Review Summary: Nightwish taunt their fans oh-so joyously.
When it comes to sheer symphonic metal bliss, few bands can be put in the same league as Nightwish. This holds especially true with their second and third studio albums, Oceanborn
. About a year after the latter's release, the band came out their oft-cited cover of "Over the Hills and Far Away." Though the band had definitely left a mark for their name before, their popularity hit a pinnacle after the success of the said cover. Unsurprisingly, eyes (and ears) were in deep yearning for what would succeed their acclaim and surge of recognition. What we're given is a fairly different release from what the band had tackled in the past which, even with a crop of slumps, possesses just enough of the group's excellent melodic staples.
Album opener, "Bless the Child" is a real deceiver. We're immediately given a mid-paced track with the perfect level of elaboration for each of the band members. It's easy to relax and expect the rest of the album to follow suit, but then we get "End of All Hope," one of the band's more frantic and pulsating tracks. What follows until the group's hit-or-miss cover of "Phantom of the Opera" is an album that goes through the streamlined motions; with various levels of execution being scattered about.
As with several other bands who see an increase in popularity, Nightwish began to simplify their music on Century Child
in more ways than not. Even the ballad-esque "Ever Dream" indicates this strongly with its incredibly familiar subject matter and almost pop-like sound (compared to what they'd done before). This comes to be similarly regurgitated throughout the rest of the album, such as sibling tracks "Slaying the Dreamer" and "Dead to the World;" both of which feature then-newly-hired bassist and back-up vocalist Marco Hietala (replacing Sami Vanska). While both of these tracks exhibit a more throbbing sound than what Nightwish had put on display before, it also means their more distinguishable identity became compromised.
Thankfully, Century Child
manages to avoid being a merely average record thanks to the band's signature sound still existing at the very core of the music. That and the always wondrous performances by vocalist Tarja Tururen contribute to a commanding style, even during low marks, embodied on "Forever Yours." Everyone else in the band is in great form too, including Hietala; putting up his true (if limited) vocal abilities on the few appearances he makes here. At least, these points are better than what he's come to deliver in the band since. It's just a shame that more tracks don't exhibit the more layered qualities found on "Beauty of the Beast" and, to a lesser extent, "Bless the Child." The former track, also the album closer, shows that the band really are at their best during epics (the "One More Night to Live" section shows this best). "Feel for You" shows just why the rest of the album doesn't work nearly as well. It's easy to think that the song will last longer, especially after the closing minute-and-a-half on "Slaying the Dreamer." Unfortunately, it doesn't, and we're left with an underutilized song; which becomes the blueprint for too many points on the album.
The band may or may not have started going through the motions on Century Child
, but the album itself definitely has this problem. Not as many strong tracks are brought to light in their entirety here. Instead, moments (some briefer than others) during each are where Century Child
gives us what it should have more often. Regardless, Nightwish were able to keep this from being a gigantic misstep, by allowing enough of these points to come up to where it all adds up to an appeasing release. It might leave most listeners hungry for more of the better moments which they're known for, but one needn't worry about the album lacking enticements for seconds.