Soundwaves in Retrospect: 15th anniversary of Nightwish’s Once
03 Mar. 2019

Soundwaves in Retrospect: 15th anniversary of Nightwish’s Once

So the year was 2004 and Nightwish released what it would become Tarja Turunen’s swansong, Once. Things had gone bad since 2000 when the band started their first South American tour. The producer of the tour was an argentinian guy called Marcelo Cabulli whom  Tarja met, get along and quickly they  became a couple. Marcelo not only became Tarja’s boyfriend but also he became her manager for things related Nightwish and for her rising solo career so this new management generated a conlifct between Tarja and the rest of the guys. Nightwish was now a two part band with Tarja and Marcelo on one side and Marco, Emppu, Jukka, and Tuomas on the other side. So in the middle of this conflicted situation the recordings of the fifth Nightwish album started. The band had  been in a clear state of ascension but so far the long awaited success on North American shores was still not a reality; maybe this album and one specific song would be the one that finally opened the door to a whole new market and fanbase. This would be  the second album of the new lineup , Marco had been added to the band 2 years back and this provoked a significant change in the sound of the band by adding a male vocalist. The chance to rise even more was there and so Tuomas gave almost everything in order to achieve this goal. It is clear that he is not one of the best keyboard players in the world but what he is is an awesome composer/writer and Once contained probably his best work up to date.

On june 4th of 2004, Once came out and it was even better than imagined. Form the start with the power of Dark chest of wonders, the band made a statement by showing their departure from the classic power metal riffs to a more heavy metal type of riffing, adding a full orchestra (London Philarmonic Orchestra) to make things as epic and bombastic as never before. Emppu was now providing full on downstroke riffs while Jukka was beating the crap out of his drums in a Painkiller style. The third song Nemo was the first single of the album and it became a great success in  charts all around Europe. Right from the piano at the beginning to the soft yet powerful chorus the song contains probably the most catchy melody of all Nightwish discography. However, the second single and second song of the album, Wish I Had an Angel was finally the one that enter the mainstream industry as it was selected to be part of the soundtrack of the (awful) movie adaptation of the famous video game Alone In the Dark. A quite simple and heavy track also included electronic drums on the chorus, that while were a shock to listen to, it didn’t do too much difference in the quality of the song. Marco was mostly in charge of the chorus of the song but as the album progressed his participation became crucial in it. Planet Hell functioned as the end of the first part of the album by means of an structure and sound similar to that of Dark Chest of Wonders but with the inclusion of Marco’s powerful vocals. If one thought that album couldn’t get any better, you couldn’t be more wrong. The first ballad of the album entered ,Creek Mary’s Blood, only to calm things before the storm. This song had the surprise of including a native american singer to play flute, a few recited words and vocals. John Two hawks was his name an it was a foreshadowing of the folk elements that Tuomas included years later.


By “the storm”, I meant the powerful triad conformed by The Siren, Dead Gardens and Romanticide. The Siren was the less intricate song of the three but it sure was the best one. A song to head bang in some moments, to sing your heart out in some others and to close your eyes and get lost in Tarja’s voice in others. My sweet God, Tarja’s clean chest voice near right before the chorus at the end  is absolutely mesmerizing, emotive; it truly causes the effect of a siren in the sea forcing you to hear her only to die at the sound of her voice. And then came the twin sisters Romanticide and Dead Gardens. Double bass drums, heavy fiery riffs, and the right amount of keyboards and orchestration at the back of the song conformed a monstrous foundation in which Tarja displayed her power and emotion. Marco made his appearance whenever the song needed him, whether it was with his distorted Warwick infinity or his strong vocals and the result was more than perfect in each song. Now, who knew that arguably the best Nightwish song ever was about to enter our memories for the rest of our lives’ Ghost Love Score was the name of theat masterpiece that could only come not from the mind but from the heart of that wonderful composer that is Tuomas Holopainen. If Beauty of the beast from Century child was a perfect gloomy, emotional ending to a wonderful album, then GLS was the perfect ending of an era. Many of the new batch of fans that the band got with the release of Imaginaerum only know Floor Jansen’s take on the song and oh, my, God it is awesome in every way, but they can’t imagine the effect that the song and Tarja’s voice produced on every single Nightwish fan when they first listened to the song after the album was released. I have loved Floor since the days of After Forever, I loved her inclusion into Nightwish and I loved her take on Ghost love score (that final scream!!! ) but Tarja with Nightwish is a match made in Heaven.

I May had needed a moment to overcome GLS before realising that there were still two more songs to listen to. These two final two songs were rather slow and epic, kind of functioning as an outro for the album but with enough individual merit to stand by their own. Kuolema Tekee Taiteilijan was a beautiful ballad sung entirely in Finnish (which I can sing by heart) and brought up Tarja’s vocals once more to the front only accompanied by the orchestra. Finally, the last song arrived and I didn’t know how to feel. GLS had suck my heart and left it bleeding on the floor. From there I sang KTT but I definitely wasn’t ready for such and emotional ending. Broken, beat, and scarred I made it through Higher Than Hope but it drained the last drop of blood from my heart. I started the album singing and headbanging and I ended the album barely breathing. This is what Tuomas is capable of when his heart is broken; now he writes about darwin and the wonders of nature because he is happy but please, oh please, someone break his heart again because as he wrote on Beauty of the beast,

All of my songs can only be composed of the greatest of pains

Every single verse can only be born of the greatest of wishes

I wish I had one more night to live


15 years later and i still can’t’ overcome Tarja’s departure form the band, I can’t even watch the End of an Era dvd unless it is on really happy day and with a particular mindset. This is not music you listen to, this is music you feel, and the feeling goes on.

About the author

Music lover , failed musician, cursed writer.

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