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Metal Symphonic Metal Uncategorized

[Metal/Symphonic] Epica – Design Your Universe (10th Anniversary)

Today marks the 10th anniversary release of Epica fourth album “Design Your Universe” on October 16th 2019. What can I tell about this album? Epic album from Epica, certainly the best album from their discography, it is standing on the pinnacle in my opinion. It is also hard to tell, as we are splitting hair with their discography, a constant quality-crafted work by Mark Jansen. like a Rembrandt paint every single time.
This is an album made of 14 tracks, totaling 79 minutes of bold and heavy symphonic metal. It starts with an overture named “Samadhi” which is here as a launching ramp for the second track “Resign To Surrender”. And I hope by that time you are all buckled up, becasue the rollercoaster ride of awesomeness is just starting. That brings us to the third track “Unleashed”. If you have to summarize the awesomeness of the band or resume Epica to a song, that would be it, give it a spin and listen:

Excited about Epica following “Unleashed”? Wait, there is more! If someone would have asked me, “Do Epica has a wall of death song?” I would have said nope, until listening to the fifth track “Martyrs of The Free World”. I remember it while attending their concert in Dallas in 2016. Mark splitting up the crowd for a big and beautiful wall……of death!
Heavy tunes, heavy-loaded lyrics on denouncing terrorism and indoctrination.  Thats the signature stuff from Epica. My favorite of the album! We continue our musical rollercoaster ride with “Our Destiny” that is more mellow than our previous listening experience but only to allow us to enjoy the voice of Simone Simmons. The seventh track, “Kingdom of Heaven” continues where we left with “Martyrs…” but brings us to a brigther side.
To help us recover from this rollercoaster ride, the “Price of Freedom” is an interlude that allows to transition to the second half of the album that is as epic as the first half. Track 8 is “Burn To A Cinder”, good stuff. “Tides of Time”, the ninth track of the album is like the slow tide, calm and washing us ashore, a breeze of calm before the tempest. That comes us with the 10th track “Deconstruct”. My second favorite of the album, some level of awesomeness packed. “Semblance of Liberty” is another fast-paced one, and has the famous Georges H. Bush “read my lips!” quote at the end! “White Waters”, the 12th track album is the calm song, this one feature Tony Kaiko from Sonata Arctica! But Mark let the plat de resistance to us with “Design Your Universe”, the opus magnum of the album. Dichotomic, starting with a crescendo, and blowing our mind away. The track of the album!
“Incentive” is the last one of the album, quite good but felt a bit too soft and lacking flavor after coming out of “Design….”.
What can I say? If you dont have it yet, rush to your record store as Epica re-issued it for the 10th anniversary. Get this album!

 

 

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Female-fronted Metal Metal Music Symphonic Metal Uncategorized

[Metal/Pop] Within Temptation – Resist (70%)

After five years of fairly blackout period from the band, following a lot of introspection and need to solve private issues, Within Temptation finally released their new album “Resist” on February 1st. A lot of mystery was on, a lot of speculation too as Sharon launched about a year ago a solo pop album “My Indigo”. How would the album sound? Will they go back to their roots? Will they continue in the direction taken with their previous album “Hydra”? Well, the release of “The Reckoning” kind of gave a flavor and honestly failed to impress me. However, I wanted to give my respect to the band and bought the album (standard edition, the $5 extra for the instrumental tracks and radio edit are in my opinion overpriced). Well, I am gonna tell you, this has been the most divisive album I have to listen because it is not an easy thing to downgrade a band you have been cherished all these years. Imagine you have admiration for what you think is certainly one of the best band you have ever heard, only to realize now that band have been setting the quality bar so low that it is basically feels like any soup served on the FM station (I only listen to the FM radio when I take my wife car, because I forget most of the time my iPod classic in my car. Seldomly taking my wife car).
Thats how I feel and somehow translated in some interviews by the band. You feel the band is exhausted, is running out of juice. Yet, the band is trying to reformulate itself as a new image, a kind of futuristic sci-fi that I honestly don’t dislike, if the music was better. WT has been betting high on taking full sail on the pop-electronica scene, leaving the original fans pretty dry and bitter. I would be honest, I can gut half of the album and not even regret it. But in the same time, there are some tracks that although being really watered down when it comes to metal (maybe the drums are the only thing left) that have still catchy songs. And Sharon shows us again how talented she is. I can guarantee to you she will eat any of the pop singers addicted to auto-tunes with a swift snap. In the realms of meow-meow pop singers, Sharon is the queen. This is an album holding 10 songs, totaling about 48 minutes.
Lets first get rid of the annoying tracks. They failed to impress me and sounded really what I would listen to a FM radio. Basically an auditory torture. “The Reckoning”, “Holy Ground”, “In Vain”, “Firelight” and “Mercy Mirror”, you are out. About more than half of the album made of fillers.
Now lets focus on the interesting tracks. Let’s start with “Endless War”. At first, it sounds like the opening sequence of an Arabic “mussalssal” which is for me a torture for my ears, but it gets better with Sharon kicking in. And it’s good to hear Sharon singing, with some echoes of the past with some musical arrangements reminding of their previous albums mixed with electronic tunes. “Raise Your Banner”, the third track, is okay and maybe of the few that sounds like Symphonic Metal to my ears. “Supernova”, the fourth track is certainly my favorite, the one that grew up on me over listening. Sharon shows us that she can kick, even with the use of electronica and make some catchy tunes.  Listen to it, and tell me you are not captivated by the catchy tunes:

