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Nightwish- Oceanborn (Review)

Updated on March 25, 2012
The album artwork for "Oceanborn".
The album artwork for "Oceanborn". | Source
The alternate album cover for "Oceanborn".
The alternate album cover for "Oceanborn". | Source

Album: Oceanborn

Artist: Nightwish

Year: 1998

Score: 100/100

“One of My All Time Favorites”

Nightwish… most people either love or hate them. I’m really a huge fan of their first three releases, and I enjoy everything else up until the singer change (although my dislike for their more recent releases has little to do with the vocalist). “Oceanborn” is their masterpiece. In all seriousness, I believe this will be considered a metal classic one day. It’s not for everyone, and I’ve come across many people who hate this album. Nevertheless, “Oceanborn” deserves every word of praise I can give it.

If I had to label the album with a genre, it would fit the best as a power metal album. However, it is much deeper and almost darker than other albums of that genre. There’s a great atmosphere to be found here; something I would describe as celestial and majestic. At the same time, “Oceanborn” is also a surprisingly relaxing album. The songs, while diverse, all fit together when the album is listened to in its entirety. This is exactly how I like my favorite albums. The songs do not all sound the same, but they are chained together by a similar feeling. “Oceanborn” is best experienced as a full album, but the songs are great by themselves.

The opening track, "Stargazers".

The song "Passion and the Opera".

Instrumentally, I have no complaints. Perhaps there could’ve been less keyboard solos (and more guitar solos) or a louder bassline, but I hardly notice this when listening to the album. This is not an album where one should expect complete technical mastery, and it’s not meant to be. The appeal is mostly in the songwriting and the atmosphere. Nevertheless, “Oceanborn” is the Nightwish album where the guitars shine the most. There are more solos and riffs thrown in than on their other work, and the guitars are also louder in the mix to counter the keyboards. Vocally, I believe this is Tarja Turunen’s best work. Her voice sounds both more youthful and heavy (more metal) than it would on later releases. I also enjoy the occasional harsh male vocals. They are not overused and they complement the female vocals very well. There are not many true symphonic elements to “Oceanborn”, as the songs get their dramatic feeling from the keys and guitars. Speaking of the keyboards, they are fairly enjoyable. They work best when dueling with the guitar (“Sacrament of Wilderness”) and when providing an atmospheric backdrop (“Passion and the Opera”). The drums are done well. There are some good fills and double bass passages found throughout the songs, but they are not very flashy. The bass is not exactly bad, but it is very low in the mix. Sadly, it does not play much of a role in the album.

The song "Gethsemane".

A live performance of "Sacrament of Wilderness".

Perhaps the most known non-ballad song on “Oceanborn” is “Sacrament of Wilderness”. It’s still performed live very often, and deserves its place as one of the best. I love the aforementioned dueling guitar and keyboard between the verses. Despite all of this, there are songs that I think are even better. “Stargazers” is the opening track and maybe the most reminiscent of conventional power metal. It’s a faster song, with a great middle section. Even though “Passion and the Opera” was released as a single, it is one of the lesser known Nightwish songs out there. There’s also the small detail that it’s my favorite Nightwish song of all time. In fact, there is little to justify this title. The song’s main riff reminds me a lot of 80s speed metal; it’s fairly aggressive for Nightwish standards. The vocal melodies are quite beautiful, and they give a great surreal feeling to the song. “Gethsemane” is one of the most melodic songs from the album. It’s a bit slower, and features a brilliant chorus. There’s a small keyboard part towards the middle that reminds me of “Beauty and the Beast” from Nightwish’s first album. “Devil and the Deep Dark Ocean” is the most aggressive track on the album. It features many great guitar riffs as well as good performances from both vocalists. In addition to being the most aggressive, “Devil and the Deep Dark Ocean” is one of the most dramatic tracks on the album. It fits quite a bit of structural shifts into a mere five minutes. “The Pharaoh Sails to Orion” is another dramatic song, with many brilliant individual pieces and two vocalists. It’s also structurally challenging, but it does have a chorus that repeats at the end of the song. “Moondance” is a cool instrumental that retains some of the folk influence found on the band’s debut. It’s both calming and upbeat at the same time. “The Riddler” is the ‘poppy’ song from the album, but it’s still very good. The chorus is beautiful. “Swanheart” is one of the best ballads from the band, and it’s the best of the three ballads presented on the release. “Sleeping Sun” is one of the weaker tracks, but it’s one of the most famous from the band. The original version found here is much better than the 2005 rerecorded version. “Walking in the Air” starts off slow, but builds into a great metal song. “Nightquest” is a bonus track found on the commonly sold reissue, and it is actually one of the best Nightwish songs out there. Even though it wasn’t on the original release, it still fits in well.

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The Nightwish fan in me recommends “Oceanborn” to everyone who has ears, but I realize that not everyone will enjoy this album. For those metalheads who can tolerate operatic female vocals, “Oceanborn” will surely be a worthwhile listen. However, I avoided Nightwish for too long because I’m honestly not too keen on opera singing. Give “Passion and the Opera” and “The Pharaoh Sails to Orion” a try, because they both deserve a listen. Power and speed metal fans with open minds should enjoy this, as well as anyone into the female-fronted metal genre. I am obviously a huge fan of “Oceanborn”, and it’s up there with “Tales From the Thousand Lakes” and “Somewhere in Time” as one of my all time favorite albums.

Thanks for reading! Be sure to leave a comment, as it’s my favorite album that I’ve reviewed thus far! Vote in the polls, as well!

Best songs: “Stargazers”, “Gethsemane”, “Devil and the Deep Dark Ocean”, “Sacrament of Wilderness”, “Passion and the Opera”, “Moondance”, “The Riddler”, “The Pharaoh Sails to Orion”, and “Nightquest”.

This review was originally posted by me at:

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    • Dave Smiles profile image

      Dave Smiles 3 years ago from Melbourne

      Awesome review. Love this album too. However, I have to say I think Nightwish continue to get better and better with each new album. I'm excited to hear their next release.

    • TheHeavyReview profile image

      TheHeavyReview 6 years ago

      Thanks for the comment Eiddwen! I'm glad you liked the review! There will be many more in the future! :)

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 6 years ago from Wales

      Brilliant;well presented and so iteresting;take care and I now look forward to many more by you.

      Take care and enjoy your day.