The title says it all! Opinions expressed here are those of the authors. Personal tastes may vary, and we are cool with that.

Monday, June 21, 2010

CD Review: Nightwish's "Century Child"

At this point in time, Nightwish was rising in popularity and everyone was starting to take notice. Appearing in magazines, countless interviews, and numerous appearances on television, Nightwish was doing it all.

Their fourth full-length release, "Century Child", was released in 2002. The band at this time saw numerous changes that greatly affected them. The biggest change was hiring bassist/vocalist Marco Hietala in the place of Sami Vänskä. If you did not know already, Marco is the former bassist of Sinergy, another female-fronted metal band from Finland, and from Tarot as some may have known already. Sami was a good bass player and got the job done, but replacing him with Marco was a great choice and the best possible person they could have hired. Not only does he have a great set of pipes which makes Nightwish more versatile, he also brings in his experience and veteran leadership which helps them tremendously, especially with live performances.

If any of you have noticed, one of the biggest flaws with this album however is the overall production. While I thought that "Wishmaster" had great production, "Century Child" just didn't at all. The sound quality is better than it ever has been, but the mixing was just not good. The bass frequencies (Hz) were way too high and caused a "muffled" sound on this one. Out of all the albums I own, this one is the bassist I have and while I enjoy a nice thick sound, this was just overkill. Thankfully, they fixed this on their next album ("Once").

Another noticeable change was the change in style overall. Tarja's vocals are noticeably less operatic than they were in Nightwish's first three releases. She instead gives out a more emotional sound to her voice which she would adapt and evolve into later on in her career. The musical style on "Century Child" is also more symphonic, which means that the music is less power metal and slower than before. This is also the first album in the Nightwish discography to have a full orchestra recorded. Though not as prevalent or as big until the next album, this was a turning point for their sound. The songs on this album also have a different "feel" to them than before. Tuomas goes away from the fantasy lyrics and starts to really focus on emotions and feelings. These changes are not necessarily a bad thing, plus it keeps the material fresh rather than relying on the same style for every album they release.

So here is my song by song review:

1. "Bless the Child": The song starts out with a great intro which is very epic, powerful, and memorable. The intro is the best part of the song no doubt. The rest of the song is nice too, being heavily bombastic and symphonic throughout. It is a good way to start the album. 4.5/5

2. "End of All Hope": Another bombastic Nightwish song that gives off that "Wishmaster" flow to it. Though not as good as "Wishmaster", it can hold it's own and is a very powerful and rich song with lots of emotion and intensity along with a great chorus to top it all off. 4.5/5

3. "Dead to the World": This is my personal favorite on "Century Child". The intro starts out with Tarja and Marco singing the main part of the chorus together followed by a great keyboard riff provided by Tuomas. This song also is the first to feature Marco at vocals. With this song, he proves why he is a great fit for this band. This duet with Tarja, especially in the chorus section, make this a very memorable song with some very touching lyrics. 5/5

4. "Ever Dream": The song begins with Tarja and Tuomas playing their respective roles. Tuomas' intro on piano is probably one of the most recognizable in the band's history while Tarja sounds very beautiful and emotional with a build up to the main part of the song. A very romantic song that has great lyrics that really go to the extent of Tuomas' abilities as a songwriter. Emppu provides his best solo on the album and the outro chorus is just amazing. One of the better tracks on the album for sure. 5/5

5. "Slaying the Dreamer": Up to this point in time, Nightwish never made a song more angry than this one! Man, Tuomas was really pissed off when he wrote this! This song just yells metal right from the beginning with a simple, yet intense riff in the beginning. Tarja shows us her vocal versatility and intensity on this song as well. The best part of this song is the outro section where Marco just lets himself go all out. He really sounds powerful here. Tarja also does great in this section as well with her operatic skills which gives this song the final touch that it needs! 5/5

6. "Forever Yours": After such a powerful and intense song, we start to settle down to this ballad. This is the point of the album where the quality takes a step down. I usually like the ballads Nightwish comes out with, but this one is just not up to par. It just sounds corny and the melody is a bit weak, even coming from Tuomas. Definitely the weakest track on the album (besides the bonus track "Lagoon"). 2/5

7. "Ocean Soul": A rather average and bland song here as well. The lyrics are about Tuomas and what he could have been if he was a marine biologist instead of a musician. The lyrics are pretty thoughtful, but the execution is just not there and Tarja doesn't sound as good as she usually does either. Worth a listen, but not that great. 3/5

8. "Feel for You": The song begins with an odd timed bass line by Marco. That part is great, but the rest of the song just doesn't do a whole lot for me. The song is apparently about a relationship Tuomas once had judging by the lyrics. Marco does a nice job on vocals giving it more depth, but it isn't enough because the song is just average for Nightwish standards. 3.5/5

9. "Phantom of the Opera": A cover of the title song from the famous musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber. This is a great symphonic metal cover and it really does work with Marco and Tarja. The live version on "End of An Era" is better and more powerful sounding, but this is nice too. 4/5

10. "Beauty of the Beast": Another long, epic song that Nightwish is known for doing. Part one (Long Lost Love) is the slow section of the song. Tarja sounds very good here and Marco does a great job on the chorus. The next part (One More Night To Live) is the intense part of the song as it gradually builds up into an awesome symphonic metal piece that will leave you in awe! Everyone in the band plays incredible here and it is really outstanding! The last part (Christabel) is very fitting and flows very nicely while some spoken words of poetry go right with it, ending a well thought out ten minute plus song. A nice way to end the album. 4.5/5

