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Ambitious, Romantic, Flawed - 82%

A Friendly Observer, August 15th, 2018
Written based on this version: 2008, CD, Fontana

In 2007, Nightwish was my introduction to metal, and 'Oceanborn' was one of my first metal albums. At the time, coming from pop and Broadway music, 'Oceanborn' didn't get nearly as many plays from me as albums like 'Once' and 'Dark Passion Play.' Over a decade later, however, 'Dark Passion Play' has aged miserably, while 'Oceanborn' remains standing as a monument to Nightwish's most infectiously energetic and ambitious days -- and to a time when they were a metal band first and whatever else (operatic, symphonic, film score-esque, etc.) second.

Probably what is most immediately striking is that there is a heavy reliance on fanfares that pervades the entire album. If you just listened to the first minute of every song on the record, you'd think Oceanborn is a masterpiece. Tuomas's fanfares on songs like 'Gethsemane' and 'Sacrament of Wilderness' are simply excellent, and rarely reached the same kinds of peaks again on later albums. But he was not yet the wizard chorus-writer of 'Wishmaster', 'Ever Dream', or 'Amaranth'; the refrains just don't pack the punch promised by the fanfares.

What makes the album so memorable for me, in spite of the not-there-yet melodic songwriting, is its magnificent home stretch, starting with the ethereal, heart-pounding 'The Pharaoh Sails to Orion', which pulls out all the stops. It begins with a reading from Exodus, which is followed by the best fanfare of the album, complementary harsh-ish male vocals, the best vocal melodies of the album, moments for all the instrumentalists to shine, and a killer climax. It's one of Nightwish's very best songs. The pair of ballads that follow are both superb: a cover of 'Walking In the Air', from the children's TV special 'The Snowman', which, seeing as it is originally sung by a little boy, absolutely should not work, and yet ends up being one of their finest ballads, peaking with chilling harmonies, tapping into a potential nobody else could have seen in that song. 'Sleeping Sun' is in the same league. The album's third ballad, 'Swanheart', in the middle of the track list, gets off to a strong start, with lush, dreamy harmonies, but fizzles out and runs out of ideas after about two minutes. Three ballads on an 11-track metal album that already features an instrumental-only track ('Moondance', which sounds exactly like it's titled, and is rather good) would ordinarily be downright criminal, but Tuomas, in true-believer romantic-artist mode, made it work.

Curiously, Christian imagery pervades the album: Gethsemane, sacraments, a fixation on chastity and virginity, a reading from Exodus, and prayer all feature in some way. In general, metal music that touches these themes tends to be anti-Christian -- but for Tuomas, Christianity is just one more set of mythological symbols to use in his quest to paint soundscapes of romantic fantasy. The obsession with virginity hits its peak on centerpiece 'Passion of the Opera', which finally hits all the right melodic marks after four that just barely miss them. On this song, Tuomas plays with song structure a little: after a gothic-tinged verse-chorus-verse-chorus first half, the second half of the song is all about Tarja's operatic vocalizing. It is a lot more interesting than anything preceding it, and most of what follows it, too.

The album is oh-so-romantic. It is teeming with passion and longing, and an innocent belief in the power of art. It is also full of ambition: every track wants to make an impression; there's nothing that feels phoned-in (except maybe 'The Riddler', which is smartly buried deep in the track list). All the best metal albums are drenched in emotional intensity: raw passion is a kind of 'x-factor' that makes a great song or album more than the sum of its parts. That is what makes this album worth coming back to -- and God only knows what wretched arrangement and production job Tuomas would inflict on these songs if he wrote them today.

No song is a total dud, but there's a pervasive sense on most of these songs of big ambitions and big talents -- yet also of promise that does not quite deliver (yet). It's a great album, but it's not their best (that would be 'Century Child'), and it is not their most representative album (that would be 'Once'). Still, I keep coming back to it for its energy, superb fanfares, and trio of excellent songs closing out the album. It's a superior slice of symphonic power metal, no matter what qualifications you want to add.

Warping from Rocka Rolla to Stained Class - 91%

TrooperEd, December 29th, 2016
Written based on this version: 2008, CD, Fontana

1998 was a weird time for music, period. Metal was starting to come out of its mind 90s stupor, thanks to power metal, not the Korns and Hatebreeds like MTV and those modern narratives would have you believe. As far as I'm concerned, this was the album that led the charge. I never thought much of Stratovarious, but who'd have thunk Stratovarious worship would be the defiant statement that would re-establish metal but good! It takes some serious talent to outgun heavy hitters like Blind Guardian and Bruce Dickinson.

