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 28, 2010

CD Review: Nightwish's "Once"

Nightwish's fifth studio album "Once" was released in 2004. This album was one of the biggest steps for the band and a lot of people took notice at this. The band was more popular than ever and many people had mixed reactions towards this release due to the change in sound and direction this album has led them too. Commercially, it would be the most successful album to date for the band, hitting the charts in multiple countries (including the U.S. Heatseekers charts) for the first time and selling 1.2 million copies worldwide. So this would mean that Nightwish was starting to finally make a mark into the mainstream.

On "Once", there were a lot of changes to the sound and feel for Nightwish. One of the biggest changes is their use of Pip William's London Philharmonic Orchestra (Lord of the Rings) into their music. This was utilized on nine of the thirteen tracks on Once, making it a definite symphonic metal experience. Another experimentation the band would use is the use of some industrial metal sounds used in songs like "Wish I Had An Angel" or "Dead Gardens" for example. This kind of an experiment of course would receive mixed reactions from their fans as it would stray away from their original sound, but never lose that distinctive Nightwish sound. Tarja's voice would be less operatic than on "Century Child" as well. Of course, she still sounds very distinct and apart in her voice from anyone else in the scene.

As many new and exciting things as this album has, it has many flaws to go with it. One of the biggest problems with "Once" is the overproduction. For the first time in the band's history, Nightwish sounds too polished and overproduced. Everything sounds good though and I am not really complaining about that, but I think it is missing it's raw edge the previous albums really had. For example, Emppu's guitar sounds too synthetic, Jukka's drumming sounds more in the background and doesn't have the same presence, and the orchestra can get too overpowering at times and it can really drown out Tuomas at the keyboard.

Another thing that is noticeable about this album is the the lack of hearing the actual band perform. There are so many guest musicians on this release that we do not really hear the band performing as much as before. For example, Emppu has much less influence and staying power on this album. He has less solos and more generic guitar work that is mainly used for backing. Tuomas' keyboard work is hardly existent because the orchestra has taken so much of that away from him (although in "Planet Hell", he does have a lot of keyboard work here).

But despite these setbacks, the album has a lot to offer and a lot of good stuff that is both memorable and full of quality. This is a different Nightwish with a new sound. So now here is my song by song review:

1. "Dark Chest of Wonders": The album starts out very strong with this explosive and powerful song. The orchestra works very well here and this is what we should expect if Nightwish was to change their direction for the better. A very catchy and memorable chorus, great lyrics, and an overall fun symphonic juggernaut that will leave you breathless! A great track to start the album. 5/5

2. "Wish I Had An Angel": This is one of Nightwish's most commerically successful songs. While a big hit in the mainstream market, I personally find this song very overrated and mediocre. It isn't a bad song really, but it isn't something I would listen to all the time either. For one thing, the main beat sounds too industrial and fake which is something I am not used to hearing from Nightwish. I will admit, it is a fun song to listen to at a bar or something, but it really is not what I would call a masterpiece though. 3/5

3. "Nemo": This is probably the most commerically successful Nightwish song to date. A very subtle mid-tempo song that has a very catchy melody to it and makes use of the piano very well. I also think this song is overrated too. Better than "Wish I Had An Angel", but knowing what this band is capable of, this isn't even close to their best track. 3.5/5

4. "Planet Hell": Now THIS rocks! My personal favorite song on the album. The intro is extremely epic and powerful with Jukka's drumming along with the orchestra. The song is very bombastic and intense which shows what Nightwish is all about. Marco and Tarja really showcase their skills very well here and there really is never a dull moment on this track! 5/5

5. "Creek Mary's Blood": A ballad about Native Americans and the Trail of Tears. A very sad and emotional song which is something that is captured here in this song. John Two-Hawks is the guest musician here and he really makes his presence felt! A very good song indeed and a great tribute to the Native Americans. 4.5/5

6. "The Siren": A very hypnotic song with Tarja pulling off some unique work with her voice. Marco also does a great job singing in the chorus to give it depth here too. This song has a mysteriousness to it that cannot be matched. 4.5/5

7. "Dead Gardens": This one is a filler track and doesn't do a whole lot for me. Just a boring mid-tempo song with nothing to brag about. 2.5/5

8. "Romanticide": A nice riff that introduces the song and is led to the angriest song on the album. Tarja's performance is nice here and the guitar solo (though rare on this album) is outstanding. Marco really sounds incredible at the end. Though not as strong as "Slaying the Dreamer", it still has that edge and anger to it. 4.5/5

9. "Ghost Love Score": This is a pure symphonic metal epic that is over ten minutes long. This is considered by many to be Nightwish's greatest song. I think it is a great song, but I also think that it is maybe a little overrated. I know that I am going to get jousted for that, but nonetheless, it is a great song with lot's of memorable stuff here and Tarja provides a great performance! 4.5/5

10. "Kuolema Tekee Taiteilijan": A symphonic ballad sung entirely by Tarja in Finnish. I just cannot get into this song, even though it sounds nice and pretty, it just doesn't do a lot for me. 3/5

11. "Higher Than Hope": This is a very sad song about Tuomas' friend Marc Brueland who died due to an illness. I like the idea for this song, but the song just doesn't deliver for me. It is just very average to me. Not bad, and it is worth a listen, but it isn't that great of a song. 3.5/5

12. "White Night Fantasy": The first of two bonus tracks. Okay, they should have left this track out! Man, this should not have been made! Tarja sounds unusually awkward and silly here and the piano sounds really cheesy. The only good part of this song is the acoustic guitar solo provided by Emppu. Besides that, it is a very forgetful song. 1.5/5

13. "Live To Tell the Tale": The second bonus track. This is another one they really should not have made. From a very cheesy opening piano melody to the rest of the song, this was a filler that really never got off the ground. This one should be skipped over too. 2/5

So that is my review of "Once". So here are my thoughts:

-Orchestra works very well
-Some very catchy songs
-Lots of diversity and experimentation

-Lack of good instrumentation from the band (lack of guitar solos, etc.)
-Lots of filler and mediocre tracks
-Too much overproduction
-Bad bonus tracks

So despite the flaws and kinks throughout the album, this is still rather good and worthy of a quality Nightwish album. But with some of these songs, the signs of directional change are evident on this album and this will carry them forward to their next release. But yes, despite it's issues, this is still a horns up. \m/ The orchestra was a nice addition and there are some very memorable songs on here too. This is still very good symphonic metal you cannot miss! Rock on!

