Century Child by Nightwish (2002)

We don’t leave Finland, because today we’re going to talk about another great band from this metal-head country: Nightwish.

In the 90s when Nightwish kicked off, they soon started a revolution in metal by introducing a new style that, although for us today is pretty standard and common, back in the day was all the rage. Tuomas Holopainen, main composer and founder of the band, was the pioneer that first took the risk to present a daring mixture of musical genres and elements: power metal led by keyboards, an epic and heavy atmosphere, classical and orchestral arrangements and classical singing in the figure of Tarja Turunen, who will become one of the most legendary metal vocalist ever, all of it seasoned with a few hints of gothic sound. And his experiment gave birth to a whole new subgenre and hundreds of musicians and bands inspired by them. Although the band has experimented some troubles and controversies (like the one regarding the expulsion of Tarja or her substitute, Anette Olzon), they’ve known how to develop and change their music so that they’re still rocking twenty years later.

Today’s album, Century Child, released in 2002, was the first change of style for the band still during the Tarja era. I like Tarja singing, but not that much, because as a classical singer, she seems to me just low-average, and the timbre of her voice, a bit cold. Anyway, the combination of Tuomas’ music with Tarja’s voice had a special chemistry, almost as if she was born to sing to those tunes, and so their music from that period has something magical. In this album, they keep a bit aside the characteristic sound of Scandinavian and power metal for a more refrained approach. Sometimes when I listen to it, I think it’s just an average work, while others it seems to me really good. Either way, it contains some of my favorite songs by the band and variety, that’s why it’s the album I decided to analyze first. And regarding the topics of the lyrics, this one seems more focused in love (yes, a metal album that includes some love songs, that’s possible), and keep being poetic and elegant, although they sometimes fall into tweeness or the self-pity so characteristic of Tuomas and his role as tormented music genius.

It all starts with Bless the child, an introductory song, , featuring the voice of the narrator at the beginning and at the end, with interesting lyrics that, following my own interpretation, talk about a dying man that in his last moments, remembers the innocence of childhood and the importance to keep a part of it to bring some illusion to adult life. The music is quite calm and beautiful, although maybe quite repetitive. With End of all hope seems to have been taken out of Wishmaster, epic and fast as it is. The bridge of this song, with keyboards backing, is great, and also guitar riffs all along with choirs. In Dead to the world, Marco Hietala makes his debut as second singer, singing the verses and duets with Tarja in the chorus. And after this comes the first love song of the album, Ever dream, so sweet and orchestral, almost magical in its final part. Fortunately, Slaying the dreamer comes after to lower our sugar level. This is a hate song against the human greed and evil, rough and without excessive ornaments, containing some aggressive riffs and rhythms. After a blast of rage, always comes sorrow, and that’s Forever yours about. A heartbreaking tune about loneliness and weariness, purely melodic. With that flute, it even reminds me of Titanic, that’s why I’m not sure if I should like it… Ocean soul keeps the same mood, and starts with a keyboard introduction nocturnal and magical that I love, as the moment when guitars join in the verse. Also, I like the theme of the song and the backing low choirs that can be heard in some moments. Feel for you is interesting for how it fits the mood of the writer: it starts being orchestral and soft in the verses, where he evokes the memories of the person he used to loved and the pain he had to suffer, to turn angrier and darker as approaching the end where, jilted, he states he doesn’t feel anything for that person anymore, giving the sense he barely believes his words. The duet Phantom of the opera, although it’s a version, has become a classic of the band. The highlights? Organ and wicked riffs. And, putting an end to the album comes the ten minute long tune Beauty of the beast, a prodigy of changes and turns, starting wintry and sorrowful to then adopt a cool and elegant tone that leads to an epic lament, to get angry and aggressive again. It finally fades in a sequence similar to the one in the first song and the voice of the narrator.

In conclusion, Century Child is not the best Nightwish album ever, but it contains some of their most celebrated songs and so it worths listening.

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