Speak not of ridiculous symphonies, this is heavy/power/classic/traditional/whatever the hell you want to call it metal the way Lemmy intended it to be. With standard tuning riffs, standard tuning riffs and RIFFS. Forget the opera of Passion & The Opera, that opening riff is so fucking brilliant I was personally offended when Tarja decided to "remake" this song for her live shows without including it. This song could have been an instrumental and still be legendary. The fact that we get some worthy chops at the end is an added bonus that puts this into classic status. The reviewers who have been saying this album has no interesting guitar work must have passed out from their Keystone Light blackout at this song, to say nothing of the mid-paced neckbreaking creamy goodness of Gethsemane at the 2:18 mark. That riff is so metal not even a bizarrely chosen flute solo (is Troy Donockley secretly the 13th Doctor?) can derail its momentum!

Then of course, you have the brilliant Helloween speed metal moments, like Stargazers, Pharaoh Sails To Orion and Devil & The Deep Dark Ocean (silver medal award for best riff). Man I really miss the days of Nightwish playing fast. They were much like Accept in that speed is when they were more interesting. They had great slow moments (see: Passion & The Opera), but they were way more hit and miss. Some of these faster songs feature additional vocals from Tapio Wilska. I can take them or leave them. They make some of the songs sound like death metal and that can be a big turn off for the Vh1 Classic fan. It would give them a misconception that this band was like Therion, starting out as a death metal band with female operatic backing vocals, but bringing them as the focus for commercial palatability. Nightwish is just much better off without male vocals period, and yes, that includes Marco. One reason I'm not sure whether or not Wishmaster is better than this is on that album, Tapio has fucked right off.

There's some debate over the "weak points" of the album, whether or not Moondance or The Riddler should have been replaced by Nightquest. Personally, I think the fans have their sights set on the wrong targets. If anything should be replaced, it's the ballads. Dynamics on metal albums is always a great thing, but you can't stay soft for too long, just long enough for the bar-room punters to recharge their batteries. While Swanheart is a solid tune with great melodies, its just way too layered to be able to be properly played live. (and that's just the vocal overdubs). In other words, it's B-side material. But turning the old Snowman centerpiece number into a power ballad, that was a stroke of genius. I have heard multiple non-metal fans express joy and approval upon hearing Walking In The Air as a metal novelty and I can't disagree.

The name Nightwish unfortunately brings mixed emotions into the metal conversation, but Oceanborn and Wishmaster should not. There's a reason Tuomas had the title be the very second word on the first song of Endless Forms Most Beautiful. He wanted us to think they were "back." It's a shame, because for about six minutes they fooled me. Forget the fat goth Hot Topic audience, forget Tuomas' Jack Sparrow posturing, forget the orchestras, and forget the fact that they descended into Evanescence pantomime shortly after the Over The Hills and Far Away EP. Oceanborn is an 80's metal classic telling the Nirvanas, the Soundgardens, the Machine Heads, the Tools and the Panteras to take their groovy, atonal backwash crap and shove it back up their ass.

Times do change. - 30%

Goldblaze, December 19th, 2011

There was a time when I was a big fan of this band. Yes indeed, back in my late elementary school years, Nightwish was the real deal for me, as they actually helped me get into metal along with Iron Maiden. Back then, Nightwish wasn't that popular. Of course, a lot of people have heard of them at that time, but they weren't that much of a conversation topic as they are today (they still haven't released Century Child and Once, so most of their international mainstream hits didn't exist). Basically, the way I heard of them is via the compilation a friend burned for me, so after I gave that CD a fair amount of listens, I proceeded to get the rest of their work. Needless to say, 'Oceanborn' quickly became one of my favorite albums of all time. Now, after many years have passed, I almost forgot about Nightwish at all. They simply weren't satisfying enough anymore compared to the other bands I started listening to, but only recently, I decided to check out one of my formerly favorite albums of all time, mostly because I wanted to recall why I liked it so much, and so, after arranging my playlist in Winamp, I finally hit the play button.

So, why I considered this one of my all time favorites is beyond my grasp, as this was utter and absolute garbage compared to how I felt about it the first time I listened to it. I mean come on. This album is flooded with unnecessary cacophonia, mostly consisting of fake orchestrations, random flutes that don't belong there, cheesy and cringe-inducing keyboards which flood the guitar completely, and boring riffs that simply go nowhere. Honestly, I think I can count the amount of riffs this album has on a single hand. Most of the time, it's just a generic speed metal riff drowned with keyboards that's playing all the melodies. There is no guitar craftsmanship here, but what did you expect, Nightwish only has one guitar anyways. I mean, the songs in heavy metal don't have to be anything especially complex, but if I am listening to metal, then I want to hear some fucking guitars. I want riffs and solos, and memorable ones at that. But in Nightwish lineup, there is just one guitar. I guess they decided they don't need the lead and rhythm guitars, and instead they proceeded to get lead and rhythm keyboards, lead and rhythm orchestrations etc. Honestly, just listen to the first 20 seconds of 'Stargazers', or 'Gethesemane' or 'The Riddler' , and tell me that's how metal is supposed to sound. Every single song suffers from the same incurable disease, too much keyboards, fake orchestrations (Tuomas is the only member dedicated to those, so thinking that this is anything near authentic is just ridiculous). 'Devil and the Deep Dark Ocean' is another insult to the ear. Ironically, this used to be one of my favorite Nightwish songs, and now I just bursted into laughter during certain parts, especially when Tarja tries to be all mean and evil. Also, the amount of ballads is just beyond belief, I mean, as far as I can remember, this album only has 2 (3 including 'Sleeping Sun'), but even that is too much. I am a general fan of ballads, and I think I would rate an album full of wonderfully crafted ballads pretty high, but 'Swanheart' and 'Walking In The Air' simply suck so much that I'm desperately searching for the skip button during these. You call Iced Earth masters of cheesy and unnecessary ballads? At least most of them are quite good songs, this is just a fucking disaster, as 'I Died For You' beats 'Swanheart' to the point.

