Originally written by Tim Pigeon
After many months of hearing about how this album was tearing up the charts in Europe, North America will finally be greeted with Nightwish’s latest work Once thanks to a distribution deal by Roadrunner Records. This seems to be part of a larger push to get Nightwish known in the states, as the release comes right after their first proper North American tour. While the Worcester show was pretty packed, whether or not the American masses will be receptive to their trademark blend of epic, operatic-voiced power metal is still unknown.
Once does not vary much from their last album Century Child in terms of general sound and composition. So basically, if you liked Nightwish before, you’ll like them still. But we can’t just end the review there. If you’ve never heard them, the formula is basically crunchy guitars, majestic and flowing keyboards, all topped off with the very-well-trained vocals of Tarja Turunen, who trades off between straightforward singing and hitting operatic highs. The production is impeccable, as it usually is with these Finns. It seems like remarkable production is a requisite for epic power metal, as it needs to be.
The album starts out promising enough. For example, the song “Wish I Had an Angel”. This song opens with that effect they love to use, where Tarja sings powerfully, and they seem to layer more vocals on top of it. Very epic. This song is also one of their hardest on the album, big surprise then, that I enjoy it. The male vocals that are worked in are some of the grittier I’ve heard for the genre. After this comes the hit single “Nemo”, which is a much fluffier song, with very soothing vocals from Tarja. They seem to be torn between writing forceful rockers, and delicate ballads, as there aren’t many songs that really combine the two. I’m sure there are many out there that really enjoy the heartfelt, soft works, but I’d rather just rock out to the creative riffage of Emppu and Marco. “Ghost Love Score” is the last song I’ll point out. At 10 minutes of length, it has to be epic, and it is a beautiful piece of work. Although, if I were Nightwish, I would have closed the album with this song.
So what we have is another quality release by these high-flying Finns. Whether you like them or not, they never slack on a recording. There is something very compelling about this band that keeps me listening to them, even if I won’t admit this to my more-brutal comrades. They are truly a guilty-pleasure band. Once is a must-have for the devoted Nightwish fans. For those that are only casual listeners, it is less essential if you already own Century Child or the great Oceanborn, although it is still a worthy buy. Hopefully the American crowd will take to them as strongly as the rest of the world has…even if they don’t bring the crushing breakdowns.