Released: 2004, Spinefarm Records
Reviewer: Metal-Rules.com Staff
Intro By Luxi Lahtinen:
Most of our readers are aware of one stone-hard fact that many of us staff writers here in Metal-Rules.com happen to be fans of Nightwish. Quite surprisingly many of us have already had an extraordinary opportunity to hear the band´s latest most massive, yet most ambitious, work to date in advance titled ONCE. As such we wanted to share some opinions of our own about the album for you dear readers, so we decided to put our collective thoughts together once again the same way like we did with Iron Maiden´s DANCE OF DEATH last time and give you one big and massive review in which everyone is able to comment a thing or two about the album.
So without prolonging your curiosity any longer, this is what we thought about ONCE; now simply enjoy your reading... ;)
Reviewer: Luxi Lahtinen
Now when I have been listening to Nightwish´s latest album ONCE like, let´s say, ´zillions´ of times (please allow me exaggerate here a little bit for a passing moment...) during the last 3 or 4 weeks rather regularly, one question crawls into my mind each time when causing a gentle multi-dimensional ear orgasm for myself by spinning the album in my CD –player over and over and over again. How are they ever going to top this?! On ONCE the band has developed breath-takingly their own brand of distinctive sound even further toward extremely pompous yet epic atmospheres that are nearly impossible to describe in a mere few words. Each song on ONCE is sort of a little miniature of a movie soundtrack of its own – no more or no less. I think there´s a lot to thank to London Session Orchestra for its helping hand for creating some of these extraordinary powerful yet incredibly beautiful and ´touchy´ pieces of the atmospheres behind the songs on ONCE. But of course the main credit for the songs on ONCE, without a question, belongs to Tuomas Holopainen. He´s simply, and very honestly, a musical child prodigy. A true genius whose visions and goals always tend to meet each other in the final end and just no one can question that any longer when listening to this huge musical masterpiece called ONCE, in every possible sense; and even being looked at it from its every possible angle as far as its limitless value as a successful masterpiece album is concerned.
For me, the whole album represents everything that I have always hoped Nightwish to achieve musically in the long run. Now it seems like all my prayers have been answered. In my opinion they have finally succeeded to make the songs ´click´ with each other so perfectly and indelibly that you simply couldn´t ask for much else from their songs. For example, an awesomely heavy and awe-inspiring opening track titled “Dark Chest of Wonders”, which also happens to be one of the most powerful tunes on the album for exactly my liking, just always manages to send enormous waves of cold shivers down my spine every time when spinning it through from start to end over and over again. And what comes to things more epic on ONCE, then “Creek Mary´s Blood”, clocking in at 8:29 minute mark, is a true ´tour-de-force´ of what Nightwish are capable of creating in that ´epic´ department. John ´Two-Hawks´, whose origin is a Lakota–tribe Indian, could also be considered sort of a clever move from Tuomas to bring him in for the song as John really adds a vast amount of his own unique creativity and individuality from his own Indian culture into the song by singing, playing flute and repeating a poem in it. “Creek Mary´s Blood”, as a single song, absolutely raises a bar of innovation and creativity even higher for Nightwish if they just ever will want to reach something as wonderfully epic and atmospheric on their forth-coming albums in the future. I think the song in itself is kind of culmination of all that what Nightwish are truly capable of doing if they are out to hunt for some of those truly epic, rich and most emotional yet pompously moving elements into their awesomely colorful world of sounds. And no doubt, I can already rather safely see them sticking with a concept of sounds for similar type of atmospheres that has been captured inside “Creek Mary´s Blood”. It´s simply THE ART of music from its 1st seconds to the last climax end of the song.
As for Nightwish´s true sense for ballad type of songs, it´s probably nearly impossible for any band to achieve as beautiful, touching and sorrowful a song as “Kuolema Tekee Taiteilijan” is, the 2nd last song on ONCE. Tarja´s vocal parts in it are simply... very beautiful and damn emotionally moving. The song nearly put me into tears due to its overall deeply touching, magical beauty... what a magnificent song it really is all in all.