Now, this album does have some redeeming points. I mean, yes, it all suffers from above mentioned syndrome, but there are a few things here that work very well for me. 'Sacrament of Wilderness' is a pretty solid song, and has a brilliant fast chorus. 'The Pharaoh Sails To Orion' is simply epic. That's all I have to say. Fuck all their later overlong songs, this is epicness incarnate. This and 'Fantasmic' are easily the best songs they ever wrote. Of course, we mustn't forget the great Tapio Wilska from Finntroll making guest appearance here in a duet with Tarja, and doing marvelous job at it. And yes, I don't know why, but I always liked 'Sleeping Sun' quite a bit. Of course, the solo section is totally fucked up, as this type of song is perfect for long, classically composed solos filled with emotion, but since they are the composers, not myself, I am allowed to rate them appropriately. Yes, it is a ballad, but it's a ballad that I like, and blame me if you want, but everyone has it's weak spots. 'Moondance' is a nice folkish instrumental where nothing sounds out of place (perhaps because Tuomas decided to pull his act together and not throw everything into the song at once), and has a nice shout-along ending.

So what we have here is a totally overrated album by a totally overrated band. As much as I did like them in the past, I have come to a conclusion that there are a lot of more talented and praise-deserving bands than Nightwish. They are ideal for kids just getting into metal, but for a listener with any metal experience, this is just nerve grating. But, of course, if you like that amount of sugar coat and flowers in your generic power metal (with one guitar playing 3 different riffs on entire album), then this may be an album for you. But as for me, what worked 7 years ago isn't going to work now, as this is just pure bollocks to me now.

Best moments: choruses of 'Sarcament of Wilderness' and 'The Pharaoh Sails To Orion', the ending of 'Moondance'.

Yes, an amazing album, but not quite perfect - 90%

bunburina, March 27th, 2008

I have been reading all the previous reviews about this album and, although I agree with them in a lot of points, I also think they are getting carried away a little bit. Or maybe it is just me trying to pick on the slightest imperfections. In any case, I hope my review is useful for newcomers into the Nightwish world.

I'll mention the positive aspects first: it is incredibly beautiful, melodic, original, candid and innovative. Oh, and it rocks. Lyrically, every single song is a wonderful poem. Musically, it is complex, heavy and well structured. There is a true group effort here. Everything, the guitars, the bass, the drums are blended in perfectly. Original, in the sense that you can find pretty much everything in here, grunts, ballads, fast-paced songs and hell of a lot heavier stuff and, of course, nice atmospheres created by the superb instrumentation. And candid cause it is quite an innocent album, compared to other metal relaeses and to later Nightwish albums. There are trails of sadness, yes, but it is not a depressing album. It is hard to point out the best songs of the album since all of them are great. But I personally love Gethsemane, Sleeping Sun, Stargazers, Swanheart, Walking in the air, and the long lost jewel of this album, The Pharaoh sails to Orion (kick ass song!).

However, after all this praising, I find two weak elements in this album. I'm pretty sure I'm going to get bashed by the most hardcore Nightwish fans for saying this, but these two elements I am referring to are the vocals and the keyboard. It must be a childhood trauma of mine. My grandmother was a professional opera singer and, in her last years, her hobby was trying to teach me how to sing. I hated those lessons, so when she died, the same happened to my "singing career". Anyway, the only thing I remember from her "lessons" was she telling me not to "eat down my voice". I never understood what she meant by that. And then I listened to Tarja in this album and it hit me.