Overall rating: 3.5/5

CD Review: Kiuas' "Lustdriven"

So the wait is finally over! The new album from one of my favorite bands entitled "Lustdriven" by Kiuas is finally out. Without a doubt, Kiuas is one of the most unique power metal bands around, mixing styles like folk, thrash, and even death metal into their music. After three solid albums, this band has proven that they indeed can compete with the best around in their genre as they have a sound that no one else possesses. With their new release "Lustdriven", they have once again proven that they are a force to be reckon with!

One of the most noticeable factors with this release is the improvement of vocalist Ilja Jalkanen. I have always felt that his voice was unique and powerful for the power metal genre. On this album he has seemed to have a much better tone and uses his style much better than he has on the previous albums. His maturity and experience can be heard on songs like "Summer's End" or "Lights are Many" where he sings softer but has a better understanding of how to use his vocals. So Ilja as a whole is sounding better than he ever has!

"Lustdriven" also keeps the same type of instrumentation present. Guitarist Mikko Salovaara keeps his signature style on guitar with his excellent shredding and sweeping skills while keyboardist Atte Tanskanen continues his assault on the keyboard with many excellent piano melodies and solos throughout the album. The drumming, provided by Markku Näreneva, is as chaotic as ever, and the bass guitar work done by Teemu Tuominen is as fast and driving as needed in a band like this.

With everything that makes Kiuas great, there is a noticeable difference on this release. As opposed to the first three albums, "Lustdriven" goes away a little from the pagan themes and focuses on humanity and lust. While this may be hard to get used to at first, I think this is a nice little change for the group to experiment and try different concepts. Like I said during the "Century Child" review, doing the same thing on every album can get a little tiring.

So now here is my song by song review of "Lustdriven":

1. "Kiuassault": With a name like "Kiuassault", expect something big and powerful! And that is exactly what this song is! In a typical Kiuas album, this one follows a great line of exciting and exhilarating fast power metal album openers! A catchy chorus along with plenty of fast and melodic guitar and keyboard work is what Kiuas is good at doing and this is exactly what this song provides! 4/5

2. "Cry Little Angel": Though not as strong as "Kiuassault", this song provides plenty of moments that are very typical of Kiuas with another catchy chorus section and plenty of cool guitar work that we would expect out of Kiuas. Not the strongest song on the album, but definitely worth a listen. 3.5/5

3. "Of Lust, Love and Human Nature": A very dark song with plenty of nice riffs, creepy piano, and hooks throughout. You can see Ilja's improvement on vocals on this track. 4/5

4. "Aftermath": Much like "Race with the Falcons" or "Conqueror", the song starts out with a furious riff that really melts your face. The middle section of this song has Mikko playing his heart out as the song slows down with his solo and then it erupts back again with plenty of energy that will guarantee a head bang with this song! Very recommended for those looking for some good modern thrash/groove metal! 4.5/5

5. "Lights are Many": As stated above, this is a song that shows Ilja's vocal improvement and versatility with how he can sing. This is basically a rock ballad that can really be a radio hit the way it is structured. The middle breakdown section has one of the most moving and powerful piano solos I ever heard! It really is amazing. That alone really boosts this song even more. While boasting a radio-friendly song, it is a very nice song and Kiuas knows how to make it work. 4/5

6. "The Visionary": Starts right away with a bang! The intro is very powerful and epic as expected from a band like this. The song never lets up from there with very impressive progressive and symphonic sections. It is even provided with the typical Kiuas chorus to top it off. 4.5/5

7. "Heart and Will": Another impressive intro at the beginning of this song. While not the most impressive track on this album, it is another good listen. 3.5/5

8. "The Quickening": A nice mid-tempo song with an impressive piano/vocal intro. This song has an 80s rock feel to it in the way the riffs and melodies are written. Another very catchy and interesting song. 4/5

9. "Summer's End": An acoustic song. To me, this is perhaps Kiuas' best acoustic song written to date. You can really tell Kiuas has a strong folk influence, especially with a track like this. The outro is unexpected and interesting, but it works and it finishes the song with plenty of epic fun. One of the album's best songs for sure! Very recommended. 5/5

10. "Winter's Sting": This is my personal favorite song on the album. A very nice upbeat power metal song with an interesting switch from acoustic to electric guitar throughout. This song is very memorable and a great way to end the album! The guitar solo is also very impressive. It has this jazzy/bluesy feel to it which is what makes Kiuas unlike any other power metal band. One of my favorite Kiuas songs to date! 5/5

So that is my song by song review. So here are my thoughts:

-Ilja's vocals have improved tremendously
-The instrumentation is impressive as it ever is
-Every song is catchy with plenty of hooks

-The lack of pagan themes at times
-Some songs can seem a bit average

Once again this album proves why Kiuas is the rising future of power metal in Finland. The band is showing lots of maturity and growth as this is another very solid release with a lot of new elements and plenty of stuff that everyone can enjoy! This is a horns up for me as this album doesn't disappoint! \m/ This is another great release from a great band! Rock on!

Overall rating: 4/5

Guest Post: Unimpressive Dream Theater/Iron Maiden Gig Experience*

*CanuckFan's note: My friend Nancy, who is married to a metalhead, Tom, trekked from Calgary to Edmonton to see Dream Theater and Iron Maiden this past weekend. She wrote to me with a lengthy description of her experience during the gig, and I thought it was worth posting here. I was quite surprised at a lot of what she had to say...

I am a relative newbie where concerts are concerned. I saw Alice Cooper and KISS as my first concerts in 1999 and 2000. Then, essentially, nothing until last year when my husband decided we needed to attend everyone “he” wants to see, so in the last year or so I have seen (in no particular order): Black Label Society, Slayer/Megadeth, Papa Roach/Buck Cherry, Offspring, Buck Cherry/Kiss, Motley Crue, Alice Cooper/Rob Zombie, (I am sure there have been others) and most recently Iron Maiden.

