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