All Nightwish albums are great, but they’re certainly not all equal. I love Nightwish above all other music artists. I think every album, even the worst ones, are still good. I have listened to all of the albums, including the worst ones, literally hundreds of times.
Trying to introduce someone to Nightwish? Here’s a playlist that might convert them.
That being said, let’s begin…
Endless Forms Most Beautiful
This is their blandest and most commercialized album, hands down.
Before it was released, the band advertised it as “Heavier than its two predecessors [Imaginaerum and Dark Passion Play].” When I heard that, I thought, Good. But, at the same time, I wondered, Why is it heavier? The album is about Earth’s organisms. How does that warrant heavy instrumentals? Finally, when the album was released, I listened to the whole thing, and I’m still wondering that.
When I listen to EFMB, it’s actually quite easy to tell how mechanical and calculated the whole thing is. I’ll break it down:
Tracks 1 – Shudder Before the Beautiful: Heavy, in order to hook the audience.
Track 2 – Weak Fantasy: Also heavy, in order to hook the audience. Can’t have them bored already, can we?
Track 3 – Elan: The album’s first Single. Also part of the hook. Very easily digestible. No risks, easy on the ears, as any first Single ought to be. It’s not the first Single if it doesn’t appeal to the lowest common denominator.
Track 4 – Yours is an Empty Hope: Heavy. Gotta remind the audience that this is a metal band.
Track 5 – Our Decades in the Sun: A slow song. Because maybe that will appeal to the non-metalheads.
Track 6 – My Walden: A folky song. Neither slow or heavy, just different. A good party song.
Track 7 – Endless Forms Most Beautiful: The titular track. Usually the titular track is heavy. It’s at this point they’ve reminded you 100 times of the album’s name.
Track 8 – Edema Ruh: An outright pop song.
Track 9 – Alpenglow: A family-friendly song…. Not dark, not heavy, and described by the band as “the ultimate Nightwish song,” which was complete nonsense. If it was the ‘ultimate Nightwish song,’ it would have been featured in the Decades compilation. Seriously, I find this song insulting.
Track 10 – The Eyes of Sharbat Gula: A song that almost had deep meaning, but its lyrics were dropped for the sake of making an interlude to the grand finale.
Track 11 – The Greatest Show on Earth: The album’s giant, because all Nightwish albums need a giant for some reason. And it’s not just any giant, it’s the longest Nightwish song ever. This song was obviously, obviously manufactured to be the new record. The band has tried to beat its record with every album. Tuomas got frustrated that Song of Myself didn’t beat The Poet and the Pendulum, so he went overboard and said, “I’m going to write a song that’s half an hour long, no matter how bloated it turns out in the end!”
You see, Nightwish knows that if they simply wrote songs to be purely as they were artistically inspired, albums would be at risk of not selling as many copies as possible. If every song was heavy or slow, if every song was short or long …, they’d panic and change things up. I don’t blame them for taking revenue into account. They have to make a living after all. But seriously, Nightwish, EFMB is your 8th album. You already have a large, very devoted fanbase. Is that not enough? Your other albums weren’t this calculated. Your other albums didn’t sound like a musical checklist. “Heavy songs at the beginning, ordinary songs in the middle, giant song at the end….” So why was this one so commercialized? If your first album was like this, I’d understand. But with your 8th, you have no excuse. Therefore, I must say EFMB is the worst. It had the least amount of soul.
PS: I do appreciate the lyrics of Weak Fantasy. That song was bold and was even at risk of being offensive. Maybe that was a marketing tactic as well. I hope not.
Favorite song: Yours Is An Empty Hope.
Wikipedia says, “The writing and recording of Wishmaster was very fast… Tuomas Holopainen considers the album, ‘the most distant and least personal (…) in the Nightwish catalogue.'” I think I read that the album was meant to be more compatible with radio stations?
These things are obvious when you listen to this album. But, what redeems this album is the fact that it contains a tribute to the victims of the Columbine Massacre (The Kinslayer), and it contains the ‘Mother of all Nightwish Songs,” Dead Boy’s Poem.
Personally, I find Come Cover Me and Deep Silent Complete to be personal, emotional songs. As for the aforementioned Kinslayer, I like that it’s a tribute to innocent victims, as well as the fact it has no repeated lyrics. In a world where nearly every song has the exact same structure, that is always a breath of fresh air, even now, 18 years after the album’s release.
Still, songs like Wanderlust, Wishmaster, Bare Grace Misery, and especially Crownless, all scream what was stated by the writer himself about this album being the least personal album. So, for that, I must consider it to be the band’s second-worst.
