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Excellent Orchestration - Unique but Imperfect - 90%

EpicaNightfall, February 23rd, 2007

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.