Nightwish - Once 3/5

Reviewed: 11-26-04





Tracklist:

1. Dark chest of wonders
2. Wish I had an angel
3. Nemo
4. Planet hell
5. Creek Mary's blood
6. The siren
7. Dead gardens
8. Romanticide
9. Ghost love score
10. Kuolema tekee taiteilijan
11. Higher than hope
12. White night fantasy (bonus track)
13. Live to tell the tale (bonus track)


Let's be honest, I love Nightwish. They are one of my favorite bands that emerged in the 90s. I was immediately impressed by them when I heard their debut 'Angels fall first'. Sure, it was a raw CD and the keyboard player's backing vocals were beyond awful, but Tarja's vocals were sublime and original. I heard a ton of potential for this band who mixed melodic power metal with the soaring operatic vocals of Tarja Turunen. That potential seemed to be realized right away with their 2nd CD 'Oceanborn'. The quality of the songwriting and production went up a ton and thankfully Tuomas stopped providing backing vocals. The sky high quality was maintained on their excellent 3rd CD, 'Wishmaster'. By this time, Nightwish had catapulted themselves into the upper echelons of my favorite bands. It was in the aftermath of the release of 'Wishmaster' that I began reading interviews with Tuomas Holopainen (keyboardist, band leader, and primary songwriter) where he began discussing his “boredom with power metal” and I began to get worried about the future of Nightwish.

Thankfully, their next CD 'Century child' was still terrific. One great addition was that of new bassist Marco Hietala (of Tarot fame), who provided excellent backing vocals which contrast nicely with Tarja's. For all of 'Century child's high quality, there were some other changes. The band had definitely adopted a much less power metal sound, slowing down the tempo noticeably. Also, Tarja began singing, at times, in a less operatic voice, which seemed odd to me as her operatic style was what made the band stand apart to begin with. Still, these (thankfully) only managed to be minor shortcomings that merely knocked 'Century child' down a notch or 2 from its brilliant 2 predecessors.

And now after all that preamble, we come to the band's 5th CD, 'Once'. One thing's for sure, with 'Once' the band is reaching new heights of popularity. Perhaps aided by the success of other (more accessible) female fronted bands like Evanescence and Lacuna Coil, 'Once' seems to be selling in huge numbers all over the world, even doing nice numbers in the metal wasteland of the U.S. However, it's hard for me to get completely excited about the band's rising popularity as it seems to come on the heels of a very disappointing CD. Don't get me wrong, 'Once' is still very good, well, at least some of it is. On this CD, the band has ramped up the heaviness of the riffs, and added a full orchestra as accompaniment. The problem is that some of the songs just seem to plod and leave me left a little bored. Long gone is the fast-paced, more exciting power metal of days gone by. Also, Tarja continues to eschew her operatic style more and more to sing in a more normal and far less captivating style. Do I still recommend 'Once'? Yes, I do, but the band is sliding down a slippery slope of decline, at least to my ears. I can't help but wish we had been blessed with a few more CDs from the band in their peak.

As an extra, this U.S. version of the CD, released many months after its release in the rest of the world, has a different cover and 2 bonus tracks. The bonus tracks are little bonus at all and "White night fantasy" is flat out bad.



JOHN




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