I must explain. For the most part, I listen to “radio-friendly” music. Recently I have been, predominately thanks to you [CanuckFan], breaking out of that bubble to foray into European female-fronted metal(ish) bands. So, in seeing many of the above bands, I do not know a lot of their stuff so I am reliant on a show. Such is the case with Iron Maiden. Of course I knew the big stuff i.e. Run to the Hills, I’m Running Free, Number of the Beast, with my favourite song by them being Can I Play With Madness.

I don’t expect much, especially knowing I may or may not like the music or the content of the show as I tend to be a bit of a prude *laughs*. An example would be Slayer/Megadeth. Tom really wanted to see Slayer and I was more of a Megadeth fan. We watched and were impressed with Slayer but left before Megadeth was over, we were that disappointed (and we NEVER leave before the end of a show!) KISS, both times I saw them, totally blew me away. We all know they are not really talented musicians or singers, but their stage show totally makes up for it. Motley Crue, even though I did not like that Vince was running around so much he couldn’t catch his breath to sing, the stage show was amazing. Even Offspring, being a less popular band in a smaller venue, completely engaged the crowd from start to finish (I have never seen an audience so energized to the very end like that!)

Which brings me to Iron Maiden. Everyone I know who had seen them (usually both in the 80’s as well as more recently) informed me they put on an awesome show. I was prepared to be amazed because they have had nearly thirty years to perfect their show. I was SO excited! Dream Theater was okay. Their music seemed good (I knew two songs) but halfway through EVERY SONG the lead singer went behind the speakers (drinking?) and five minute instrumentals ensued. It just became too much. As they played on the singer was staggering across the stage more and more. Good thing they didn’t have a longer set. *laughs*

I was surprised when Dream Theater left and the crew did not cover the stage other than the curtain which was already there. We saw an awful lot of the setting up which should have been an indication. I did not know any of the songs in the regular set (see above) so I cannot tell you what they played. By the fourth song in I was thinking it’s quite far in for them to be starting a “show”. The second last song they brought their most recent incarnation of “Eddie” out on stage. It was so obviously a man on stilts in a costume. “He” just wandered around the stage flailing “his” arms. At one point Dave (? guitarist) emulated like he was shooting “him” with his guitar, but truly, this was the most action all night. Bruce spent the show running around the stage and dancing quite badly. The only songs I recognized were two of the three in the encore. They did NOT play my fave which nearly devastated me (I made up for it by playing it on the trip home.)

We spent approximately $80/ticket as well as the trip from Calgary to Edmonton and back (when we bought the tix, Calgary was not listed on the tour as yet.) An easy few hundred dollars on a half-assed performance.

Tom, my husband, went to the Calgary show last night and said it was a clone of the Edmonton show.

Granted, these guys are in their 50’s and are maybe slowing down, but so are KISS and Crue. One concern I have seeing all these bands who had their heyday twenty or thirty years ago is they have release a lot since they were really popular and want to play that stuff. As I tend to lean commercial (*gasp*) I don’t know much of the “newer” stuff (i.e. going to see Meatloaf in August and that scares the heck out of me!)

Sunday, June 27, 2010

CD Review: Magica's "Dark Diary"

When I used to think of Romania, I'd go back to my teen years when news of the fall of communism & Nicolae Ceauşescu was in the news, and to when pictures of babies in Romanian orphanages, most of them ill and poorly cared for, made me sick to my stomach. After that, I remember lots of stories about these Romanian orphans who were adopted to Canadian couples and had terrible psychological issues as they grew up.

Magica came into my life a couple of years ago, and kind of wiped away the gloomy impression I previously held of Romania. Right from the start, I enjoyed this power metal band's fast, well-crafted music. I love Ana Mladinovici's voice, and I love the folklore themes of their albums. They have a great cast of musicians, including this wicked keyboardist called Six Fingers and a killer guitarist named Bogdan ‘Bat’ Costea.

Though I found their music strong and enjoyable, there was kind of an unpolished element to it, and I always felt that Magica was just missing out on some small level of sophistication that was keeping them from being truly magnificent. But I always had faith!

Enter Dark Diary, the band's most recent release. Right from the beginning of the first song, I was blown away. I could tell from the start that Magica had finally arrived as a power metal powerhouse. And I was thrilled!

The album opener, "Anywhere but Home" starts out with a thrashy intro, setting the pace and atmosphere for the whole album. The guitar work here and in all the songs is astounding, and the vast improvement in the band's songwriting is evident not only in this first song, but throughout. There is no filler in this release at all; all of the songs, in my opinon, are strong. "Anywhere but Home" is heavy, powerful, and really catchy. In fact, the catchiness of most of the songs on this CD is one of the things that stood out to me. Magica proves you can write hooky choruses without sounding cheesy, limp, and pop-like.

Other strong songs include "Tonight", "Wait for Me", and a song with an interesting 90s kind of feel to it entitled "On the Side of Evil." This is a really fun song for those of us who remember 90s rock really well, though make no mistake, despite it's retro-ness, this is still a metal song. In three songs, Magica utilizes a male back-up vocalist, which I very much enjoyed and found strengthened the overall sound of the album.

I have two main criticisms of Dark Diary. The first one is the mix; Ana's vocals seemed to get lost in the heaviness of the bass, lead & rhythm guitars, and there is a fuzzy kind of sound in some songs where I think they are trying to be more thrashy. Secondly, they totally under-utilized Six Fingers! The keyboards have really been relegated to the background, except in the lovely Ana-Six Fingers duet, "Dead Diary", which is less than two minutes long. I found this really disappointing because the keys were always something I admired about Magica's sound.

But all in all, this is Magica's best release in their discography and I am very happy for them. This is pure power metal awesomeness and it gets a huge horns up from me! \m/

Here is "Anywhere but Home" for you to enjoy.

Ballads Away: Elis's "Rainbow"

I have really liked Lichenstien's Gothic metal outfit, Elis, ever since I discovered them a few years ago. Tragically, their original singer, Sabine Dunser, suddenly passed away before the age of 30 of a cerebral hemmorage, and she was eventually replaced with Austrian vocalist Sandra Schleret. I totally dig Sandra! She sounds amazing on Elis's newest CD, Catharsis, and I even like her unique, Asian-inspired sense of style. Catharsis is without a doubt my favourite Elis effort; though the vocals have a different style, the songwriting is the band's strongest, and Sandra rocks big time.

