3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Ridiculous and Fantastic in equal measures,
This review is from: Oceanborn [European Import] (Audio CD)
This album stands as perhaps the first real classic in the increasingly crowded genre of symphonic metal and in some ways has never been equalled. In some ways this is just as well - very few bands could hope to pull it off.
The idea of trying to combine hard rock and classical music is certainly nothing new (Deep Purple's Symphony for Group and Orchestra came nearly thirty years before this release), and most major bands employ arrangers to add strings etc to their music, but by using a classicly trained opera singer and building the music around the dramatic and theatrical, Nightwish succeed in raising their music to a whole new level. The effect of operatic vocals over heavy metal is breathtaking - and a fairly logical combination if you think about it - and gives you the feeling that you are listening to something huge and special.
You would expect that by combining relatively specialist genres (with completely seperate fanbases) this would not be an accessible album, but Oceanborn is full of great melodic hooks from the guitars in 'Gethsemane' to the operatic bit at the end of 'Passion and the Opera' to the keyboards in 'Moondance', and somehow this album manages to be catchy. Tarja never appears to struggle with the demands of music, and utterly outclasses nearly every other metal singer out there, showing great control in the classical cover 'Walking in the air' and impressive power and range throughout.
The album is certinaly fantastic and unlke anything before, and in some ways unlike anything since. But it times it is downright ridiculous - simply reading the tracklist suggests some serious biblical and operatic pretensions, and these are more than borne out through the lyrics and the music. Considering that Nightwish are Finnish, and not native english speakers, the language is extremely impressive but like the music it is not tones down in the slightest. Lines such as Oracles of Delfian Domine (track 1), dulcet elvenharps from dryad forests (track 4) and games of "hide and seek in lecherous roles" populate the lyrics, and even when the language isn't quite so over-the-top the themes invariably are with tales of ancient pharohs, greek goddesses and tales of infinite dreams. It's often very hard to know what the hell they're on about, but you won't really care - this is metal as escapism raised to a zenith and it is fantastic in every sense of the word.
For me, Sleeping Sun is best track (and one of my favourite of all Nightwish's songs), but the reason this album only gets 4 stars for me is that a lot of the songs disappear in the mix of opera, metal and ridiculous lyrics, and only a handful truly emerge from the whole.
The ambition of this album is vast, and few sane bands would have attempted it, but it works and nothing else (even other albums by Nightwish) is quite the same.