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Nightwish at the 2013 Tuska Open Air Metal Festival. From left to right: Holopainen, Hietala, and Jansen
|Genres||See musical style|
|Labels||Spinefarm, Nuclear Blast, Roadrunner, Century Media, Drakkar Entertainment|
|Associated acts||Darkwoods My Betrothed, Nattvindens Gråt, Sethian, Barilari|
|Past members||Tarja Turunen|
Nightwish at the 2013 Tuska Open Air Metal Festival. From left to right: Holopainen, Hietala, and Jansen
|Genres||See musical style|
|Labels||Spinefarm, Nuclear Blast, Roadrunner, Century Media, Drakkar Entertainment|
|Associated acts||Darkwoods My Betrothed, Nattvindens Gråt, Sethian, Barilari|
|Past members||Tarja Turunen|
Nightwish is a symphonic power metal band from Kitee, Finland. The band was formed in 1996 by lead songwriter and keyboardist Tuomas Holopainen, guitarist Emppu Vuorinen, and lead singer Tarja Turunen. The band soon picked up drummer Jukka Nevalainen, and then bassist Sami Vänskä after the release of its debut album, Angels Fall First (1997). In 2002, Vänskä was replaced by Marco Hietala, who also took over the male vocalist role previously filled by Holopainen or guest singers.
Although Nightwish have been prominent in their home country since Angels Fall First, they did not achieve worldwide fame until the release of the albums Oceanborn (1998), Wishmaster (2000) and Century Child (2002). Their 2004 album, Once, has sold more than one million copies and was the band's breakthrough in the United States. Their biggest US hit single, “Wish I Had an Angel” (2004), received MTV airplay and was included on three US film soundtracks to promote their North American tour. The band produced three more singles and two music videos for Once, as well as a re-recording of “Sleeping Sun” for the “best of” compilation album, Highest Hopes (2005), before Turunen's dismissal in October 2005. Her last performance with Nightwish was recorded on the live album/DVD End of an Era; after the show, the other members announced to Turunen that she was no longer a member of Nightwish.
In May 2007, Nightwish announced Anette Olzon as Turunen's replacement. That September, the band released their sixth album, Dark Passion Play, which has sold almost 2 million copies. The album's lead single, "Amaranth", became one of Nightwish's most successful in Europe. The supporting tour, one of the band's largest, started on October 6, 2007 and ended on September 19, 2009. The band released an E.P./live album, Made in Hong Kong (And in Various Other Places), in March 2009 as a MCD/DVD, and their seventh studio album, Imaginaerum, was released globally on various days in late 2011/early 2012.
On October 1, 2012, Nightwish announced that they had parted ways with Olzon and would be finishing the current tour with ReVamp and former After Forever vocalist Floor Jansen. In October 2013, Nightwish made Jansen and longtime session uillean pipes player Troy Donockley permanent members of the band.
Nightwish is the third-best-selling band and musical entity in Finland with sales of nearly 900,000 certified copies. The group is also the most successful Finnish band worldwide, selling more than 8 million records and receiving more than 60 gold and platinum awards.
After playing keyboards in several heavy metal bands in the 1990s, including Nattvindens Gråt, Perkele Börk and Darkwoods My Betrothed, Tuomas Holopainen decided to create his own project while sitting around a campfire with friends in 1994. He immediately had a clear idea of the music: experimental acoustic music he wrote himself, similar to the music usually played around campfires, but with a distinct sound and atmosphere, played on his keyboards.
He soon invited friend and schoolmate Erno "Emppu" Vuorinen to play acoustic guitars, and the classical vocalist Tarja Turunen, who shared the same music teacher, Plamen Dimov. The three musicians recorded their self-titled acoustic demo in winter 1996. The name "Nightwish" was derived from their first song together, and the demo also included the song "The Forever Moments", and an early version of "Etiäinen".
In early 1997, following the release of the Nightwish demo, Jukka “Julius” Nevalainen joined the band, and acoustic guitar was replaced with electric guitar. The addition of heavy metal elements to the band's existing experimental style gave the band a different sound, forming the core of the Nightwish sound.
