Music lovers, prepare to meet your match – it is hard to find any album that boasts to be as large as this one. While this album takes back from the more metal approach of previous albums and boasts of the outstanding production value brought on by the Phoenix Orchestra (which was used by Pip Williams for the Lord of the Rings movie scores), the album still is an engrossing listen on repeat for time on end. The lushous mix of Tarja’s vocals, when combined with the masterful arrangements of Tuomas and unity of the bands playing helps make this an album to remember for any music fan.
As for the songs, Dark Chest of Wonders is an example of the superb arrangement – the mix of the orchestra with choirs, gorgeous vocals by Tarja, and impressive sound overall is to die for. The album doesn’t stop right there though, as most would, with the introduction of the second surprise, Wish I Had an Angel. For those who love electronica & industrial will love this song easily, as it is a genre breaker with Marco’s & Tarja’s duet, a steady beat characteristic of techno, great guitar riffs & use of the background orchestra, and excellent panning. Music lovers might expect more of the same variety from the first two songs, but are misled with the third song, a slower song featuring an amazing arrangement – Nemo surprises deeply with its use of primarily Tarja’s vocals in a dispassionate way throughout most of the songs to set the mood, and to bring the piece to fruition through the second half in drawing that lack of passion into a yearning for more with a “fuller” voice. The fourth song, Planet Hell, is also a nice song of the metal variety. However, another bombshell is dropped with Creek Mary’s Blood, and epic song that makes full use of the orchestra and Tarja’s vocals. Dead Gardens is another delightful song, and Romanticide is more candy for those who like Planet Hell, except featuring Tarja’s voice in her full range of skill in singing and shifting styles within the song. However, the ninth song, Ghost Love Score, is not to be dismissed – it is a full-blown song, pulling no stops in its over the top arrangement, orchestration, choirs, and band’s playing ability. The album winds down with the Finnish song Kuolema Tekee Taijteilijan, a very nice and melancholy song…but then the (original release) album ends with a bang with the choral assault of Higher Than Hope, which boasts of great use of the acoustic guitar, choir, and of course, the band.
The bonus two songs, Live to Tell the Tale and White Night Fantasy are not bad in themselves, but in an album in which the orchestration helps define most of the songs, these just sound underwhelming. However, they are nice listens, and Live to Tell the Tale has a catchy melody. They are different from the previous songs though, and enjoyable on their own merits.
Overall, this is easily one of the most addicting albums of all time – my music collection boasts of around 30,000 songs, and this album gets a listen several times a week because it is that good. For those who love music in general, and don’t confine their tastes/preferences to just one genre should appreciate this album greatly, because it is a musical dream that is seldom realized.