My theory is that, back then, in 1998, Tarja was relatively young and not as technically proficient as she proved to be in later albums. That's why she sounds rough at times and, like my grandma said, eating her voice down, just as she did in songs such as Sleeping Sun and Swanheart. At times, she overdoes it, just going oh oh OHHH when it is not needed, when something more subtle would fit better. And I find that very annoying cause it almost ruins the whole song for me. I almost feel that it is too hard for her to break the operatic mold and "flow", so to say, with the song, recurring to just, well, go oh oh OHHHH in those key moments. Another aspect that makes me not so happy about Tarja's performance in this album is her pronunciation. It is common in opera to let his aspect slide. However, a small effort on this aspect would have been more than welcomed! I like to understand what the singer is singing. Nevertheless, the other elements are so strong that is rather easy to ignore these flaws. Tarja still has, without a doubt, an amazing powerful voice, a beautiful colour in it that just clicks with metal.

About the second element, the keyboards, my only objection is that they are overdone. Sometimes it is too much and they do sound too Nintendo-ish at times. Aside from that, they are ok.

In summary, a nearly perfect album. My grade: 90

Their finest... - 95%

SilentDreams, February 6th, 2008

Now bear in mind on this review I do not own all of Nightwish's albums so my comparisons to their other work may be lacking but I will compare at times anyhow. With my Nightwish collection so far this is my favourite studio album. Almost every song displays fantastic instrumentation, lyrics, and vocals.

The opening track called "Stargazers" was a smart choice. The song is fast-paced and shows all the members' strengths; Tarja's operatic vocals, Tuomas' intricate piano/keyboard work, strong riffs from Emppu, a thundering bass from Sami, and booming drums by Jukka. All of these elements form a band which in this album shows they're confident in the Symphonic genre and have the songs to not only show their confidence but make them deserving of it. The album's second song "Gethsemane" has a strong folk element that I find very catchy and appropriate. From the opening lines "Toll no bell for me Father..." you know it's going to be an interesting and engaging song. Clocking in at over 5 minutes the song never gets too big for itself nor does it leave one feeling underwhelmed. It is one of the best on the album.

"Devil and the Deep Dark Ocean" is one I feel needs a little spotlight as well. I think for me this will always be one of the strangest in the Nightwish catalog. The reason being that if you were first introduced to Nightwish through a greatest hits like "Highest Hopes" you'll be quite familiar with a song called "The Kinslayer" which basically features a re-cycled intro and main riff from the song on this album. So it's a bit off-setting no matter which you listen to first. I will say though that this song definitely holds as much right to keep the intro/riff as the latter song. It's a very good example of the epic and expansive sound Nightwish tries to go for on many songs. My only big complaint would be some of the "cheese" quality I get from this song. There are some female screams (not Tarja's as far as I know) placed that when mixed with Tuomas' keyboards sound all too reminiscent of a b-movie horror flick. It may have been the intention of the band to go that route but I didn't find it necessary.

There are a few other note-worthy tracks on this album. Going in order of the track listing the next would be "Swanheart" it's a fantastic ballad which mainly features Tarja's voice and Tuomas' piano work. There are some guitars and drums but they're used sparingly until the last third of the song and only used when necessary. Delicate but memorable. The lyrics are a interesting as it's the only metal song I know that seems to be based off the children's tale of the Ugly Duckling. The song immediately after it is by far the best instrumental they've done. (It's also the only instrumental on the album) It runs the whole "field" from it's beginning with a slow version of it's main piano tune to a fast paced, high energy "jig" (the best way I can describe it) that once again slows for but a moment before racing off to the same speed it had before. It may sound a bit too "all over" but it works. Two tracks later the album hits another high point with Nightwish's interpretation the classic "Walking In the Air". Another ballad which displays Tarja's vocal talents quite well. The lyrics are simple yet powerful, though the band can't take credit for that I do give them credit for picking this song. There are many songs they could've chosen to cover but this was a great choice that I don't think many (myself included) would have expected.

Deserving of the most praise however is the last track on the album (depending on which version you have) "Sleeping Sun". This is not only the best the album has to offer but it is my favourite song by the band in general. It's another track that is mainly performed by Tarja and Tuomas as was done with the aforementioned "Swanheart" but where that was a very good track this is what all their tracks strive to be, EPIC. I'm told the lyrics were inspired by a Solar Eclipse that was happening at the time. It makes the lyrics interesting but also shows one how much this event must have affected Tuomas (who penned all the lyrics for this album). They are some of the most beautiful he's written and Tarja wipes away any talk of a cold exterior by pouring emotion into each verse. The biggest highlight for me is in the middle the listener is bombarded by a huge cascade of Tarja's voice that's been treated to sound like to sound like many copies of herself singing in unison with a strange "echo" effect which gives the voices a under-water quality. It's a truly amazing piece which I would encourage all metal fans to listen to, even if it's the only Nightwish song you will agree to try out.

