Once is the fifth studio album by Finnish symphonic metal band Nightwish, released on 7 June 2004 by Spinefarm Records and Nuclear Blast. It is the last album to feature Tarja Turunen on lead vocals. The album cost nearly €250,000 to make, (1,000,000 including the videos) which made it Finland’s most expensive recording ever until the release of Nightwish’s next album, Dark Passion Play, which cost over €500,000 to produce. As of 2013, Once has sold 2.3 million copies worldwide, being Nightwish’s most successful album to date.
In 2008 Kerrang! interview Tuomas Holopainen remembered: “Doing this kind of really orchestral, symphonic stuff for four albums, you have to be prepared to take the next step and go 10 steps beyond, and that’s how we ended up with the London Session Orchestra. At that time we also had the financial resources to do it. This was like our second breakthrough in a way; Oceanborn (1998) broke us, took us to the big league. Musically it was pretty laid-back from our side because everyone involved in the orchestra really knew their stuff, so we basically spent two days lying on the couch hearing all these people playing our songs, enjoying every moment. It was one of the most amazing experiences in my life. The first song they started to play was “Ghost Love Score”, we had no idea what to expect, and I just thought: This can’t be happening!”
The album continues the more streamlined musical approach first heard on Century Child, moving further away from the power metal-influenced sound of their previous albums into a slightly more mainstream, approachable feel. Once utilizes a full orchestra in nine of the eleven songs on the album; unlike Century Child, Nightwish chose an orchestra outside of Finland, the London Philharmonic Orchestra, which has been featured on every album released since.
Once is their second album to feature a full-length song in Finnish, “Kuolema Tekee Taiteilijan”. The band added new elements to their music for this album, such as the chorus riff and synthesized drum-beat of “Wish I Had an Angel”, and a long prayer chant on “Creek Mary’s Blood”. The song “Ghost Love Score” was described by Hietala as follows: “I’m a big fan of old prog rock and this is a song that has a lot of different parts going on, and different atmospheres in different places in order to support the story. […] My biggest influence from the prog world would be Jethro Tull, but I also love listening to Yes and Genesis and all those bands, and there’s a correlation between the structures and the length of a lot of their songs and this one.”
The angel on the album cover is a view of the Angel of Grief, a sculpture by William Wetmore Story. The original is in the Protestant Cemetery of Rome, Italy.