There is one ballad on Catharsis, and it's called "Rainbow." I love it. The lyrics are beautiful, and the song itself is just...goose-bump-inducing.

Here are the lyrics:

Fate touched my life
Led you my way
Within a heartbeat
I was caught by your light

The surface shivered
Unveiled so unexpected beauty
True and fateful bright

You are the thought that covers me tonight
Beautiful soul, sacred ways of life
Unfold my wings,reach out for your light
To shelter you from pain tonight

A flare in time
Gathered our souls
As they touched gently
Sacred ways of fate

Love entered my life
So unexpected though so welcome
Living in your eyes

And though I know my fight begins
My soul's melting within

You are the thought that covers me tonight
Beautiful soul, sacred ways of life
Unfold my wings, reach out for your light
My heart it breaks for you tonight

My heart steady beats for you (eternal on, eternal on)
No despairing darkness can blind my sight
Show me your colours, my ray of light...
I'm burning bright, alive!

You are the thought that covers me tonight
Beautiful soul, sacred ways of life
Unfold my wings, reach out for your light
Never forsake, it's once in a life...
And here is the song. Enjoy!

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:

-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

Friday, June 18, 2010

CD Review: ReVamp's "ReVamp"

The disbandment of After Forever in 2009 was a tough experience for a lot of fans of the band and in the symphonic metal world. It came as a surprise and everyone was curious on what would happen with the members of the group, especially ex-lead singer Floor Jansen, who has started a new band named ReVamp, a symphonic/gothic metal group.

Alongside Floor on their first album is After Forever's ex-keyboardist Joost van den Broek who provides a lot of the symphonic sounds on this first release. Besides the fact that Floor sings for this group, the fact remains that his contributions on the band's debut really makes it sound "After Foreverish" besides just Floor's vocals. I must say that as similar in style as ReVamp is to After Forever, there are some noticeable differences. ReVamp is much more edgier, angsty, and angry than what After Forever ever was. Looking at the album art and session photos of Floor and the band, it is no wonder what kind of image they were able to pull off here.

One of the big things I admire about this album are Floor's vocals. She really is the bright point of this release and without her, it just would not be the same! Her feelings, emotions, and power really come through on just about every song on this album and she sounds just as good as ever, if not even more powerful and versatile than with After Forever. I must say that as much as she does so well with the vocals on "ReVamp", can the songs provide her justice? Well, let's look into that in my song by song review:

1. "Here's My Hell": I must say, the opening section of this song is very epic and powerful with the symphonic chaos that is unfolding. The song is extremely heavy, fast, and dark. The chorus is very powerful and it will not disappoint fans of old After Forever or symphonic metal in general. A great way to start the album and is indeed the best song this album has to offer! 4/5

2. "Head Up High": This is the most popular song that this band has put out so far. While not the most impressive song out there, it has it's good moments. The chorus part is very catchy, the instrumental breakdown sounds great with a nice wah-wah guitar solo. Floor really gives out a nice performance here as well. 3.5/5

3. "Sweet Curse": This is a ballad that features Symphony X's Russell Allen. If you are unfamiliar with him, he is quite the vocalist with a lot of power and tone. But in this song, he does a fairly good job, but not at the level of what we would expect from him. Floor does a good job providing some depth in the chorus, but the song is just rather average and nothing too special. Both singers are class, even though they do not show all of their potential here. The lyrics however are perhaps the best written on the album. 3/5

4. "Million": This one is faster paced in a way that reminds me of "Here's My Hell". It has a lot of intensity and feels like an old After Forever song. One of the album's better and more epic tracks. It has a nice breakdown section and guitar solo. 3.5/5

5. "In Sickness 'Till Death Do Us Part- All Goodbyes are Said": This is the point where the quality of the album starts to go down. This is the first part out of three in the "In Sickness 'Till Death Do Us Part" series. The song is a narration of a mother and a patient. Both parts are sung by Floor. This is the best song in the series, but this is still just a rather average symphonic metal song. Nothing here is really memorable. 2.5/5

6. "Break": This song as you guessed takes a break from the ISTDDUP series. This song is written more progressively than most of the album, but this is another song that I find pretty bland and more like a filler with some very depressing lyrics. Once again, nothing here is memorable, except Floor's voice but even she can't help the song. 2.5/5

7. "In Sickness 'Till Death Do Us Part- Disdain": The second song in the ISTDDUP series. This song is very forgetful though. For one thing, this song is VERY heavy and has some cool little guitar riffs here and there, but it just doesn't work too well with Björn "Speed" Strid as a guest vocalist on this song. He literally sings like a hardcore vocalist would, which kind of throws me off and makes this song sound too over the top. I am sure he does a fine job in his band Soilwork, but his excessive shouting in this song sounds a little overdone and over dramatic to me. Plus, the lyrics aren't good which doesn't help at all. Definitely the album's worst song. 1.5/5

8. "In Sickness 'Till Death Do Us Part- Disgraced": The third and final part of the ISTDDUP series. This is another very mediocre song once again. Nothing really stands out and the song is really boring with the exception of Floor's voice. 2/5

9. "Kill Me With Silence": Right from the beginning, the song is very boring and never really picks up from there. Floor sounds good but the song is just not anything to brag about. Very bland and repetitive. 2/5

10. "Fast Forward": I give the song this; it has a very nice intro and main melody to it. But after the intro, it begins to become very boring to me and it never picks up any kind of thrill since the intro. Another filler song that never takes off. 2.5/5

11. "The Trial of Monsters": The guitar and symphonic work in this song are actually quite clever. There are however some very corny and cheesy lyrics though. Despite this, "The Trial of Monsters" is one of the stronger tracks on the album. Floor's voice sounds great in this song with plenty of power and attitude. 3.5/5

12. "Under My Skin": This is definitely a filler song too, but I admit the middle instrumental section of the song is pretty cool and it really gives this song a boost. It's okay and worth a listen, but not very interesting at all. 3/5