The band entered the studio in April 1997 to record seven songs for their second demo, Angels Fall First. As a precursor to their debut full length album of the same name, the demo made its way to the Finnish record label Spinefarm Records in May 1997. The label signed Nightwish to a two album deal, and the band returned to the studio to re-record songs from their second demo. The full length album Angels Fall First was released internationally in November 1997 and reached number 31 on the Finnish album charts, with the single “The Carpenter” reaching number 3 on the Finnish singles chart. “The Carpenter” single was released as a split with label mates Children of Bodom and Thy Serpent; the album is also one of the two releases which features Holopainen's vocals, appearing on four of the album's eleven tracks alongside Turunen's.
After encountering a mixed critical reception in their first year of existence, the band made their live debut in their hometown Kitee in December 1997. Since they were missing a bass player, Samppa Hirvonen joined them as a sessional live member. Marianna Pellinen was also a sessional live member on an additional keyboard and a sessional backing vocalist for Turunen. There were plans to make Hirvonen a permanent member, but he joined the army as part of Finnish army conscription just as they began recording Oceanborn, so they asked Sami Vänskä to join instead, since Tuomas knew him from the band Nattvindens Gråt. During the winter of 1997 and 1998, the band performed only seven times, because Turunen was finishing her schooling, and Nevalainen and Holopainen were serving their obligatory Finnish military service. Nightwish returned to the studio in August 1998 as a five-piece to record their follow-up album for FireStorm records.
On October 7, 1998, Nightwish released their second full length album, Oceanborn, in Finland only. Adopting a more technical and progressive sound than Angels Fall First, Oceanborn saw the band abandon much of the ambient and folk elements present on their debut release, with the exception of "Moondance". In contrast to the female vocals of Turunen, the album also featured guest growling vocals by Tapio Wilska (ex-Finntroll), since Tuomas did not want to sing again. Wilska is also a former member of Nattvindens Gråt.
Oceanborn was better received than the previous CD, with Allmusic writing that the album “as a whole works great”, with songs that are “very strong”. Oceanborn was an instant success in Finland, reaching number 5 on the Finnish album charts. The album’s first single, “Sacrament of Wilderness”, hit number 1 on the Finnish singles charts, where it stayed for several weeks. The album’s release was initially limited to Finland, but because of the success of “Sacrament of Wilderness”, Spinefarm released Oceanborn internationally in the spring of 1999. In May 1999, Nightwish recorded the single “Sleeping Sun (Four Ballads of the Eclipse)”, in one month the single sold 15,000 copies in Germany alone. Following the band’s first international success, Nightwish was added as the opening band for Rage’s 1999 European tour. Both the album Oceanborn and the singles “Sacrament of Wilderness” and "Walking in the Air" were certified gold in Finland in August 1999.
While in the studio in early 2000 working on their third album, Nightwish was accepted in the Finnish Eurovision Song Contest with the song “Sleepwalker”. Despite winning the public vote, Nightwish eventually finished in second place, with the jury choosing local gospel singer Nina Åström to represent Finland.
In 19 May 2000, Nightwish released their third studio album Wishmaster. This debuted at No. 1 on the Finnish album charts, and was certified gold in Finland after three weeks at number one. Critical response to the album was mixed, with Allmusic citing the album as repetitive, and saying “as a whole album, it can be a little annoying, even frustrating”. However, German magazine Rock Hard declared Wishmaster “Album of the Month”, despite competing against long-awaited May releases from Iron Maiden and Bon Jovi. Following the release of Wishmaster, Nightwish embarked on their first world tour, playing dates in South America, Mexico, Canada, and the first headlining European tour with Sinergy and Eternal Tears of Sorrow. In the summer the band returned to Europe, appearing at the Wacken Open Air festival and the Biebop Metal Fest.
