Monday, July 8, 2013

Nightwish - Wishmaster (2000)

I own a lot of Nightwish, and I love their music - the exquisitely fragile beauty of Tarja's voice, the depth of complexity and power in the instrumentations and the epic force of their melodies. These is their third album, and they have yet to employ an official male vocalist - instead with have a list of men providing their voices - ranging from bass to tenor. And choirs, which should make for an epic production. Oooh, and flutes - can't forget the flutes!

To be honest, I've been putting off reviewing Nightwish becuse my brother does it so much better, so more poetically. You can read his blogpost about the band here. He knows technical terms and so forth - me, I resort to adjectives and repetition of the word "ethereal". Let's see if I can do an entire Nightwish album dissection without using that E word again.

Okay, here goes:

The cover depicts a child, kneeling before a lake, a scroll before him. He raises his hands, summoning the swans to take flight. Above, the sunset paints the sky in orange lava, whilst the dark reflections of trees line the horizon. Dreamy, strings of mist cloak the horizon and set a deep and melancholic mood. The entire palatte is shades of orange and brown. Inside, the booklet contains several fold out pages and the band all look suitably angelic.

Dramatic rhythms lead us into the stirring "She is My Sin" which builds in epic scale and might, broken by Tarja's hauntingly sweet, soaring soprano. It glides like a silver-feathered swift. Now the music has subsided down as a backing, complementing her voice but occasionally taking the opportunity to fly between verses.

"The Kinslayer" pays tribute to those slain in the Columbine massacre, in 1999. It starts with a dramatic cascade of keyboards and drums, before surging into the urgent rhythm and Tarja's exquisite voice soaring above like a lost soul or an avenging angel. It intermingles with the deeper bass (or baritone?) lending an ominous edge to what was a truly tragic event.

"For whom the gun tolls, for whom the prey weeps. Bow before a war, call it religion."

Softer, gentler, flutes and gentle keyboards usher us into the folk-orientated "Come Cover Me". Gliding gently, Tarja's voice soars with the gentle rhythms, like floating through clouds on a sunlit day in early spring. There's an earthy, pagan feel.

"Wanderlust" continues with this pagan, traveler vibe. The chorus is gloriously smooth, the keyboards dancing playfully between the voices, like leaves borne on a summer breeze. It all feels wild and free, unihibited by the restraints of the modern world.
"It's not the end, not the kingdom come - it is the journey that matters, the distant wanderer."
Beautiful fade out, as Tarja's exquisite vocals fade into silence.

Haunting, slow and slumbering, "Two for Tragedy" is a lullaby, a lament. Beautifully melancholy and utterly heart-wrenching.

"Wishmaster" starts with a dramatic flourish. Undeniably fantastical, with shades of epic power metal in the lyrics. Stirring, symphonic.

Keyboards and we're into "Bare Grace Misery" another piece driven by the vocals. Honey-tongued, golden and darkly romantic.

With a flourish and a flare, we rage into "Crownless". Fast in pace and with a fairy-tale theme. Keyboardist Tuomas is given full reign here, and the keyboards surge and swell in drama and pace, whilst the drums race the vocals.
"One fragrant rose worth ten times what I am..."
 Now it is time to be enshrouded in the gloaming shadows, as we find ourselves engulfed by "Deep Silent Complete". Black velvet, sirens calling - darkly romantic, infused with bittersweet melancholic grace.

Poetic and dark, "Dead Boy's Poem" is a last cry for help, a swansong. Vocally sublime, the music plays a soft accompaniment. Haunting.

"FantasMic" offers up a change of pace, starting with a waterfall of keyboards, a beautiful kalediscope of symphonic glory. Here the keyboards are given full, dramatic reign and the lyrics return to the fantastical - and also demonstrate Tuomas' love of Disney*. Part 2 is deliciously slow and heavy with loss and longing. Melodious melancholy. As we roll into Part 3, the flute adds its lilting, playful voice (like a dancing bluebird) to the rhythm and Tuomas returns with a flourish. Tarja's voice becomes a force of nature, fast and energetic. This section seems dedicated to the villains, and as such is heavier, more aggressive.

As an unannounced surprise we have "Sleepwalker", a track not listed on my "not to be sold outside of Russia" cd. This has a more modern sound to it, the keyboards taking on a space-edgy sound. It reads on my WMP as "Passion and the Opera", for some reason.

Overall, another beautiful album from a band of great power and majesty. Epic, symphonic, glorious - do I really need to say anything more?

Rating = 10/10

* I may not have noticed this if my brother hadn't pointed it out in his review, which made me read the lyrics in greater depth: the line "A cub of the king betrayed by usurper" is a dead giveaway - that and I see mentions of Black Cauldron, Fantasia...

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