Ranking the Discography: Metallica Part II: Ride the Lightning (1984)

Ride the Lightning was the first album to feature contributions from Kirk Hammett, however there are still songs that were partially written by Dave Mustaine. (This would be the last album to feature any of his material) The album spawned three singles ( “Fade to Black” , “Creeping Death”, and “For Whom the Bell Tolls”) and was certified Platinum 6 times as of 2012. The title is a reference to the electric chair, inspired by The Stand by Stephen King.

Members:

James Hetfield: Lead vocals, rhythm guitar

Kirk Hammett: lead guitar, backing vocals

Cliff Burton: bass, backing vocals

Lars Ulrich: drums and percussion, backing vocals

The Tracks:

  1. “Fight Fire With Fire “: This is another song that contradicts its title. It actually condemns the mentality of its title. I like the frantic percussion and acoustic intro.
  2. “Ride the Lightning” : the title track criticizes the death penalty. Hetfield’s driving rhythm is excellent, making it one of my favorite songs. This is the final song that was partially composed by Mustaine.
  3. “For Whom the Bell Tolls “: I love how ominous this sounds.
  4. “Fade to Black” : The acoustic guitar and slow tempo are a great approach. It’s another favorite song.
  5. “Trapped Under Ice” : This song is based on a song that Exodus demoed called “Impaler”. While I like the rhythm, I can’t say I like this one much.
  6. ” Escape” : This song was an early attempt to make a radio-friendly song and feels half-hearted. Hetfield says this is his least favorite song. I don’t like it either.
  7. “Creeping Death”: This is an excellent song about the tenth plague of Egypt, the killing of their first-born children.
  8. ” The Call of Ktulu”: The album closes with an epic instrumental showcasing great rhythm from Ulrich.

Final Verdict: This album shows a marked improvement from the previous album. I have to wonder why 1001Albums You Must Hear Before You Die skips it, because I think it’s much better than Kill ‘Em All.

Grade: B+

Ranking the Discography: Metallica Part 1: Kill ‘Em All

Metallica was founded in 1981 when drummer Lars Ulrich put out an ad in Los Angeles’ music newspaper, The Recycler. The ad was answered by 3 people who would become the founders: James Hetfield, Dave Mustaine, and Ron McGovney. The band’s name came when Ulrich heard his friend Ron Quintana brainstorming names for a fanzine, and was deciding between either MetalMania or Metallica. They released several demos, with No Life Till Leather being the one that attracted their first deal. But by this time, the roster had changed. Ron McGovney had often clashed with Ulrich and Mustaine, as he felt he was not respected. He left the band and was replaced by Cliff Burton, who had left a band called Trauma because he felt they were “too commercial” . Burton’s agreement to join the band came with a relocation from Los Angeles to El Cerrito, a town near his native San Francisco, which initially didn’t sit well with Hetfield.

In 1983, the band arrived in Rochester, NY to record their first album together, Metal Up Your Ass. However, the remaining members had ejected Mustaine from the band, citing his erratic behavior and alcohol abuse. He was replaced by Kirk Hammett of Exodus. Mustaine would eventually form Megadeth, leading to a rivalry between the bands. Mustaine felt ripped off, as Hammett had stolen his leads. They had even reworked his song “Mechanix” into a song called “The Four Horsemen”. When distributors refused to release the debut because of its name, Burton was livid, exclaiming “Those record company f —-s … kill ’em all!”, inspiring the new name.

Members:

James Hetfield: vocals, rhythm guitar

Kirk Hammett: lead guitar

Cliff Burton: bass

Lars Ulrich: drums

Producers: Jon Zazula and Paul Curcio

I want to say that I have actually listened to No Life Till Leather as well as this album. There is a huge difference between the styles of both Hammett and Mustaine. Mustaine’s style is rougher and faster than Hammett. I’m not really sure which I like better, and that may be because I’ve only heard one Megadeth album. I have put Megadeth on my to-do list, for the curious.

