|Review: Nightwish - Century Child|
Label: SpineFarm Records
Year released: 2002
Genre: Power Metal
Review online: February 28, 2003
Reviewed by: Sargon the Terrible
Rated 4.4/5 (88.07%) (57 Votes)
Normally when reviewing a great album that’s selling by the truckload the impulse is to find something bad to say about it, just to prove you aren’t some trendy poseur. The nice thing here is that plenty of people have tried to do that already with this CD, so I can be radical and straight-up at the same time. I have read several reviews of this, Nightwish’s fourth full-length album, saying it’s a let-down: that it isn’t as good as "Oceanborn", that the vocals aren’t as strong, and there’s a guy singing on here, and baah baah baah. Those people are a bunch of retards. "Century Child" is the culmination of everything Nightwish are about. Every promise this band ever showed is fulfilled here, in spades. There are no filler tracks, no throwaways, no BS intros like other bands are so fond of. From the opening thunder of "Bless the Child" to the last note of "Beauty of the Beast" everything about this album says ‘this band has arrived’
If you have heard other Nightwish albums then you know what to expect here, they have not changed the style they hammered out on "Oceanborn", what they have done is raise it to the next level with style and power to spare. With layered keyboards, guitars, and even a full orchestra for added oomph, "Century Child" sounds absolutely huge. The production is a huge leap forward from "Wishmaster", and the production on that album was first rate. Here the clarity and depth of the sound will practically bring tears to your eyes. Nightwish have never been a showboat band, and no one instrument takes center stage here, the keys, guitars, bass and orchestral backups all merge into a symphonic wall of sound driven by Jukka’s multitextured drums. You may have never noticed before just how good he is, as he is not really a showy kind of drummer, but he adds greatly to the subtle rhythmic complexity on display.
And Tarja, ah Tarja. Some have opined that her voice is reined in here, that she isn’t as operatic as she was before, and I suppose that’s true. She doesn’t crank up the vibrato as of old, and so her voice sounds smoother. What critics have missed is that this is the most soulful performance of her career to date. Rather than assaulting the vocal lines with an operatic attack, she seduces and enchants. I’m not one of the legions of guys who think she’s the sexiest chick ever, but she has never sounded sexier. She caresses the smooth vocal lines of "Feel For You", "Oceansoul" and "Forever Yours" with an almost torch-song croon. But fear not, when the music cranks up, so can she, as on the epic monster "Beauty of the Beast", the double-bass bonanza "End of All Hope", and probably the best-written song on the album "Ever Dream" (if you need one song to introduce Nightwish to a friend, this would be the one.)
Some people have objected to Marco’s sharing of the vocal duties on "Dead to the World", but he has a solid, midrange voice that mixes well with Tarja’s, and "Dead to the World" is a great song. His death-growls on "Slaying the Dreamer" are a little out of place on the album, but they are executed with conviction and intensity. He does equally well dueting with Tarja on "Phantom of the Opera", which is cheesy but great fun.
The CD has good artwork and a great layout inside, with band pics and lyrics. The lyrics have really shown improvement over previous albums. Something about Finnish bands seems to produce really gruesomely bad lyrics (a la Sonata Arctica) and some previous Nightwish albums have featured songs that you enjoy while trying not to listen to the words. But "Century Child" has genuinely good lyrics, much better than before.
Simply put, "Century Child" is 2002’s best album, and the best yet from Nightwish. While it was rumored that Tarja would be leaving the band after returning to school this year, their website reports that they have already booked studio time for November. Thus we can look forward to another musical masterpiece sometime next year. But it won’t be easy for anyone, even Nightwish themselves, to equal or top "Century Child".
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