In 2001, Nightwish recorded a cover of Gary Moore’s “Over the Hills and Far Away” together with two new songs (“10th Man Down”, unreleased from Oceanborn, and “Away”, unreleased from Wishmaster) and a remake of “Astral Romance” (from the Angels Fall First album) with Tony Kakko (Sonata Arctica) singing Tuomas' part. This new material was released as their first (and until 2009 the only) EP, "Over the Hills and Far Away".
The record also included guest performances by Tapio Wilska once again on "10th Man Down". They also released (as VHS, DVD and CD) their live album, From Wishes to Eternity, recorded during a show in Tampere, Finland, on December 29, 2000. Nightwish’s version of "Over the Hills and Far Away" was well received by fans, becoming a frequent part of the band’s live performances, but the songs never had a great break-through and have not been re-released, with the exception of a live performance of "10th Man Down" on the "End of Innocence" DVD with Marco Hietala (current bass player and male vocalist).
Soon after the release, Nightwish met what has been described as one of their hardest points as a band. The issues centered on the bassist, Sami Vänskä, who had started misbehaving towards the band, according to Holopainen, by missing appointments and failing to take gigs as seriously as the other members did. After the band discussed of his behavior with Vänskä several times, without getting any change, everyone simply stopped caring and tensions grew. Meanwhile, guitarist Emppu Vuorinen had started complaining about his role in the band, feeling like "a hired gun who would only do what he's asked to". According to their music teacher, Plamen Dimov, he and Holopainen have totally different characters, and thus difficulties were expected to arise. But Vuorinen was told to stay cool and "bite the bullet", and the problem was never addressed again.
Later, Holopainen confessed that, at that time, he seriously started thinking about breaking Nightwish up. After a gig in Russia, he sent a text message to fellow musician Tony Kakko of metal band Sonata Arctica, telling him that he did not think he had a band any longer, and asking him what plans he had for next year. After Nightwish's last gig for the Over the Hills and Far Away tour in 2001, Holopainen called Drakkar and Spinefarm, unofficially declaring Nightwish was over. He told them he might produce another album, but he'd never perform another show with the band. The same message was also written on the band's message board.
Straight after the last gig, Holopainen went on a week-long hiking trip to Lapland with Tony Kakko. During the hiking trip, they talked about the band and Holopainen decided he could not break up Nightwish that easily. When he returned from Lapland he immediately received a phone call from Ewo Pohjola offering himself to become their manager and help him straighten things up, and Holopainen agreed.
In order to continue with Nightwish, Holopainen decided some changes were in order. Beside choosing Ewo as their new manager, he also asked Vänskä to leave the band. Marco Hietala (Tarot) was asked to replace Vänskä, effectively leaving his previous band Sinergy. As well as playing bass guitar, Hietala would also perform male vocals. Holopainen has since said publicly that he and Vänskä still keep in touch, contrary to rumours saying that they have not met since. However, they are not interested in making another project together.
In 2002, Nightwish released Century Child, along with the singles “Ever Dream” and “Bless the Child”. The main difference from previous albums is the use of a live Finnish orchestra on the tracks “Bless the Child”, “Ever Dream”, “Feel For You” and “The Beauty of the Beast”. An enduring favorite of fans, though, is the band’s version of “The Phantom of the Opera”, from the famous musical of the same name by composer Andrew Lloyd Webber. The song was repeatedly played on concerts until vocalist Tarja Turunen was replaced with Anette Olzon, whereupon the band announced that they would never play the song live again.
Century Child was certified gold two hours after its release, and platinum two weeks afterwards. It set a record on the Finnish album charts as well: Never before had second place been so distant from first place. After the “Bless the Child” video, a second one was recorded, without any single support. The chosen track was “End of All Hope”. The clip contains pieces from the Finnish movie, Kohtalon kirja (English: The Book of Fate).
In 2003, Nightwish released their second DVD, End of Innocence. The DVD tells the story of the band in Holopainen, Nevalainen and Tapio Wilska’s words for two hours. The documentary also features bits of live concerts, exclusive footage, etc. Vocalist Tarja Turunen also got married during the summer of 2003, and there were rumours that the band was about to be dissolved. These rumours were, at the time, proven to be false, as the band continued to play concerts for another year and released another album. Tarja’s marriage later played a part in her dismissal from the band in the autumn of 2005.
