Tarja Turunen: lead vocals
Emppo Vuorinen: guitars
Jukka Nevalainen: drums
Sami Vänskä: bass
Tuomas Holopainen: keyboards/synthesizers
Esa Lehtinen: flute*
*not regular band member
Produced by Terro Kinnunen and Nightwish, ©2001 Century Media Records
This album was perhaps the one where Nightwish's powerful, driving "opera-metal" style of power metal became solidified in a very coherent sound, not to mention a sound that holds up with little variation in quality throughout the album. Coming off of the album "Oceanborn," an equally high-quality but slightly less-focused album, the band had chosen a direction and followed it: abandoning the ambience and folk stylings of "Angels Fall First" the band stayed exclusively with heavy material, offset very often by beautiful New-Age touches of ethereal flute breaks and massive orchestration courtesy of Holopainen's keyboard arrangements. Tarja's vocals are powerful and driving, and the fullness of her voice is much more pronounced on this album than on later releases. A solid offering, the album varies little from the formula that Nightwish has settled on, but for top-quality progressive-tinged power metal, you can't get much better than this album.
1.) She Is My Sin
The opener is one of the most stellar numbers on the album, having gotten numerous play on my iTunes. There was a time when this was my favorite Nightwish song, and this is because the vocal melodies are very powerful and excellent, and the orchestration and the guitars keep up a very driving tempo throughout. The chorus melody is a real shiner here, with Tarja essentially singing a melody that skirts around notes harmonized a third up from the rhythm chords. The solo is equally excellent, although the harmony breaks sometimes sound familiar. The key modulation is a bit hairy too, as it is out of Tarja's normal mezzo-soprano range. But this track is stellar.
2.) The Kinslayer
A solid track, the excellent guitar riffs carry this, as do the driving chants from Tarja during the verses. Emppo displays his excellence as a rhythm guitarist throughout the song, ripping off triplet gallops and staccatto chord strums like they're nothing. The song is chock-full of excellent transitions, and the orchestra break is a high point for me. The intensity at this point in the song is very high and exciting, at times reminding me of a very adrenalized "Phantom of the Opera" musical track. As distasteful as that description may sound to some though, I assure you that this is not what you may think: it's intense and driving. I love it.
3.) Come Cover Me
Featuring a beautiful intro with Nightwish's trademark flautists, the song breaks into a restatement of the melody and excellent riffs from Emppo. The verses change tone dramatically, with Tarja singing in a much lower register than normal. The melodies here from both Tarja and Emppo are stellar, and the chords support it in a very comfortable way. While following the same basic progressions as usual, at this point in the album this has not become a problem. The solo is short and sweet, and the small bridge is also pretty good, although nothing stellar. This resolves back into the verses and the choruses, on which the song ends.
This song is stellar, featuring frequent guitar/keyboard interplay and an amazing, driving chorus from Tarja. The transition from the chorus and the intro get a little hairy though. A strong track, though.
5.) Two For Tragedy
Featuring a spacey keyboard hook and the most operatic tones from Tarja, this song has got some powerful vocal melodies, and more beautiful flutework. The song degenerates somewhat in the middle though by having gigantic '80s ballad 4/4 drums blasting through the mix. The melodies also don't vary much throughout the rest of the song. Still solid, but overall weaker.
Excellent. Very driving, powerful chants from Tarja, and an incredibly awesome guitar riff from Emppo. There's a lot of rhythm guitar excellence to be had here, and the tightness of Jukka's drumming is also very apparent. These fast-paced songs are where many of Nightwish's strengths lie, because they are bombastic, fast, and inspire one to imitate the conduction of an orchestra as much as they make one bang one's head. This song has the most prominent occurences of this urge. The harmonized guitar solo is an excellent transition. Amazing guitar playing abounds for about the next minute and a half as Emppo freaks out. A stellar title track.
7.) Bare Grace Misery
This starts out with more of a "rock" vibe than earlier songs have had. The tendency for Nightwish to rely on the I-bVI-bVII and I-III-bVII style of progressions and the fairly conventional and safe-sounding melodies from Tarja may be getting stale for some people here: the weakness of Nightwish's sound is that it lends itself very well to incredible melodies, in a power metal format, with little room for the dissonance some of these bands rely on. And since western scales have only eight notes, the combinations one can make get exhausted after a while. This is one area in which the album differs from "Oceanborn:" there aren't as many incredible breakdowns on this one. The song is strong, but we may be getting tired of the styles at this point.
But then we're rapidly saved by Emppo's and Tuomas's great riffs here, with a decidedly neo-classical vibe here. There is a rare keyboard solo from Tuomas and wonderful solos from Emppo, with incredibly sophisticated harmony lines following that Dream Theater would be envious of. The fast pace of this number is a good thing. The chorus melody is typically ethereal and powerful.
9.) Deep Silent Complete
Another ethereal keyboard intro, with appropriately echoed vocals from Tarja. This song more or less follows the formula of Come Cover Me, and so doesn't really sound like anything new.
10.) Dead Boy's Poem
Following a thread established lyrically on this album, this song introduces some excellent acoustic guitar work. This makes some much-needed variety of instrumentation, but Tarja's tone differs very little even so. The big ballad drums are back, but the vocal melody here is stellar and different-sounding and helps change it. This one sounds most like a ballad for a heavy metal musical: if I could commission Nightwish to do Les Miserables in their style, one of the songs would sound like this. It would be awesome, too, by the way, if they actually did that. Beautiful piano here, with spoken-word dialogue from the boy the song is about. Great solo too. The double-timing is really good, with great drum work.
The last track is the only one approaching epic proportions, and the intro makes Phantom of the Opera comparisons not far off with the keyboard hook. Emppo matches this blinding riff with impeccable accuracy. Gallop rhythms abound here, and the melodies Tarja sings are great. This song basically goes through the dynamic levels explored on the other songs on the album, and so it serves as kind of a summing-up for the album. It's really good.
This album is going to be a 4 because the quality of the melodies on this album are stellar everywhere, and the playing and musical skills of the whole band is at a high. It's just that the tone differs so little and the notes chosen for chord progressions have little variation that the album can be difficult to listen to all the way through. All the tracks are that equal in quality. Awesome stuff though, and on the whole this album hasn't got a weak song on it.