17 April 2013
Nightwish - Once
For a taste of symphonic metal, Once, as an album, has all the hallmarks all musicians in this genre should be looking up to - drama, theatre, dark chills and probing the depths of the soul. This was the fifth album from the Finnish quintet and the last with female vocalist Tarja Turunen before her very much publicised dismissal. By then bassist Marko Hietala was only in Nightwish for less than two years but he had established himself very comfortably in the band but also as a firm male accompaniment, adding some kudos in the mix.
His vocals feature prominently in Once, probably named after the opening lyrics to Dark Chest of Wonders "Once, I had a dream, and this is it..." then almost immediately everything kicks in with gusto and impact. For newer listeners of The 'Wish, it gives a very good perspective on how the whole album is going to be laid out. Their following tracks, I Wish I Had An Angel, and Nemo (it's Latin for Nobody apparently) are of a more commercial direction and possibly lacklustre. They don't really lend much flavour to Once, especially as Nemo is rather too sugar-coated for my liking and Angel tries to break away from its classical roots. However, the self-explanatory Planet Hell redeems a sense of purpose and vigour as well as a one way ticket to Hades.
The ten minute epics, Creek Mary's Blood and Ghost Love Score are much finer examples, lengthy but full of content. The former features heavily a Lakota flutist John Two Hawks though I suspect his last two minutes ode in his Native American tongue won't be to everyone's taste. There are however, some pleasing fillers in the form of Dead Gardens (excellent rhythm and riffs here) and Romanticide, Hietala's vocals bringing its frenetic proceedings to an end right to the last. Higher than hope and Kuolema Tekee Taiteilijan (Death Makes An Artist, in Finnish) rounds off the album with a sense of guilt and poignancy.
The only problem I see with this album is the vocals from Tarja Turunen. It just sounds a little out of place. Classically trained but she has some limitations. She is more adept to opera than metal and her vocal range isn't ideally suited to Emppu Vuorinen's deep riffs. But that's not to say that it doesn't come together. Here we have an album where metal and classical music can marry, but if Turunen could focus more on the midrange, Once would've easily been an even bigger statement than it already is. M. Richardson 17.04.2013
7.5 out of 10. This is good and well worth a check.
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