Century Media/Spinefarm

Pretty much old hat by now, seeing that it’s been out in Europe for most of 2000, Nightwish’s Wishmaster finally sees stateside release to galvanize the glowing press abroad. Yea and verily, it’s not difficult to see why the Finnish quintet goes down like smooth brown ale across the pond: near-anthemic/near-gothic metal that squarely operates between the power- and Euro- poles, stadium-ready keyboard atmospherics and flourishes, a heavy-handed sense of oppressive urgency, and in lead valkyrie Tarja Turunen, a classically trained opera singer. And it’s the lattermost element that loudly sets Nightwish apart from their Helloweenie contemporaries: While most frilly-shirted Michael Kiske wannabes flounder in vain trying to hit their upper registers (and poorly), Turunen is the real deal, lithely moving about multitudinous octaves without a second thought, and remains likable all the while. Regardless, hers is a “take it or leave it” set of pipes, one guaranteed to stratify most punters, but hey • at least it•s a distinguishing characteristic. At 53 bombastic, blubbery minutes, Wishmaster is perhaps bested only by ’90s Virgin Steele for metal of this form and fit, but what a wild ride nonetheless.

Century Media, 1453-A 14th St. #324, Santa Monica, CA 90404,

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