11. "Lagoon": The first of two bonus tracks on "Century Child". Wow, this is different! I don't know what to think of this one, other than it's just not up to par to Nightwish standards. Honestly, this is one of Nightwish's worst songs and I do not know what the purpose for this song was for. Tarja sounds unusually awkward here and the music is incredibly bland too! Not recommended if you are a fan of their normal music. 2/5

12. "The Wayfarer": The second bonus track. Much like how "Wanderlust" was, this song begins right away with a very fast lead melody that is epic as hell! I am surprised this song doesn't get talked about much because this is a great song that should have been in the main setlist with the rest of the songs on "Century Child". This is pure epic symphonic power metal at it's best and there is plenty to like off of this track. 5/5

So that is my review of "Century Child". Here are my thoughts:

Pros:
-Some very important and memorable songs
-Very meaningful lyrics throughout
-The addition of Marco provides more depth in the vocals

Cons:
-Production and overall mastering could have been better
-More filler tracks than a normal Nightwish album
-Tarja is less operatic

So while this is not Nightwish's best release, I think it is still very solid and worthy of owning for anyone into symphonic power metal. This style change really was mixed by some fans, but I think change is a good thing and experimenting is what bands need to do in order to stay out of the realm of redundancy. This is definitely a horns up from me! \m/

Overall rating: 4/5

8 comments:

CanuckFan said...

I'm surprised you gave it this high a rating!

Eric James said...

@ CanuckFan

Really? Well it is still very solid and it has some great moments, despite a few off songs. It is still a CD I put in quite often!

sorcha said...

One of my favorite albums from Nightwish. Mostly cauze the adding of marco's vocals.

Nice review.

Winterstorm said...

Hmm ... this is another album that I don't like as much as before. I used not to be able to understand when people complained about the melodies of Nightwish being poppy, cheesy and saccharine, but after not really listening to this album almost for a year and then re-listening it it struck me and I could barely listen to them anymore, they're just too ... slick somehow. They even spoil Beauty of the Beast for me.

This is a definite turning moment for Nightwish, when their music began losing its edge and became much more accessible. Even though advertised as "darker", in fact it's just a diluted but pompous form of Nightwish and less fun. This is when I feel they exchanged fireworks and style for substance.

Marco's vocals are only a fig leaf to distract from the fact that this album has less of a metal edge. I like him on Dead to the World (my personal favourite here), but he totally fails on Phantom of the Opera, he sounds quite silly there.

One problem that affects Tarja's performance is that she had a cold at the time. You can hear it especially on "Ocean Soul", which, if I remember, was the track they recorded first. She sniffs and breathes throughout the album, it's awful.

"Forever Yours" has often been compared to "My Heart Will Go On". The ballads are really the weakest point of the album, although "Slaying the Dreamer" is also unconvincing and starts the trend of Nightwish trying to act all heavy and brootal while staying kid-friendly, which just sounds corny and stupid. Sort of like replacing swearwords with "cute" bowdlerisations, or Hannah Montana covering Exhumed.

I do like The Wayfarer, although it really sounds quite out of place compared with the rest of the album given how unabashedly "happy" sounding it is.

What metre is the bass line of Feel For You in, by the way?

Eric James said...

@ Winterstorm

Once again, your comment is thanked! :D

Well this was an album that really changed Nightwish and who they were as a band. The absence of Sami really hit home and it altered their direction a lot. I agree that their music did become more digestable on Century Child and onward, no doubt about it, but I still believe that the songs were very creative and unique to me because only Nightwish can pull off this kind of sound with Tarja and now Marco. As I said in my review, I like the idea of changing things up and going towards something different because I am not really a big fan of bands that keep a "sameness" formula and use that their entire career without taking any risks. Here Nightwish took a risk and it paid off in some respects. Some not so much and yes it does appear that they were going away from their original sound a little bit.

Yeah "Forever Yours" is probably my least favorite ballad by Nightwish, probably ever! And we can agree to disagree about "Slaying the Dreamer". To me, it is nice to hear a different side of this band with this song. Of course, this song I think is an influence that Marco brought in from his days in Tarot and it is clearly heard in this song!
Hannah Montana covering Exhumed?? Wow, that would be interesting!

Anyways, thanks again for your input on this! It is greatly appriecated! :D

@ Sorcha

Thank you! :D

Eric James said...

Oh yes, I almost forgot!

The time signature for "Feel For You" in the intro goes 4/4 for the first bar, then it jumps to 6/4 for the second, which is 6 beats per bar instead of the standard 4, and it repeats. The rest of the song besides the parts with the bassline intro to it is just 4/4. I hope that helped! :D

Winterstorm said...

Weird, again my comment has disappeared ...

What I wanted to express with the comparison is that Slaying the Dreamer sounds like a sanitised, "Disneyfied" version of a "brootal", angry metal song, especially the lyrics. If you want to say F**K, just F**KING SAY F**K! (I need to censor the swearwords myself now because I suspect that they were the reason my comment didn't get through.)

As for the metre/time signature, that's not really an odd one I think, in the sense of compound metre, but it would be really unusual for Nightwish anyway, except perhaps for the intro of Ghost Love Score and (just my impression, it may well be wrong) the verses of Away. Otherwise, Nightwish rarely ever stray from 4/4 at all.

This brings me to a further point. There are lots of bands who develop and change their sound (sometimes even radically - in some cases even so that every album totally different in character from every other), without ever dumbing down or diluting their music. They may release a more accessible album at one time but not stick with the concept. Take Therion: Even though their music has become mellower with time, it is still creative, courageous, intricate, adventurous, and intelligent, all the while still sounding like Therion, and achieving considerable commercial success on top. Selling out, as someone else has pointed out, also has an element of greed: it's when an artist or band who is already successful changes their sound so that it becomes more acceptable to the mainstream.

T-WAC said...

Everdream rules!!