Music

Nightwish: Once / Over the Hills and Far Away

Adrien Begrand

Nightwish

Once

Label: Roadrunner
US Release Date: 2004-10-05
UK Release Date: 2004-06-07
Amazon
iTunes

NIGHTWISH
Over the Hills and Far Away
(Century Media)
Rating: 6
US release date: 30 November 2004
UK release date: Available as import

by Adrien Begrand
nightwish-once.jpg

:. e-mail this article
:. print this article
:. comment on this article

Amy Lee should really go European. While her modest little goth metal outfit Evanescence continues to rake in the sales, her cadre of nu-metal hacks playing behind her show no creativity, and the proliferation of weepy piano ballads on Fallen is the wrong way to go. The music is simply too tame; a great voice like that requires much more bombastic arrangements in the songs, not to mention a lot more stylistic dexterity than her band provides. Female-fronted, gothic-tinged symphonic metal is huge worldwide right now, and listeners are starting to notice that veteran bands like Lacuna Coil and Nightwish are showing their American peers how to do the whole shtick properly. Following the lead of symphonic innovators Therion and the vastly underrated Dutch band The Gathering (led by the astonishing voice of Anneke van Giersbergen), both bands continue take melodic metal to a higher level.

While Italy's Lacuna Coil base their highly accessible sound around the male/female vocal interaction of singers Andreo Ferro and Cristina Scabbia, Finland's Nightwish is centered around the vocal feats of Tarja Turonen, and bolstered by some of the most devilishly over-the-top songwriting to come around this decade. A classically trained soprano, Turonen is a star in Scandinavia, and with the 2004 release of their fifth album, Once, Nightwish has become a smashing success, topping charts worldwide, achieving huge crossover success. North America remains the band's one big untapped market, but people over here are starting to catch on.

On past albums like 2000's Wishmaster and 2002's Century Child, Turonen's soaring vocals were nearly always piercingly operatic, coming close to overwhelming the rest of the band. However, on Once, she tones things down enough for all five members to be on the same level. The songs continuing to use plenty of classic "power metal" influences and they incorporate orchestral flourishes. Turonen's restraint is what makes this album work so well, as she opts for understated singing more often, instead of bludgeoning the listener with her vocal skills, and the result is the band's most accessible piece of work yet. In addition, the importance of keyboardist Tuomas Holopainen, the band's principal songwriter, cannot be overlooked. Possessing a remarkable ear for vocal hooks and melodies, his compositions differ greatly from those written by guitarists, as he places much more importance in sweeping choruses instead of monstrous riffs. This suits Turonen's singing style perfectly, and makes the band's sound so distinguishable.

Nightwish is in top form on much of the album, as epics like "Dark Chest of Wonders", "Planet Hell", and "Ghost Love Score" blend progressive qualities of contemporary Scandinavian metal with Holopainen's distinctive melodic sensibility. Meanwhile both the theatrical "The Siren" and the more immediate sounding single "Wish I Had an Angel" (the closest the band has ever come to mainstream rock) boast excellent duets between Turonen and bassist/singer Harco Hietala. However, it's the smash single "Nemo" that shows just how great Nightwish can be. Built around a simple keyboard hook, it sounds simple and majestic at the same time, as Turonen gives her most charming, restrained vocal performance to date, the song erupting in a beautiful, soaring choruses that most rock bands would kill for. The album's only weakness is the stumbling "Creek Mary's Blood", in which Holopainen's obvious obsession with Native American culture becomes to heavy-handed to bear. Aside from that one stumble, Once is a major step forward for the band, quite possibly their best album to date, and one of 2004's finest metal releases.

Originally released in Europe in 2001, Nightwish's Over the Hills and Far Away EP has obviously been released Stateside to cash in on the band's growing success, but it does offer new fans a glimpse of the band's early years, boasting a whopping 51 minutes of music, a rarity for a single. Older metal aficionados will be immediately drawn to the title track, a faithful cover of Gary Moore's Celtic-tinged song, a tragically overlooked gem from the late '80s. In fact, the song is a complete note-for-note rehash of the original, but it's performed with such joyful verve, any lack of originality is forgivable. The upbeat riffing of "10th Man Down" and the ballad "Away" are two quality B-sides, but especially enjoyable are the six live tracks that append the disc. Recorded in Finland in late 2000, the band roars through tracks from their first three albums, highlighted by Wishmaster's title track (lovably introduced by Turonen as, "Weesh-mass-ter!") and their show-stopping performance of the fan favorite "Walking in the Air".

Judging by the band's recent sold-out North American tour, the hunger for some well-crafted melodic heavy metal continues to be on the rise, and as Nightwish's cult following on this side of the Atlantic continues to grow, it will only be a matter of time before the band becomes even more of a dominant force in the genre than they already are. In the meantime, kids, toss aside those Evanescence albums, and try out the real deal instead.

7

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less
Culture

Net Neutrality and the Music Ecosystem: Defending the Last Mile

Still from Whiplash (2014) (Photo by Daniel McFadden - © Courtesy of Sundance Institute) (IMDB)

"...when the history books get written about this era, they'll show that the music community recognized the potential impacts and were strong leaders." An interview with Kevin Erickson of Future of Music Coalition.

Last week, the musician Phil Elverum, a.k.a. Mount Eerie, celebrated the fact that his album A Crow Looked at Me had been ranked #3 on the New York Times' Best of 2017 list. You might expect that high praise from the prestigious newspaper would result in a significant spike in album sales. In a tweet, Elverum divulged that since making the list, he'd sold…six. Six copies.

Keep reading... Show less

Under the lens of cultural and historical context, as well as understanding the reflective nature of popular culture, it's hard not to read this film as a cautionary tale about the limitations of isolationism.

I recently spoke to a class full of students about Plato's "Allegory of the Cave". Actually, I mentioned Plato's "Allegory of the Cave" by prefacing that I understood the likelihood that no one had read it. Fortunately, two students had, which brought mild temporary relief. In an effort to close the gap of understanding (perhaps more a canyon or uncanny valley) I made the popular quick comparison between Plato's often cited work and the Wachowski siblings' cinema spectacle, The Matrix. What I didn't anticipate in that moment was complete and utter dissociation observable in collective wide-eyed stares. Example by comparison lost. Not a single student in a class of undergraduates had partaken of The Matrix in all its Dystopic future shock and CGI kung fu technobabble philosophy. My muted response in that moment: Whoa!

Keep reading... Show less
Books

'The Art of Confession' Ties Together Threads of Performance

Allen Ginsberg and Robert Lowell at St. Mark's Church in New York City, 23 February 1977

Scholar Christopher Grobe crafts a series of individually satisfying case studies, then shows the strong threads between confessional poetry, performance art, and reality television, with stops along the way.

Tracing a thread from Robert Lowell to reality TV seems like an ominous task, and it is one that Christopher Grobe tackles by laying out several intertwining threads. The history of an idea, like confession, is only linear when we want to create a sensible structure, the "one damn thing after the next" that is the standing critique of creating historical accounts. The organization Grobe employs helps sensemaking.

Keep reading... Show less
9
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image