13. "I Lost Myself": A piano ballad. Floor sounds pretty and nice as she normally does in these types of songs, but I don't find this song very interesting though as it is very average and steady with no real good hooks or interesting parts. It's worth a listen though. 3/5

14. "No Honey For the Damned": This is the bonus track for this album. It has some good riffs and nice symphonic parts that really flow well here and there and Floor's voice sounds very good too, but there isn't much here to take in as it is just an average symphonic metal song that doesn't really stand out. Solid, but not amazing. 3/5

So that is my review of "ReVamp". Here is my overall impression:

-Floor's vocals are top notch as expected
-Impressive symphonic sounds and melodies through the production

-Too many average, boring, and filler songs
-Lyrics aren't that good
-The band sounds uninspired and bland at times
-"Distain", they could have left that one out

So as much as I admire and adore Floor with her great voice, this album really just did not cut it for me like the way After Forever was. It could have been better in my opinion. Something was missing here, and trust me I really wanted to like this album more, but it really is like a hit or miss album that only has a few good songs. "Here's My Hell", "Head Up High", "Million", and "The Trail of Monsters" are the best and the only songs that seem to stand out to me. Besides those songs, the rest is either filler, average, bland, or just not good like "Distain" or "Kill Me with Silence" is for example. I am a bit disappointed because I really think Floor is a great vocalist that really needs some better material to work with. I am going to have to give this a horns down unfortuneatly, even though I really do not want to. /w\ I see what they want to do with what they got as they tried to put some "edge" into the music, but this is really just an average and bland symphonic/gothic metal album that isn't much different than what other bands in the genre are doing. It's not the worst album and it is only their first release, so I have to give them a little slack. I do think they can and will make some better material in the future. Only time will tell. So listen and buy at your own risk!

Overall rating: 2.5/5

Thursday, June 17, 2010

CD Review: Nightwish's "Over the Hills and Far Away" EP

In 2001, Nightwish released their "Over the Hills and Far Away" EP. I consider this an "extension" of their previous release "Wishmaster". So what is really on this EP you ask? Well, there are two original songs, one cover, and one remake of an old song plus six live performances, which happens to be audio from their DVD "From Wishes to Eternity". Since they are live performances, I am not going to bother to review them other than they were all performed very well, especially "Beauty and the Beast" which blows the studio recording away by miles. I think they could have left out a few of these live songs and put a few more original songs on this, but that is a very small complaint. One more thing to note that this would be bassist Sami Vänskä's last appearance on a Nightwish release before being replaced by Marco Hietala. So anyways, here is my song by song review:

1. "Over the Hills and Far Away": A cover of a Gary Moore song. It is rare that you see a band cover a song and making it better than the original, but this is pretty damn close! This really is a great cover and I think this is Nightwish's best cover song as a band. The song has an Irish folksy feel to it which makes it catchy and fun. The keyboard and guitar work are done very well and is very true to the original while adding that ever so famous Nightwish "flare", and Tarja really shines and makes this song her own! Nice cover. 4.5/5

2. "10th Man Down": A song inspired by war with the intro being the ambience of a battlefield, which is very similar to Metallica's "One" intro. The song then explodes into a nice mid-tempo, symphonic power metal song with plenty of bombastic moments and headbanging fun. Tapio Wilska, who was their guest vocalist on a couple of songs on "Oceanborn", provides some dark eerie parts on this track once again and it really flows well with the song. The song is fun, dramatic, theatrical, and exciting all at the time! 5/5

3. "Away": The EP's ballad. From what I hear, the band and Tuomas really dislikes this song. I personally don't think it is that bad of a song as it has a nice atmosphere and the lyrics are good yet sad at the same time. Overall, the melody is a little boring to me and doesn't match up to some of their other ballads. It's not bad, but I think the band can make better ballads and they have. But it is solid. 3.5/5

4. "Astral Romance" (2001 Remake): This is a remake of "Astral Romance" from "Angels Fall First". For one, the production on this verison is WAY better. The guitars are crisper, the vocals are mixed better, and the keyboards provide more ambiance in the mix. And of course, the male vocals are WAY WAY better (no offense Tuomas!). Provided by Tony Kakko of Sonata Arctica, the male vocal section in this song is sung amazingly and is much better and more tolerable than it was in the original. The outro guitar solo by Emppu is also very long and memorable. A great remake and this is the version I always listen to. 5/5

Since the rest are just live songs, I am going to end this review here. So here is what I thought:

-Great production
-Every song is solid and well put together
-Tarja's vocals continue to improve

-Only a couple original songs
-Too many live tracks for filler(though a few like "Beauty and the Beast" was a great performance and was a good song choice on this EP)
-Too short (I know it is an EP!)

I think this was a nice release despite being short and with only two original songs. It is worth getting because of the nice Gary Moore cover, "10th Man Down", the remake of "Astral Romance", and of course the live version of "Beauty and the Beast". This is indeed a horns up! \m/

Overall rating: 4/5

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Video Game Metal Covers: Pocky & Rocky Stage 1

Here is my latest video. I had some problems uploading this, so it is not widescreen as a result. But this is the best I can do. Enjoy!

Monday, June 14, 2010

CD Review: Nightwish's "Wishmaster"

So after such a great album in "Oceanborn", Nightwish was quickly gaining notoriety and popularity in Europe (and even in South America later on in the Wishmaster tour). Their venues were growing and the hype that was surrounding them was becoming more evident as they were gaining more fans and all of the experiences along the way.

Nightwish's third album "Wishmaster" was released in 2000. Though not quite as innovative or as impressive as their previous release, it is really close to it in quality. Some things, however, saw some improvements. For one, Tarja's vocals got better. Her tone was clearer and more sharp than it was and it is apparent that she has more confidence singing on this release as well. Another thing that is noticeably different are the way the songs are written.

It seems that Tuomas has finally found his niche for songwriting with this album. Even though the songs on "Oceanborn" were far more complex and unique, the songwriting seems more mature and more of what Tuomas had in mind. The production is much clearer and sharper than "Oceanborn" as well as the guitar being noticeably more present in the mix on this album. So some of the mistakes that were present on "Oceanborn" seemed to be fixed on this release, although there wasn't so many to begin with.

