Siren” pops up. We have a fair share of violin work on this one and a solid lead guitar riff that sounds like a middle-eastern version of Maiden’s “Wasted Years”. “Dead Gardens” and “Romanticide” are both heavier tracks with a bit less orchestra in them, the former has a chorus similar to “Creek Mary’s Blood” and a somewhat abrupt and anti-climatic ending, and the latter is a quasi-groove track with a large collection of muddy riffs and some interesting choir work. “Ghost Love Score” is our token super-epic of the album and pretty much touches every possible variation sound on this album in one single track. You’ve got a heavily Asian influenced Sitar section for a verse, a mixed meter orchestra theme that screams Symphony X, a long ballad section, and plenty of memorable melodies.
The remaining two tracks are ballads and pretty much give the listener a chance to take a final breather to a very complex album. “Kuolema Tekee Taiteilijan” is a beautiful orchestra driven ballad with a simple melody set to a charming poem in Finnish. “Higher than Hope” is a more power oriented ballad that reminds of such classic Nightwish tracks as “Oceansoul” and “Dead Boy’s Poem”.
After the initial listen, the consumer is left with one simple impression, and that is what the hell did I just hear? The flaw in this album is not that there are any bad songs on here, there aren’t any. The problem is that taken as a whole, it takes several listens to fully process everything. Nightwish has never been a “Prog.” Metal outfit and it is unsurprising that many have had a negative reaction to this album, because much of what is on here was not there before and it seems to have come out of nowhere. There is still a sense of sameness to be found in the melodies Tuomas has put together, but if you were to listen to Oceanborn or Wishmaster and then compare it to this, you would almost think it is a different band with Tarja doing the vocals.
In conclusion, this is Nightwish’s weakest album to date, but by no means is it a bad album. Many will have objections to it, especially among the fans of earlier Nightwish. It’s a bit over-produced, it’s stylistically all over the place, but it is an enjoyable listen none the less. It comes recommended mostly to fans of Symphonic Metal and Gothic Metal, although Power Metal fans will find things to like here as well. If you would like to hear something a bit different, give this album a try, and be prepared for a musical rollercoaster ride in the process.
But it's lacking something. Nightwish forged a sound all their own with Wishmaster and Century Child, and Once stays on track. The problem is that they have absolutely no focus on this album. They're trying to be too many things, trying to break through the US mainstream.
At times they're power metal; at times they're gothic balladeers; at other times they sound like outright cock-rockers. They do each style extremely well; they just need to pick one and expand on it!
With the album's opener, Dark Chest of Wonders, we get a taste of straight European flower metal--soaring choruses, keyboards, great riffing, and some nice double bass. Pretty much what you would expect.
However, "I Wish I Had an Angel" sounds like it is a trifle out of place. There's an electronic mix to the drums, which I don't like one bit. The lyrics are stunning, and the riffing will have you headbanging... but this song just isn't Nightwish. It's Nightwish trying to be mainstream.
Nemo is certainly a standout track on this one. A fantastically catchy tune, with hooks that will absolutely tear your flesh apart. The chorus soars, the subtle piano is atypical Nightwish, and Emppu's solo is flawlessly executed and a perfect fit for the song.
Planet Hell is power metal revisited, while Creek Mary's Blood leads Nightwish into some unfamiliar territory. It is a very sincere, lyrically deep ballad with a great song structure and progression. I won't lie though, hearing a bunch of Finns singing about the Trail of Tears is nothing short of hysterical. Nonetheless, it's a standout track. Again, however, is the lack of focus. It incorporates a lot of interesting tribal percussion and chants; but thematically, it sticks out like a sore thumb.
The Siren is some sort of goth throwaway, with a catchy chorus, but no real power metal speed to be seen. Dead Gardens definitely relies on a Megadeth-esque riff and atmosphere more than it does any real technical precision. Romanticide is also catchy as fuck, but we all know these guys can play faster than this. What the rest of the album tends to degenerate into is an attempt to venture into symphonic/gothic territory, without any true focus on good riffing. Not to mention it brings their ballad count up to about 4--far too many for any album.
