The new album from Finnish Symphonic Metal band Nightwish has recently found its way into my CD player, and I couldn’t be happier! Honestly, who would’ve thought that seven years ago, when their debut album Angels Fall First was released, they’d eventually treat us to such a powerful assault to the senses as their new album Once does? Like Century Child, released prior to this one, they haven’t totally abandoned the Nightwish sound we’ve all grown accustomed to; they’ve just built upon it in the most impressive way possible. If you’re a Nightwish fan you can stop reading this right now, because trust me: you’re going to buy Once. Everyone else, keep reading to find out why this Finnish band is slowly becoming one of the premiere Metal acts in the world.
The album kicks into high gear immediately. After a childish voice whispers, “Once…I had a dream…” the guitars knock your ass to the ground and the opener Dark Chest of Wonders sets a pretty high standard for which the rest of the album maintains throughout its entirety. The first thing I noticed was the unbelievable merging of an orchestra with the classic, albeit slightly heavier, Nightwish sound. Sure – their last album Century Child used an orchestra as well, but it was never as grand and majestic as it is on Once. The London Session Orchestra (whose work was used recently in the third Lord of the Rings flick) expands the music of Nightwish and helps them create a truly epic, magical piece of work. This is most evident on the track Ghost Love Score. If I didn’t know any better, I’d swear this was used as the score to a grand Hollywood motion picture. Huge choirs, the presence of the orchestra, and Tarja’s haunting voice all come together to create a truly emotional experience. I’m fairly certain I’ll be listening to this track quite a bit, and loudly. :)
Creek Mary’s Blood is another gorgeous track that uses a Native American theme, both lyrically and musically. The chanting and flutes at the beginning of this track set a positively chilling mood, and once again Tarja performs flawlessly. Speaking of Tarja, I’ve never heard her sing with such strong emotion in her voice than on this album. By far the most beautiful track on Once is the ballad Kuolema Tekee Taiteilijan, sung completely in Finnish. I’ve always been sort of partial to Swanheart from their second album Oceanborn, but this song has replaced it as my favorite Nightwish ballad yet. The fact that it’s sung in Finnish gives it a kind of exotic flavor (to me at least – I speak no Finnish), and combined with an absolutely beautiful melody and the flowing orchestra, I have a feeling this track is going to become a favorite with the fans. It’s just perfect.
Wish I Had An Angel was a surprise for me when I first heard it. There are parts of the song that have a decidedly techno flavor, which I haven’t really heard in the music of Nightwish thus far. This isn’t a detriment to the album in any way, it’s a totally killer track, and the catchy chorus melody has slowly turned it into one of my favorites on this album. This is the first track on Once to give us not only Tarja’s vocals, but bassist Marco Hietala’s as well. Somehow their two voices compliment each other perfectly and it adds yet another layer to the music that sets it apart from other Melodic Metal bands. I like how Marco is able to alternate between powerful clean vocals and growly, rough ones. His presence has helped add some much needed heaviness and power to the band.
I can highly recommend Once to every fan of Melodic Metal out there. This album contains the best possible mixture of heavy, crunchy Metal and symphonic orchestral music. Along with the operatic vocals and choirs, the music of Once is fresh, original, and an utter treat for the ears. There are one or two tracks that don’t completely live up to the amazingly high quality of the rest of the songs, but overall this album is top notch.