It´s already become quite clear to everybody while you´ve been reading my review this far, Nightwish have recorded their most ambitious and most monumental album of the band´s whole career thus far. Therefore, one question still remains the same: Where can they possibly go from ONCE? I suppose not even ´the headwish´ Tuomas Holopainen knows the answer for that yet. Time shall tell... we just have to wait and see. Until then, feel free to enjoy this masterpiece called ONCE maximally.
Nightwish, the Finnish melodic metallers, return with their best album since WISHMASTER. While I did enjoy their previous release, CENTURY CHILD, it never possessed me with the save fervor as WISHMASTER or OCEANBORN. ONCE is full of heavy rhythms, great songs, and much better integrated vocal duets between Tarja and Marco (also in Tarot).
ONCE opens with the track “Dark Chest of Wonders”. In places it sounds like a powerful WISHMASTER track but it kicks with some very heavy guitars that are a newer progression for the band’s sound. “I Wish I had An Angel” is an example of finely blended vocals of Tarja and Marco. The thumping dance-like sound in places was unnecessary and only made me think of the band Pain. Besides that, it is still one of the album’s stronger tracks. The tour de force on the album comes as the fourth song called “Planet Hell”. This song is nothing short of pure godliness and is easily one of the best Nightwish songs ever penned. Its intro is very much like something from a movie soundtrack. The speedy and intense chorus is clearly one of the most memorable on the album. Another strong song from the album is “Siren”, which has some well placed orchestration. The Tarja/choir vocals and the main vocal line are very beautiful and haunting. The theme used for the song with the keys and open string guitar pattern is reminiscent of melodic Iron Maiden. Some of the melodies (music and vocal) have a distinctive mid-eastern feel which help transport the song to new levels. Another excellent song on here is "Ghost Love Score" which clocks at just over ten minutes. It begins with prominent orchestration and drums. The song has many sections with huge-sounding choirs and movie soundtrack moments. Despite being a long song, it never becomes repetitive. “Romanticide” is very heavy, but although this is one of the heavier tracks, it's not the best on the album. At 3:30 some "evil vocals" come in which are not the best sounding. They should of gotten the dude from “The Pharaoh Sails to Orion" if they want to use any of this style of harsher vocals. There are three songs on here that for my tastes are filler. The first of them is “Creek Mary’s Blood”…yawn...this is total foolishness. At about 4:30 the song finally takes on some substance but this one is definitely filler. The rambling talking at the end of the song in Native American Indian is just complete artsy fartsiness, especially considering this is coming from a Finnish band. The next stinker is “Kuolema Tekee Taiteilijan” which is sung in Finnish (makes more sense than Navajo or whatever it was). The song, if you can call it that, is a lullaby...the perfect example of why some people might not be able to listen to this band. The album closer “Higher than Hope” is another lullaby that unfortunately closes the album with a whimper.
ONCE will not disappoint any Nightwish fans. The band’s unstoppable climb to the top of the melodic metal world continues while the band reaches into new areas. The use of duet vocals and orchestration has greatly improved on this album making it one of, if not the, best Nightwish release.