So why does this album get an 80? Because the tracks that do kick ass kick a whole lot of it--Dark Chest of Wonders and Planet Hell are headbangers. Furthermore, Tarja's voice, though a tad under-utilized, shines. Her range is nothing short of astounding, even if she has abandoned her traditional classical shrieks for a more accessible, less emphatic clean approach. The first five tracks, though incongruous, carry the album and rank as some of my favorite songs even a few months after I bought it.
If you're a die-hard Nightwish fan, then buy it. If you are just getting into the group, however, I would recommend getting Wishmaster first to get a true taste.
Let me preface my criticism by saying that I respect Tuomas Holopainen as a songwriter. He doesn't write the same album over and over again. However, the danger in always changing your sound is that some fans will be disappointed. Luckily for Tuomas, the majority of reviews for Once have been overwhelmingly positive--Metal-Rules.com gave it five positive reviews, including three perfect fives--and from the comments I've read on message boards, it appears that fans have embraced the album. Therefore, I am in the minority when I say that I don't enjoy Once as much as the previous three Nightwish albums. However, to call this album the worst Nightwish release since Angels Fall First doesn't seem fair; the band has grown quite a bit since their 1997 debut.
So how is this album different from Century Child? Well, it's heavier, but not in a speedy, "Stargazers" type of way. It's more guitar-oriented, but as opposed to other guitar-oriented Nightwish songs like "She is My Sin," the guitars on Once are more downtuned and modern. It also seems that Nightwish overcompensated for Century Child's lack of heaviness, by including too many downtuned guitar numbers. The instruments are competently played, and the bass sound is full and thick, but I find that the album lacks replay value. And on Once, there is no middle ground: the tracks are either hard as a rock, or soft as a pillow.
I must give Tuomas credit for challenging me to like things I would normally hate, such as the workout video beat of "Wish I Had An Angel," and the whispered vocals of "Romanticide." "Ghost Love Score" is the band's most orchestral and film-like track to date, with the most powerful Nightwish chorus since "10th Man Down." Tarja's most inspired singing is found in "The Siren," where she slaloms over Marco's chorus with some beautiful ahhhhhhahhhhhhahhhhhhahhhhh's. She also experiments with some staccato Middle Eastern singing at 2:41. "The Siren" may not be the most ambitious track on the album, but I'd argue that it's the best written. It shows Tarja using her voice more like an instrument, and has Marco and Tarja singing together in a way that Tuomas should encourage more.
My major complaint about this album is Tarja's singing, which used to be the trademark of the band. I don't blame Tarja though. Tuomas has a strong vision of how he wants each album to sound and instructs Tarja to sing accordingly. And while her less-operatic style sounded fresh on Century Child, I don't think it provides the power that the heavier songs on Once need. Although Marco is used slightly more on this album, it's not enough to compensate for the fact that Tarja sings the heavy and mellow songs in the same style. Tuomas should have pushed Tarja to explore new vocal frontiers: the result would have been more great songs like "The Siren."
A dishonorable mention goes to the ending riff of "Dead Gardens," which is boring enough on its own... without the band repeating it for over one minute.
As far as the ballads go, "Creek Mary's Blood" is inspired, but also quite boring. I would have had the Indian sing more during the song, or perhaps sing the entire track. This track would have made me more sympathetic about the natives' plight if it were actually sung by a native and not some pasty Finnish girl. Continuing the tradition of "Forever Yours," "Two for Tragedy," "Swanheart" and half of Angels Fall First, "Kuolema Tekee Taiteilijan" is an incredibly boring ballad. It has nothing going for it except an interesting cello section, which could have been the basis for a great instrumental. "Higher Than Hope" is a little better, but I was expecting more from Marco's first major songwriting contribution to the band. They could have wrung more power out of the chorus by kicking up Marco's vocals.
I bought the album from metaldisc.com, because they were selling the South American import, which had the bonus track "White Night Fantasy." I found previous b-sides like "Nightquest" and "The Wayfarer" to be better than most of the material that made their respective albums. Expecting "White Night Fantasy" to be a hard-to-find gem, I went hunting for reviews of the Nemo single to learn more about the track. According to the typically generous metal-reviews.com:
"I don’t know what the hell White Night Fantasy is. Musically this is still very much Nightwish but the vocals are just horrendous! The verses are delivered in sharp punctuated syllables much like something Bjork would do. I do not know what possessed Tuomas to tell Tarja to sing this way because it does not work out for them at all! Thankfully this is a bonus track and is not going to be on Once."
