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Angels Fall First

Nightwish - Angels Fall First ©1997 Spinefarm
1. Elvenpath
2. Beauty And The Beast
3. The Carpenter
4. Astral Romance
5. Angels Fall First
6. Tutankhamen
7. Nymphomaniac Fantasia
8. Know Why The Nightingale Sings
9. Lappi (Lapland)

The first Nightwish album, which I believe was recorded more as a demo than an actual proper debut album, is actually quite a pleasant listen. The Finnish band was only beginning to properly discover their particular style, which includes a bit of old power metal in the vein of Gamma Ray/Helloween, well sung soprano female vocals, a touch of folk influence in the keyboards and an overall sense of class. The songs all ooze a polished, large sound, even for a small label release. Moreover, the Tarja's vocals are a perfect fit for this music, as most of their counterparts in this sort of music usually feature grown men trying to hit the same notes. In that sort of battle, Tarja is the guaranteed winner. Some of the songs here feature duets between Tarja and keyboardist Tuomas, but his slightly unconfident voice is a bit disconcerting in comparison to hers. On the plus side, his keyboards play a major part in constructing the band's music and add a lot of the depth. No one particular song stands out anywhere on Angels Fall First but the listening experience on a whole is quite enjoyable. The very good use of mood, well structured songs and musical ability makes this album a good pick for anyone into a classier sort of power metal.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 06/2000

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Nightwish - Oceanborn ©1998 Spinefarm
1. Stargazers
2. Gethsemane
3. Devil & The Deep Dark Ocean
4. Sacrament Of Wilderness
5. Passion And The Opera
6. Swanheart
7. Moondance
8. The Riddler
9. The Pharaoh Sails To Orion
10. Walking In The Air

Nightwish's Angels Fall First is one of the better debut performances by any band, and the Finns are back to demonstrate that there's no sophomore slump with Oceanborn. But really, who can go wrong with a female operatic singer? Tarja's vocals are a real treat, and it's nice to hear someone other than Therion bringing classical elements into metal. But I will go out on a limb and say that she ought to be more adventurous with her voice. Tarja sings mostly syllabically, and the vocal pyrotechnics of a dramatic coloratura soprano would be more appropriate for the type of symphonic power metal that Nightwish play. I'd also like to hear a greater dramatic range in her voice, particularly in more intimate songs like "Swanheart" and "Walking in the Air".

But alas, I am comparing poor Tarja to the likes of Maria Callas and Kirsten Flagstad, two of the greatest operatic sopranos this century; in metal she has very few equals. A duet with Ulver's Garm would make the heavens fall.

The lyrics are written mostly by Tuomas, who plays the synthesizer and provides the deep male growl-speak. Nightwish touch on fantasy and mythology in their songs, weaving a dreamlike, fairytale world for the attentive reader.As mentioned earlier, they play a style of symphonic power metal that at times reminds me of their fellow country-mates Stratovarius. In particular, I love the evocative flute melodies in "Swanheart" and the instrumental interplay on songs like "Stargazers" and "Gethsemane". "Devil and the Deep Dark Ocean" boasts a rousing, refreshing bridge, while "Moondance" is an instrumental track with Russian-sounding melodies. The strong, consistent songwriting and clear production only add to an already thoroughly enjoyable album. As you should've guessed by now, Oceanborn is very highly recommended for both fans of power metal and admirers of female vocals.

Review by Jeffrey Shyu

Review date: 11/1999

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Nightwish - Wishmaster ©2000 Spinefarm
1. She Is My Sin
2. The Kinslayer
3. Come Cover Me
4. Wanderlust
5. Two For Tragedy
6. Wishmaster
7. Bare Grace Misery
8. Crownless
9. Deep Silent Complete
10. Dead Boy's Poem
11. FantasMic

Melodic power metal with an operatic female vocalist . . . ah, heaven! I think Tarja could sing my grocery list and it would sound divine. I can hear the word "rutabaga" gliding musically from her lips as she . . . oh, sorry, I didn't realize I was still typing.

Wishmaster follows Oceanborn keeping the same grand epic sound that the band had displayed on the earlier release and could easily have been called Oceanborn Volume 2. The changes are subtle and easy to miss. One is that the vocal arrangements have been pushed forward. Face it, Tarja is the anchor of this group. She could sing for a high school marching band and make it sound good. Wihtout her, Nightwish would be just another of the many Stratovarius wannabees that clog the CD bins. Not that Nightwish is musically weak or unimaginative, but with this release they are really putting their best foot forward by emphasizing the vocal arrangements over Angels Fall First or Oceanborn. Then the music is also stepped up a notch. A bit more speed, and a bit more melody. A dash more depth and orchestration.

But the main thing is the vocals. The vocals are splendid, as though you'd expect anything else from Nightwish. Tarja is backed by a male quintet that meshes with her singing superbly. The over-dubbed vocals make her voice even more heavenly. Listen to the harmonies on "Wanderlust" in the outro, positively ethereal. Every track uses Tarja's voice to the very best effect. The standout track is the epic "Fantasmic" checking in at eight minutes plus that utilizes the full bag of tricks that Nightwish can dish out. Blazing speed, a thoughtful quiet interlude, soaring vocals, harmonies and intensity that together make for a great metal tune.

Fans of Nightwish will not be disappointed by this release. Those who have not yet given them a listen can't go wrong with this disc.

Review by Matthew Braymiller

Review date: 08/2000

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Over The Hills And Far Away

Nightwish - Over The Hills And Far Away ©2001 Spinefarm
1. Over The Hills And Far Away
2. 10th Man Down
3. Away
4. Astral Romance (remix)
5. The Kinslayer (live)
6. She Is My Sin (live)
7. Sacrament Of The Wilderness (live)
8. Walking In The Air (live)
9. Beauty And The Beast (live)
10. Wishmaster (live)

This disc is not a new Nightwish studio album. It is being released as a mini-disc for the two new tracks on it, "10th Man Down" and "Away" and the remix of "Astral Romance". The additional tracks appear on the European version of this release. This disc will appeal to fans fo the band who want to have everything. What you'll get is three new songs, a slightly different take on one you already have and then the concert experience. First time listeners will probably want to go with one of the full-length albums.

Fans of Nightwish will want to grab this disc. The cover of Gary Moore's "Over the Hills and Far Away" (from his Wild Frontier album) is wonderfully done and is the best track on the disc, in my opinion. It sounds like a Maddy Prior or Connie Dover tune with a great deal more oomph behind it. The track makes me believe that Nightwish could do very well releasing an album of Celtic folklore songs done in their own melodic power metal style.

The two new tracks are quite different from each other. "10th Man Down" is a majestic and sweeping track. The vocals range from the hypnotic operatic style of Tarja to the harsh vox of the song's protagonist. "Away" is a mournful softer track that really highlights the emotional abilities of Tarja Turunen. She is one of the best singers in melodic metal today.

The live tracks convey the power and magnetism of the band in concert. They get the audience on their feet and really click well with the crowd. The tracks include some of the best loved Nightwish songs. Now if they would only have a tour stop in New York!

Review by Matthew Braymiller

Review date: 07/2001

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