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Review: Nightwish - Oceanborn

Label: SpineFarm Records
Year released: 1998
Duration: 56:57
Tracks: 11
Genre: Power Metal

Rating: 4.5/5

Review online: March 19, 2003
Reviewed by: Sargon the Terrible
Readers Rating

Rated 4.52/5 (90.3%) (66 Votes)

"Angels Fall First" was a perfectly good debut, rough in spots, but a good display of what Nightwish were about and what they could do. "Oceanborn" was the follow-up, and it was a quantum leap forward in songwriting, production, and overall quality. While the debut showcased a talented band who maybe weren’t too sure of themselves or where they were headed, with "Oceanborn" Nightwish seemed to know exactly what they were doing and how to do it.

The album opens in grand style with the searing riffs of "Stargazers", which is almost like a metal version of the theme from ‘Last of the Mohicans’. It’s a fast and furious track with thundering double-bass and Tarja in full force, showing off the voice that’s made her a legend in her own time. "Gethsemene" follows with hairpin time changes and orchestral layers that make it sound epic as a real opera. The first two tracks are a great one-two punch to kick off the album. Other great songs here are "Sacrament of Wilderness", "Passion and the Opera" and "Pharoah Sails to Orion". All towering, thundering cuts with the trademark Nightwish sound, somewhere between Wagner, Basil Poledouris and Crimson Glory. "Walking in the Air" is a smoother, trancelike song that closes out the album. I have the original Spinefarm release with the bonus song "Sleeping Sun", a beautiful genuine ballad that’s actually one of my favorite Nightwish tunes of all.

There are a few filler songs here: "Devil and the Deep Dark Ocean", "Swanheart", they aren’t bad, but they don’t match the superlative quality of the rest of the album. "Moondance" is a good song, too, but its oom-pa oom-pa polka sensibility makes it sound kind of silly to me.

The original release on Spinefarm has a very cool cover, which was, er, ‘re-interpreted’ for the Drakkar pressing for some reason. Tuomas reportedly refers to this version as the "Dead girl on the beach" cover. The interior band pic looks a bit like a St. Pauli girl ad, with Tarja looking like she should be holding a tray of brewskis. The lyrics are silly in places, but mostly I think due to so-so translation.

This was the CD that put Nightwish over the top and made them a huge act. "Oceanborn" is a tremendously good album whose few flaws are more than made up for by its virtues. Anyone who is a fan of melodic metal at all should have this, as it is just too good to pass up. If you are a Nightwish fan already and somehow don’t have this CD, go get it right now you hoser. And if you hate Nightwish, just stay the hell out of my sight.

Standouts: Stargazers, Gethsemene, Passion and the Opera, Sleeping Sun.

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