Strike one. For a second opinion, I went to metal-archives.com where the first reviewer said:
"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."
Strike two. The second Metal-Archives review was even more negative.
"The third track ruins the whole CD. I choose to compare White Night Fantasy with a typical HIM-song too, the typical style is there. Nothing is good on this one. Sorry Tarja, but your vocals sucks on this track, I can't stand it."
After reading those comments, I expected the song to suck, but it was actually pretty good. Musically, the track is a typical Nightwish ballad, but Tarja's vocals are higher, more soothing. She uses her voice in a way that might not be metal, but at least makes for something different. So why does everyone hate this song? Perhaps the same reason they love Tarja's performance on Once: they aren't looking for variety. The bottom line: a little more experimentation in the vein of "White Night Fantasy" would have made Once a better album.
I was going to give the album a 75, but after going back and listening to "10th Man Down," I know how much better the band can do.
Having achieved double platinum status for ‘Once’ in their native Finland and just about every other certifiable record for sales across the European mainland, Nightwish are now making their move on the Western market. With the backing of the mighty Roadrunner (who at last, seem to be returning to a serious metal roster), ‘Once’ has just been unleashed on the USA market as well as here in Australia. Will it pay off? I’m not too sure, but with the likes of Lacuna Coil, The Gathering and (at a stretch) Evanescence forging a particularly healthy following, I see no reason why Nightwish won’t make some in roads. For fans of symphonic laden gothic metal, there is a lot to like on this disc.
Nightwish’s have always been a little too inconsistent for me. Furthermore, their previous discs seemed to hint of a band that was unsure of what they wanted to be – Metal or classical pop. This confusion has been well and truly rectified on ‘Once’. Nightwish, with the aid of a simply masterful Finnvox studio production have upped the ante on all fronts. This disc is easily the bands ‘heaviest’ disc to date – full on crunchy metallic riffage and a distinct up-tempo pacing. And even though the band embraces the symphonic aspect of their music just as much, the whole disc has a much more aggressive vibe.
I guess what I am trying to point out is that, finally, Nightwish have found a happy medium between their two styles and have been able to mesh the two together without sounding forced or contrived. I also detect a darker feel to the song writing on ‘Once’. Hard to believe with such a dominating grandiose orchestral sound, but for me everything is more dramatic and edgy. The vocal by play that Tarja and Marco employ also work a treat. Tarja in particular gives a tremendous performance in the fact that she actually ‘sings’ rather than wailing in her classical trained operatic style. In this sense, her contribution isn’t as overbearing as pervious albums and in my mind this works in the bands favor (there are plenty who will disagree with this).
The Australian version of ‘Once’ contains two bonus tracks, clocking the disc in at around 70 minutes. If you’re a rabid Symphonic Metal fan, you’ll absorb every minute of this disc. For others, well, there is bound to be some filler in there somewhere. Certainly for me, I found most of my attention centered on the first half of the album. After 40 minutes or so, I felt I’d heard most of their ideas. Album length aside, it is clear that Nightwish have gone for the throat with ‘Once’. This is the big one. As a result, there are some massive sounding goth-metal anthems on this - If there is a video for ‘Nemo’ please reveal it now – the commercial potential of this track is simply incredible. The chorus and orchestral elements are pure magic.
‘Once’ is clearly Nightwish’s most commercially ambitious disc they’ve ever written. With a female vocal presence and much heavier, hookier set of songs, this just might have the potential to break open a whole new market for the band.
what happens if Nightwish tries to be more cool and more themselves of the good ol' days? And has a higher budget than ever? Well - Once. An album filled with their old used-up melodies and faster drumming. The fact is that they not only reuse melodies but also their old lyrics! This is a partly overproduced work of a sell-out band. No question this could have been done better, in deed it's even worse than Century Child. A indifferent sad redo of what they've accomplished in the past..
In deed the first song is good. You can hear that it's Nightwish, but it feels original enough. I Wish I Had An Angel is more energetic but here the trend starts: spiced-up old Nightwish melody here and there interrupted with disturbing and hardly understandable pauses and fillers. The use of the piano in the third song is kinda cool. It's the first time she (insert name here) sings hearable, and good too. The song is rather boring though. I guess you can say it's variable but it's not in a good way. The guitar solo is corny.