Nightwish's style in this period made heavy use of Tarja's soprano lead against an orchestral background
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A new album, Once, was released on June 7, 2004, along with their first single, "Nemo" (Latin: “No one”), from that album. The single topped the charts in Finland and Hungary, and reached the charts in six additional countries. “Nemo” remains the band's most successful single release to date. With Once, Nightwish started to produce orchestral versions of some of their songs. Songs that have been produced as orchestral versions include "Nemo", "Ghost Love Score", "Kuolema Tekee Taiteilijan" and "Creek Mary's Blood".
Once utilizes a full orchestra in nine of the eleven songs on the album. Unlike Century Child, Nightwish decided to look for an orchestra outside of Finland this time, choosing the London Philharmonic Orchestra. It is also their second album to feature a full-length song in Finnish, “Kuolema tekee taiteilijan” (English: “Death Makes an Artist”). Once has sold triple platinum in Finland, platinum in Germany, and Gold in 6 other countries, it also reached No. 1 in the Greek, Norwegian and German album charts, and charted the Top 10 in France, Hungary and Sweden. The following singles were: "Wish I Had an Angel" (featured on the soundtrack of the film Alone in the Dark), "Kuolema Tekee Taiteilijan" (released only in Finland and Japan) and "The Siren". Besides the commercial success, Once was also well received by critics, with many positive reviewers drawing comparisons with Oceanborn.
The success of the album allowed them to perform the Once World Tour, taking them to play in many countries the band had never visited before. Nightwish performed at the opening ceremony of the 2005 World Championships in Athletics, held in Helsinki, highlighting the acclaim the band had gained. A “best of” album, Highest Hopes, was released in September 2005. The compilation also featured a live cover "High Hopes" (from the Pink Floyd album The Division Bell) (sample). Besides High Hopes, a remake of "Sleeping Sun" (from Oceanborn) was included on the album and released as a single. A new video for "Sleeping Sun" was shot, featuring a medieval battle, and can be found on the German release of the single and as a separate DVD released by Spinefarm.
After the recording in the Hartwall Areena (Helsinki) on October 21, 2005, of the new live DVD End of an Era (released June 2006), the four other members of Nightwish decided that it was best to continue Nightwish without Turunen, a feeling they expressed through an open letter which was given to Turunen by Holopainen after the concert, and afterwards posted on the band’s website. It was written by Holopainen but signed by the other three band members. The main justification given in the letter for Turunen’s dismissal was that the band felt that both her husband Marcelo Cabuli (an Argentine businessman) and commercial interests had changed her attitude towards the band.
Turunen responded to the incident twice, during press conferences in Finland and Germany, saying that her dismissal came entirely as a shock to her, given that she had not been notified before the letter was given to her. She felt that the personal attacks on her husband were unwarranted, and that playing the issue out in public was “senselessly cruel”. She expressed these feelings through her own open letter, which was published on her personal website, and through various TV, magazine, and newspaper interviews.
In September 2006, the band entered the studio to record their sixth studio album, "Dark Passion Play". In order to find a replacement for Turunen as the female vocalist of the band, on March 17, 2006 the band allowed vocalists interested for the position to send in demo tapes as an audition for the spot. During this time, speculation began to emerge about who would eventually be chosen, and the band stated on their website that fans should not believe any source other than the band itself for information regarding the new vocalist; and on Thursday 24 May 2007, the 35-year-old Alyson Avenue's ex-lead singer, Anette Olzon, from Sweden, was announced to replace Turunen. Holopainen has said in interviews he did not wish to reveal her identity until new material was available because he did not want fans judging her by nothing more than a picture, or past work.
|Wikinews has related news: Nightwish release 'Dark Passion Play', most expensive album in Finnish history|
The day after this revealing, May 25, 2007, charity single "Eva" was released for download only as the first offering from the new album. It was originally scheduled for release on May 30, but the date was changed because of a leak on a British music download site. This was the first published song to feature Olzon. On June 13, Nightwish revealed the title, Dark Passion Play, and artwork for the new album on their official website, as well as the name and cover of the second single (this time CD), "Amaranth"; it was released in Finland on August 22 and included a bonus track entitled "While Your Lips Are Still Red" written by Tuomas as the main theme track for the upcoming Finnish feature film “Lieksa!”. the single achieved gold status in Finland after less than two days in stores.
