To make things clear from the beginning, I was the kind of Nightwish fan who […]
June 3, 2004
Nightwish - Once album cover

To make things clear from the beginning, I was the kind of Nightwish fan who loved the albums up to Wishmaster, was kind of bored by Century Child for the lack of anything special and his favorite albums were Angels Fall First and Oceanborn. Was is they keyword and this small intro was written to cover the "biased probability.
When I got the Nemo single a large smile was imprinted on my face and anxiety rose up to dangerous levels since I could hardly wait for Once. I was a bit afraid of the trailer syndrome, meaning that lots of times a band chooses the best song of the album to release it as a teaser single. I am more than happy to say that this wasn't the case.
For Once, Nightwish had the privilege to work with the better part of the Session Orchestra of London. No need for a resume, let's just say that they are the performers of Howard Shore's epic soundtrack of the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Tuomas has excelled himself on the composition of music and lyrics by far; I would dare to say that this album expands the horizons of metal even more. If someone ignorant of metal music ever tells you that it's all about grunts and guitars, you can take this album, rub it on his face and laugh hysterically at his retarded way of thinking.
The journey to Once begins with Dark Chest of Wonders, an excellent up tempo song. There are a few things you'll notice from the first moments. The sound is heavier, Tarja's voice is softer and less operatic and the choir and orchestra blend wonderfully with the Metal music. I Wish I Had An Angel is probably the least symphonic song in the album. Tarja and Marco perform greatly as a duet and the band delivers one of the catchiest songs in the album with some electronic elements and beats new to the Nightwish sound, yet used in the right spots. Don't listen to it while you are driving on a freeway, heed my word.
Nemo is a hit already; an amazing video clip, a single and the herald of the new era of the Finnish band. Needless to say, this is where the Session Orchestra is beginning to show their teeth. A powerful and beautiful song that will send the shivers up your spine by the time it's over.
Planet Hell kicks off in the best possible way. Orchestra, choir and riffs intertwine in a celebration of music as Tarja and Marco Once again play the beauty and the beast. The lyrics fit perfectly to the current situation of our Planet Hell. A dead world, a dark path, not even crossroads to choose from. All the blood red carpets before me, behold this fair creation of God! In case you are wondering, this is not a Nevermore review. But do continue I hear you say.
The brutal elimination of entire tribes, races and cultures for gold and land by the forefathers of today's Western civilization is depicted through Creek Mary's Blood. A wonderful and sad song; at least as wonderful as a song about ethnic cleansing and massacre can be. Vocals and instruments from Lakotan Native Americans were used. It begins as a ballad and paces up towards the middle with heavily used strings and brass instruments.
The Siren may be a song about a mythological creature but in my opinion it's the most accurate description of the band's leading lady since her voice in this song could make Ulysses eager to jump off his ship Once again to go meet the source of it. Marco is excellent Once again.
Dead Gardens is one of the heaviest songs the Tuomas has ever composed. Down-tuned guitars, riffs made to make your neck sore and an ending fit for an Annihilator epic. Romanticide continues the killing (riff) spree with an extra touch of heavy sounds from the drums and bass to the point of a closure, dangerously close to Pantera, which is not a bad thing at all! Yes ladies and gentlemen, I have seen mosh pits starting for things lighter than this. Impressed? I sure am.
 Ghost Love Score is the most soundtrack-ish song of all. A ten minute epic where the band and the orchestra unleash their full potentials. The song twists and turns and it grows more in you with every listening session, worst than a bad case of the black plague. If you find yourself waving your arms pretending to be the maestro of a large orchestra, don't feel silly; at least I didn't...
Things cool down with a soft ballad named Kuolema Tekee Taiteilijan. This is a Tarja and orchestra exclusive. Simply beautiful, though you won't understand a thing, unless you are Finnish or speak Finnish because as you may have already suspected this is the first Nightwish song with all the lyrics in their native language.
The album closes with another beautiful power ballad, named Higher Than Hope with sad and powerful vocals by Tarja.
Well, you get the whole picture. This is truly an excellent album with lots of experimentations. The entire band reaches their top performance and the Session Orchestra of London is simply superb. Nightwish show a true evolution in their sound and will most definitely win new fans, even those who were never fans of this kind of Metal. I really do hope that they will live up to the high standards they set with Once. Everything has evolved in the way it should, even the cover depicts the new era of the Fins. If I wore a hat, I would take it off.

10 / 10


"Once" Track-listing:

Dark Chest Of Wonders
Wish I Had An Angel
Planet Hell
Creek Mary's Blood
The Siren
Dead Gardens
Ghost Love Score
Kuolema Tekee Taiteilijan
Higher Than Hope

Nightwish Lineup:

Tarja Turunen - Vocals
Tuomas Holopainen - Keyboards
Marco Hietala - Bass & Vocals
Erno 'Emppu' Vuorinen - Guitars
Jukka Nevalainen - Drums

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