The Tracks:

  1. “Hit the Lights”: This is based on an unfinished song Hetfield had written with Hugh Tanner, a bandmate in his previous band, Leather Charm. This version has some clean riffs, but Mustaine’s sounded slightly better.
  2. ” The Four Horsemen “: Mustaine’s solo is one of the high points of the demo, and Hammett seems more focused on polish.
  3. ” Motorbreath “: Burton’s bass line sounds like it it’s running a race. Ulrich’s drumming is excellent.
  4. ” Jump in the Fire”: Mustaine sounded faster and rougher on this, and it was one of my favorite songs on the demo. Hammett was good, but Mustaine’s was more sinister.
  5. “(Anaesthesia)-Pulling Teeth”: This is a bass solo, showing off Burton’s unique talents. The distortion is great on this.
  6. ” Whiplash “: This was the band’s first single, and it reminds me of a monster lashing at a victim. Hammett is pretty good on this.
  7. ” Phantom Lord”: Mustaine was excellent on his version. Hammett sounds good.
  8. “No Remorse”: One of my favorite songs. Ulrich’s drumming is great.
  9. ” Seek And Destroy”: This is actually about the urge to kill and not doing it. The wrestler Sting used this as his theme song in his times in WWE and TNA. Mustaine ‘s performance is worlds different from Hammett ‘s. Hammett is a good player, though. Clear Channel banned this song after the 9/11 attacks.
  10. “Metal Militia”: Hammet’s version sounds like an actual army. The only time this version sounds like a march is when the troopers come in at the end. I like how fast this version is, though.

Final Verdict: I like both versions of this debut. No Life Till Leather, however, almost makes me wonder how the band might have been if Mustaine hadn’t been ejected. They sound like two different bands!

Grade: No Life Till Leather gets an A-. Kill Em All, while still a good debut, gets a B+. Kirk sounds like he can play fast, but I think there’s more to metal than that.

Ranking the Discography: Nightwish Part IX: Human. :II: Nature (2020)

Human. :II: Nature is Nightwish’s most recent album, and their first double album. This was the last album to feature Marko Hietala, who left in January 2021. It also marked the official debut of Kai Hahto as the band’s drummer, although he had appeared as a guest star on the previous album.

Members:

Floor Jansen: vocals

Empuu Vuorinen: guitars

Marko Hietala: bass, male vocals

Tuomas Holopainen: keyboards

Kai Hahto: drums, percussion

Troy Donockley: Uillean pipes, low whistle, bouzouki, bodhran, digital aerophone, guitar, backing vocals

The Tracks:

  1. “Music”: This opens the album with a melodic intro.
  2. “Noise”: This is one of my favorite songs. It’s a commentary on addiction to technology.
  3. ” Shoemaker “: This song was inspired by geologist Eugene Shoemaker, who discovered a comet. Tuomas’s wife has a spoken part in the song.
  4. “Harvest” : This features Donockley on lead vocals, and is his most prominent role on the album. The song has rich instrumentation.
  5. “Pan”: Tuomas describes this song as an ode to imagination. I like its lyrics about writing and creation.
  6. “How’s the Heart?” : Floor is beautiful on this song about altruism.
  7. “Procession”: This has a great rhythm and keyboards.
  8. ” Tribal”: I think this is Hahto’s best performance.
  9. “Endlessness”: The first disc ends with a slow, almost quiet piece.
  10. “All the Works of Nature Which Adorn the World”: The second disc consists of one song divided into 8 parts, which the album treats as one song (although streaming versions present it as separate parts). This has sparse vocals, and relies mostly on an orchestral sound. Floor is only heard on the first and final parts. It’s a beautiful suite.

Final Verdict: While I like the beauty of the album, the second disc feels stronger than the first.

Grade: C+

Ranking the Discography: Nightwish Part VIII: Endless Forms Most Beautiful (2015)

During the tour for Imaginaerum, Anette Olzon fell ill and was replaced by Elize Ryd and Alyssa White-Gluz. A day after what would become her final performance, Olzon posted that she didn’t like being replaced without being consulted. She was then fired, and current vocalist Floor Jansen replaced her for the rest of the tour. (Troy Donockley also joined the band during the tour as well) After the tour, Jukka Nevalainen left the band due to insomnia. He was replaced by Kai Hahto (of Wintersun and Swallow the Sun). This was the first album with the current roster of the band.

Endless Forms was inspired by the theories of Charles Darwin and Richard Dawkins. Dawkins guest stars on two songs.

Members:

Floor Jansen: vocals

Tuomas Holopainen: keyboards, piano

Empuu Vuorinen: guitars

Marko Hietala: bass, guitar, male and backing vocals

Kai Hahto: drums

Troy Donockley: Uiellan pipes, low whistles, bodhran, bouzuki, backing vocals

The Tracks:

  1. “Shudder Before the Beautiful” : This is one of the two guest appearances by Richard Dawkins. The song is about the fragile beauty of the world. Floor’s singing fits Nightwish better than Anette ever could.
  2. “Weak Fantasy “: This song is meant to be critical of religion’s restrictions. Live performances include a quote from Bill Maher ‘s movie Religulous.
  3. ” Élan”: This song was originally not intended for the album, but Holopainen began to like the song more as they recorded it. The song is about living in the moment. It’s one of my favorites from the album.
  4. “Yours Is An Empty Hope”: This is one of Floor’s best performances on the album.
  5. “Our Decades in the Sun”: This ballad was written about Tuomas’s parents. It’s one of the most emotional songs on the album.
  6. ” My Walden”: the title is in reference to Thoreau. I like the variety of instruments from Donockley.
  7. “Endless Forms Most Beautiful “: the title track was inspired by Dawkins’ book The Ancestor’s Tale. It’s another excellent performance for Floor, with some awesome instrumentation.
  8. ” Edema Ruh”: This was the first song written for the album, and the only one with a fantasy theme. Donockley sounds great on this one too.
  9. “Alpenglow”: One of the best songs on the album, with an awesome choir and energy.
  10. ” The Eyes of Sharbat Gula”: This serves as sn interlude into the album’s chief epic.
  11. “The Greatest Show on Earth” : This is the longest song Nightwish has ever recorded, split into 5 parts. The song evokes many classical pieces, and I think it’s one of the band’s best overall.

Final Verdict: I really enjoyed this album, and I think it’s one of their best. The new members bring excellent work to the band, and it’s one of their strongest albums.

Grade: A-

Ranking the Discography: Nightwish Part VII: Imaginaerum (2011)

Imaginaerum is Nightwish’s only concept album to date. Ir was the final album to feature Anette Olzon on vocals and Jukka Nevalainen on drums. A movie was also released in conjunction with the album, directed by Stobe Harju, who previously directed the video for “The Islander”. The album and movie tell the story of a composer on his deathbed who is taken to a fantastical realm while he is on his deathbed.

Members:

Anette Olzon: vocals

Empuu Vuorinen: guitar

Marko Hietala: bass, vocals

Tuomas Holopainen: keyboards, piano

Jukka Nevalainen: drums, percussion

The Tracks:

  1. “Taikatalvi”: The title of this song means “magic winter”, and it’s the only song not sung in English. It serves as the album’s overture.
  2. ” Storytime”: This song was inspired by “The Snowman” , which the band had covered on Oceanborn. Tuomas felt this song was a pretty good representation of the album, and imagery from it is in the movie.
  3. “Ghost River”: Tuomas describes this song as a battle between the devil and Mother Earth.
  4. “Slow Love Slow”: This has a driving keyboard and orchestral rhythm.
  5. “I Want My Tears Back”: The pipes on this song are the best feature, as well as Empuu’s riffs.
  6. ” Scaretale”: This song evokes imagery of Disney’s Haunted Mansion.
  7. “Arabesque”: This is one of only two instrumentals, feeling like it comes from a ballet.
  8. “Turn Loose the Mermaids “: This song has some excellent instrumentation as the tempo increases.
  9. ” Rest Calm”: There’s nothing calm about this. It feels more like a storm-tossed boat.
  10. “The Crow, the Owl, and the Dove”: Marko’s vocals have an evil sound to them.
  11. “Last Ride of the Day”: I love the chaotic feel of this song. I don’t really want to pick out favorites since this is a concept album, but I do enjoy this one.
  12. “Song of Myself”: the longest song on the album, divided into 4 parts, making it similar to “The Poet and the Pendulum” .
  13. “Imaginaerum”: The closing song is an instrumental coda.

Final Verdict: Of the two albums featuring Olzon, this is the best. I found her vocals matched the music better, and the movie was excellent. While the movie might not be as necessary in order to enjoy it, I loved it. It was like a dark fairy tale, and I was so glad to find it on YouTube for free.

Grade: A-

Ranking the Discography: Nightwish Part VI: Dark Passion Play

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In 2004, Tarja Turunen informed the band that she no longer wanted to work with them anymore, as the relationship between Holopainen and her husband and manager Marcelo Cabuli had deteriorated. After their Once Upon a Tour ended, the members of Nightwish signed an open letter, accusing her of being a diva. She was replaced by Anette Olzon, formerly a member of Alyson Avenue. Holopainen considers this album the one “that saved [his] life”.

