It was in July 2009. A friend, very excited, was telling me about a band called Nightwish. For me, the only thing rattling around my head in regards to this name was a bunch of long-hair high school kids dressed in black leather jackets and armed with very rebellious looks on their faces.
I listened to a few tracks of Nightwish, purely out of courtesy. And then it amazed me.
When fantasy characters started a band
But first of all, let’s have a quick history class. Imagine the scene: July 1996, the night of the full moon. Three people are sitting around the fire; a 19-year-old, fairy-looking girl, a long-hair elf, and a mysterious blonde guy. The music, trapped inside them wants to finally break free. Soon, the band already has a name: Nightwish. That’s how it all started.
The first album called Angels Fall First was released in 1997. Jukka, the drummer, was already a part of the team, and the acoustic guitar was replaced by the electric one. In May of the same year, musicians signed a contract with the music label Spinefarm Records. The band consisted of Tuomas Holopainen, playing his divine keyboard, Erno „Emppu” Vuorinen whose guitar is simply mind-blowing, Sami Vänskä and the brilliant bass, Jukka Nevalainen going crazy and wild on drums, and finally – Tarja Turunen – the singing angel from Finland.
The next albums – Oceanborn and Wishmaster – achieved a golden status and brought huge popularity to the band; both in Finland (their homeland) and in the whole world. In 2000, the group won the third place in pre-selection competition for the Eurovision. For the music world, they were nothing less than a revelation. Nightwish is so much more than just a regular metal rock band. Strong, characteristic sounds of the keyboard, then heavy, sometimes even brutal guitar riffs, and above all, the heavenly vocals of Tarja; all this make the listeners transport to a whole new dimension of music.
The Scandinavian revelation
Everybody deserves to experience bad days. Those came to Nightwish in 2001, when the drummer Sami Vänskä left the band because he couldn’t get along with Tuomas. It was a sad moment for the whole team because the members were connected by strong bonds of friendship. Sami was replaced by Marco Hietal, an experienced bass player, known from Sinergy.
After this change, Nightwish published another album – Over The Hills And Far Away, containing an absolutely beautiful cover of Gary Moore’s Over The Hills And Far Away. It’s impossible for me to try to focus on anything when I listen to that song. Tarja’s perfectly trained voice and Tuomas’ guitar skills bring the listeners to another dimension of the music experience.
But let’s go back from the sky, down to the ground. In 2004 the band released an album called Once with the famous single Nemo. Similar to the previous record – Century Child published in 2002 – all the songs are enriched with the presence of the symphonic orchestra. This trick aimed to bring the effect of classical music which turned Nightwish into a gothic-opera style. To get what I mean, just listen to The Phantom of Opera or The Siren. It’s like you’d suddenly transport to the world of The Lord of the Rings or The Witcher. This music is simply the soul of all the myths and fantasy stories. That’s why it is so unique and one of a kind. Also, it’s truly phenomenal that even the members of the band look like taken straight from some Scandinavian legend!
Unfortunately, the legend slowly came to an end already in 2005. Tarja left the band. There were many gossips about that fact; some say that she was fired by Tuomas, others that the vocalist would value the financial benefits more than the team itself. It doesn’t matter – the effect was the same; Tarja was gone. This equals: Nightwish will never be the same again. The new voice of the band – Anette Olzon – has been welcomed by the fans with mixed emotions and opinions. For me, she would never stand up to Tarja’s unquestionable artistry.
Don’t despair; overall, Nightwish IS Nightwish. After 2 years of working with the new vocalist, the band released an album called Dark Passion Play (accompanied by London Philharmonic Orchestra) which was published in 2007. After 2 days of sales in Finland the record achieved a platinum status, and after 2 another days – double platinum. The album is, indeed, remarkable. Especially the song Amaranth; personally one of my favorite tracks ever. Or The Islander – a nostalgic ballad which sounds like it’s sung by some mysterious creatures in a forgotten, fantastic world.
I could talk for hours about Nightwish. Back then in 2009, when I first got to know the band, there literally was no day when I wouldn’t listen to their songs. 9 years later I still enjoy its mysterious style; it always transports me to some fantasy land with beautiful, symphonic-power metal music. Each track tells a different story about love, the universe, and alternative worlds. The worlds that everybody would like to live for at least a time of one song.
The article was originally written in Polish in 2010. It has not been updated with the current information about the band.
Read more about rock and rock and roll music in my Rock’n’Roll Stories journal.