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Idrownfish, April 12th, 2011

Nightwish is praised by the power metal community. Their unique style, which mixes orchestra elements with high-pitched, operatic vocals and catchy solos and riffs have conquered the hearts of many headbangers, and won some of the most hardcore fans there are in the metalhead community. That said, why would Tuomas suddenly give up on everything he had done so far in a single album? Would it be to satisfy the mainstream? I might never know, but one thing I know for sure: the result was terrible.

Just to make it clear, the album is not impossible to enjoy. Actually, the opening track, "Dark Chest of Wonders" and the acoustic one, "Kuolema Tekee Taiteilijan" are quite nice to listen to. The point is that Nightwish took a sudden turn that they should have never taken: the epic, operatic power metal that Nightwish used to play was suddenly substituted by mallcore. And it is not good mallcore either: it is the kind of cartoonish music where everything is downtuned and uninspired. The riffs are dull in their attempts at being brutal, the drums reduces music to its most basic level and by the end of "Higher Than Hope" you can't help but wonder why the band that delivered "Wishmaster" and "Century Child" would bother to release this soulless recording.

I'm going to start with the guitars. Downtuned all the way to the ground, it tries to be br00tal in order to satisfy the mallcore kids. Downtuning by itself doesn't make anything bad, but the guitars are simply dull as fuck: the "riffs" are basically the same power chords being played over and over again, the solos are extremely uninspired (with the possible exception of Nemo's solo) and in some songs they simply don't exist. Leads are rather absent, but even when they are not they fail to generate emotional response from the listener.

What surprised me most about this album is that the vocals suck badly. Tarja simply ignored her classical training and switched to pop-oriented vocals that are as far away from metal as it is possible to be. She seems to have expanded her low range a little - but that fact only adds to the insult, since it strengthens the feeling of wasted potential. Marco's presence is barely felt: his only relevant vocal appearances are in "I Wish I Had An Angel" (a song that manages to be more mallcore than Slipknot's ones) and "Planet Hell". Being the vocals what got Nightwish most of their true fans, it is sad to say that they are extremely boring here, and will probably never fully recover since Tarja got fired.

The bass and the drums are... Well, what do you expect from them? Tuomas never bothered to make them extremely noticeable, but since the other elements sucked so badly, it is natural to guess that he would like to make the bass and the drums more noticeable. Well, he does make the bass more noticeable, but that is because it managed to be even crappier than the rest: it is so heavy, downtuned and loud that sometimes it even manages to hide the guitars. The drums also suck in their own way: the omnipresent mid-paced tempo makes Jukka unable to deliver anything impressive or interesting.

Perhaps the band understood that their work sucked, because they used London's Philharmonic Orchestra as much as they could. It does work sometimes, like in "Dark Chest of Wonders" and "Planet Hell", but most of the times it simply makes everything worse.

Don't expect to listen to Nightwish here. This recording makes the band barely recognizable. Don't expect to listen to anything impressive either. Instead of bothering to buy this album, listen to "Dark Chest of Wonders", "Planet Hell" and "Kuolema Tekee Taiteilijan" in YouTube and you will have heard everything that Once has to offer.