So here is my song by song review:

1. "She Is My Sin": Other than "Stargazers" and "Dark Chest of Wonders", this is my favorite Nightwish opening track on an album. It starts off very bombastic and powerful as we'd expect from a band like this and it never lets up from there with this mid-tempo power metal number. Awesome lyrics, inspired singing, impressive keyboard and guitar work all make this song great from start to finish! 5/5

2. "The Kinslayer": The opening keyboard melody to this song is great, followed by a great guitar riff by Emppu. The song is about the 1999 Columbine High School shootings, which shocked the world around that time. The lyrics are dark and memorable, and Tarja showcases her bombastic operatic sound in her voice perfectly. 5/5

3. "Come Cover Me": A very nice intro with the keyboard and a flute which leads right into a mid-tempo power metal love song. It isn't as good or as amazing as the last two songs, but it is still a good song with inspiring lyrics. 4/5

4. "Wanderlust": Right from the beginning, the song explodes into this intense keyboard/guitar melody that will rock your world. The song has many interesting melodic passages and has fantasy-based lyrics that keep you cheerful and uplifted. The chorus is epic and the outro is just amazing with Tarja providing some beautiful operatic passages! 5/5

5. "Two For Tragedy": One of the two ballads on this album. This ballad is the weaker of the two and while it isn't a bad song, it just isn't that memorable. 3.5/5

6. "Wishmaster": Only one word can describe this song: EPIC!!!!! The chorus is the most memorable in the band's history as it keeps the listener left in awe. The keyboards in this song are fantastic as well as the guitar work. The lyrics are inspired by the Dragon lance novels and really helps the atmosphere of this song. This song keeps you cheerful and happy the whole time, and it remains a classic for the symphonic power metal genre and is one of my all time favorite songs. Definitely a timeless classic! 6/5

7. "Bare Grace Misery": A mid-tempo power metal song. While not a terrible song, this is probably the weakest song on the album (besides the bonus track "Sleepwalker"). Nothing much to say about this one other than it is a filler song. 3/5

8. "Crownless": After a rather mediocre and average song, we get right back to business with this track. The opening has a great keyboard/guitar riff and it never let's up from there. This is one of Nightwish's fastest and upbeat songs to date with Jukka really putting the pedal to the metal on this one. The middle of the song with the keyboard and guitar solos are very inspired and powerful. Pure speed/power metal and an underrated song in the Nightwish library. 5/5

9. "Deep Silent Complete": After such a fast track, we slow down a little with this song. Tarja really shines on this one with her voice in the melody of the chorus. It is a very atmospheric song that is nice to listen to. 4/5

10. "Dead Boy's Poem": The second ballad of the album. This one is the better of the two on "Wishmaster". This showcases some of Tuomas' best lyrics to date and Tarja's vocals are very emotional throughout the piece. This is definitely one of their best ballads with an amazing and powerful outro. 5/5

11. "Fantasmic": Normally, I do not like Disney inspired songs (as I am not much of a Disney fan at all like Tuomas is! XD), but this song really kicks ass! The keyboard intro is so fantastic and epic, and Tarja's singing in this is so amazing! The song has a complex structure as it is divided into three parts. The first section is very heavy, fast and moving. The middle section is slower and ballad like, and has some moderately cheesy lyrics describing various Disney movies followed by a guitar solo by Emppu. The last (and best) section starts out with an amazing flute melody that is epic and powerful! Only Tuomas can think of something this cool! Tarja's vocals are bombastic and mind blowing here as usual with a great heavy guitar riff around the middle. The outro repeats the chorus very theatrically and finishes this awesome song. This is an amazing song, despite the lyrics being a little cheesy at times. 4.5/5

12. "Sleepwalker": This was the bonus track for this album and was released to be a song for the Eurovision competition. Since this was a Eurovision song, it really isn't that great and kind of lame for Nightwish standards. There isn't much to say about this one because I am not a big fan of this song. 2.5/5

So that is my review of "Wishmaster". So here is what I thought overall:

-Tarja's vocals improved since the last album
-All of the songs are very catchy with amazing and memorable melodic passages throughout
-Improved production
-Plenty of fast, power metal fun

-Cheesy lyrics on some songs
-A few filler tracks

So while this album is not as good as "Oceanborn", I consider this quality power metal and is among one of my favorite albums. It is Nightwish's second best album in my opinion. Definitely a horns up \m/. Not a "classic" rating for this, but a solid 5/5.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Upcoming Attractions

2010 is shaping up to be a year with a lot of great bands releasing new material. Here is a list of what I'm looking forward to.

1. Tarja's What Lies Beneath. Release date for North America: August, apparently.

2. Sabaton's Coat of Arms. North American release date: June 29, according to I have pre-ordered it!

3. Crimfall, title unknown. This CD is slated to be released in the fall, and I can't wait.

4. Visions of Atlantis, title unknown. Their web site is down & I can't find any recent news, but I have heard that they are in the studio recording and that something might be released this year.

5. Evanescence, title unknown. North American release date: sometime in the fall.

6. Amberian Dawn, title unknown. In an interview published May 19, the band said the new album was in the mixing stage. The band's site doesn't mention anything about a release date, though, but I hope it's soon!

7. Within Temptation & Delain are apparently releasing new material this year, but I can't find anything on either of their sites about this.

8. Borealis, previously posted about here. Title unknown, North American release date: early fall.

9. Liv Kristine, Skintight. North American Release date: August 31! Woo-hoo!

10. Midnattsol, title unknown. Release date unknown, but they are recording this summer. Really looking forward to this CD, too!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Ballads Away!

Yes! Another series!

This one is purely devoted to underrated metal ballads - underrated according to me!

So, I love a good ballad. Sue me! I am a woman, after all, with a romantic streak, and a good ballad always puts me in a good mood. A ballad will move me and make me feel alive.