Members:

Anette Olzon: vocals

Tuomas Holopainen: keyboards, backing vocals

Empuu Vuorinen: guitars

Marko Hietala: bass, male vocals

Jukka Nevalainen: drums, percussion

The Tracks:

  1. “The Poet and the Pendulum” : This is a five-part suite, and was used by the Minnesota Wild in their 2014 season trailer. While I think the music on the album is fine, I’m having trouble getting into Olzon’s vocals. They’re not bad, but they lack the energy Tarja had. Even so, this is a great opener.
  2. “Bye Bye Beautiful “: This song is an attack on Tarja’s behavior, and has not been played live since 2009. I’m not a fan of songs like this.
  3. ” Amaranth”: This is the band’s most successful single, reaching #1 in Spain, Hungary, and Finland. This is another good song.
  4. “Cadence of Her Breath” : This song is okay.
  5. “Master Passion Greed”: Not only does this album attack Tarja, but also her husband. Not a fan of this one either.
  6. ” Eva”: This was the first song Nightwish recorded with Olzon. It’s about an abused child. Anette actually does sound good on it.
  7. “Sahara”: I like this song’s references to the Arabian Nights.
  8. ” Whoever Brings the Night “: The instrumental version of this song was used in the Little Big Planet 2 video game.
  9. ” For the Heart I Once Had”: The guitars and percussion are good.
  10. “The Islander”: This song only has acoustic guitar. Marko’s vocals are fine, but that’s it.
  11. ” 7 Days to the Wolves “: This was the best song, but maybe that’s because I was glad the album was almost over.
  12. ” Meadows of Heaven “: This was okay.

Final Verdict: Anette Olzon is the worst of the three vocalists in the band’s history. While the instrumentation is fine, I couldn’t enjoy the album because of the attacks and her vocals.

Grade: C

Ranking the Discography: Nightwish Part V: Once (2004)

Once had three singles (four if you count “Kuolema Tekee Taitellijan”, which was only released in Finland and Japan.): “Nemo”, “Wish I Had an Angel”, and “The Siren”. This was the last album to feature Tarja Turunen on vocals.

Members:

Tarja Turunen: vocals

Empuu Vuorinen: guitar

Marko Hietala: bass, vocals

Tuomas Holopainen: keyboards

Jukka Nevalainen: drums, percussion

The Tracks:

  1. “Dark Chest of Wonders”: This song gets its title from Stephen King’s dedication in The Stand to his wife Tabitha. It makes me think of the Greek myth of Pandora. It’s an excellent opener.
  2. ” Wish I Had an Angel “: This song seems to imply a loss of purity, and makes references to both the Virgin Mary and Judas’s betrayal. It’s my favorite of the singles.
  3. ” Nemo”: Tuomas’s keyboard is beautifully haunting on this. It’s one of my favorite Nightwish songs.
  4. “Planet Hell”: This song was used by the San Antonio Spurs during their 2005 season. Marko’s vocals are excellent.
  5. ” Creek Mary’s Blood”: This gets its title and inspiration from a book by Dee Brown. It has a beautiful flute.
  6. “The Siren”: Tarja is beautiful on this one. One of the best songs on the album.
  7. ” Dead Gardens “: I don’t care for the growly vocals on this.
  8. ” Romanticide”: Marko has good vocals, and the orchestra is great.
  9. “Ghost Love Score”: This is the longest song on the album, at 10 minutes. It’s the best song on the album.
  10. ” Kuolema Tekee Taiteilijan”: This is the second song to be sung in Finnish. The title means “Death of an Artist” .
  11. “Higher Than Hope” : This song is dedicated to the memory of Marc Brueland, who narrates the song. He died soon after the album was released.

Final Verdict: This is probably my favorite Nightwish album so far. It’s an excellent album for Tarja to go out on.

Grade: A+

Ranking the Discography: Nightwish Part 4: Century Child (2002)

I started getting into Nightwish around the time this album was released, thanks to hearing “Bless the Child” and their cover of Gary Moore’s “Over the Hills and Far Away” on Pandora. This was the first album to feature Marko Hietala on bass and vocals. It was also the first album to feature an orchestra.

Members:

Tarja Turunen: vocals

Empuu Vuorinen: guitar

Marko Hietala: bass, backing vocals

Tuomas Holopainen: keyboards

Jukka Nevalainen: drums, percussion

The Tracks:

