Review

NIGHTWISH Oceanborn

Album · 1998 · Power Metal
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3.5/5 ·
Modrigue
Nightwish's best album

"I'm listening to some super music right now"...

...said one of my best friends during my campus years. Intrigued, I immediately came to his room to check his affirmation, and... what an ear-shock! A female opera singer over a power metal song? What was this? Never heard that before! In my defence, at that time, I suppose many other people haven't either, as this was the album that really started it all...

Whereas the debut "Angels Fall First" was still hesitating in its approach and incorporated gothic touches, this second opus saws the band now fully assuming their lyrical heavy metal orientation by pushing its concept to the maximum. Both uncommon and refreshing in 1998, "Oceanborn" marries raging and energetic guitars though elaborated compositions with superb melodies, sometimes epic, sometimes melancholic, sublimed by Tarja Turunen's ethereal soprano voice. A classically trained female vocalist, bringing her talent and her 3 octaves range to this genre, was quite atypical at the time. Her crystalline interpretation literally carries the music to a whole new dimension, magic, enchanting, elegant, out of this world...

Not everything is perfect though. The disc contains some of the band's best tracks, but also less catchy passages.

The fast-paced "Stargazers" is a glorious heroic heavy metal opener that directly transport you into another place. Its dark interlude is beautiful. Completely different, the melodic mid-tempo "Gethseman" is tragic, even touching at times. However, my favorite tune is undoubtedly "Passion And The Opera". Epic and haunting, with Tarja's aerial vocalizations and a thrilling finale! The instrumental "Moondance" opens with piano and, supported by rocking guitars, possesses quite dancing folk vibes and numerous rhythm changes. A fairy tale... "The Riddler" is energetic and powerful, whereas "Walking In The Air" is a cover of "I'm Walking In The Air", from Howard Blake's 1982 film "The Snowman". NIGHTWISH's revisit is ethereal and floating...

As I said, some titles have less seduced me. The lyrical "Sacrament Of Wilderness" contains charming moments but is overall rather average. I'm not really fond of the two songs with Tapio Wilska - ex-singer of their fellow countrymen Finntroll - either. "Devil & The Deep Dark Ocean" is raging and oppressive, but fails to really lift off. Same goes for the "Stratovarius-esque" "The Pharaoh Sails To Orion", which includes pleasant Egyptian touches though. "Swanheart" is a melancholic and gracious ballad, but a bit soapy.

Anyway, "Oceanborn" remains an influential breakthrough album, paving the way for a new genre and for future female vocalists in the metal sphere. NIGHTWISH has now definitely crafted its own identity as well as its leadership. With this impacting second opus, the Finnishs impose themselves as one of the most important formation on the nascent revival scene at the end of the 90's and will gain international notoriety. Unfortunately, the later releases won't match the same level of quality and inspiration...

One of the best power/heavy metal with female singer record, and the one to start with if you're not familiar with NIGHTWISH. Fans of progressive metal will also appreciate the numerous ambiance changes within the tracks. A journey through a fairy tale suspended world...
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