I can safely say none of the songs are bad. But there are a few which I don't find up to the level of the others. Those would be "Sacrament of the Wilderness" and "The Pharaoh Sails to Orion". Both are decent tracks but I find myself skipping them where as I never skip the others. I think the major flaw with "Sacrament..." would be that I find Tarja's vocals a bit hard to understand. Yes, this happens more readily whenever she's using her more operatic vocals but on this track I find them especially difficult to decipher. With "Pharaoh..." I think it's the length. Being a Nightwish fan I'm no stranger to long songs and I like quite a few. But I feel this song suffers from unnecessary length. They probably could've shaved 30 seconds off this song and it'd still be far from being labeled "unfinished" or "lacking".

To sum it up this album is without a doubt their finest work. I would love to be hopeful and think it could get better than this but I'm a realist. This album is something they will never top. Succeeding albums have shown that. They're good but they've not scratched the surface of what this album is. A part of me hopes they never will.

Oceanborn within the Devil's Gaze. - 100%

hells_unicorn, March 19th, 2007

If the early 90s were the era of metal’s alleged death to the world, then the late 90s were the era of its rather astounding rebirth, as a series of innovative yet traditionally grounded melodic acts came out to inject some passion and majesty into the dry music scene. Amongst the epic brand of power metal there were 3 signature releases that will live forever as timeless classics; namely Blind Guardian’s “Nightfall on Middle Earth”, Rhapsody’s “Symphony of Enchanted Lands” and this rather unique release. Where the first two sought to tell a conceptual tale based around Tolkein’s High Fantasy genre, (the first being a retelling of one of his tales, the second being an original homage to the style) “Oceanborn” is a collection of tales, mostly depicting tales of passion, nature and even astrology.

However, much as was the case with Rhapsody, the typical metal listener will likely find Tarja’s traditional operatic soprano voice a sizable hurdle to get past, as metal’s connection with classical music was more of a tonal/technical one rather than a vocal one. Likewise the lyrical style and predominance of the keyboards are something that probably wouldn’t sit well in many quarters. To put it plainly, in order to really be able to get into this music, you have to have an equally strong taste for speed metal and Sturm und Drang era classical opera and symphony in order for this to agree with you musically. And likewise, you might want to look elsewhere if you don’t care for lyrics delving into romantic themes and mystical tales.

Much as was the case with Stratovarius at the time, Nightwish balances out the keyboards and the guitars to equal proportions, resulting in a very light form of power metal when contrasted with Blind Guardian. “Stargazers”, “Gethsemane” and “The Riddler” are principle examples of this, as the intros and the overall of these songs are heavily keyboard drenched, but the guitar is still heavily present and unlike Timo Tolkki doesn’t meander during the leads. “Passion and the Opera” and “Moondance” are both stylistic anomalies for the metal genre, the former being almost more opera than metal (particularly the vocal inflections), while the latter is an instrumental that bounces back and forth between a piano ballad and a heavy metal dance fest. I’m not sure if you would sit like an opera audience or possibly be able to dance to these songs, but they are nonetheless amazing to listen to.

The ballads are highly varied as well, ranging from pleasant arias of longing to melancholy tales of love and childhood imagination. “Swanheart” is another classical number driven mostly by piano, reminding a bit of earlier classical nocturnes by the likes of Haydn and Mozart. “Walking in the Air” is a remake of a Christmas song with a rather sad story associated with it; the words and the music fit in well with Nightwish’s deep approach, signifying a sort of end to the childhood innocence through the loss of a magical friend. “Sleeping Sun” is probably the guiltiest of pleasures I’ve ever indulged in as a metal fan, it’s almost entirely keyboard and vocally driven, the lyrics are mushy as hell, but damned if I don’t love this song.

The three most metal tracks on here also reek of an untraditional approach to the genre, though hints of older styles are highly present. “Sacrament of Wilderness” is a catchy speed track with some solid guitar and keyboard work, the keyboard solo is the highlight of the song. “Devil and the Deep Dark Ocean” has it down in the riff department, and proves to be the most guitar driven song the band has ever put out, not to mention one of the most dramatic and heavy. “The Pharaoh sails to Orion” is a song that probably helped redefine the meaning of the term epic power metal. The sheer bulk of contrasting sections, themes, guitar sounds, keyboard work, and overall atmosphere are astounding. The spoken narrations and Tarja’s voice interplay perfectly, the piano themes are fast and passionate, and the drumming is as tight as it gets.

Up to this day Nightwish has never been able to repeat the magic that was present on this release, it is truly something that transcends the sub-genre it is lumped into. If you only get one Nightwish album, are predisposed to melodic speed/power metal, and don’t mind a female vocalist then this is it. It is obviously not for everyone, but then again, what defines a true classic has always been a point of contention in the metal scene.

Takes you to another world - 92%

TommyA, March 13th, 2007

"Oceanborn" is definitely Nightwish's most melodic work yet. It continues on the same path of the perfect debut album, while making a few alterations here and there.