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland
One of the most eagerly anticipated releases of 2004 has got to be the new Nightwish full-length, ONCE. It has only been two years since CENTURY CHILD was released but that record catapulted the Finnish symphonic metal band into a new height of success. CENTURY CHILD saw the band evolve from its operatic-dominated vocals to more of a well-rounded band effort. Tarja Turunen’s vocals were still a major focus, obviously, but the other musicians were given a chance to shine past her soaring soprano. The band’s first two albums, 1997’s ANGELS FALL FIRST and the following year’s OCEANBORN, had Turunen’s vocals mixed so highly that the rest of the band was almost literally washed out of the songs when she was belting out the lyrics. CENTURY CHILD signaled a change for Nightwish as the string sections, heavy guitar crunch and overall production was revamped and Turunen was less of a figure, sharing vocals with Marco Hietala. That path continues on ONCE, with sweeping orchestral passages, a brilliant rhythm section and ripping guitars. Once again joining Turunen on vocals is Hietala, whose distinctive voice offsets Turunen’s classically-trained pipes. The production on ONCE is incredibly crisp and rich giving each member a presence never before heard on a Nightwish CD. The orchestral sections are as much a figure in the songs as the guitar or drums and are never used as a subtle, ambient tool. For ONCE, Nightwish employed the Academy of St. Martins in the Field, the same ensemble that Howard Shore used in recording the music for the LORD OF THE RINGS movies. Their presence on is nothing less than spectacular as they bring the music a soundtrack feel, almost as if the songs were scored for a film. It should be mentioned, as well, that Emppu Vuorinen’s guitar is at a new level of heaviness on ONCE. Where the guitars were somewhat muted on past Nightwish CDs, Vuorinen’s leads are finally let loose here. Overall, ONCE is the CD that should see global success for Nightwish and frankly, it is a long time coming.
The brilliant opening track, “Dark Chest of Wonders,” is majestic and grand as strings sweep overtop of choirs and a searing performance from Vuorinen. “Wish I Had An Angel,” “Planet Hell” and “The Siren” see Hietala and Turunen trading off vocal leads that was first explored on CENTURY CHILD. Many fans spoke out against reducing Turunen’s presence, but frankly, sometimes the classical opera became a bit much. With Turunen changing her vocal style somewhat, Hietala offsets her still-powerful voice with a gruff, yet melodic tone that suits the songs. Hietala’s bass and Jukka Nevalainen’s drums are a strong presence on these tracks, too. A beefy rhythm section has never really been an ingredient on a Nightwish album but they are felt on many tracks on ONCE. Like “Slaying the Dreamer” from CENTURY CHILD, “Wish I Had An Angel” is one of Nightwish’s heaviest tracks to date. The first single from ONCE is “Nemo,” an infectious and mid-tempo track that has “hit” written all over it. A haunting keyboard intro and outro from Tuomas Holopainen sets the framework for an almost ethereal sound on this track. Turunen’s vocals are in the spotlight here and her newer, less melodramatic style is perfectly suited for this track. “Planet Hell”s epic opening section is as bombastic as I have ever heard before with strings, horns and choirs peppering the track. At 8:29, “Creek Mary’s Blood” is one of two epic-length tracks on ONCE and is the finest moment on the CD. John "Two-Hawks," a member of the Lakota Indian tribe, plays flute, sings and reads a poem in actual Lakota that was written by Holopainen specifically for the song. Vuorinen’s solo is particularly impressive on this track, as well. Middle Eastern flavors inject “The Siren” with a further exotic appeal. Also on this track, Turunen’s hypnotic vocals go above and beyond what she has done on previous Nightwish albums and are a step in the right direction. “Dead Gardens” has a great riff from Vuorainen and is another of the heavier Nightwish tracks. Hietala’s vocals and bass get further attention on “Romanticide,” as he basically takes the reins and expands on his talent with his other band, Tarot. While Vuorainen lets loose with a killer solo and infuses some amazing riffs, Nevalainen’s double-bass work is impressive to create one of Nightwish’s fastest and most aggressive tracks to date. At just over ten minutes, “Ghost Love Score” is the most extravagant and majestic track with a score-like opening that flows into Turunen sharing vocals with an enormous sounding choir. “Kuolema Tekee Taiteilijan” is the first track recorded by Nightwish exclusively in their mother tongue of Finnish. While the lyrics are obviously lost on a non-Finn speaker, the emotion of this ballad remains intact. “Higher Than Hope,” written by Hietala, goes from a slower ballad to a heavy chorus that is enraptured by more orchestral bombast. In my opinion, “Ghost Love Score” would have been a better closer since it essentially captures everything that Nightwish has done on ONCE and would have been a perfect summation of the CD.
