Only few albums had been more eagerly awaited than NIGHTWISH's fourth album, most likely the last one with Tarja Turunen on the microphone. Now it is in my player and it is a little different than the previous albums, they do not make the mistake of just copying themselves or play the safe way too much.
The changes: On the bass we now find former TAROT- and SINERGY-bassist Marco Hietala, who also is standing for the second big change, a few male vocals to further accentuate Tarja's operatic voice. A point that will surely meet little love with a few people, but in my opinion not a bad idea altogether.
But to the music itself. The opener "Bless The Child" already is just plainly mighty and gigantic in my ears, already now one of my absolute favourite tracks by the Finns'. Very symphonic and orchestral, but still with crunchy guitars and a Tarja in top form, the whole structure of the song is barely to be put into words, atmospheric, symphonic, heavy, melodic, just great, majestic is the most fitting word!
"End Of All Hope" then is a typical NIGHTWISH-track, symphonic and Power Metallic, could just as well have been on "Wishmaster", while the following "Dead To The World" surprises us with Marco Hietala's voice for the first time. Takes a little to get used to, but Marco has a very pleasing voice, rather mid-pitched, contrasting very well with the slightly reined-in voice of Tarja, I like it a lot!
"Ever Dream" then is more on the calmer side, with a bigger emphasis on atmosphere, which culminates in a great chorus, just to dream... And then, well then we get quite a surprise: "Slaying The Dreamer". The partly heaviest track that NIGHTWISH ever have done, in the middle pretty hefty, also Tarja's voice is different here, more rocking, a change to the usual sound, but even though the vocals still are great, this style makes them more common, less unique, also Marco's grumpy vocals do not really fit too well… Not a bad song, but a little deplaced.
Well, the following ballad "Forever Yours" brings back the magic of NIGHTWISH, very measured, with Tarja's voice in the focal point, accompanied by orchestra and flute, nothin spectacular, but still dreamy! "Ocean Soul" then picks up the pace again, very melodic in best "Wishmaster"-manner and with the following "Feel For You" Tuomas (Holopainen, keyboarder and mastermind of the band - Alex) has almost outdone himself, dramatic structure, with brilliant vocals of Tarja and Marco, excellent orchestration, a masterpiece!
Just like countless other acts NIGHTWISH then try their luck at a fitting version of the "Phantom Of The Opera". DREAMS OF SANITY have had the status of the best one for quite some time, but now NIGHTWISH top that off, this song almost seems to have been written for this band, Tarja and Marco duel themselves vocally that it is pure bliss. Well, and at the end we get a ten-minute-plus bombast-monster with "Beauty Of the Beast", very, very bombastic and symphonic, with big orchestration, just a masterpiece!
Altogether a truly impressive album with which NIGHTWISH show that they do not only rely on what had brought them to the top in the past, but also dare some experiments, which mostly have truly hit the mark (only "Slaying The Dreamer" still bulks with me), especially Marco Hietala's vocals brings a totally new dimension into the sound (or rather brings it back as Tuomas himself had sung on "Angels Fall First"). Also striking the quite dark lyrics, which deal with the loss of childhood and (even though I, almost as usual, do not have any lyrics again) deal with a pretty deep topic there.
Who liked NIGHTWISH so far, will love "Century Child", doesn't fully reach "Oceanborn", but is damn close! In Finland gold after 2 hours (!) and by now platinum tells some story, doesn't it?