“Mad World” is the next favorite, with a nice mix of both metallic and electronic giving this industrial vibe. Another one in which Sharon is excelling into giving us catchy tunes. “Mercy Mirror” is a fine one, with some metal elements, sounding more familiar to what we expect from the band. “Trophy Hunter” is the third favorite one of the album, by its industrial tunes and the catchy tunes.
Conclusion? Well I will be honest. Sharon has been talking about how the band was exhausted, tired, bored. The mean half of me would say “time to pull the plug and let go” and let members of the band grow and expand their own musical garden. The nice half of me would say “well the band is rebranding themselves with a new look, new logo more palatable to millennials”. By entering the realms of rock/electronic pop, they surely come with a added bonus and advantage because they were at some point a AAA band in the scene and would eat any meow-meow bands out there as my son eats his cereals for breakfast.
Yet, I feel bad and disappointed to have been served such a half-baked cookie after 5 years. Yes, there are some chunks in it that are yummy but the rest of the cookie tasted bland and lacked originality. Not even mentioning the anemic US tour that is basically ignoring the whole southern half of the US (the closest I can get is Denver, which is a whooping 7 hours drive), which adds an extra layer of salt on the wound. The disappointment left by the album makes me really reconsider investing into a trip to Denver. At least, they could have added Dallas to the tour (14 gigs only in the whole North America, including Canada). I guess this the time what I will let their boat sail, me on the docking pier, while swiping my tissue.

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Metal Symphonic Metal Uncategorized

[Metal/Symphonic] Nightwish – Oceanborn (20th Anniversary Release)

This month marks the release of Nightwish second album (and the official first international album) “Ocenaborn”, released on December 7th 1998. This album has a special place in my heart. Paradoxically, I got introduced to Nightwish via “Wish I had an Angel” in 2004 and got their first album as “Oceanborn”. It was a love at first sight, because it was magically blending metal, symphonic elements and a mezzo-soprano voice.
This is for me the quintescential album from Nightwish and felt that any subsequent album never reached the personal satisfaction I have ever with any other Nightwish albums. The album is composed by 11 tracks (if I refer to the 1999 international issue) totalling 49 minutes.
With the exception of “Stargazers”, the first track that is also my least favorite of the album (I usually even skip it in my playlist), the rest of the album is a winning streak of excellent tracks. “Gethsemane”, the second track,  is for me by definition the Nightwish song, with its gothic inspiration and an excellent prestation from Tarja and composition by Tuomas on the keyboard showing to an audience usually averse to keyboards that when they are nicely intergrated, it can create something beautiful to listen. I even have a tear drop each time at the last couple of verses followed by the lambastic melodics from Tuomas. You can listen it here and tell me what you think about:

“Devil and The Deep Dark Ocean” (track 3) is falling into a two part songs that is concluding with “The Paraoh Sails To Orion” (track 9), perfectly giving this bombastic guitars with the keyboard arrangements and Tarja voice. An quasi-orgasm in terms of listening. Follows “Sacrament of Wilderness”, “Passion And The Opera” that do not give us a minute to rest, only to get into “Swanheart” that is the simpliest in terms of musical arrangement but an excellent one in which you can hear Tarja beautiful voice.
“Moondance”, the 8th track album, is purely instrumental and almost like a showcase of Tuomas composition talent giving you this feeling of evasion that we will get much later again in his solo project titled “The Music Inspired by the Life And Times of Scrooge”. This melodical interlude is concluded by “The Riddler” that is good, but slightly lesser good than the rest of the song. Then comes track 9 “The Pharaoh Sails to Orion”. Oh boy, THIS IS THE NIGHTWISH SONG! Something bold and nicely backed by Tarja, with a jaw-dropping ending to it, with Tarja doing us what I refer an epic vocal riff. At that time, I was sold to have FFM bands, and set the bar of expectation very high: you are either mezzo-soprano or you will not make the cut. Tarja set the bar very high and defined the symphonic metal gold-standard in terms of vocals.
The 10th track, “Walking In The Air”, was for me was an unknown but apparently is a cult in Scotland and Finland as it was initially part of the animated film “The Snowman” that is a classic for Christmas in these two countries. I never heard the original and got introduced with Nightwish cover of that song. Oh man, it is truly showing the ability of Tuomas to compose amazing musical arrangement, giving this kind of magic coupled with Tarja vocal performance.
Finally, the last song added to the international release is “Sleeping Sun”. Taken from their original album “Angels Fall First” and slightly re-arranged. Honestly, I prefer this version compared to the original one. Here is one of the official video (original) of the song:

If I ever have to be dropped in a desert island or being confined in a vault shelter when the bombs fell, this is certainly the only Nightwish album I would pickup without an ounce of hesitation.

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Female-fronted Metal Gothic Metal Metal Music Symphonic Metal Uncategorized

[Metal/Opera Metal] Lux in Tenebris – To a New Eternity (EP)

After deciding to put an end on Darkonelly project band few years ago, Marion-Lamita have been working hard behind the scene to produce something different. The announcement back then left me skeptical and somehow disappointed. We can say that  her new project Lux in Tenebris has been producing something interesting. After releasing some solo titles on Youtube (that left me in a limbo, neither being enthusiastic nor being pessimistic about), Lux in Tenebris has released its first EP titled “To A New Eternity” last Friday. Because it is an EP, I don’t give a score but I will anyway give my thoughts on it. The first thing that strikes is the contribution of Liv Kristine (ex-Theatre of Tragedy, ex-Leaves Eyes). Liv has been always been supportive of small bands, in particular during their freshman album. Delain, Hydra…..
This is an EP of 7 titles lasting about 35 minutes with two interludes. We start the EP with  “Divine Mankind” bringing us Marion’s soprano voice, that same haunting voice from Darkonelly. What I like about, in this time in which female-fronted metal symphonic metal is facing a huge glut of bands relying heavily on post-production, is the very particular moderate use of the keyboards. The music in this one is okay, sometimes a bit cheesy. Tony is in the growls on this one, a first time for him. Fairly good for a first-timer. The second one, “Chaos in Beauty” is sounding in my opinion more interesting, sometimes reminding me of Therion. Thats a good track you should listen.
The third track “Mystic Euphonia”, is my opinion the worst track of the album. I don’t know, it must be the beginning of the song that induce some aversive reaction. I don’t like it. At all. The first interlude “Temple of The Soul” has this kind of tribal vibe that is not bad. “Triangle of Light” is my opinion, the best of the EP. It has this pharaonic vibes by the beginning of the song, a very good mixture of the guitars and the synthesizers. It gives me “la palate” so it must be good. Quickly follows the second interlude “The Imperator’s Arrival”.  The last song “The Grand Design”, again featuring Liv Kristine.  It is quite good, decent work here and I would definitely recommend listening to the song.

After almost four years since the disbanding of Darkonelly project, this is the first significative piece of work (in the form of a EP) to emerge from Marion’s effort during her transition into Lux In Tenebris. Although the EP is overall quite pleasant to listen, at this stage I consider it as a fairly rough and raw diamond. Considering it is a project mostly driven by Marion at this point, it is a decent EP to give a try on. It shows some potential, but at this time it needs refining to achieve an optimal shape. It also tells you that having Liv on board is likely that their artistic potential is here. Lets let the sunrise shed some lights and allow the project to emerge from the darkness into light, when opera and metal shed through the darkness.

