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Review: Nightwish - Once

Label: Nuclear Blast Records
Year released: 2004
Duration: 60:06
Tracks: 11
Genre: Symphonic Metal

Rating: 4.5/5

Review online: July 31, 2004
Reviewed by: Sargon the Terrible
Readers Rating

Rated 3.81/5 (76.22%) (74 Votes)

At last, at last. After a two-year wait since the release of "Century Child" I finally hold in my hands the new Nightwish full-length "Once" – the band's fifth CD in a discography unusually cluttered with singles and EPs. The rumors flew after the last release that Tarja was going to quit the band and be replaced by Marco, which is plainly ridiculous – despite that many people believed it. I, for one, never doubted this band, and I am glad to see that my trust was not misplaced.

Perhaps seeking to silence detractors, Nightwish have cranked up the guitars and made the heaviest album of their career here. "Once" blisters with slamming rhythm riffing that borders on thrashy at times. Now that doesn't mean they have lost any of their melodic genius, it just means they have sacrificed a bit of their subtlety for punch. "Dark Chest Of Wonders" is pure Nightwish – epic, orchestral, memorable and also heavy as fuck. "Wish I Had An Angel" makes it apparent just how much influence (credited or not) Marco Hietala has had on this band since the last album, as this sounds like a Tarot song with female vocals added – and I am not saying that is at all a bad thing. Tarot fucking rule, and I think Marco's influence has done them nothing but good. By now, everyone has heard "Nemo" the advance single. I really like this song, but I will point out how blatantly conventional it is, much like "Ever Dream" off "Century Child". Verse-chorus-verse-chorus-solo-chorus. A good tune, but an obvious radio hopeful.

Now we hit the inexplicable dead spot on the CD. We get three rather dull songs in a row: "Planet Hell" – not only a by-the-numbers song, but a ripoff of "Fantasmic" off "Wishmaster" with a bit of "The Kinslayer" thrown in. "Creek Mary's Blood" is OK, but I personally hate songs ranting ignorantly about the destruction of Native Americans by the Evil White Men. People who write these things never know jack shit about what Indians were really like. "The Siren" has some nice oriental riffing, but just kind of lies there overall. "Dead Gardens" picks things up with some ultra-heavy riffing and some speed. But things don't really get going until "Romanticide", which is another one where Tarja and Marco trade off the vocals. A lot of people complain about his vocals, but that's because they don't know their asses from ice cream. Marco Hietala rules, period.

"Ghost Love Score" has a terrible name but is actually the best song on the album. A 10+ minute epic that brings back the dynamic and melodic shading of older Nightwish along with the new snap and heavy kick. One of their best songs ever. The next track is a ballad sung in Finnish. It's nice enough, but not that exciting. "Higher Than Hope" is another ass-kicker with a great chorus to finish things off.

I don't think this one is quite as good as "Century Child", but this is still one monster of an album. "Once" shows the band at once defining their sound, exploring new ideas, and trying to break out into the mainstream without selling out. If any band can do it, it's this one. Ignore the naysayers, laugh off the fanboys who hate everything since "Oceanborn" – Nightwish have cranked out another winner and show no signs of slowing down. A more than worthy album from one of my favorite bands.

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