Dark Passion Play was released around Europe in the last week of September, 2007, in the UK on October 1, and the United States on October 2. It was awarded double platinum in Finland the second day after its release and took the number one position on the charts of Germany, Finland, Switzerland, Hungary and Croatia and got in top 100 in other 16 countries, including the United States.
On this album, male vocalist Marco Hietala has more freedom in the use of his voice: he sings back up in the songs "Cadence of Her Last Breath" and "Sahara", lead vocals in the songs "The Islander", "Master Passion Greed" and "While Your Lips Are Still Red", and chorus in the songs "Bye Bye Beautiful" and "7 Days to the Wolves". He also sings one part in "The Poet and the Pendulum", besides singing back up in the chorus. Before the band found the new singer and the album was recorded, Marco sang on all the demo versions. Holopainen also sang on the demo versions of "Bye Bye Beautiful" and "Master Passion Greed" but these songs have never been released.
On September 22, 2007, the band hosted a secret concert at Rock Café in Tallinn, Estonia, disguising itself as a Nightwish cover band called “Nachtwasser”. Their first official concert with Olzon was in Tel Aviv, Israel, on October 6, 2007. The Dark Passion Play tour thus started, visiting the United States, Canada, most of Europe, Asia, and Australia.
The third single of the album was "Erämaan viimeinen", a previously unreleased vocal version of the instrumental "Last of the Wilds”". It was released in Finland only on December 5, 2007. On this song, Jonsu of the Finnish pop and rock band Indica performs the Finnish vocals. "Bye Bye Beautiful", the fourth single, was released on February 15, 2008, and concerns the 2005 dismissal of Turunen, as does one other songs on the album (Master Passion Greed). The single includes yet another bonus track, "Escapist", which is also included on the Japanese version of Dark Passion Play. Within a week after the release, the fifth single was announced to be "The Islander". "The Islander" single features an orchestral version of the epic ballad "Meadows of Heaven" and also includes an instrumental version of "Escapist" and a new edit version of "The Islander" itself. It was released over a month after the release of its music video, shot in late 2007 in Rovaniemi in Finnish Lapland.
The Dark Passion Play tour turned out to be Nightwish's longest tour yet, lasting from the fall of 2007 to September 2009 when it ended with a concert in Hartwall Arena, Helsinki with the band Apocalyptica. Nightwish's only other concert in Hartwall Arena was in 2005 when they ended their Once world tour. This concert was filmed for the End of an Era DVD, and it was Tarja Turunen's last show with the band.
On March 6, 2009, Nightwish released a new live MCD/DVD entitled Made in Hong Kong (And in Various Other Places). The eight live tracks were recorded during the "Dark Passion Play World Tour" in 2007–2008, and the album also includes one b-side from the "Bye Bye Beautiful" single, one b-side from the "Amaranth" single, a previously unreleased demo version of "Cadence of Her Last Breath", and a bonus-DVD with three music videos as well as a 37 minute documentary called "Back in the Day is Now".
In the June 2009 edition of the Finnish magazine Soundi, Holopainen stated that he had started work on a new Nightwish album. In October 2009, rumors about the new album's name were going around with the title Wind Embraced, but lead vocalist Anette Olzon listed the rumors as "not true" and said that the songs for the new album had not yet been completed apart from 3 songs written before May 2009. Holopainen said in a 2010 interview that "[...]I can't reveal to you anymore but there is going to be a big twist so to say, on the next album." In an interview with Uilleann pipist Troy Donockley (who recorded with the band on Dark Passion Play), when asked about his involvement in the new album, he stated "Oh yes, I will be playing on the next album and from what Tuomas has told me, it is going to be something extraordinary..."
