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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.