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The Start of An Era... - 89%

Wishmistress, June 4th, 2007

Nightwish's pioneer release, Angels Fall First, is an artistic and beautiful representation of the band at the beginning of their career. A combination of Tuomas's early ambition of acoustic mood music, and the symphonic metal that later developed, this album has its own distinct tone. Of all Nightwish's music, this album most clearly showcases the band's Finnish background with its mild folk atmosphere and two passages written in their native language.

While immature compared with later work, Tuomas's lyrics here do not fail to be breath-taking at certain moments. Perhaps my favorite line from the album comes from the title track, "Angels Fall First". "Yesterday we shook hands, my friend...Today, a moonbeam lightens my path...My guardian." When Tarja belts out that line, with her great emotion and strength, chills flood through my entire body.

Though strong and passionate as always, if not moreso, Tarja's voice is one of the largest problems with Angels Fall First. The rest of the band had yet to adapt to her operatic singing at the time of its recording, and had not yet reached a balance between her dramatic voice and their emotional music. The contrast can be almost painful to hear; as can be her pronounced accent and the sharp tone of her singing. Angels Fall First is also, undoubtedly, the most difficult Nightwish album to understand the lyrics to without referring to the CD insert for help.

A light mood reigns through most of this album, with the fantasy-based "Elvenpath", whimsicle "Nightengale", and the peppy [while slightly disturbing] "Tutankamen." Things slow down with the gorgeous, flute-driven ballad that earned the album its title, and again with the folk-influenced epic, Lappi, but never lose a certain happy charm. If nothing else, listening closely to the lyrics of "Nymphomaniac Fantasia" should be enough to bring a smile to anyones' face. Tuomas eventually stated in an interview that he regretted writing that particular song, and is also embarrassed by the presence of his voice, several times, on Angels Fall First. Tuomas Holopainen is certainly a great composer; the greatest, in my opinion. Still, I must agree that the singing would have been best left to Tarja for this album.

The production is raw, this being Nightwish's first release. Everything manages to be audible, however, which is more than enough for one who's used to early black metal production. If you're not in the same mindset about production, you may have to give this album more than a few listens before you'll catch everything, along with putting in the effort to enjoy the music despite the volume issues.

The music itself, however, is excellent. Flawless drums from Jukka, dependible guitar work from Emppu, and melodic, passion-filled keyboards, curtosy of Tuomas, make this album a great listen for all fans of metal. It also contains a large quantity of flute solos, which add a flowing beauty, and many acoustic guitar passages, which serve to build atmosphere and greatly enhance each song they're applied to. Unfortunately, there is really no bass to speak of, though very little is lost because of this.

Angels Fall First, though it suffers from the typical first-release problems, remains an important piece in any Nightwish collection. I would not reccommend that you venture into Nightwish's music with this album, if you are unfamiliar with the band, but rather begin with the far more accessible Wishmaster. If, however, you are an established fan with an open mind, do not overlook this 1996 masterpiece.