 

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Metal Symphonic Metal Uncategorized

[Metal/Symphonic] Adrana – Pertubatio (10th Anniversary)

Few days ago marked the release of Adrana’s first album “Perturbatio” (according to Metal-Archives.com, it was released on June 8th 2008). What can I tell about from one of my favorite French metal band? That it was an interesting first album, that it can sounds sometimes goofy as any first albums but also also has some valuable gold nuggets, just by listening to the soprano voice of Anne is enough to bring it up into the ranking. And also because it has a lots of tracks sung in French, so thats another perk to add.
It is a 14 track album, totaling about 50 mins of songs. We get into it with an intro sequence “Enter Prusias” that sounds like a medieval swordfight (for me, it sounded like more a cutelry fight) which you can guess is a ramp to “Prusias”. With “Prusias”, you get insta-slapped by the voice of Anne, singing with her high vocal ranges really making the tone of Adrana over a “Symphonic metal” band and more into its own “Opera metal” subgenre.  Blending soprano opera feminine voices with metal riffs is my guilty pleasure and Adrana in my guilry indulgence. The second is the pace and musical arrangment, raw and not much relying on the synth keybaords. “Saneday” brings on with a piano solo and progressively introduce metal elements into the composition. “The Moonchildren” is one of the track that I found it a bit goofy, as Anne French accent betrayed her in the introducting narrative and it is quickly followed by “Mortelle Fourberie Infantine”, brining the fast-paced rhythm with Anne’s voice. One of my favoirte. It is followed by “The Nymph’s Corpse”, another of my favorite. But the “piece of resistance” is coming with the following track named “Gabrielus”. Oh boy, this is a battlecry song, that feel like jumping a ride on a white armored horse and raise your sword in the sky calling for the ultimate assault on the legion of orcs, all sang in French and with this might power metal tunes (the 14th track, is an acoustic version of “Gabrielus”). If I have to have someone introduced someone to Adrana, I would definitely use this track.
“Secret Gathering” is an another track that has some goofy elements, especially at the beginning. “l’Eveil de Marklus”, “The Lords of The Tapestry”, “Oprane” and “Ingalrian” are nice tracks but nothing transcendental for me. You can skip them without missing much in my opinion. But the one you should not skip is “Mortualia” that is almost an acapella/acoustic version of Anne with a baritone. Very beautiful if you are into opera voice.
In conclusion, “Pertubatio” is an album like any first album with some goofiness but also some potentials, both from Anne and from musical elements. Indeed, the band further blacksmithed their core element and perfected it with their following up album “The Ancient Realms”.

 

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Female-fronted Metal Metal Music Symphonic Metal Uncategorized

[Metal/Symphonic] Whyzdom – As Time Turns To Dust (85%)

Whyzdom (probably the best French Symphonic Metal band IMO), after three years of waiting, released their fourth album “As Time Turns To Dust”. So, how does this album stands and compare to their previous releases? I would say unique and similar at the same time (for some reasons it reminded at times of their second album “Blind?”, propelled by Vince Leff at the helm and by Marie McLeod at the front.
We have in hand a 9-tracks song with 58 minutes of pure enchantment Whyzdom-style. It all starts with “Armour of Dust”, introducing us in a Hans Zimmer’s style “a la Dark Knight” followed by some classic Whyzdom. The second track, “Armageddon” is surprisingly not really my favorite despite being heavy. I don’t know why I dont really click on that one. “Fly Away”, is a good track but still missing something to make me all excited about. “The Page” is probably my favorite starting with a guitar solo and Marie, going crescendo and becoming more and more complex until you reach a paroxysmal euphoria. Thats the kind of auditive cues that make you limbic system overstimulated. “Follow Your Heart”, the 5th track of the album, has this Epica feeling that is making it very attractive. “Angel of Tears” is a good one, starting with the Celtic vibes and very dynamic. “Free As a Bird” is for some reasons reminding me of “Cassandra”. “The Mistchild” has this feeling of proximity of “Blind?”.  The last track, “Dust We Are”, is good but I have experienced more enjoyment in tracks of their previous album.
Overall the album is good, but I feel there was something missing. I really worked hard on this album by listening at least five times before writing my critique. I did not feel the shock and awe that I have with “Tears of a Hopeless God”, I don’t why. The album is good, but it was not giving me the thrills that would make it “an amazing experience”. Maybe it is just me becoming an old schmuck.
Anyway, the album is a good one and if you are looking for some new sounds in the Symphonic that is not from the four Valkyries of the Symphonic Metal, you should definitely try Whyzdom and feel what the French touch sounds like when they tamper with Symphonic Metal, something unique.

