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Review by Rick Damigella

True story - over the summer a friend of mine sends me a link from YouTube and says prepare to rock and to laugh. So I click on it and am treated to an absolutely killer symphonic metal riff and an operatic female vocal which is all at once beautiful, powerful and seductively mysterious. The video? A YouTube user created bit of comedy that pokes fun at the “misheard lyrics” of the song with mentions of a hamster, a dentist and a guy named Steven Seagull - simple, do-it-yourself graphics. Funny ideas. Really funny. Funny enough I’m laughing myself silly as I watch the thing several times over, only realizing it isn’t so much the video as the power of the music that causes me to play the video over and over, reducing it to the background for me to listen to while researching who this band is.

So apparently I have been sleeping under a rock and have not been clued in to the amazing music of Nightwish. This five-piece from Finland play a unique brand of heavy metal that causes more debate amongst fans than any other band in recent memory. With the darkly beautiful opera singer vocals of Tarja Turunen, the orchestrated style of the music and their image, the appellations of Opera Metal, Symphonic Metal, even Goth Metal are easy to place upon the Nightwish mantle.

After a quick bit of Googling, I found I was in fact listening to the title track from Nightwish’ third album, which turns out to be an incredible collection of micro-metal symphonies about Dungeons and Dragons, the Columbine Massacre and an attraction at Disneyland - all on the same album! Flash forward to 2006 and we find, just as many new fans are being introduced to Nightwish, vocalist Tarja Turunen has left the band. I do not envy the rest of the band the quest to replace her, as a vocalist of Turunen’s unique style is integral to the overall sound of the band. That said, Nightwish Mark 1 created some truly amazing music, especially on Wishmaster. While it was a humorous web video that first brought Nightwish to my attention (and I have since infected several good friends with its viral-video humor), it is their music that should grab yours. As for that video, it is still good for a laugh. There’s nothing like a hamster, a dentist and Steven Seagull to bring a smile to your face.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2006 Volume 6 at

Track by Track Review
She Is My Sin
Opening with a powerful riff that tells you this band is not your run of the mill metal band, that proposition is confirmed when Turunen’s angelic voice cuts through the metallic-orchestra with more grace, power and passion than I have heard from many vocalists. The lyrics tell of forbidden passions between a triangle of lovers with erotic liner note art to match. The keyboard and guitar interplay are a refreshing sound to hear. They are not in competition or as foils, but rather as twin instruments, played together but still unique to each like a Dave Murray/Adrian Smith or Glenn Tipton/KK Downing musical assault.
The Kinslayer
Another ear-grabbing riff pulls you right in. The pace is faster, more frantic. The vocals join in with a syncopated vocal cadence in lock step with the rhythm of the piece like a Monteverdi opera. The song’s subject matter is about the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School. The most effective (and disturbing) portion of the song is the juxtaposition of the writings of the shooters (delivered more than effectively by Ike Vil of Babylon Whores) against the lyrics sung by Turunen. This is not a glorification of the tragedy by any sense of the imagination, but a highly intense artistic statement nonetheless. The song ends with the sound of an explosion and segues directly into the next, more positively themed number.
Come Cover Me
Bright, hopeful keyboards and flute help lighten the mood following the previous song. This helps as the band launches into metaphorical passages about love, lust and passion, told in a way which leaves much to the imagination of the individual listener, letting you fill in the gaps as you see fit. This has a highly effective delivery both musically and lyrically.
Here we have a wonderful example of textbook riffology while staying true to a band’s own original conventions. Opening with a classic Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow 101 riff, hardened up into the Nightwish vein and continuing to a breakdown in the bridge that is vintage Metallica durm und strang. Combine these with Jukka Nevalainen’s double-kick drum and you have a full-bore rocker that is further propelled by Tarja Turunen’s angelic pipes. With lyrics that speak of the lust to travel the world, a daring producer or promo writer from The Travel Channel could grab younger viewers if this was used a theme song on the “Wanderlust Network.”
Two For Tragedy
Five songs in and we finally catch a breather. Airy synths lead in followed by the double tracked vocals and flute refrain. The ethereal sound gives way to a well-balanced drum line about two minutes in and, a minute later, a moody guitar solo from Emppu Vuorinen which perfectly accents the electronic palate painted by synthesizer player Tuomas Holopainen.
Here’s the reason to buy this album. It’s four and a half minutes of the best “symphonic-double-kick-drum-opera-metal-from-Finland” - ever! Coming out of the previous mellow number, the listener is treated to a sonic assault of band and vocalist in perfect unison setting the scene with double doses of the chorus before launching into the song proper. Inspired by the Dragonlance novels and equal parts Tolkien Elf-lore, this is swords and sorcery metal at its most beautiful, intense and majestic best. The drums and following guitar and bass rhythms propel this tale across the mystical landscape like a legion of charging knights on horseback. Emppu Vuorinen wields his six-string like a level 90 high-elf warrior, smiting monstrous evil with each note. His quick-chug riff leading into the chorus is instantly memorable and challenges even non-believers to air-guitar along with him. Holopainen’s wizardy is not lost amongst the thunderous number, as he conjures powerful waves of sound from his electronic forge. While the lyrics are hard to follow without the liner notes (obviously what inspired the humorous YouTube video) Turunen’s performance is epic in its scope - a must listen.
Bare Grace Misery
With a title and matching lyrics that sets the Goth Metal moniker front and center, the song is much more metal in tone. The bridge features amazing solo trading between six-strings and synth which is all at once unique and original sounding even if its inspirations lie squarely in the realms explored by Rainbow and Dream Theatre.
Again, the Nightwish trademark of synth and guitar married as one instead of one backseating to the other is shown in the explosive introduction and continues throughout the number. A wicked keyboard solo shows that more bands should be inspired and not scared away from a master on the 88 keys taking center stage instead of the traditional six-string shredding all the time. This full-bore rocker will appeal to anyone who has sprained their neck whilst listening to and trying to keep up with DragonForce.
Deep Silent Complete
Here we get another dreamy, ethereal intro where Tarja Turunen’s operatic vocal training is displayed for all its grandiose beauty. The song does not stay mellow, however, as the band quickly erupts into appropriate majesty behind her. It’s a classic example of the anthemic result of blending powerful, aggressive metal music with non-traditional vocals.
Dead Boy's Poem
The not so uplifting title does not belie what awaits the listener as they explore this near seven-minute epic. The uplifting sound of the music is the antithesis of the sad words set down by the character. It’s a power metal power ballad in style, complete with the boy of the title reading his poem to those willing to hear it. This gives a much greater effect to the piece than had these passages been sung. The song segues directly into the album finale.
Now this is a first. I challenge anyone to recall an attraction at Disneyland being immortalized in a three-part mini-opera. Starting off with icy synth stabs, the song quickly explodes into a metallic guitar and synth-orchestra explosion. The intentionally capitalized M in the middle of the title is likely there to shield the song from copyright infringement but there is no hiding what the song is about. If you’ve never been to Disneyland or Walt Disney World and seen the multimedia presentation known as Fantasmic, a bit of set up is required. Taking place with a combination of live performers, large scale puppets, flame effects and film projected on screens made from jets of propelled water, the story centers on Mickey Mouse’s imagination running wild and a battle of good and evil within the Disneyverse erupts. This eight minute piece bears no resemblance to the music of the attraction but it does include direct or veiled references to some of the most well known moments from Disney history from Cinderella to the “Night on Bald Mountain” sequence. While the “mouse” is not mentioned, his wizard mentor Yen Sid (read that backwards) does get name checked. It’s not something you are likely to hear played at a theme park, but man it would make a killer show if they did.
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