The fourth song starts bad with quite a silly intro. The 'ah':s repeated over and over again adds to the silliness. And the drumming has the feel that they selected it for its metal feel, rather than fitting to the metal lines. And then there's the 'ah':s again. And then the rest is a big Yawn. Next comes the fifth song, sung in a language I'm unsure of, sound like some indian one. Their in-hired singer sings his language very good, and there we have some new melody! But now she (Tarja?) comes again singing in English o' course, and argh, I've heard this before! Next problem is that the two parts don't fit very well together.
The sixth song is where Nightwish start trying to be cool, actually starting with a riff! Not too bad, the following is though. And the 'ah':s return... The song is, when it doesn't suck, just lame. Also the next song has a "cool" intro, that is a bit metal clichée... Singing fits with music, and for once the melody doesn't end abruptly! It's just these brief periods of coolness that must be shown that interrupts it. But we have met that phenomena before.
Romanticide starts with 'ah':s and is built on and by old melodies camouflaged with heavier and louder drumming than ever before. Piece o' crap. Also the ninth song starts with 'ah':s, followed by a decent instrumental part followed by crappy singing of Tarja followed by a weak chorus.But her singing gets better as it's played slower. As does the song. The less metal they try to be, the better they do. But all right - the end is metal enough, and quite good too. I guess that you'll have to score something in ten minutes of time. Tenth song is a calm, beautiful singing in finnish. Hey, this is a new melody! Best song of the album, cleary, and note, they didn't even try to be metal this time. Last song starts as calmly, gets "semimetal" still decent. But when it's time for the full metal, it's crappy. Boring chorus it is. The bridge before though has the musical feel of a power ballad, and it's the nicest part of the song.
Nightwish need no introduction, whether you wanted to or not you've probably heard something from them. They've been striving for commercial success over the last couple albums, and could very well get it with this one. I could see pre-teen girls sticking this album on their shelves between Avril and Yellowcard quite easily. Anyway, I'll start with the vocals.
This chick may be "classically trained", but that doesn't mean a thing if she doesn't bother putting forth any kind of effort. To be entirely honest, she sounds like shit on every song on this release. Something about her voice when combined with this poppier style just annoys the hell out of me. The choral effects are even more obnoxious, sounding like the type of amateur stuff that might have come out of a 70's horror movie. The male vocalist is no better, though he is thankfully used sparingly, but when he is it's usually in a generic "we need a guy to sing the chorus for no readily apparent reason" context similar to Evanescence or Lacuna Coil. When a band is fully capable of much better, this half-assed garbage is completely inacceptable.
Where there were once halfway decent power metal guitars, there are now "industrial metal" riffs similar to Orgy or Rammstein, very few solos and even a breakdown or two. There're a few songs that border on self-plagiarism, but the rest is basically the above glorified pop music. It's not so bad that it reaches the "Jumpdafuckup!" point, but it's definitely on the more commercial end of things. Sound interesting? Thought not.
The keyboards are absolutely horrendous, used incredibly poorly, and often in much the same way as the choral effects. They're sometimes used to accent the drum in that standard obnoxious Finnish way, sometimes in a more standard "backing" synth manner, but almost always blaring and annoying. I'm not entirely certain what this band's keyboardist was thinking, but this sounds like something a 15 year old in a black metal band would throw away for being too shitty. The orchestration is equally atrocious, often sounding like the opening theme from Wild Arms in one instance and some other random generic RPG the rest of the time.
Now, the album as a whole is incredibly bland, being little more than random combinations of the above elements. However, the various combinations strike me as very sloppily mixed, and incredibly uneven sounding. The keyboards are way too high, demanding that you pay attention to them in all their horror, the guitars too low when they aren't going all Deadsy and way too loud otherwise.
This album is not metal... it's not even mallcore. It's incredibly poorly done pop "metal" attempting to add a number of "new" elements to cash in. The effects of being signed to a label owned by Universal were somewhat obvious a few years ago, but never really reached this point of pop sensibility before. I cannot fathom how fans of metal or classical can praise this album with a straight face, it truly boggles my mind. This is naught but complete and utter garbage.