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Female-fronted Metal Metal Music Symphonic Metal Uncategorized

[Metal/Symphonic] Whyzdom – Armaggedon (Official Video)

Whyzdom, in my opinion the best French symphonic metal band as of today, is slowly but surely bringing their fourth album “As Times Turns To Dust” is teasing us with their first title named “Armageddon”. The album is expected to hit record stores on April 6th.

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Classical Music Metal Music Symphonic Metal Uncategorized

[Metal/Symphonic] Therion – Beloved Antichrist (90%)

If you have been in the metal scene, the name of Therion should sound familiar to you. Therion is a kind of unique metal band, always in the avant-garde and always in a constant rethinking of their artistic direction, following their inspiration. They compose and perform albums that follow their interest without worrying to irate their hardcore fanbase. With Therion, each album is a discovery by its own unable to predict from the previous albums. And most of the time, they deliver an outstanding piece of work.
And again Therion strikes hard with their album “Beloved Antichrist”. A 3-CD album totaling over 3 hours and playing like an opera metal with an amazing vocal performance. This is an album I cannot review as I would because of its size (46 tracks and 3 hours) but also because of its almost perfection. You could have this album put into an opera performance and people would give you a hard time that this is a metal band behind this masterpiece. I will point my favorite tracks.
“Through Dust, Through Rain” (Track 3), “What Is Wrong?” (Track 16), “Forgive Me” (Track 35) oh my! Who’s the lead female vocalists behind these tracks? It is so beautiful.
“Never Again” (Track 5), “Night Reborn” (Track 20), “Curse of The Fallen” (Track 28), “Astral Sophia” (Track 31) some of the heavy tracks albums reminding me some of the previous Therion work. This is what Therion is so unique, reminding us their quintessence in blending metal and opera-quality vocals.
“The Solid Black Beyond”, “The Crowing of Splendour” (Track 7 and 8), “Pledging Loyalty” (Track 19), “To Where I Weep” (Track 30), “Rise To War” (Track 40). This is some classical composition, oh this is heaven to ears!
“Anthem” (Track 12), “Theme Of Antichrist” (Track 46), a perfect blending of classical opera with heavy metal melodics.
Without doubt, Therion overachieved themselves by producing the longest album (3CDs lasting over 3 hours), a pure marvel of opera metal with quality opera male and female vocals. Such a perfect musical arrangement you could imagine such album put in motion on a stage performance. Definitely if you have to pick an album for February, this was the one you had to pick!

 

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Gothic Metal Metal Music Symphonic Metal

[Metal/Gothic] Beyond Forgiveness – The Great Wall (80%)