So, here is my inaugural pick. This comes from Dawn of Destiny, one of my favourite bands ever, and a band that is totally underrated. This ballad is the final song on their Rebellion in Heaven CD, and it's lovely. It's emotional, beautiful, powerful, and I find it moving. It's everything a metal ballad should be.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Tarot's "Gravity of Light" now avaliable in North America and iTunes

Just some quick news for you. Tarot's "Gravity of Light", which has been released in Finland back in March, and in Europe in April, is now released in North America today June 8, 2010. I have been waiting for this one for a while to be released here. I just got my copy off of iTunes and it even came with the album digital booklet free! This is a first for me! Really good stuff! So if you have been wondering when this album was coming out in America, well now it is here! Rock on! \m/

Sunday, June 6, 2010

CD Review: Nightwish's "Oceanborn"

There are very few albums out there that really impact and change the course of music or a genre for many years to come. Some albums have been redeemed as classics while others are considered timeless. One of those albums is Nightwish's "Oceanborn", and it is without a doubt one of my personal favorite albums of all time.

Since the band did not have an official bass guitar player during their first release, Nightwish hired bassist Sami Vänskä who was originally from Nattvindens Gråt and played alongside Tuomas Holopainen before his days in Nightwish. I think his presence really impacted the band and gave them some different approaches to the music. Alongside his friend Tapio Wilska, who was the vocalist for Nattvindens Gråt and most known for his work in Finntroll, he appeared as a guest vocalist for a couple of the songs on "Oceanborn": "The Pharaoh Sails to Orion" and "Devil and the Deep Dark Ocean". The songs on this album are more progressive, more symphonic, and more complex than what we saw from "Angels Fall First".

So here is my song by song review:

1. "Stargazers": Immediately, we are treated to symphonic power metal greatness right from the beginning. Excellent bombastic intro with a mysterious sounding melody that leaves you in awe. We are also treated to perhaps the greatest vocal performance of Tarja Turunen's career, especially the high notes in the chorus where she sings "Watching the eyes of the night". Symphonic metal really does not get much better than this, and this is really one of the best Nightwish songs of all time. Definitely deserves a classic rating. 6/5

2. "Gethsemane": The song begins with what I consider one of the most memorable melodies of all time. After that we get a very emotional song with Tarja once again putting out another stellar performance. The song is complex and very powerful with perhaps the most poetic lyrics of Tuomas' career. Definitely one of their most complex songs they have ever written and Emppu's lead in the outro is memorable. 5/5

3. "Devil and the Deep Dark Ocean": Starts out with a great riff and does not let up from there as a pure balls to the wall song. This is one of two songs on "Oceanborn" with Tapio as a guest vocalist. This is indeed one of the darkest and heaviest songs in the band's history. Not as good as the first two songs, but it definitely is a good one. 4/5

4. "Sacrament of Wilderness": A mid-tempo power metal number with an amazing intro with the keyboard and guitar work. We are once again treated with great lyrics from Tuomas. Tarja does an outstanding job on this song. The whole song is just pure power metal perfection. 5/5

5. "Passion of the Opera": The intro has one of Emppu's greatest riffs of all time, followed by a great performance by Tarja once again, especially with her vocal solo during the breakdown of the song all the way to the end. Very powerful and moving. 4.5/5

6. "Swanheart": To be quite frank, this is a beautiful ballad. Tarja's voice is emotional, Tuomas' melodies on the keyboard are great, and Emppu treats us with a great outro guitar solo. Definately one of Nightwish's best ballads and most underrated. I personally find this song better than "Sleeping Sun", well at least in my opinion. 5/5

7. "Moondance": The album's lone instrumental. The main melody has a Russian feel to it, giving it the atmosphere it needs for a great piece. It is fun and exhilarating and has a nice ambient middle section. 4.5/5

8. "The Riddler": A very interesting song. The verses in the song sound very "electronic" the way Tuomas' wrote the melody during that part. It is a good song, but I find this one a bit weak in comparison to the rest of the album. Still good though! 4/5

9. "The Pharoah Sails to Orion": This is one of my favorite Nightwish songs and for many good reasons. The intro starts off very eerie and dark, followed by Tapio darkly reading off a Bible verse. After that follows the main keyboard melody which is as amazing as you will ever hear from any band. The guitar riffs are awesome, Jukka's drumming is top notch, and Tarja and Tapio really give this song justice. Epic and amazing, this goes down as a classic song with an amazing outro to cap it off. 6/5

10. "Walking In the Air": A cover of a song by Howard Blake. Tarja really sings this one very well as usual, and it really stays true to the original in what Nightwish is able to make of it and that is to turn it into a symphonic power metal song. Nice cover. 4/5

11. "Sleeping Sun": Even though this song was not on the original track list of the 1998 release of "Oceanborn", I am going to put it on here since it was on my copy of the album when I got it. Anyways, the song is beautiful, it is a Nightwish classic about the eclipse in 1999 and many fans claim this to be one of their best songs. But personally I think this song maybe a tad overrated in my opinion. I am not saying it's bad, but I think it gets a little too much craze especially when Nightwish has written better ballads in my honest opinion ("Dead Boy's Poem", "Swanheart", "Angels Fall First" just to name a few) Anyways, it is a Nightwish classic regardless. 4.5/5

12. "Nightquest": This song was a bonus track for "Oceanborn", but I will review it anyways. This is a song about the band. The opening riff is very good, the keyboard licks have a more "rock" feel than what Tuomas usually does, and the song overall is just fun and exciting. Very underrated song. 4.5/5

So that is my review of "Oceanborn". Here is what I thought about it:

-Solid songwriting and plenty of technicality throughout
-Improved production from their last release
-The band showcases the extent of their abilities on this release
-Awesome ambiance and memorable melodies
-Lyrics are top notch
-No filler tracks

-Hardly any cons, so if there are any issues, they are very minor! XD

Following the release of this album, Nightwish has not made an album that would match this since. It really is a stand-out album in their discography and a classic for the symphonic metal genre and for female-fronted metal as well. This is the album that represents the quality by which symphonic power metal is done. "Oceanborn" ranks among the best in metal albums along with Metallica's "Master of Puppets" or Iron Maiden's "Powerslave" just to name a few. I put this album in my top 5 albums and with good reason. Metal never sounded more beautiful! Definitely a genre changing album and a classic. This deserves a 6/5 and a rare DOUBLE horns up! \m/ \m/

Overall rating for "Oceanborn": 6/5 CLASSIC! Rock on!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Come Cover Me: Herr Mannelig

I first heard this song upon listening to Haggard's Eppur Si Muove, a band and an album recommended to me by someone on Metal From Finland. I loved this immediately: so atmospheric, so achey, so beautiful...And I didn't understand a single word!

