Thursday, March 12, 2015

Remember That Album You Just Listened To? Neither Do I: Nightwish’s Wishmaster!

The Good: Decent vocals and overall sound
The Bad: Music produced over the lyrics, Not a melody in the bunch, Utterly indistinct
The Basics: The Nightwish album Wishmaster reaffirms that the band Nightwish should either play music or write poetry, but doing them both is doing a disservice to both!

For my last birthday, the big gift from my wife was the Blu-Ray boxed set of Fringe The Complete Series (reviewed here!). Perhaps because I have been going through that on a nightly basis (two episodes a night and a frozen peanut butter and jelly sandwich makes for an enjoyable, if macabre, ritual), I find myself thinking there is something seriously wrong with Wishmaster by Nightwish. For those unfamiliar with Fringe, in the first season, there is an episode where the antagonist uses alternating red and green lights to essentially hypnotize her victims. Those who see the blinking lights lose time and it affords her with an opportunity to escape. Nightwish’s Wishmaster is the auditory equivalent of those blinking lights.

For the last three days, I have had Wishmaster in high rotation at my home. For those unfamiliar with my reviews, I pride myself on listening to every album I hear at least eight times before writing anything about them. When I put Wishmaster in the first time, I realized my first listen to it was over because the changer powered down. I frowned and replayed the album and woke up to silence and discovered an hour had passed. I had gotten nine hours of sleep the night before. Each time I listened to Wishmaster, I would start by focusing on the music and listening to it intently and somewhere before the end of “The Kinslayer” (track two), I would zone out. Never in listening to the album did I become conscious and aware of the music again until the middle of “FantasMic.”

To get around the problem that Wishmaster apparently causes narcolepsy (do not operate heavy machinery while listening to this album!), after several attempts to get through the album in order, I went and played each track out of order to listen to them. While this had the advantage of keeping me conscious, it did nothing to improve the music or overall listening experience.

At the heart of the problem with Wishmaster is the issue that the music is dull and noisy. More than any other Nightwish album I have yet listened to, Wishmaster is an atonal mess that seems to be convinced that any random thrashing of guitar and bass mixed with keyboards and pounding drums is music. Wishmaster proves it is not. After eight spinnings of the album and a dedicated listen to each and every track, I could not pick a single song out from this album if quizzed five minutes from now. The songs are that amelodic and unmemorable.

Vocally, Tarja Turunen does a fine job, with her impressive soprano voice, but Wishmaster is produced so frequently the instrumental accompaniment overwhelms the vocals. The guest male vocalists and backing vocals suffer much the same fate as Turunen’s voice; they get lost amid the symphonic metal sound.

And Nightwish is almost entirely to blame for their own mess with Wishmaster. The eleven-track, fifty-six minute auditory abomination is written by two of the members of the band (Tuomas Holopainen wrote most, Emppu Vuorinen co-wrote three of the tracks with him). The band provides all of the primary vocals and the major instrumentation on the album. Nightwish co-produced the album with Tero Kinnunen, so they seemed to have a decent amount of creative control over Wishmaster.

Lyrically, Wishmaster is simple and predictably dark. Unfortunately, some of the lines are painfully obvious in their rhyme schemes. Amid fairly good poetry are cringeworthy lines like “Cease the pain / Life's just in vain / For us to gain / Nothing but all the same” (“Two For Tragedy”) which, in addition to being decidedly emo, is just juvenile for the diction.

It’s not all bad on Wishmaster, though. Some of the songs do possess beautiful imagery. When the lines “I want to see where the sirens sing / Hear how the wolves howl / Sail the dead calm waters of the Pacific / Dance in the fields of coral / Be blinded by the white / Discover the deepest jungle / I want to find The Secret Path / A bird delivered into my heart, so / It's not the end / Not the kingdom come” (“Wanderlust”) are sung, it is hard not to get a perfect mental picture of them in one’s mind!

Unfortunately, such imagery is not enough to justify Wishmaster. The album is just a classic mess.

For more Nightwish albums, please check out my reviews of:
Angels Fall First
Century Child
Highest Hopes: The Best Of Nightwish


For other music reviews, please check out my Music Review Index Page for a comprehensive, organized listing!

© 2015 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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