Favorite song: Come Cover Me.
Angels Fall First
This is where it gets difficult to say which album is better than another. At this point, I almost consider the remaining albums to be critic-proof. But, for the sake of making this list, I will be as strict as possible. So, if EFMB is in last place, and Wishmaster is in second-to-last, then I guess I’d have to say AFF is next in line.
As a mere album, AFF is above-average. As a debut album, it is phenomenal. I would say this album has the most unique sound, and I’d hardly say it’s a metal album. But, so what? One of the things I love about Nightwish is that they are not strictly one genre or another. This album feels like it should be listened to in a meadow, at sunset. Kind of like the cover art.
I really don’t have many gripes with Angels Fall First. The best I can do is judge its sound compared to the remaining albums, and that’s really the only reason it’s the third-worst. But, I still love its sound, so…
This list is getting tough.
Favorite song: Know Why the Nightingale Sings.
The last album with everybody’s favorite frontwoman, Tarja. I almost placed Once third on this list, because like the first two, it doesn’t seem like very much heart was put into the music. But, it certainly has some, with songs like Nemo, Ghost Love Score, and Creek Mary’s Blood. Conversely, Once scores more points with songs that may not be deep and emotional, but still unique and meaningful, with songs like The Siren, Romanticide, and arguably Higher Than Hope. Then, there are songs that are just plain fun, like Dark Chest of Wonders, Wish I Had An Angel, and Planet Hell. So, for these reasons I’d say Once is narrowly, microscopically, better than AFF.
Favorite song: Romanticide.
HUMAN. :||: NATURE.
HVMAN. :||: NATVRE. is a continuation of its 2015 predecessor, Endless Forms Most Beautiful. While EFMB had a theme of life itself, this album’s theme is about our very species.
This album … is a mixed bag.
I was prepared to be disappointed with this album, because I’ve known for a long time that it would continue the subject matter of EFMB, which I see as Nightwish’s worst. A sequel to Nightwish’s worst sounded a bit like the beginning of the end of the band, or at least their greatness.
But, rest assured, Tuomas actually put effort into HVMAN. :||: NATVRE. even if it’s a mixed bag. The good outweighs the bad, though.
Floor, I’ve always believed, is their best singer (even though before 2020 her only album with Nightwish was the band’s worst). I appreciate that her talents were fully utilized in this album. She can do the whole range, from operatic to full-on metal, and it’s delightful. Impressive, too.
What’s the bad, you may ask? Without question, Endlessness and All the Works of Nature Which Adorn the World.
For an album about human nature, when Tuomas wrote Endlessness, he seems to have forgotten that humans are pattern-seeking animals (with good reason). Endlessness is less like a song and more like, well, it seems to suffer from the same problem as 7 Days to the Wolves, in where it sounds like the song’s being made up as it was being recorded. The problem is the flow. I know Tuomas did this intentionally, in that he wanted each part (verse, bridge, chorus) to seamlessly transition to the next, but I don’t care. It sounds horrid.
And then there’s Nightwish’s longest song in every way, all the way from the title itself, to how the song feels: All the Works of Nature Which Adorn the World. Because with every album since Dark Passion Play, Tuomas has tried to beat his previous record for longest Nightwish song. What a stupid goal. The Greatest Show on Earth was the worst giant, but now it’s not …, THIS is.
From now on, I’m referring to the 2nd half of Song of Myself, The Greatest Show on Earth, and the entirety of All the Works as “Obligatory Putting the Baby to Sleep Hour.” Tuomas, the more you have of something, the less value it has. At least make sure every minute of these giants is worth the 20+ minutes of investment they require. Stop making them a chore to get through, please.
Endlessness and All the Works take up around 46% of the entire album’s runtime. Just two songs, consecutive songs, take up that much time. Does that subtract from the quality of the album as a whole? Absolutely. If it weren’t for these two, I would say the album is on par with Oceanborn and Dark Passion Play. Yes, that good. I’d say HVMAN. :||: NATVRE. is probably Nightwish’s most beautiful album, even with its two inferior songs. The slowness of All the Works makes me never want to listen to it in my spare time (only bedtime), but it’s still beautiful music.
Tribal became my new favorite song of all time, replacing The Pharaoh Sails to Orion after ten years. So, we got ourselves a mixed bag with this album. My ranking of HVMAN. :||: NATVRE. is greater than Once but a lesser album to Imaginaerum.