Like any Nightwish album, Tarja's vocals are the absolute highlight. Although her vocals aren't as bombast as on "Angels Fall First", they're still in the operatic range. In songs like "The Pharaoh Sails to Orion" and "Sleeping Sun", there are a couple of lines that Tarja sings with amazing power that makes you shiver. I'd also like the point out the increased presence of Tarja. On the debut, songs were divided 50% vocals and 50% music. Not here. On "Oceanborn", Tarja takes over more than 50% of each track. I don't find this as an upside really, because I really enjoyed the great music present on "Angels Fall First", but you cannot possibly view it as a downside either.

Musically, this album is very different from the debut. It's much more melodic. Guitars are not used as much, and it's more focused on synths. When I say more focused, I mean it's at least 75% of the music. That was the only slight downside that I found on this album. The excessive use of keyboards doesn't leave room for Emppu and Jukka to unleash their true talent. This problem is also present on "Wishmaster". However, it seemed to be fixed on "Century Child".

Besides the slightly overused keyboards, this album is pretty much flawless. The artwork is amazing, and also one of the best things of this album. I'm not joking. I love it when the artwork of an album is so meaningful. It shows everything this album is about. It shows an owl, the ocean, planets, and a crying woman alone in the open sea. In my opinion, it's exactly what this album is all about; astrology, nature, freedom and sadness. By the way, I'm talking about the original artwork, not one on the Drakkar release.

And what can you really say against the lyrics? The same beautiful poetry that was present on the debut. I was especially struck by the lyrics of "The Riddler". They're amazingly beautiful and magical.

The highlights of the album are "Stargazers", "Devil & the Deep Dark Ocean", "The Pharaoh Sails to Orion" and "Sleeping Sun". The former is my personal favorite. It's an epic track which combines Tarja's operatic vocals with heavy, Egyptian-themed music. There are also a few growls added to the song. Overall, "The Pharaoh Sails to Orion" remains a Nightwish jewel until this very day. It's definitely among their finest songs ever.

So, in conclusion, "Oceanborn" is an amazing album which transports you to a different world. It has a magical, ocean-like atmosphere that's too great to explain. However, I still prefer "Century Child" and "Angels Fall First" over this. This is in third place in my Nightwish list. It’s still an amazing, epic release. Definitely recommended.

No. - 27%

caspian, October 10th, 2006

Heavy riffs, with lite-opera vocals. Ok, so I was probably always going to hate something with that description, so why the hell did I bother buying it and writing a review? Well, after hearing all the praise for this album, I thought that surely it couldn't be that bad.. And damn, was I wrong. This review isn't for those people who already dig Nightwish, this review is a warning for those guys and girls out there who think "Well, surely they couldn't be all that bad. Maybe I should give them a listen." Just doing my duty folks.

Nightwish are trying to do a complete assimilation of metal, opera and classical. As most people know, this is generally impossible. Metal's aggression and the general low-on-the-fretboard riffing clash terribly with high, operatic vocals and the delicate, melodic strains that's most classical music. You might say "But Nightwish mix both genres so well!!!1", but if you said that, you would be wrong. Here are some examples of the terrible meshing of genres Nightwish do:

The intro of the first song. Duhn Duhn Duhn, Duhn Duhn Duhn, DUHN NUHN NUHN NUHN!!! Why was this not just done on guitars, in the same register? Did we need synths? THe answer: No. What should be all triumphant and epic just ends up Lame.

The speedy part in Devil and the Deep Dark Ocean. Nightwish are actually quite good at employing the metal, but they can't put the classical over it. A fairly heavy, nice speedy riff is interrupted by.. Operatic vocal stabs? WHY???? This move was just absolutely unneccessary, and completely ruined the best part of the song and maybe the album.

Swanheart: In this surprisingly gorgeous song, Nightwish show that they can do the whole classical thing with passion and melody. The lyrics are terrible, but the melodies and arrangements are actually pretty cool. When drums kick in at 2.20, I started fearing the worst.. But when the guitars come in, it didn't actually sound that bad. I sat, aghast at the fact that maybe Nightwish had actually succeeded in their goal? But then they drop in a guitar solo, which makes the whole thing ridiculously cheesy. It would've been 100x cooler if they'd either just built up a big wall of sound, or done the whole song as one long classical build. But no.

Nightquest: Basically, good power metal meets gothenburg riffing, all completely ruined by the vocals. The vocals aren't out of key, and the melody isn't terrible.. It just doesn't freaking fit. Good solo too.