US metal bands playing Gothic Metal or Symphonic Metal are fairly rare birds, in contrast to Europe in which I found the market on the verge to precipitate. Beyond Forgiveness (Colorado Springs, CO) is one of these band that attracted me attention with their EP “The Ferryman’s Shore” and released a couple of weeks ago their first album “The Great Wall”.
How does it fare for a first album? It fares very well, navigating into the current of gothic, symphonic and folk metal keeping upmost of the musical composition “hand-crafted” (in others not over-relying on the keyboards and the studio processing). The result is very pleasant, maybe lacking some ambitious songs that hook you on, but a very nice escaping album that result me in calling the band some metal “troubadours” telling tales, fables and fiends straight out of the middle ages.
This is an album spanning over 10 tracks spanning over 58 minutes. The good point is all the stuff inside are all original materials, no rearrangement of existing materials from their previous EP and singles.
We get into it by the “End of Times”, their first track. It is setting the tones: some good classic metal tones, from the early days of gothic and symphonic metal. Personally, I like that especially considering that a lot of new comers playing the “symphonic” card abuse and overuse the keyboards and post-processing. We quickly transition into the second track and third tracks “The Great Wall” and “Sanctuary”. Good stuff so far. “Imprisoned” fare into more the symphonic metal than the previous track.
“Interlude”, an instrumental melodic ballad track gives the rest of the wandering bard, very nice interlude allowing to appreciate the guitar plays from Richard and Greg. This interlude track also announce a transition in the album, towards a more symphonic type of tone. Whereas “Moment of Truth” sounds more like the first half of the album, “Never Before” has this kind of old-style Nightwish style into it that is not bad. “Dream Before I sleep” is what I call an acoustic track with the voice of Talia accompanied mainly by a piano solo. Good. “I will fight Till The End” brings back the heaviness, just for this track as the last track “Every Breath” brings it more a folk feeling to the music.
Overall the album is quite good but I failed to find something to hook me on. Usually I have one or two “must-listen” song in an album but not this time. The album is very homogenous, maybe a bit too much. Something is still missing to make it a great, I don’t know something bold.
Nevertheless, it is a good starter, give a try and if you like your metal seasoned into some old school gothic and symphonic, give these guys a try, their album is available on Bandcamp and iTunes.

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Female-fronted Metal Gothic Metal Metal Music Symphonic Metal Uncategorized

[Metal/Symphonic] Nightwish – Angels Fall First (20th Anniversary)

Today marks the 20th of the release of the Finnish Symphonic Metal band Nightwish “Angels Fall First”. It is interesting to think that for some reason Tuomas does not consider it as their first album. Sure, it had a limited release, mostly in Finland, but I still consider as their first album.
It is interesting to listen back to this album in its retrospection. It is an 11-track album, lasting a 67 minutes. Coming back from that day, the first thing that comes into the attention is the use of keyboards elements wrapping the guitar riffs. But foremost, it is Tarja that brings on the attention. In my knowledge (and I maybe wrong on this one), this is the first instance of the presence of a trained of a professionally trained mezzo-soprano. Sure, femal-fronted metal bands were already here including in gothic metal bands like The Gathering.
It starts with “The Elvenpath” setting the tone, with excerpt quotes from the 1978 cartoon movie “The Lord of The Rings”. The second track, “Beauty & The Beast” somehow sounds like more Nightwish as we know it today, in which Tuomas keyboards lead the charge. A 10:22 track of some awesomeness in the blend of the instrumental symphonic elements with the guitars melodics played by Empuu. Thats it, the prototypical symphonic metal track that surely inspired many to also experiment the same in their studio. You can take anyone in a blind test, ask him or her the band behind the song and get “Nightwish” cited most of the time. I discovered this album much later than the release, but I can imagine the reaction folks had back then. “The Carpenter”, third track of the album is more in line with gothic metal elements, sounding more familiar. It is also the first track of the album featuring Tuomas in the vocals. I guess there is a reason Tuomas hates this album and also why he does not sing in the other albums :p. It’s okay but yeah kind of a let down from “Beauty & The Beast”. Just listen here.
https://youtu.be/Z4A5HwMOfW8

“Astral Romance” brings up the album to a higher level, that is another favorite in my playlist, some good old Nightwish here (I somehow prefer these kind of outdated tunes from their most recent albums). “Angel Fall First”, the fifth track, is somehow introducing us to the powerful keyboard ballads that Tuomas will produce later in his career. Again, Tarja’s voice is magnificent even in her beginning career. “Tutankhamen” brings the metal kick back in, making it very enjoyable. Again, I could serve it into a blind playlist and someone would swear this track is part of their later album. “Nymphomaniac Fantasia” is a nice one too, but maybe a bit “cheap” in my opinion. “Know Why The Nightingale” is another good one from the album.

“Lappi (Lappland)” is the only Finnish song but oh boy, I can guarantee a lots of headbangers rushed to a Suomi dictionary to understand the lyrics. But who cares? You don’t need to understand it to feel the beautiful in this song. Again, it hints us about the whiz inside Tuomas in handling the keyboards, much more at ease than singing. Some damn good old Nightwish!

The album concludes with “Return To The Sea” inspired by gothic elements and finally “Once Upon A Troubadour”, that is honestly not much my favorite. Blame it on Tuomas or not, I don’t know just not that fond.