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A mindblowing debut - 98%

TommyA, March 12th, 2007

A lot of fans say that "Angels Fall First" is Nightwish's weakest album. I used to think that too, but after giving it a few spins, I changed my mind completely. This is actually their best release yet. The reason is that the passion put into this album is absent from their later releases. I'm probably going to spend hours on this review, but I just want to find the exact words to explain it.

One of the major things that make this album great is the vocals. Tarja is absolutely amazing. This is the only album in which her vocals are strictly operatic. From "Oceanborn" onwards, she sang 'normally' most of the time. (Although on "Oceanborn" she was still in the operatic range). Once you listen to "Angels Fall First" (the song) I assure you that you will consider Tarja as a goddess.

Another good thing about this album is Tuomos’ voice. I know that I am amongst the very, very few people that like it, but I strangely do. Sure it's not very powerful, and it's quite low, but it still delivers the same amount of emotion as Tarja's. It's also great to hear a poet sing his songs. Especially in "Beauty & the Beast", his voice leaves a nice contrast with Tarja's (even though he doesn't have the 'beast' kind of voice). There's no song in which I found Tuomos to be irritating. It's especially soothing and gives you a break from Tarja's bombast vocals.

Musically is where this album sounds very different from the other Nightwish releases. This album has more of a folk metal sound (even ambient metal, if you will), rather than the later-established symphonic metal sound. The keyboards don't play the same big part of the music as on "Oceanborn", while guitars (acoustic especially) have a much greater role. Overall, it's very simple music. No base guitar involved. It consists of guitars (acoustic as well as heavy), drums, keyboards and the use of a flute on some tracks.

Lyrically, this album is quite interesting. They can go from the fantasy-filled lyrics of "Elvenpath", to the weird and even scary ones of "Nymphomaniac Fantasia". One song which is striking when it comes to lyrics is the title track. It's amazing and beautiful poetry. Quite possibly the best lyrics Tuomos has ever written.

As for highlights, there are none. All nine tracks deserve a 10/10. However, I have to point out the songs that remain Nightwish jewels till this very day; "Elvenpath", "Astral Romance" (which sounds ten times better than the later-released remake), "Angels Fall First", "Lappi" and "Tutankhamen". The last one mentioned is my personal favorite. It's an Egyptian-themed song that's heavy and catchy at the same time.

In conclusion, "Angels Fall First" is a stunning and underrated release from Nightwish. None of their albums managed to strike me as much as this did. "Oceanborn" and "Century Child" came pretty close, but this one still remains a favorite. It's the last Nightwish album that you should buy (given that the sound isn't very accessible), but it's definitely their finest hour.

I'd recommend this to fans of Tristania, Sirenia, Epica and After Forever. I know that they're all much heavier than this, but I'm a fan of those bands and I find this to be absolutely amazing.

"Yesterday we shook hands
My friend
Today a moonbeam lightens my path
My guardian"