I could go on, but really there isn't that much point - every song has these terrible moments. Nightwish are fairly adept at metal, and the classical stuff is a bit cliched but still decent, but Nightwish can't do both at the same time. It's a shame really, as these guys would be either a great metal or classical band, but they can't be both no matter how hard they try. Also, the singer should not sing as much. Really, they should just give up completely. To conclude, let me just warn people who are curious about this band: Really, it isn't worth it. Save your time and money. If you want 'heavy classical', I suggest you check out Mono. Nightwish fans and some less discerning Power Metal fans will love this album, but most people will find this awkward, badly done forcing together of genres hard to take.

Overrated - 65%

drewnm156, March 11th, 2006

Where to begin when something as goofy as this album is praised as a masterpiece of “symphonic power metal”? First of all with all the limitations as to what is and isn’t accepted as metal on this site, I find it ironic that this band is included. Let me break it to you, there is nothing remotely metal about this album. Layers of keyboards and operatic vocals do not constitute a metal album.

Metal is based on guitar riffs. Many bands support guitar riffs with keyboards, piano, strings, mouth harp or what have you. Nightwish however is keyboards and vocals supported by guitar. Heck the main songwriter is the keyboardist. If the guitar riffs were anything unique or creative, maybe I could get past their buried performance but rest assured the guitar is nothing you haven’t heard a million times before. It comes and goes only to be buried under multiple tracks of keyboards.

With all the time given to the keyboards it’s really too bad this album has such a sterile and cheesy sound. No warmth or creativity in sounds are employed here. When listening to this I want to think that in 1998 this might have sounded original. But in reality it was just as goofy sounding as it is now. The average song on this album consists of bombastic keyboards in various modes, strings, flutes etc along with up-tempo to fast drumming. Highlights of this style are opener Stargazers and Devil & the Deep Dark Ocean.

The vocals of lead singer Tarja are obviously the most enjoyable aspect of the album. A trained vocalist, her technical ability is unquestioned. Her vocals are some what of an acquired taste as they have operatic traces, but are they only truly unique and redeeming quality to the album. I just wish she had better material to sing over. Her melodies at the intro of Walking in the Air are my favorite of the album.

While the appeal of this music is understood, it’s generally catchy and easy to digest; I fail however to see it as something original or progressive. The popularity of this band probably has more to do with the looks of their lead singer rather than heavy songs or truly progressive songwriting.

Their masterpiece and their potential realised! - 95%

Wez, October 31st, 2003

To me, this is Nightwish's masterpiece, the first of two albums continuting the distinctive style of their debut, but making several noticable alterations to their sound, taking a little risk in melding the keyboards and guitars more firmly together, but creating the definitive Nightwish feel! A little more adventurous as far as songwriting goes, and more daring than the straightforward "Wishmaster" album. The band waste no time in slamming into a storm of their trademark energy with my favourite song "Stargazers". The stage is set for a magnificent album, not as shifty in mood than the last album, mainly sticking to energetic numbers for the first five tracks. This album feels a lot more enchanting and theatric overall than the debut, mainly due to a major presence of keyboards and other additional instruments (such as violins and flutes). It still sounds much better to me, satifying the appetite for the grand and elegant that was so obvious in "Angels Fall First". After five tracks, "Swanheart" introduces the soothing power ballad style that is synonymous now with this band, veering away from the title track of the debut, while the calm beginning of instrumental "Moondance" delightfully decieves and unfolds into a feast of energy and enthusiasm this band have yet to top. "The Riddler" follows the album's upbeat energy on to its logical conclusion, and up to this point, wow, can this band even play just one note that sounds dull at all?! The more dark, and epic "The Pharoah Sails To Orion" gives us yet another metal classic, that's what 9 so far?! But the most striking piece is to come, the cover of "Walking In The Air" from "The Snowman" is simply captivating in it's beauty and quality of the performance. "Sleeping Sun" closes brilliantly, but just seems to finish too quickly.
Can I go without a special mention of both Tuomas and Tarja? "The Poet" is back in fine form, his writing and themes improving and getting more and more interesting, fitting together with his compositions incredibly. Tarja must have the most wonderful voice of all time, and this is by far her best performance, she puts so much feeling and spirit into every note it really gives the album that something special that can't quite be described in words. The rest of the band hold up mighty fine, Emppu always pleasing me with his energetic guitar playing.

This was the start of something big for Nightwish, and they deserve their place as the most popular metal band in Finland, never disappointing, and releasing such a classic album as "Oceanborn"!

Holy shit--this is amazing!! - 98%

OSheaman, August 7th, 2003

This album is the shit. It's Nightwish at their absolute best. It features nonstop, beautiful Symphonic Power Metal and incredible vocals all mixed in with a healthy dose of headbanging to create a fucking classic.

Nightwish has matured since Angels Fall First, and it really shows in this masterpiece. Gone is the ambiguous melo-doom of the first album, and in its place is incredible symphonic metal with a excellent use of vocal harmony to absolutely take your breath away. The guitar playing has improved tremendously, and there are now more solos and faster playing instead of nothing but backup riffage, while the keyboard/piano playing is simply georgeous and powerful at the same time. The drums get to play some actual beats, too, proving that Jukka Nevalainen can actually drum with the best of them when he needs to. The bass is solid and is an actual presence here, rounding out what is a really awesome band.

