Nightwish - Once
Nuclear Blast
Orchestral Movie Score Metal
11 songs (61.01)
Release year: 2004
Nightwish, Nuclear Blast
Reviewed by Aleksie
Album of the year

Since I wasnt working for this site quite early enough to stick my personal Album Of The Year tag to the new Iced Earth record, I had subconsiously long known what was going to be my award-receiver in the review itself. Despite the MASSIVE expectations that I had for Once, cause I already loved Century Child, Nightwish amazes me, makes me mosh, and throws in some surprises as well. Usually I don’t care for going in detail from song to song, but here I must, as a few words are not enough.

Dark Chest Of Wonders – The second the guitars hit up you know its going to be a killer. The sounds are heavier and crispier than ever before on an NW album. The problem of weak guitar sounds plagues Nightwish no more. The bass is also brought very up in the mix which is mucho bueno for me. A heavy, speedy song with one of the best choruses in Nightwish´s history. The orchestra brings a huge melodic strength to the track. An Excellent song.

Wish I Had An Angel – Produces the first big surprise of experimentation. After the great harmonyvocal intro, one could never guess what starts pounding with the chorus. A pure unshameful techno beat! That’s right, a fucking techno beat:D I couldn’t help but laugh when I first heard it and I mean that in a good way. Because as goofy as it is, it works on the song superbly. The verses and all are drummed normally with killer sounds, but the chorus features the same machine drums every time. This could very well become a club favourite, especially in metal bars around the world. And let me tell you, I wouldn’t mind if at my local night club the speakers would suddenly start blasting Nightwish instead of the MTV-r ´n´ b crap that is mostly bearable in only highly intoxicated states of mind. The song itself, killer chorus, Marcos vocals are better then ever, he truly takes Nightwish to a whole new level. A very good song.

Nemo – The first single, and the most typical Nightwish song on the record that most resembles the old albums. Not much to say, a very nice melody, again a very good chorus with the orchestra bringing backgrounds that are as beautiful as they are grandiose. Tarjas voice is also simply hypnotic. A very good power ballad.

Planet Hell – As Ben already mentioned in the single review, a very heavy tune with killer riffs and superb interaction between Marco and Tarja on the vocals. Nice choir parts bring an extremely grand feeling to the heaviness. A speedy song overall, and a great tune overall.

Creek Marys Blood – The first epic on the album, a mostly ballad type song about the history of native indians. Featuring everything from acoustic, classical guitars to the great symphony parts, and the flutes and a spoken poem brought in by native Lakota indian John Two-Hawks, this is a highly emotional and touching song. One can just imagine himself standing on the edge of a cliff watching out at the endless wilderness with small smoke signals rising in the distance. Emppu displays an awesome and stylish guitar solo too. The speed picks up a bit in the end to bring great contrasts. A great song.

The Siren – An eastern-flavoured song with sitars and egyptian-wibe-giving guitar parts, reminding me a lot of Pharaoh Sails To Orion from Oceanborn. Perhaps the only bit mediocre song on the album. Even though Tarja displays an amazingly diverse vocal performance here and Marcos strong bellowing is awesome as always, it doesn’t hit quite as strong as the rest of the album. Mostly this is because since hearing Maidens Powerslave a long time ago, no eastern-tinged song has ever sounded nearly quite as good. Still, a good song, just a bit diminshed by the humongous pieces of art surrounfing it.

Dead Gardens – its time to crank the heaviness up a notch. After a haunting orchestra intro a very heavy riff, even a bit like a speedy Rammstein-riff, starts to chug along. A very personal song, that gets extremely heavy by Nightwish standards in the end with death-like growls and even heavier riffs. A very good song.

Romanticide – The heaviness continues with another speedy riffer. Great choirs start it up with Tarja singing in her more subdued, “poppier” voice first and then bursting into full, operatic euphoria in the great chorus. Double-basses fly around and Emppu widdles an awesome guitar solo to the air. In the end the song changes to an almost Pantera-like groove where Marco screams and growls down the walls with Tarja again popping up here and there for the classic “Beauty and the beast”-vocal effect. I cant stop saying how happy I am that Marco is in Nightwish. As a HUGE fan of Tarot, Marcos own band, I truly believe that NW could not have reached these kind of heights without him. One of the finest metal voices in the world. And the song here is excellent, which I think should become a live favourite along with Planet Hell.