Clocking in at a robust sixty minutes, ONCE is a magnificent trip through the many angles of Nightwish. Simultaneously heavy, ambient and exotic, this record sees Nightwish progressing further as a band. With talent like this under one heading, it is a horrible injustice to have the focus firmly planted on Tarja Turunen and following the path of CENTURY CHILD, Nightwish is poised for commercial success, while still maintaining artistic integrity. Not an easy task, but ONCE pulls it off effortlessly.
KILLER KUTS: “Dark Chest of Wonders,” “Wish I Had An Angel,” “Nemo,” “Planet Hell,” “Creek Mary’s Blood”
And so, after what seems like forever since the brilliant CENTURY CHILD, Nightwish finally return, thankfully with no more discussions of the short-lived break up, or the shock over the addition of Marco Hietala and his wicked pipes. No, no it’s all about the music on the new album – are they up to the task? Abso-fucking-lutely! I’ll declare here and now that this is far and away the best album Nightwish have ever done – by far the most complete, challenging, and diverse album of their career. Of course, I thought that about CENTURY CHILD and they’ve gone and topped it, so what do I know?
Beginning with a quick keyboard intro, “Dark Chest of Wonders” shocks right off the bat with a powerful thrash riff (?!?!) before settling into more familiar Nightwish territory with the addition of Tuomas’ keyboards. If nothing else though, it’s clear immediately that this will be Nightwish’s heaviest album to date. The following cruncher, “Wish I Had An Angel” seems to confirm this, with a driving bass line that pounds away mercilessly. Aside from the great metal anthems that we expect, the band also tosses off two of their most epic songs ever, in “Creek Mary’s Blood” and “Ghost Love Score”. The former is a Native Indian-influenced tale of loss and betrayal with impeccably somber yet bombastic music that highlights the inclusion of an orchestra in Nightwish’s music for the first time.
If “Creek Mary’s Blood” introduces us fully to the orchestral elements of ONCE, then “Ghost Love Score” easily cements the brilliance of the somewhat cliché addition of the orchestra. I mean, let’s face it, if ever a band was meant to incorporate an orchestra and classical music into its music, Nightwish is it. They’ve always had a certain classical flair and this is the next logical step. Switching from heavy, to melodic, to ballad-esque, to GLADIATOR or THE ROCK-inspired instrumental passages, the song is a definite culmination of Nightwish’s style. Simply fantastic. Of course throughout, the absolute highlight is Tarja and her otherworldly voice, as it is on each Nightwish album. Marco is somewhat more silent on this album than on CENTURY CHILD, but his vocal contributions are as stellar as ever.
There is nothing more to say. If you didn’t like Nightwish before, well, the hell with you. If you ever liked Nightwish, even a little, or if you’ve never come across them before (for shame!) you owe it to yourself to pick up this album.
Reviewer: Night of the Realm
Based on the NEMO EP, I was fairly confident that this album would be excellent, but it has managed to exceed my expectations. Symphonic, Operatic power metal my ass, Nightwish has taken it to a new level: they have added Orchestral to their moniker, and this is BY FAR the heaviest and most complex Nightwish album to date.
Incredible. Breathtaking. Absolutely Unbelievable. I am seriously in complete awe over Nightwish’s new album.
“Dark Chest of Wonders” just blasts open the album, building up with some heavy riffs (and a heavier tuning) backed up by bombastic synths and an epic choir for about a minute, until Tarja comes in briefly, then back to the build-up. The chorus is certainly a true Nightwish chorus, excellent and catchy. Also prominent in this song is the use of the orchestral effect coupled with light flutes, which recurs throughout the album.
