Rivers of ink have flowed covering the fascinating topic that is NIGHTWISH and their brand of symphonic power metal that took the world by storm at the start of the millennium. In the past ten months alone, there were countless articles and interviews published covering both the release of the fabulous concert, “Decades: Live in Buenos Aires” (out on 9 December 2019) and their intriguing new album “Human:||:Nature” (out on 10 April 2020). However, there is always a new angle with which to tackle this subject and this article is a look at their third studio album, “Wishmaster,” released on 8 May 2000 through Spinefarm Records in Finland.
Polishing their mix of operatic vocals, melodic riffs, majestic backing orchestrations, and catchy choruses, “Wishmaster” picks up where “Oceanborn” (1998) left off. With a very cohesive sound to it and a more focused approach to melody and atmosphere, it’s no wonder that it was such a success – it peaked at no. 1 in the official Finnish charts and debuted in Europe at no. 21 in Germany and no. 55 in France. The fantasy theme surely helped a lot in this respect as the highly anthemic title track mentions many “Lord of the Rings” and “Dragonlance” characters or places while closing epic track “FantasMic” is an ode to the fable elements of Disney animated movies. And what goes better with fantasy if not power metal? As such, most of the songs are typical power metal anthems with ballads “Two for Tragedy” and “Dead Boy’s Poem” breaking the mold.
Among the highlights, the wordless chorus of “Deep Silent Complete” makes it a wistful and deeply beautiful piece of music whereas the epic and dramatic dialogue between Tarja Turunen and Ike Vil (SLEEP OF MONSTERS, ex-BABYLON WHORES) in “The Kinslayer” makes the story of the Columbine High School massacre feel be even more powerful and moving. The album contains the heartbreaking ballad that is “Dead Boy’s Poem,” with the concept of the dead boy becoming a recurring motif in Tuomas Holopainen’s lyrics, referenced in some of NIGHTWISH’s most iconic songs – “Beauty of the Beast”(from 2002’s “Century Child”), “Romanticide” (from 2004’s “Once”), “For the Heart I Once Had” and “The Escapist” (from 2007’s “Dark Passion Play”), and “Last Ride of the Day” and “Song of Myself” (from 2011’s “Imaginaerum”).
This is not a guitar-driven album like “Oceanborn,” but its major strength lies in the superb combination of atmospheric synth/keyboards and powerful, soaring vocals. Even though opening track and live anthem “She is My Sin” is a great mid-paced banger and “Crownless” has some of the speediest guitar lines and interesting riffs in NIGHTWISH’s catalog, it is such tracks like “Wanderlust,” “Bare Grace Misery,” “Deep Silent Complete,” or “Come Cover Me” that are this album’s hidden gems, with their harmonies and bombastic feel. The fullness of Tarja Turunen’s dark, lavish vocals accompanied by Tuomas Holopaninen’s chiming keys, Jukka Nevalainen’s booming drums, Sami Vänskä’s soft bass, Emppu Vuorinen’s melodic guitar riffs, and the ethereal flute breaks (as on “Two for Tragedy” and “FantasMic”) adds a dream-like ambiance to the overall fantasy vibe of the album.
The choral arrangements on this album are simply superb and elevate the music to levels of magnificence and beauty that not many other bands could reproduce. Despite all these aspects, the songs still feel light, breezy, and fresh; however, some listeners saw this as a flaw and not a strength. This is NIGHTWISH’s signature sound and the reason later songs like “Ever Dream,” “Ghost Love Score,” “Poet and the Pendulum,” “Song of Myself,” or “The Greatest Show on Earth” are such fan-favorites and staples in the live setlist.
Showcasing NIGHTWISH’s penchant for superb orchestral arrangements, emotions, and atmosphere, the main merit of “Wishmaster” is how well it balances these aspects without being inconsistent or monotonous. It’s impressive that even in its less metallic formula, “Wishmaster” captures the essence and magic of what NIGHTWISH is at its core, the rest is bonus. It’s an enchanting album and a classic in the band’s diversified discography.
Written by Andrea Crow
- She Is My Sin
- The Kinslayer
- Come Cover Me
- Two For Tragedy
- Bare Grace Misery
- Deep Silent Complete
- Dead Boy’s Poem
Tarja Turunen – lead vocals
Emppu Vuorinen – guitars
Jukka Nevalainen – drums
Sami Vänskä – bass
Tuomas Holopainen – keyboards/synthesizers
guest: Esa Lehtinen – flute
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