According to Wikipedia, Herr Mannelig is a Swedish ballad about a female mountain troll who wants to marry a knight. The lyrics can be found here, in both Swedish and English. Wikipedia says that Haggard performs the song in Italian, even though they are a German band.

Here is "Herr Mannelig" being performed in Swedish by the band In Extremo, a German medieval metal group.

Here is a Belarusian version done by Litvintroll, a folk metal band from that country.

And here is my favourite version, sung by Haggard! And yes, I chose the LoTR video on purpose!

Which one do you prefer? I think all of them are interesting in their own way, and as a good cover should do, each band brings their own character into the song. But I have a special place in my heart for the Haggard version because I think it really captures the emotion of the lyrics. I also love the sound of the guitar in this song; it's so crisp.

CD Review: Nightwish's Angels Fall First

To celebrate one of my favorite metal bands, I have decided to review chronologically the discography of Nightwish. This band needs no introduction as they are perhaps one of the most unique bands of the last 15 years. They are also an inspiration to me in my creative thinking as well and doing a review series of this band is in a way a tribute to them and their music.

Nightwish's debut album was Angels Fall First in 1997. The band just signed to Spinefarm Records, which paved the way to many great Finnish metal acts. The world was ready to hear Nightwish, a very fresh and unique band with a female soprano named Tarja Turunen. At this point in time, seeing a classically trained operatic female singer in a metal band was almost unheard of at this point in time.

Musically, the band was inspired by a lot of the metal bands that were popular at the time, especially Stratovarius who was Finland's most popular band in 1997. Nightwish is led by Tuomas Holopanien as their keyboardist and composer. He writes most of the material for the band. At this point in time, Emppu Vuorinen was playing both guitar and bass guitar, leaving the group to have a session bassist while they performed live. Jukka Nevalainen is the drummer of Nightwish, and his input helped Nightwish achieve new heights as did the rest of the band.

So to review this album, I am going to do a track by track review:

1. "Elvenpath"- A nice medium paced power metal number to start the album. The song is about Tolkien and Lord of The Rings. A great way to start the album. Tarja gives a nice vocal performance on this one and the rest of the band performs well too. 4.5/5

2. "Beauty and the Beast"- A song obviously inspired by the Disney movie "Beauty and the Beast". It is very progressive in style, and has some very cool melodies and riffs, but the fall of this song is with Tuomas singing it. Tarja, however, comes through and saves this one. The live version with Tony Kakko from Sonata Arctica is better in my opinion. 4/5

3. "The Carpenter"- A song about Jesus with a middle eastern feel to it. This song was the single of Angels Fall First and I think this is one of the weaker songs on the album. For one, Tuomas' singing just flat out ruins it for me, no offense Tuomas, especially in the chorus. The song just does not do it for me at all. 2.5/5

4. "Astral Romance"- A great intro and a nice medium paced power metal song. The lyrics are very poetic and Tarja really gives a great performance again. However, during the bridge, Tuomas sings again! Oh no! So the song is really amazing, but Tuomas' singing knocks this song off one point. The 2001 remake with Tony Kakko is better. 4/5

5. "Angels Fall First"- The title track. A very nice acoustic guitar ballad with synth and Tarja's awesome and soothing voice. This one is underrated and demonstrates what Nightwish sounded like before they wanted to be a metal band. Very nice and an underrated song in the Nightwish discography. 5/5

6. "Tutankhamen"- A song about King Tutankhamen with a very interesting middle eastern feel to the song in the way the melodies were written. Tarja gives us a nice performance and the guitar and keyboard work very well in this song. It is a very cool song, despite the lyrics being a little cheesy, but hey this is a power metal song! ;) 4.5/5

7. "Nymphomaniac Fantasia"- Wow... This is a very different song. Apparently, Tuomas did write about some interesting subject matter that is very uncommon in a Nightwish song. "Deeper shall be the wound between your legs" Well that says it all. That explains why Tuomas hates this one! Even Tarja sings more aggressive and evil than she usually does. Not that great of a song, but it's uniqueness gets some points. 3/5

8. "Know Why the Nightingale Sings"- This song is my personal favorite on this album. The song has some great riffing and the singing by Tarja once again was very superb. The keyboard and guitar solos at the end are very well done and is some of the best Nightwish has to offer. Very cool. 5/5

9. "Lappi (Lapland)"- This song is divided into four parts. It can drag a little at times, but it has moments of greatness. Part one is pretty cool with the acoustic guitar doing some nice work along with Tarja and a flute accompaniment. Part two is mostly synth and drums, not much going on there. Part three has the heavier guitar ballad feel which the band would use as their formula for the future in ballads. Tarja shows her emotions in this one on the chorus. Part four is a nice track with Tarja using her classically trained voice accompanied by Emppu on the acoustic guitar and Tuomas with the synth backing. Overall, a very well thought out piece. 3.5/5

So there it is! The first album of Nightwish. Here is a little breakdown of what I thought:

- Unique band and album with Tarja's classically trained voice.
- Catchy and good songs throughout.
- Keyboard and guitar work are some of the best Nightwish has to offer.
- Plenty of folksy elements that the band would not use later on.

- Tuomas' vocals.
- Production isn't the best.
- It is their first album, the best is yet to come! ;)

So this was indeed a great start to Nightwish and in my opinion is Nightwish's most underrated album. Of course they would only improve over time with their next couple of albums. So the next review of Oceanborn will be coming up soon! Stay tuned.

Overall rating of Angels Fall First: 4/5 Defineatly a horns up! \m/

Sabaton's Upcoming Uprising!

I love love love Sabaton! Their newest album, Coat of Arms is due out here in Canada June 30. I have listened to entire album, which was streaming on their MySpace page, and I really liked what I heard, so I pre-ordered it from Amazon, even though it will be shipped at the end of August when a book I really want is published then. So there will be a long wait! But it will be worth it!

Sabaton just posted a video on their Facebook page of the making of their video "Uprising," which is about the Nazi occupation of Warsaw. Here it is:

I am totally stoked!