On February 1, 2010, Olzon stated on her blog that Holopainen had nine songs ready for the new album. She also stated that the band will be meeting in the summer to make a demo, and fans should not expect anything any earlier than fall of 2011. On Nightmail in April 2010, Holopainen revealed that he has now finished writing songs for the album, and on June 2, it was announced that he had finished recording the pre-production demo.
The band announced in late 2010 that more information of the album's actual content would be released in late January, but on February 1, the official website bore a statement written by Holopainen that because of the schedule changes he can't yet give away as much details as he would have wanted, but more information will be out after a couple of months. He added, however, that "it still is the Burton-Gaiman-Dalí - amusement park we are about to enter"; In the same statement it was revealed that the album will be a theme album and "mood changes seem to be more present than ever before", and the orchestration demos he had received from Pip Williams were described as "beautiful, twisted, tribal and cinematic stuff". In the Finnish version of the statement, it was also revealed that a few songs will not get any orchestrations at all, differing from their latest album on which all songs had major background orchestra.
Announcements continued throughout 2011. On February 10, Nightwish announced on their website that the new album title would be Imaginaerum. They also declared that the band had been preparing a movie based on the album, which would be released in 2012 and directed by Stobe Harju, who previously directed the music video for "The Islander". On August 22, 2011, it was announced on their official website that the album of Imaginaerum would be released at the end of the year. On August 31, Nightwish announced on their website their decision to change Imaginarium title to Imaginaerum "In order to avoid mix-ups with various things named 'IMAGINARIUM'". Then on September 2, Nightwish announced on their website that the new single called Storytime will be released on Friday, November 11 and on September 9, Nightwish revealed the cover, tracklist and commentary written by Tuomas.
On January 11, 2012, Nightwish announced on their website that the second single "The Crow, the Owl and the Dove" would be released on February 29. Roadrunner Records announced that Nightwish would be releasing a 10" LP titled Trials of Imaginaerum in conjunction with Record Store Day (April 21, 2012). The 10" LP is a two sided picture disk, which contains four early demos of "Storytime", "The Crow, The Owl and The Dove", "I Want My Tears Back" and "Slow, Love, Slow".
On October 1, Nightwish announced via their Facebook page that they were parting ways with Olzon. According to the press statement, "it has become increasingly obvious that the direction and the needs of the band were in conflict, and this has led to a division from which we cannot recover". This announcement came days after Olzon fell ill and was unable to perform; Nightwish used replacement singers from the opening band, Kamelot, and Olzon later expressed her disappointment, saying "I was never asked if it was OK that they used Elize and Alissa in the show [Friday] night [...] I don’t think it’s a good decision they made and I’m sorry for those of you who came to see the whole band but got something else. But I was very ill and this decision wasn’t mine." According to the statement, Floor Jansen (ex-After Forever, ReVamp) will sing for the remainder of the Imaginaerum World Tour.
On January 11, 2013, Olzon announced on her official blog that she was pregnant with her third child, due in spring 2013. This was a contributing factor to her being dismissed. The band then released a statement on their website declaring that the reason Olzon gave for her dismissal and other statements she made were untrue and that Olzon herself had agreed to help find a replacement while she was on maternity leave. Later on, Olzon gave several interviews in which she told that she never agreed with a replacement, even when she was pregnant, and proposed to the band to postpone the tour, culminating on her firing. She also added that she was against Jansen joining the band in her period of maternity, mainly because the difference of their vocal styles.
In an interview with Metal Hammer in November 2012, Tuomas Holopainen stated that they already had a rehearsal place booked from July 2014 to September 2014, but before they began rehearsing the band members would be taking a break from Nightwish for several months.
On 9 October 2013, Nightwish announced Dutch singer Floor Jansen as the permanent replacement for Olzon. Troy Donockley has also been announced as a full-time member, making the band become a sextet for the first time. According to the band's webpage, the band will enter the studio in 2014 to record their eighth full album for a 2015 release.
