NIGHTWISH Once Nuclear Blast (2004)
I remember back in 2001 when Nightwish keyboardist/songwriter Tuomas
Holopanien was a guest at my house, we were talking about music and
what influenced him most. To my surprise, it was film soundtrack
score's, specially from the like of Hans Zimmer (Crimson Tide, the
Rock and many others) and not too much in the way of heavy music.
So it comes as no surprise that, 'Once', Nightwish's 5th full
studio album, that Nightwish have released their very own
'soundtrack'. Taking up where the previous album, 'Century Child' left
off, 'Once' is a an album of epic proportions featuring a full blown
orchestra and choir throughout. While 'Century Child' featured a mere
5 songs that boasted the orchestra/choir, this time Tuomas and crew
pull out all the stops with the most magnificent symphonic metal
album I have ever heard.
Opener, 'Dark Chest Of Wonders' kicks off things, with a heavy riff
that explodes into a raging battle guitar/orchestra battle that ends
in a dead heat. Tarj's voice sounds majestic, never out of control and
a sweet as it ever sounded. Danceable techno heavy metal song is not
what you'd normally expect from Nightwish. But 'Wish I Had An Angel'
is just that ! Already slated to appear in the new Christian Slater
movie, 'Alone In The Dark'. Heavy dark and brooding. An ideal choice
for the album's 2nd single.
1st single 'Nemo' is Nightwish at their best. A short compact song,
with massive chorus backed by some huge orchestration. Bassist Marco
Hietala steps up to the microphone to add venom to the ultra heavy,
If 'Once' has a piece-de-resistance then it surely is 'Creek Mary's
Blood', which is perhaps Nightwish's most stunning composition to
date. Featuring native american, Mr John Two-Hawks. the opening
chanting is captivating the listener to epic journey that is almost
over before its began. Its not just this song, but mid way through
when the huge symphonic sounds kick in, I am compelled to wave my
arms around, like I am conducting the orchestra myself.
'Dead Gardens' leads the charge of the second half of the album, almost
more metal and simplistic in style, yet heavy, featuring some weird
violins in a pompous middle section, along with some sublime ethnic
As much as 'Once' is Nightwish's most symphonic album, standing
equally alongside the massive orchestra, the album is also the bands
heaviest to date. the mix of guitars against the orchestra is perfect.
Something other bands like Stratovarius, Therion and even Metallica
have tried, but never quite managed to achieve the perfect balance,
that is evidenced here.
The latter half of the album stands as strong as the first,
'Romanticide' is a blast from the Nightwish past, sounding like
something that might have been on 'Oceanborn'.
'Ghost Love Score' is the album's second epic song. Featuring a
massive coral chorus sung by thousands with Tarja taking lead.
Following the Finnish language song on their debut album, 'Angels Fall
First', 'Kuolema Tekee Taiteilijan', is a nother fine song, the
language dosen't matter. A beautiful song in any language.
Simply this album is stunning, the hairs in my very hairy back have
been standing on end while reviewing this album. The album is not
immediate at all. There are many layers to un peel here, before you get
to the soul of the album. Tuomas Holopanien is a genius, he has taken
his art to the next level. Not only his songwriting, but the
orchestral parts of a standard that would make Hans Zimmer green with
envy. In fact they alone could be a soundtrack, if you take away the
bass, guitars and drums, it is a soundtrack and a damned fine one at
that. I would hazard a guess that when Tuomas is done with Nightwish,
he would have no problems diving head first into writing soundtracks
and being very successful at that.
Can Nightwish follow this album ?
I guess they can, but in the meantime, how about and orchestral version
of 'Once' ? Album of the year ? No, decade ? No. Simply an album that
is an experience and something that may never be bettered.
By the end of the final song, 'Higher Than Hope' I have tears slowly
trickling down my face, tears of joy no less.
Review by Graham Boyle