Nightwish - Once
Impressive, Nightwish! I have to salute them, because what they have done here is taken, not only one but a few, steps in the absolute right direction. Even though I declare the last effort Century Child almost an equal to the previous 2 megasuccesful efforts, they have been talked about as a band that repeat themselves and have stagnated a bit in their sound and now rely on an old, worked in sound and a way of building songs on safety more than development. Well - after listening to this album, you shall all be proven wrong on that point.
The overall sound is undisputible Nightwish as we have got to know them, but a quick overview of the album reveales the following: It opens with a blast in your face in form of the extremely heavy, according to Nightwish standards, Dark Chest Of Wonders, where Tarja shows that she also masters the art of singing more in the mid range. Great guitar riffing, a brilliant verseline and a bombastic pounding sound picture with a great chorus.
The following Wish I Had An Angel continues on the same path. Heavy opening with a crunching riff, a semi soft verse that brings up to a great mighty chorus once again, and now we come across one of the new elements in their music that turned out to be a stroke of genuis: the vocals of the new bass player Marco Hietala (also vocalist and bassist in Tarot). The man does an awesome job complimenting Tarja with his raw voice. Combined with much more space for the heavy guitars, it creates a more metal feeling to their music, but still with the orchestral choirs and elements intact as backup.
Nemo, that is the single track off this album, is a more traditional Nightwish track with a smooth, beautiful opening with just drums, bass and Tarja, until the guitars and choirs come in and delivers a fat backup for the refrain that is a migthy, midtempo one. A track that could be picked right out from the album Wishmaster. Planet Hell follows, and we are than back in the heavier areas. Hietala here take care of most of the verses, and once again it is a great implement in the music. This is the first song so far into the album where the keyboards really stand out during certain parts, so it is obvious that that part of the music has been held back in favour of being more guitar oriented.
Creek Mary's Blood is a more laid back and sentimental piece in midtempo where a story about indians is being dealt with, and it contains a part with native indian narration. An average piece which is saved by its beautiful - almost motion picture - feeling with a majestic second half. The midtempo path continues with Sirens, but with a heavy tone to it and some nice guitar work. Again a fully adequate, but average, piece.
Dead Gardens rise the tempo a bit, with a pounding riff and a traditional operatic build on the song. The chorus is beautiful and is accompanied by heavy riffs, but they have made it difficult for themselves by opening the album so perfectly. Normally this is to be considered normal Nightwish material as you would expect it, but at the same time it feels like it's losing a slight bit in tempo at this point.
Romanticide opens with a distinct, powerful intro, continues through a pounding verse, and the refrain and bridge contains some double bassdrums and distinct singing by Tarja. In this song there are even some aggressive thrashy guitar parts, and that is something that goes through the whole album, but is most significant here. For the first time up 'til now we get to hear a real guitar solo also, and that is a very welcome element. Too short, though.
Ghost Love Score is next one out, and it starts majestic and pounding, falls into a more soft verse but rises along the way to a very forceful outburst with a massive choir. The midpart goes very much in the veins of film music, and it takes off again at the end bringing a massive finale. The next track Kuolema Tekee Taiteilijan sees Tarja once again singing in finnish, which she has not done since the debut Angels Fall First. It's a ballad like any other, and does not stand out. I had hoped for a fast smasher to close the album, since it feels at this point that would be a piece that would top the cake, but Higher Than Hope is yet another midtempo song, concentrating more on a beautiful and majestic mood than riffs and tempo. It is a very heavy piece, though, and the choirs create a very compact and majestic sound.
The album can't really keep up with the marvellous start since the tempo slowly but sure decreases along the way, and therefor does not reach full scale, but I still consider it a masterpiece. An extremely solid buy for the already initiated fans, and with this effort they will attract new fans as well. Other bands in the genre are a big joke compared to Nightwish - none of them have anything at all to offer that can beat this, material- or production wise.