  1. ” Bless the Child”: The opening song contains a quote from Sir Walter Raleigh’s poem “Even Such is Time”. It’s one of my favorite songs from the band.
  2. ” End of All Hope”: This song quotes an Emily Dickinson poem, “A Wounded Deer”. The keyboards are great.
  3. ” Dead to the World”: The title is a reference to the Edgar Allan Poe poem “William Wilson “. It’s the first song on the album to feature Marko’s vocals.
  4. ” Ever Dream”: This song was written specifically for Tarja’s vocals, and is arranged differently in concerts, with only the keyboards and vocals at the start, before the band joins in. One of the best songs on the album.
  5. “Slaying the Dreamer”: Tuomas wrote this in response to those who criticize his lyrics.
  6. ” Forever Yours”: This song quotes “Fare Thee Well” by Lord Byron.
  7. “Ocean Soul”: This song represents Tuomas’s love and fascination with the ocean. It has never been performed live because he feels the song is too personal. I love the imagery of the lyrics.
  8. ” Feel For You “: This is not one of my favorite songs, but I don’t hate it.
  9. ” Phantom of the Opera “: Tarja and Marko sing a cover of the main theme of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical based on thw classic movie.
  10. ” Beauty of the Beast “: Tuomas feels this is the most ambitious part of the album, closing the loop started by the opener.
  11. ” Lagoon”: This song references Eden, and was originally only on the Japanese release of the album.
  12. ” The Wayfarer”: This is another song referencing Walt Whitman.

Final Verdict: Marko is a great replacement, and his vocals complement Tarja’s well. This is a great new direction.

Grade: A

Ranking the Discography: Nightwish Part III: Wishmaster (2000)

Wishmaster debuted at #1 in Nightwish’s native Finland, marking the first time the band did so. The band continued to be inspired by fantasy, but a few songs delved into other inspirations. The album was produced by Tero Kinnunen.

Members:

Tarja Turunen: vocals

Empuu Vuorinen: guitar, songwriting

Sami Vänskä: bass

Tuomas Holopainen: keyboards, lyrics, songwriting

Jukka Nevalainen: drums, percussion

  1. “She is My Sin”: The drums and keyboard are great on this opener.
  2. ” The Kinslayer”: This was written about the Columbine massacre. It’s one of my favorite songs.
  3. “Come Cover Me”: This starts with a quote from Shakespeare’s 9th Sonnet. The guitar sounds awesome.
  4. ” Wanderlust “: A beautiful ballad with stirring orchestration.
  5. ” Two For Tragedy “: This song alludes to the Fall of Eden.
  6. ” Wishmaster”: I love the backing vocals on this. The song references Lord of the Rings.
  7. “Bare Grace Misery”: Another song with a Shakespearean reference, this time “The Rape of Lucrece”. It also alludes to Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid” and ” The Little Match Girl”.
  8. “Crownless”: Another Lord of the Rings song, referencing Aragorn and the fabled Sword in the Stone.
  9. ” Deep Silent Complete”: Tuomen calls this song his “tribute to the mighty power of the oceans.” It references two more Shakespearean Sonnets, # 93 and #17.
  10. “Dead Boy’s Poem “: This mournful tune references Shakespearean Sonnet #72
  11. ” Fantasmic”: This song quotes several Disney songs.
  12. “Sleepwalker”: This was originally included on the Japanese release, and performed at EuroVision.

Final Verdict: We’re getting close to where I first got into the band. I really enjoyed this album.

Grade: A

Ranking the Discography: Nightwish Part II: Oceanborn (1998)

(note: I like the European cover art better than the American cover art, so I’m using that instead.)

For their second album, Nightwish became a more bombastic, power metal band. They also added a new bassist, marking their first album as a quintet.

Members:

Tarja Turunen: vocals

Tuomas Holopainen: keyboards, backing vocals

Empuu Vuorinen: guitar

Sami Vänskä: bass

Jukka Nevalainen: drums, percussion

The Tracks:

  1. “Stargazers”: The guitars and keyboards sound excellent, and I like the new direction for the lyrics.
  2. ” Gethsemane “: Like “The Carpenter” , this song is inspired by the story of Jesus, focusing on his crucifixion. It’s one of the best songs on the album.
  3. “Devil and the Deep Dark Ocean”: In this song, a mermaid encounters the Anti-Christ. While the instrumentation is excellent, I don’t care for the vocals.
  4. ” Sacrament of Wilderness “: This was the first single to reach #1 in their native Finland. Another one of my favorites.
  5. ” Passion and the Opera”: I like the drumming on this one.
  6. “Swanheart”: I love the guitars on this one.
  7. ” Moondance “: This is a short instrumental track serving as an interlude.
  8. ” The Riddler”: I like the imagery and message of this song.
  9. “The Pharoah Sails to Orion”: This song was inspired by Exodus. It’s got a great keyboard.
  10. ” Walking in the Air”: This is Nightwish’s first cover. The song was written for the animated adaptation of Raymond Briggs’ The Snowman. Tarja is so beautiful on this one.

Final Verdict: This is an excellent album. I have to agree with Loudwire’s ranking for this.

Grade: A