Nightwish - Century Child
Tarja Turunen - Vocals
Jukka Nevalainen - Drums
Emppu Vuorinen - Guitars
Marco Hietala - Bass, Vocals
Tuomas Holopainen - Keys & Piano
I don't know if the same if happening where you live, but in England, Evanescence seem to have had a profound effect on the music industry. And no, I'm NOT kidding. Of course, in the wake of a band like Evanescence - a band with a sound easily equated to 'underground' bands , and a band that have launched themselves to a level of success fans of those bands feel they don't deserve - a thousand and one people come out of the woodwork extolling the virtues of Lacuna Coil, Within Temptation, Lullacry, and of course, Nightwish.
Now I invite you to look at the current playlist for Scuzz, the nearest thing England has to a heavy metal music channel. They have somewhere around 40 videos a week people can vote for when there's not a show on. Out of those 40, there have recently been 2 Lacuna Coil videos, Nightwish's most recent single Nemo, and most surprisingly of all, Within Temptation's Mother Earth. That's a single taken from an album released almost 3 years ago!!! Even Cradle Of Filth's new video is getting mainstream airplay, and I wouldn't be surprised if the female vocalist in that video played a major part in that decision. What's more, both Nightwish and Lacuna Coil have at some point or another been added to the playlist of The Box - a pop channel! That's Nightwish, a power metal band with a classically trained singer, sitting alongside Usher, Maroon 5, and Robbie Williams. It's fantastic, but it beggars belief.
Another thing working in Nightwish's favour is everybody's favourite sell-out heroin-addict Jackass cohorts, HIM, and their featherheaded bastard offspring, The Rasmus. As poor as both of these bands are (or in HIM's case, have become), they both have experienced chart success, won awards from magazines (HIM were even voted Best Band In The World by Metal Hammer - I didn't realise so many 13 year old girls read it), and are both from that magical land we call Finland. Guess who else comes from Finland? Hanoi Rocks. And Nighwish.
So, with both of these in mind, it's fair to say that Nightwish's time is NOW. Hell, they've just signed a US deal with Roadrunner, if you needed more proof. Their new album, Once, has already topped the European album charts, as well as going top 5 in the UK indie chart, and going platinum a silly amount of times of their native Finland. And - irony of ironies - they're going to be on the soundtrack to a movie called Alone In The Dark, starring Tara Reid. How America reacts to them we'll have to wait and see, but the signs are incredibly good. And then, who knows? Hammerfall on TRL? Anything's possible.
Century Child was the album that got me into Nightwish, and also the album that got me into power metal. In the wake of this album I went on a musical feeding frenzy, amassing so many mp3s from Rhapsody, Iced Earth, Blind Guardian and their ilk, that my computer died under the weight of all of them and I had to reboot the thing. Back then I had dial-up, too.
So it's fair to say Century Child was a pretty big album for me. I bought it the day it was released, after hearing some mp3s on a friend's computer - she stumbled upon them while searching for Nevermore. It absolutely blew me away.
Looking back on it now, it's not as good as I originally thought it was. The thing with Nightwish is that, compared to everything around them, they're pretty unique, yet within themselves, they didn't start experimenting until Once. Be that as it is, everything from Angels Fall First up to this album is pretty much interchangable. Although, while Century Child follows exactly the same path travelled on the first 4 albums, for my money it's the best of that bunch, and is the one I'd choose to play to somebody who wanted to know what this band is all about.
So what IS this band all about? I'd definitely say that they're power metal, but there's been some debate about that in the Rock & Metal forums. They certainly have unorthodox vocals for a power metal band; not only is Tarja female, she's also undergone professional training as a soprano at both the Sibelius Academy in Kuopio, and the Music University of Karlsruhe. She completed the latter of those two courses just as Nightwish began recording this album, and she's releasing a solo album at the end of this year, featuring works by Wagner and Verdi, among others. There are also male vocals on this album, handled by bassist Marco Hietala (ex-Tarot), who has a more traditional power metal voice. All the writing credits on the album go to Tuomas, the keyboard player; a man with an equal interest in metal, classical/romantic music, and film scores. The lyrics are fairly standard power metal lyrics, only more directly emotional. The line-up is completed Emppu and Jukka, on guitar and drums respectively. Neither are likely to make anybody's 'Best Guitarist/Drummer EVERE!!!11' list, but both are more than capable.
Century Child contains several of Nightwish's best loved songs, and displays just about every facet of the band. There's the prog-rock flavoured keyboards on Dead To The World, the pure-molten-metal riffs on Slaying The Dreamer, the beautifully orchestrated single Ever Dream (love Nemo? You'll love this), and the obligatory cover, this time of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Phantom Of The Opera. In the past, Nightwish have also covered Walking In The Air (from The Snowman) and Over The Hills And Far Away, by Gary Moore, and these three songs stand up as some of Nightwish's best work.
All those tracks, the cover version aside, fall within the first half of the album, and it's tempting to say that the first half of the album towers over the second. That's not true, but it can seem that way. Forever Yours is the problem - it's pretty, and oddly reminiscent of The Land Before Time, but it feels like it kills all the momentum of the album. Ocean Soul and Feel For You, however, are both great. The album ends with an Iced Earth-style trilogy which rounds off the album nicely, and is in fact quite an overlooked track in the Nightwish canon.
So, while Wishmaster remains their masterpiece, and Once is likely to be the album that really breaks them into mainstream consciousness, Century Child stand as Nightwish's most accessible - and most consistent - work. And that's no bad thing.
Recommended Downloads -
, the album's power ballad, had provided an entry point into the band for at least a dozen people that I've got into them previously. If you want something harder, I'd say Dead To The World
- although if you really want some hard Nightwish songs this is probably the wrong album for you!