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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Nightwish- Once

Source: Wikipedia

Album:  Once

Band:  Nightwish

Year:  2004

Score: 77/100

“Not Their Best by a Long Shot”

Nightwish are one of the more popular “true metal” bands of the last decade.  Despite being huge in Finland, they are not very well known in certain parts of the United States (I’ve never met anyone else who’s heard of them).  Perhaps they are most known for their symphonic metal sound, but I’ve always loved their first three albums where they hardly had any symphonic elements at all.  Prior to 2007, Nightwish were known as the metal band with the opera singer.  “Once” was their fifth album and the last to feature their famous classical singer, Tarja Turunen.  There are a lot of issues with the album, and yet I can’t help but be a raving fan and give it a good score.

Nightwish had used orchestrations in their previous album, “Century Child”, but they weren’t a prominent part of the music.  In “Once”, the orchestra is no longer a backup instrument, but a large part of the music.  It is still not as symphonic (thank God) as anything they would do afterwards, but the orchestra is still a big component of the music.  My feelings toward the use of orchestral instruments in metal music are mixed.  When executed properly, they can add to the epic feeling of an album; however they generally come across as cheesy and unnecessary.  In fact, I don’t really even like the only band to successfully combine an orchestra with metal music (Epica… they’re just too poppy for me even though I like a few of their songs).  Yes, this is me saying that Nightwish are better without the orchestra.  Nevertheless, I do find the symphonic portions of “Planet Hell” and “Ghost Love Score” to be somewhat enjoyable.

As for the other instruments, my opinion is mixed again.  The guitar riffs aren’t really memorable and the solos are weak.  I’ve never found Emppu Vourinen to be the greatest guitarist, but older Nightwish material generally had decent and enjoyable guitar work.  Here, the riffs are simple.  This simplicity was a blatant sign of what was to come later.  As usual with older Nightwish albums, the vocals are splendid.  I feel like Tarja did a better job on “Once” than on “Century Child”, though I still prefer the older style she had on the first three albums.  Her voice is clear and confident on the songs, and she doesn’t do a bad job anywhere.  There are also many male vocals to be found in the album.  I’ve never liked Marco Hietala’s vocals.  I seriously don’t understand the hype about this guy.  He’s less powerful than Tarja and sounds amateur when put next to her in a song.  There are so many male singers that could have done really well on the album, but Marco has just never been my cup of tea.  I heard some of his older work (with Tarot, I believe) and enjoyed his voice more there, but with Nightwish I’ve never liked him.  The bass, drums, and keyboards fall into the same predicament as the guitars.  Despite being the main songwriter, Tuomas Holopainen doesn’t shine instrumentally at all.  His keyboard solos are painfully boring and don’t really show a technical proficiency either.  The drums are standard for the genre… some good double bass work and a few neat fills.  The bass is generally audible, but not complex.  It’s actually quite basic.

Now that we’ve established the musicianship on the album, it’s time to talk about the songs.  I’ll start with the best to be found on the album.  “Ghost Love Score” is a majestic piece of music, with many contrasting parts.  The song is ten minutes long, and very easy to listen to despite the monstrous length.  Even though it might be my favorite from the album, it’s kind of overrated.  “Romanticide”, while sounding a little too modern, is one of my other favorites from the album.  I really wish the guitar work had been less reminiscent of metalcore (which I dislike), because the vocal melodies are beautiful.  It’s a good song.  “Dark Chest of Wonders” is my third favorite, and it’s probably the most similar to their older work.  It’s a wondrous song, but it gets ruined by a breakdown a little more than halfway through.  Why they had to throw that breakdown in, I don’t know.  On another note, “Nemo” isn’t nearly as bad as everyone says it is.  It’s not a masterpiece in any sense, but it’s a cool little Goth-pop song that doesn’t irritate me too badly.  “Dead Gardens” is at least decent, but not memorable.  The main riff should not be repeated so much.  “The Siren” is perhaps the most ridiculously overrated song in the band’s discography.  It’s seriously not good, though the middle-eastern vocals during a live performance are nice sounding.  “Planet Hell” is kind of cool, but the lyrics are typically preachy and irritating.  I like the chorus.  “Creek Mary’s Blood” is long and unnecessary, and another painfully overrated song.  “Higher than Hope” is emotional, yet boring throughout.  “Kuolema Tekee Taiteilijan” is the worst ballad from the old era of Nightwish.  It’s hard to sit through.  “Higher than Hope” is a genuinely sad song, and it’s not awful.  It does take a while to pick up, though.  Most people buying this will also get two bonus tracks “Live to Tell the Tale” and “White Night Fantasy”.  The former is actually a really good song, while the latter is… odd.

Many reading this have probably noticed that I left off the most famous song (except for maybe “Nemo”) from my description of the individual tracks.  I’ve saved this little paragraph for a description of the second-worst song Nightwish ever made.  The song in question is deceptively titled “Wish I Had An Angel”.  This is a pop song, and not only is it a pop song it’s a terrible pop song.  The drums don’t even sound real, and the usually impressive female vocals sound processed like in radio hits.  It’s as gimmicky as songs come, with more “intense” vocals done by Marco during the chorus.  He sounds absolutely awful and very reminiscent of nu-metal (which I don’t like, but I guess some people do).  I also can’t stand the simplistic lyrics.  The only Nightwish song worse is “Bye Bye Beautiful” from the next album, and it’s basically a copy of this song with even worse vocals from both performers.

I would highly recommend checking out Nightwish’s older work prior to this, particularly for seasoned metalheads.  Newbies might like this one more, because there’s a huge pop tendency in most of the songs.  It is, however, still an enjoyable listen.  I feel like it’s an album that’s immensely enjoyable as its being listened to, yet it doesn’t beg for another listen.   Fans of Nightwish will enjoy this, particularly if they prefer the band’s newer work.  It’s truly better than anything that came afterwards, but it’s truly worse than everything that came before.  Give any of their first three albums a listen first.

Best songs:  “Dark Chest of Wonders”, “Ghost Love Score”, and “Romanticide”.

Worst songs:  “Dead Gardens”, “Nemo”, “The Siren”, “Creek Mary’s Blood”, “Kuolema Tekee Taiteilijan”,   and the abominable “Wish I had an Angel”.

Thanks for reading!  Be sure to comment!

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