We all have that one movie, or book, or TV episode, or song that we enjoy so much that it’s in a higher league than simple entertainment. These special works aren’t something we only enjoy, but resonate with. They speak to our soul. Without it, we’d feel less complete as people.
For me, that special work is the album Oceanborn by Nightwish. If you’d like to check it out for yourself, listen to it here for free. I made the video myself, with one slight change to the song lineup.
I’ve read many reviews on many websites for this album. It seems that metalheads aren’t very thrilled by it, while everyone else loves it. When I read reviews from people who judge metal albums simply by how metal they are, I can’t help but roll my eyes. Why can’t people just listen to music as music? Base your opinion on what it is and what it was trying to do. I can tell you this about Oceanborn, and pretty much every other Nightwish album: It doesn’t exist simply to be as metal as possible. That would be stupid.
Why do I love this album so much? Because it’s a combination of the three things I seek in every kind of music I listen to: 1, entertainment value, 2, depth and meaning in the lyrics and sound, and 3, impactful sound. But, I think more importantly, the album is kind of a musical version of my own mind. My mind is a chaotic, deep, and immeasurably vast ocean of thoughts, images, and memories. The keyword there was ‘chaotic.’
My mind, if the average person could read it, would be described by most people as ‘chaotic.’ My mind is always working hard; sometimes too hard. I don’t try to make it this way, that’s just the way it is. Constant pondering, regardless of what I’m doing at the moment. My mind is noisy, and I’m surprised that I can make sense of what it comes up with. Hell, it even surprises me that I’m never overwhelmed by it.
Sometimes I wonder if crazy people have similar minds, but just can’t control it all.
Oceanborn is heavy. Probably Nightwish’s heaviest album. It is also gentle at times. It is a dark album, but also light at times. The lyrics make you think, and even if you don’t care for the lyrics, the vocals sound angelic. I honestly think of an angel singing over the ocean whenever I hear this album. I also think of a story being told. More on that bit later.
It doesn’t matter if I want to sit and think, or if I want background music while I’m focused on something else. Oceanborn is the right album for virtually any moment I need music for.
Let’s go over each track, shall we?
Sets the tone. This will be an epic journey. The setting is both a physical and metaphorical ocean of stars, stretching through eternity.
A deviation from the overarching story. It is the story of Jesus praying in the garden of Gethsemane right before his crucifixion.
DEVIL & THE DEEP DARK OCEAN
The primary story of the album. You could almost call it the titular track. It tells of a ‘lady in brightest white’ who dwells in the ocean being followed and tempted by an evil entity. This entity says they are destined to be together. I think it eventually happens, because the Devil’s last words in the song are: “From cradle to coffin, shall my wickedness be your passion.”
SACRAMENT OF WILDERNESS
I see this song as the sequel to the previous. It seems to tell the tale of primitive man dreaming of exploring the world and being as tameless as the wolves.
PASSION AND THE OPERA
Another deviation from the main story. It seems to be about a beautiful woman lamenting being the object of pleasure to others. Now, this could be a goddess or an ordinary woman being raped, or it could be an ordinary but beautiful woman feeling she has nothing in life but being the object of the desires of men. I don’t think it’s about rape. It’s not a dark song, but it is rather morbid. I’m convinced it’s about a woman feeling she’s made nothing meaningful of her life because all she does is provide pleasure to men.
What could be described as a sequel to the previous song. A sad ballad, and one of the few gentle songs of the album. It seems to be about a woman who wants to experience genuine love, but for unknown reasons, can’t. “In my world, love is for poets. Never the famous balcony scene. Just a dying faith on the heavens’ gate.”
I’m not sure what to make of this song. There are no lyrics; it’s just a dance. I always pictured it as another image from the main story, of primitive man dancing to their gods, which in this case is the sun and moon. Who knows?
Seems this song is about a woman finding a wise man who can answer all her questions about life and existence. The song features no replies; all the lyrics are only the questions asked. I think it’s symbolic, and even part of the story of the album, of mankind asking questions about its own existence.
THE PHARAOH SAILS TO ORION
My favorite song of all time. Arguably the heaviest of all songs in the Nightwish catalogue. I think this song also deviates from the main story, but I also partly believe it’s the conclusion. The lyrics talk about a pharaoh who sails into the heavens, but I like to think the pharaoh symbolizes mankind, again. Mankind’s journey is complete. From starting in caves, to venturing out into the world, to asking questions about said world, and then finally reaching the stars they had so long desired to see up close. The song is intense without ever slowing down, it alternates between beautiful female vocals and harsh male vocals, and it has a grand finale. It musically shows the excitement of when mankind finally reaches out to the stars, which still hasn’t happened in real life.
WALKING IN THE AIR
A simple epilogue. I like to think the previous song, Pharaoh, was the conclusion to mankind’s story, but this song is the conclusion to Man’s mother. Maybe I’m just overthinking it, like all the other songs, but I like to think Walking in the Air is about the woman finally finding love. She doesn’t ascend into the sky like her children, but instead walks through the air with her love now, watching everyone and everything below. Or, maybe the song was never meant to be anything more than a remake of the original Howard Blake song.
Originally, this song wasn’t part of the album, but instead released as a single half a year later. But, it’s so beloved that Nightwish includes this song on all their re-releases of the album. It is inspired by a solar eclipse that happened in Europe around the time of the album’s release. But, me and my imagination like to think of it as another love song between the main character of the album, the Lady in Brightest White, and her lover. Instead of walking in the air, they are watching the sun, wishing for the moment to last forever.
Have you made it this far in the article? I’m impressed. I’ll have you know that my next novel, Relics, is inspired a great deal by this amazing album. It will be featured in the novel, though a fictional version will be used instead, where it’s produced by fictional artists and the songs never deviate from the main story. I hope you look forward to reading Relics when it is released in early 2019.
I really love this album. If you didn’t click the link before, here it is again. Enjoy.