When interviewed by my colleague Luxi, Tuomas had said that there was a “danceable heavy metal song” on the album. I can guess that “Wish I Had An Angel” is that song, because I must admit that it has a catchy, and – dare I say – “danceable” beat. It’s true, but that fact does not diminish the quality of the song; “Wish I had an Angel” is again a very heavy song by Nightwish standards, possibly because of the additional vocal contributions of Marco Hietala. Have I ever mentioned before that he is the best thing to happen to Nightwish since Tarja joined? It’s true.
”Nemo” slows things down for an almost ballad-ish song, which would sound very much at home on the WISHMASTER album. Really, I don’t have a whole lot to say about this song, except that the instrumental passages are quite beautiful.
Moving along, we get to “Planet Hell,” which I will say right now is Nightwish’s best song ever. The build-up here with an epic choir and full orchestra sound is enough to get me going, but when the guitars kick in, I am just in awe. Marco and Tarja trade off the first couple verses, but Tarja’s vocal delivery is definitely at her finest. The chorus, again using the epic choir, is bombastic and heavy. Oh yeah, and Tuomas’ keyboard bit at 3:12 is one of his best. Wow.
After the mind-blowing “Planet Hell,” it’s time to cool off a bit with the emotional “Creek Mary’s Blood,” which I feel is one of the band’s most ambitious undertakings yet. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Symphonic, Operatic, Orchestral, SOUNDTRACK Power Metal. Well, this sound about Native Americans certainly captures the rich aspects of their culture and caters to every sense. The first half of the song starts off with Indian drums, flutes, and chants in the beginning, leading up to a bit of acoustic guitar until Tarja comes in. The flutes, Native American voice, and poetry reading are handled by a Mr. John “Two Hawks” of the Lakota tribe. The song breaks around the four-minute mark with more Native American chanting, but the orchestra and flute here are truly awesome. This part of the song instantly conjures images of great, untouched landscapes and the pride of the Lakota people. You must hear this song to believe it!
Five tracks, and five winners so far. Let’s keep going.
“The Siren” – a nice guitar lead and some heavy riffs open this song up. It’s more of a mid-pace song, but the synth effects, and Tarja’s vocal delivery have almost an Egyptian/Eastern flair to them. Marco and Tarja overlap on the chorus – always a nice touch.
“Dead Gardens” is pretty much a straightforward track. The riffs here are very heavy, and some people would almost classify it as “modern metal,” but I don’t think that is the case. Marco breaks in with an interesting vocal delivery, almost a whispered growl around 3:35, then overlapped by Tarja. The odd thing is that this song just cuts out suddenly at the end.
“Romanticide” continues the heaviness laid down by previous tracks. This song goes through a lot of tempo changes but has an overall darker feel than the other tracks on the album. Emppu’s solo at 2:21 is just awesome! We also have a great trade-off between the half-growl by Marco and Tarja’s voice, which reminds me a bit of the devil voice trade-off on “Pharaoh Sails to Orion,” on the OCEANBORN album.
”Ghost Love Score” is aptly titled, namely because the whole song feels like an epic movie score, almost like the second half of “Creek Mary’s Blood.” At over ten minutes in length, this song is way too complex to describe to you, and even if I took the time, words could not do justice to this composition. This is also one of the best Nightwish songs I have ever heard.
“Kuolema Tekee Taiteilijan” - For as long as I’ve listened to Nightwish, I’ve hoped for a song sung entirely in Finnish, and now here it is. This one is a ballad, though, and consists only of Tarja being accompanied by a rich string section. The cello piece in here is very nice.
“Higher than Hope” closes out the album and gives the listener a slightly different feel as this track was composed entirely by Marco instead of Tuomas. This one starts off with acoustic guitar, joined by Tarja’s voice, and has a very melancholic and heavy (in a ponderous and emotional fashion, rather than in a heavy guitar sense) chorus. A good way to end the album.
Well, for a Crossfire review, I feel that I have rambled on far too long, but I just got so caught up in the album and enjoyed every minute I spent writing about how much I enjoyed the album. Isn’t that what reviewing is all about?
Bottom line: Best. Nightwish. Ever.