Highlights. Well, let's start out with Stargazers, which is a fucking awesome masterpiece and holds a spot on OSheaman's Top Ten Power Metal Songs list (I'm not sure how many songs are actually on the list, but rest assured that if they're on there, they're the best of the best). It's awesome--a combination of really incredible guitar playing and riffage, a really cool melody and awesome vocal work on a fast-paced ass-kicker. The vocals are operatic and beautiful while still maintaining the sense of urgency that the song conveys. The drum work is also supremely well-done. You'll be headbanging in no time, and you won't stop--it's that supremely cool. Gethsemane is an excellent follow-up to Stargazers and continues the solid headbanging sound that was present in the first song. Devil and the Deep Dark Ocean has a really cool, can-do-no-wrong opening riffset, followed by some blasting riffs trading off with a really light xylophone-keyboard sound and then progressing into the main theme with a deep, dark vocal performance by Tuomas contrasting with Tarja's high-and-mighty operatic vocals. Passion and the Opera is a really catchy headbanger that will have you pounding away in no time flat. Swanheart is one of the most beautiful and haunting ballads--indeed, one of the most beautiful and haunting *songs*, period--that I have ever heard. The piano playing is incredibly beautiful, and the vocal harmonies are nothing short of stunningly gorgeous. There is even a flute solo and a haunting (fake) violin solo. Then the guitars and drums come in as the song rises to a climax, and then a beautiful guitar duet emerges, and . . . well, this song is really damn beautiful. Slow and powerful, made for slow-dancing and absolutely breathtaking. A true masterpiece. Moondance follows the song up with another slow piano solo that suddenly explodes into heavy guitar riffage, followed by some more slow & fast inerchanging. The Pharoah Sails to Orion is an amazing epic with heavy guitar work, great drumming and keyboarding, and that oh-so-cool combination of low and harsh vocals with the high operatic vocals. A Return to the Sea has some great keyboard and vocal work, but is most noteworthy for the excellent main beat provided by the drums. Finally, Nightquest is shameless Iron Maiden worship that comes off really well given the differences in style between the two bands.

That's a lot of highlights, but this album is a fucking classic. There are absolutely zero throwaway tracks on here--everything is really excellent and well-done. This is Nightwish at it's pinnacle, and is a must-buy.

A Classic - 100%

liten, June 14th, 2003

Definitely Nightwish's no 1 album. All the songs have catchy melodies that easily stick to your brain. And this is one of those few albums where every single song is something different, something unique.
It starts with the track "Stargazers" in a fast and heavy manner, Tarjas beutiful and thick voice merging perfectly with the music. The next track, "Gethsemane" follows in the same manner, and then, when you think you've got a hold on the cd, the atmosphere shifts with "Devil and The Deep Dark Ocean". The heavy drum beats and the dark, almost deathmetal like, voice of "the devil", which is the perfect contrast to Tarjas deep voice. The 4th song, "Sacrament Of Wilderness", with its heavy guitar riffs is yet a song that differs greatly from the others.
Then it is time for a very unique song. "Passion and the Opera" starts with good riffs and a catchy melody, but then, after about half of the song, The true power of Tarjas voice is revealed. Acompanied by thick drums and guitars, the puts fourth some mighty "Opera-screams".

"Swanheart" is a wonderful ballad which has the perfect place on the album, after five mighty songs it is perfect to have a slow, beautiful song. The song "Moondance" is yet another song that is different from the others. It begins with a slow, beautiful keyboard melody, which suddenlu bursts into a heavy, fast and folk-inspired song (I know I've herd the melody in some classical piece but I can't remember which). This is an Instrumental song. "The Riddler" has some really deep lyrics, and this song keeps the same tempo as "Moondance". The 9th song is the heaviest and darkest song on this album. "The Pharao Sails To Orion" is most alike "Devil and the deep dark ocean", with the dark and heavy voice playing the major role. Here Nightwish has some egyptian themes in the same manner as "Tutankhamen" on their first album "Angels Fall First", but this song also features some fast piano parts. The last song "Walking in the Air" is the perfect ending for this cd. Starting off as a slow ballad, it is the total opposite of the previous track. But for every passing second the song becomes a little bit more heavy and a little bit faster. You will, as shure as you can't walk in the air, remember this song and this album.

If you're still not convinced that this is a great album, consider this:
I have played Nightwish for many people, with manny different opinions about music, some like trance, some like punk etc. and none, i repeat NONE, of these have said that they don't like Nightwish afterwards. Even my mother, who is very sensitive to all music that is not classical, has said they're good!