Simply put, this is the greatest album I have ever heard, and will probably ever hear. Once was my first Nightwish album and is in my opinion definately the best, with the previous album, Century Child, coming in at a close 2nd. Many Nightwish fans argue that Wishmaster is better than Once, but I must disagree. As for Angels Fall First and Oceanborn, I have not yet heard them so I cannot compare.
The Opening track “Dark Chest of Wonders” gets things off to a rocking start, followed by the awesome singles “Wish I Had an Angel” and “Nemo”. WIHaA is a very “different” song for Nightwish, almost touching on a techno-type beat, but still managing to come off sounding like an A-class metal song. “Nemo” is one of my favourite tracks of all time. The guitars cut out during the first few verses leaving Tarja singing with only drums and ominous bass guitar. Of course when the chorusses come around some of the heaviest melodic guitar you will ever hear punches in, and during the outro the orchestra even makes an appearance to give the song that extra power. Again, the extensive use of a full orchestra and choir on this album is something many traditional Nightwish fans feel was too much of a departure from the band’s earlier sound, but in my opinion any time a metal band can mix in such exquisite orchestral arrangements it only helps to make songs infinitely more powerful and interesting.
“Planet Hell” and “Romanticide” are among the fastest tracks on the album and will bring out the headbanger in anyone’s grandmother, while slower ballads such as the finnish “Kuolema Tekee Taiteilijan”, which features a beautiful cello interlude, serve to rouse the emotions and make the listener feel the music. Another slower song is “Creek Mary’s Blood”, which features a native american theme, even bringing in a flute solo not unlike that on “Forever Yours” (from the Century Chold album). This track also has beautiful oration and chanting performed by John Two-Hawks. The album’s crowning acheivement and in fact, the best song of all time by any band, has to be the massive ballad “Ghost Love Score”. This song is really long, but thanks to numerous shifts in pace is not tedious for even one second. The orchestra and choirs take center stage here and what results is the strongest piece of musical magic ever recorded. This is definately one to play loud and with your eyes closed. How Tuomas manages to write songs of this magnitude time and time again just amazes me. Greatest songwriter of our time anyone?
Included on this edition are bonus tracks “White Night Fantasy” and “Live to Tell the Tale”. Both songs kick ass and fit in perfectly with the sound of the album. The CD also includes the video to “wish I had an Angel”. It’s a good video but personally I would’ve preferred the Nemo video to be on here. That is a brilliant video, and is in fact the one Nightwish song that I had ever heard prior to buying this album. Needless to say I’ve never looked back and progressive, operatic, symphonic or “whatever you want to call it” metal is now all I can listen to. I used to live in the dark thinking bands like Metallica (classic), Coal Chamber(nu) or Dimmu Borgir(black) were all metal had to offer, but this album is so good it has ruined all other kinds of music for me. I also recommend other prog-metal bands like Kamelot, Sonata Arctica, Lacuna Coil etc. I also can’t wait to hear Epica and Leave’s Eyes. Reviews on Amazon make them sound really interesting and i will order them as soon as i can afford to.
This album also marks an important landmark since we now know that it will have been singer Tarja’s last studio album with the band. While this news is distressing, I can’t wait to see who the new singer is and what the impact on the band’s sound will be.