Right before this album was released, I was afraid. I was afraid it would be terrible, because it’s, well, about a theme park… What could go wrong? Everything.
But, I was delightfully corrected. Granted, like the other albums listed so far, if you’re looking for emotion, this is not the album for you. On the other hand, you can find almost everything else you’re looking for in this album. What surprised me even more is how none of the songs sound the same.
Seriously, it starts with a typical Nightwish rock song, and then transitions to metal, then jazz (yes, jazz), then folk-metal, then something I’d call ‘nightmare rock,’ then a short cinematic instrumental, then a beautiful poetic ballad. I can hardly even make sense of what I just said, and I love it!
Imaginaerum sounds more like a ‘best of’ compilation rather than its own individual album. It is the band’s seventh album, and it took over four years to be released, which didn’t make me happy, but I was not disappointed in the end.
Favorite song: Song of Myself.
The first of two albums released by what I call the “Nightwish A-team.” They still had Tarja, and they just got Marco. It was a serious step-up from Wishmaster, having a near-flawless blend of heavy and light, deep and emotional. It is the album that has what I objectively believe is the band’s greatest song ever, Beauty of the Beast (though I know plenty of people will disagree with me there).
The songs all sound different, while also sounding similar enough for the album to practically be a single 57-minute song. There’s sadness, like in Bless the Child, Ever Dream, Ocean Soul, Feel For You, and Beauty of the Beast. There is also a pinch of anger to be found in Slaying the Dreamer.
Century Child is described as one of Nightwish’s dark albums, but I think it’s much more accurate to say it’s their saddest album. It sounds like something you’d listen to alone, in the middle of a forest, while thinking about the people you’ve lost in your life, or people you’ve never had who you wish you did.
Favorite song: Beauty of the Beast.
Oceanborn and Dark Passion Play
I honestly don’t know who to crown king here… They’re both so amazing and damn near perfect. I guess I’ll just talk about them individually.
Dark Passion Play
Tuomas has said this is the album that saved his life. He was devastated at the loss of Tarja, whose voice was so amazing and distinguished. There was too much media coverage of the band’s breakup with Tarja, and it weighed on Tuomas heavily. And out of that pain and struggle, Dark Passion Play was born.
There is almost too much emotion in this album. It ranges from sadness, to rage, to calmness, to joy. No matter how you’re feeling today, there’s a song on this album for you. I’ve been showing Nightwish songs to my friends for over a decade now, and none of them ever liked Nightwish, except for one song, and that is Last of the Wilds. See? This album even has the power to partly convert people over.
The album even starts with the giant. They didn’t save it for the end, they opened the album with it. Not to mention, that song is easily among Nightwish’s top-5 greatest songs ever.
The album could not feel more authentic. It never feels like a product, it only ever feels like art, with the exception of one song: Bye Bye Beautiful. While I’m at it, I must admit there is a song on the album I absolutely can’t stand: 7 Days to the Wolves. So, apart from those two songs, I can hardly imagine it even being possible to make a better album.
Favorite song: Sahara.
If I were to be objective…………… I think I’d have to say Dark Passion Play is the band’s greatest album. But, that doesn’t mean it’s my personal favorite, which it isn’t.
My favorite is:
I listen to Oceanborn when I’m writing my books. I listen to it when I’m falling asleep. I listen to it when I’m going on a casual stroll. This album is like a drug for my ears. It’s the only album, from any band, including Nightwish, where I love every single song on it.
Sure, most of the album is heavy. It’s probably the band’s heaviest album ever. Despite this, the album avoids being repetitive. It manages to stay beautiful. It sounds like it’s meant to be heard in the middle of the ocean, where you can hear its sounds echo across the waters into the horizon.
Another thing I love about the album is that it seems to be telling a story. The story seems to be about a woman who is perfect in every way finding true love with a being who is pure evil. I think this is most explained in the song Devil & the Deep Dark Ocean, but still not entirely. I don’t the woman is simply beautiful, nor is the evil being simply evil. I think the woman is a metaphor for Mother Earth, and the evil being is the Devil. They are meant to fall in love and give birth to us. To humans. And that is why humans are both good and evil. Not to mention, all life came from the ocean, which is why the woman is shown in the cover art laying in the ocean, and why the album is called Oceanborn.
That’s just my theory anyway.
I love all the songs, I love the overarching narrative, I love the beautiful, echoing sounds of the songs, I love the imagery, I love the lyrics… I just love this album.
Favorite song: The Pharaoh Sails to Orion.