Ghost Love Score – But you aint heard nothing yet! Clocking in at ten minutes sharp, Ghost Love Score is an epic to slaughter all epics. This song is about as much movie score music as metal, with ENORMOUS choirs and more ENOURMOUS orchestrations that just get bigger and bigger along with the song. Heavy guitars, powerful drums, Tarjas enchanting singing, tempo changes, mood changes, ballad-esque parts, heavy chugging, killer chorus and dammit, even a bridge part in the end that is catchy as hell! Undoubtedly to me, the best song that Nightwish has ever done, case closed. This song alone justifies buying the album and certifying Tuomas as a genius. I cant get enough of this song, 50+ runs of the track (and I aint exaggerating here, mac!) and it keeps on growing! One of THE songs of this metal decade.

Kuolema Tekee Taiteilijan – For all you language freaks & geeks out there, the titles stands for “Death Creates An Artist” in Finnish. A pure ballad with only Tarjas voice, the choir and the orchestra creating stunningly beautiful atmospheres and melodies. In certain mindsets, the song will definitely send listeners into tears. Extremely beautiful, no better way to describe it. A very good song and a bold move to put a Finnish-lingoed song on an album that should do extremely well globally. As Tuomas has said as the reason for this song: "Were proud to be Finnish and want to bring it up." For some reason, I back that!

Higher Than Hope – The album closer starts out with nice acoustic picking and Tarja once again singing her emotions out like never before. From the ballad-like beginning the song builds up to a heavy, extremely grandiose song that changes the moods from quietly pacing orchestra parts to Sabbath-like chugging riffs. The choirs hammer down marvellously on the chorus and the middle also includes Dream Theater-like spoken word-dialogues in the manner of Space-Dye Vest. Tarjas operatic vocals shine like never before, the studying in Germany has definitely done wonders to her voice. A very good song.

To summarize, there is more of everything, and the band hasn’t either been afraid of some experimentations or doing new stuff with Nightwish. The production is killer and especially, finally the guitars are given a hard hitting place and sound on the album. Tuomas Holopainen has said that this album contains his musical dreams and my god, what dreams that man must have had in his head. The London Film Orchestra works perfectly and the parts Tuomas composed for the album are stunning. Forget about Rhapsody, forget about S&M, forget about Dimmu Burger, THIS is how symphonic elements in metal should sound like. The orchestra doesn’t sound like its just noodling its own parts atop of the metal and it just randomly hits the same parts as the rocking parts. Here the orchestra blends in and truly becomes a part of the band and the music.

There is only one bad thing that I can think of concerning this album. When it comes the time for the annual year-summarizing-awards, Im going to have one hell of a mind battle on which is going to be my final album of the year, this or The Glorious Burden. Cause I would like to see someone top this off, I cant even imagine that happening to myself. And to the ones bitching about ANOTHER “invented” genre name, I thought about it long and hard, and Movie Score Metal is appropriate in my view, cause many parts here are as much soundtrack-like as they are metal, thanks to the orchestra. And as an avid fan of soundtrack music as well, I just love it. Once exceeds any kind of limiting “genre” nonsense of power, epic, true, heavy or whatever metal. This is simply awesome MUSIC, I should just put that up there as the “genre definition”, but im too lazy to change it anymore!

If there is any kind of justice left in the world of music, Nightwish will dominate the globe with Once. Definitely the best album of their career. Now its my time to play Ghost Love Score again, and then through the entire album. The first words on the album say it all quite well: “Once I had a dream, and this is it…..”

Killing Songs :
All Of Em, Dammit, but The real ├╝bermasterpieces to me are Dark Chest Of Wonders, Planet Hell, Romanticide and Ghost Love Score
Aleksie quoted 98 / 100
Jay quoted 90 / 100
Other albums by Nightwish that we have reviewed:
Nightwish - Endless Forms Most Beautiful reviewed by Goat and quoted 75 / 100
Nightwish - Oceanborn reviewed by Cory and quoted 91 / 100
Nightwish - Imaginaerum reviewed by Cory and quoted 84 / 100
Nightwish - Dark Passion Play reviewed by Marty and quoted 92 / 100
Nightwish - Wish I Had an Angel reviewed by Ben and quoted no quote
To see all 16 reviews click here
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