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Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Nightwish- Wishmaster

Source: Wikipedia
Album: Wishmaster

Artist: Nightwish

Year: 2000

Score: 96/100

“Another Triumphant Nightwish Album”

Nightwish is one of the more popular modern metal bands that don’t play nu metal or metalcore.  Sadly, they’ve been going downhill in my eyes with the added orchestrations and subdued guitars (just not my thing).  However, their first three albums were absolutely excellent.  “Wishmaster” was the last of these excellent releases, and my least favorite of their first three.  It’s a great release with only one song that isn’t incredible (it’s even worse that the song is terribly overrated). 

There’s quite a lot of poppiness found in the songwriting on this album, but it’s not done in an irritating way.  The songs are still undoubtedly metal, as showcased by the galloping guitars and surging vocals.  “Wishmaster” doesn’t contain as much atmosphere as their first two albums, probably due to a cleaner production job.  Nonetheless, the album does sound very good and surprisingly not too polished.  The only complaint I have is that the bass is a little too low, and the vocals are seemingly more dominant than on the previous albums.  Most of the songs are very triumphant and big sounding, and they are almost all in the power metal style.  There’s also a great happiness to the songs, and thus the album comes across sounding like Sonata Arctica or Stratovarius with a female vocalist.  It is in this that the album loses some of its uniqueness.  It’s hard to deny the fact that both “Angels Fall First” and “Oceanborn” were unique albums.  While the former’s genre is difficult to classify, the latter was a very dark and celestial sounding power metal album.  It wasn’t extremely aggressive or anything, but it wasn’t blatantly happy like so many power metal bands are.  With this being established, it’s easy to see why “Wishmaster” is a step down (although a small one).  It falls right into the power metal clichés, but it’s not a huge issue as indicated by my generous score.  It’s tough for me to look at “Wishmaster” (or even “Century Child”) as the beginning of the end for this band, but even at this point they had begun to adopt a simpler style.  In addition, the song structures are more straightforward and conventional than on their previous albums.

As the individual instruments go, I have no real complaints.  I’ve never thought Nightwish’s appeal was in extremely technical musicianship, but more in songwriting and atmosphere.  Perhaps the most notable trait on some of the songs is the dueling guitar and keyboards.  While these passages are not as neoclassical as other power metal bands, they do their job well and set the album apart.  Like all early Nightwish albums, the vocals are incredible.  Tarja gives one of her best performances on “Wishmaster”.  The only complaint I have about the vocals is indirect; they seem to be placed at the forefront of some of the songs instead of the guitars.  This wasn’t the case on their prior albums, and became even worse later.  The bass guitar is fine, but almost completely inaudible.  In fact, the only place I can remember hearing the bass without directly listening for it is during the verse of “Bare Grace Misery”.  The drums are actually pretty good, there are some good moments found throughout the album.  Finally, we have the keyboards.  They are used in the songs on “Wishmaster” more than they are on “Oceanborn”.  They are not incredibly overdone, but sometimes they get irritating.

Nearly all of the songs on “Wishmaster” are fantastic.  While the album did have a few hits, a lot of the songs are rather overlooked.  The most famous song is “Wishmaster”.  It’s an anthemic track with lyrics about fantasy series including Tolkien’s work.  The start stop chorus style is very effective in this particular song.  “The Kinslayer” is the other hit song.  It’s overrated, but not a bad song in and of itself.  It has one of the most memorable keyboard riffs I’ve ever heard.  “Wanderlust” is one of the highlights, with a triumphant chorus.  The sort of bridge at the end really makes the song stick out, as well as the dueling instruments.  “She is My Sin” is the opener, a strong power metal song.  There are some great galloping rhythms typical to the genre, and it’s got another winning chorus.  “Come Cover Me” is a very underrated song.  It’s very poppy, but there are some excellent riffs.  It also hosts one of my favorite vocal performances from Tarja Turunen.  “Crownless” must be one of the most underrated Nightwish songs in existence.  It’s also one of the best, maybe even my second favorite from the album.  It’s a fast number, and reminds me a lot of other power metal bands.  “FantasMic” is the epic of the album.  It’s over eight minutes long.  It’s easily my favorite track and contains some of the best riffs from Nightwish’s career.   Also, it is a very uplifting song.  “Wishmaster” also contains the best Nightwish ballad, the phenomenal “Deep Silent Complete”.  It’s a gorgeous song, seamlessly blending heavy guitars with ethereal vocal melodies.  “Two For Tragedy” is a decent ballad- I like the singing over the heavy guitars near the end of the song.  “Bare Grace Misery” is another poppy song, but I love it nonetheless.  The chorus is very addictive, and the short instrumental section is actually pretty good.  I’ve saved the worst song for last, and that is “Dead Boy’s Poem”.  What on earth is so special about this song, I’ll never know.  It’s not that bad really, aside from being boring throughout.  But the thing that really ruins it is the unnecessary narrations.  Nightwish got pretty tacky with the spoken narrations, especially later in their career.  I generally dislike narrations, especially when they dominate the song (like in this one).  Nevertheless, the ending of “Dead Boy’s Poem” is decent with some good drum work.

Even though I’ve pointed out some obvious flaws, I still love “Wishmaster” to death.  It’s a very solid album, and the last of the Nightwish ‘classics’.  Fans of Nightwish who haven’t heard it should begin listening immediately; it’s one of their most famous and most essential albums.  Fans of power metal might enjoy this, as might fans of symphonic/female-fronted metal.  For newbies to Nightwish, I would actually recommend this as it’s very accessible and was my own first favorite Nightwish album.  Despite how the band changed, the trio of “Angels Fall First”, “Oceanborn”, and “Wishmaster” will always be amongst my favorite albums of all time.

Best songs:  “FantasMic”, “Crownless”, “She is my Sin”, “Wishmaster”, “Bare Grace Misery”, “Wanderlust”, “Come Cover Me”, and “Deep Silent Complete”.

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