At the end of November, the band released the live album Showtime, Storytime. Despite the recording happening when they were only tour members, it is the first Nightwish release to feature Jansen, and to have her and Donockley credited as band members. The album also carries a documentary containing the behind-the-scenes of Jansen's first days in the band and the process of replacing Olzon.
In the beginning, Holopainen mainly wrote about mythological and fantasy themes, and often used references to "metaphysics and nature". For example, the song Elvenpath is about fantasy in general with references to traditional stories as well as Tolkien. Through the years the lyrics became more personal. On Wishmaster, the title track is still a "tribute to Tolkien and all the other fantasy writers", and FantasMic is a direct tribute to Walt Disney and Disney animated films, which Holopainen has said are among his influences. However, with Dead Boy's Poem, the album also includes a very emotional piece, which Holopainen calls his "legacy and [...] testament for the whole world. [...] I wanted to do this song before I die, because I wanted to tell the whole world what I think and feel. It expresses a lot of myself." Other personal songs on the album are Come Cover Me, a love song, and She is My Sin, which is about sexual desire and lust. The Kinslayer, also found on the Wishmaster album, is written about the Columbine High School massacre which occurred on April 20, 1999, and is "In memory of the Redeemers".
10th Man Down from Over the Hills and Far Away is about civil war, and the lyrics are written from a soldier's perspective. The personal development became even more obvious on the Wishmaster-successor Century Child. Turunen thinks that the lyrics do not anymore deal "with the dreamland we were used to, but with the brutal reality of life." Kuolema Tekee Taiteilijan (in English, "Death Makes an Artist") from the Once album describes the experience of loss and its impact on art, Nemo deals with the feeling of being lost, while "Dead Gardens" deals with a bout of artist's block Holopainen suffered from.
In the opposite, Creek Mary's Blood is based on Dee Brown's story of the same name, which presents the situation of Native Americans at the end of the 19th century. 2007's Dark Passion Play included an unusual amount of personal songs, including The Poet and the Pendulum which has been described as Holopainen's life story, and about being a composer and musician. Another song, Meadows of Heaven is a depiction of Holopainen's childhood and the feeling that it'll never return. Two songs, Bye Bye Beautiful and Master Passion Greed are about ex-member Tarja Turunen and her husband Marcelo Cabuli. Another song on the album, Cadence of Her Last Breath, is a "very personal song" about running away. Other songs also contain many references to authors such as Edgar Allan Poe, Walt Whitman and Stephen King, but the album also features a return to the fantasy theme with songs such as "Sahara", Whoever Brings the Night and 7 Days to the Wolves.
The song 7 Days to the Wolves from Dark Passion Play is loosely based on Stephen King's novel Wolves of the Calla, the fifth book in the Dark Tower series. The song The Poet and the Pendulum's first section is called The White Lands of Empathica, which is also the fourth part of the seventh book in the Dark Tower series.
Although the lyrics of Nightwish generally are serious with dark meanings, they have also produced several less serious songs, including the bonus track Nightquest, which talks about the band members' (the three original members as well as Nevalainen) connection as musicians, and the "quest" of Nightwish.
On its debut album Angels Fall First, songs were written in both the English and Finnish languages, but since then the band has only written songs in English, with the only exceptions being "Kuolema Tekee Taiteilijan" from the Once album (2004), the single "Erämaan viimeinen" (2007), which is a vocal version (with the vocals contributed by Jonsu from Indica) of the instrumental "Last of the Wilds", and "Taikatalvi" from Imaginaerum (2011). Holopainen thought that he was very uncertain about the lyrics of "Erämaan viimeinen", because he is of the opinion that writing in Finnish is rather hard, and has said that "Finnish [could] quickly sound really cheesy." The 2004 song Creek Mary's Blood also featured a poem read in Lakota, originally written in English and then translated by guest singer John Two-Hawks.
Tuomas Holopainen, writer of most of the band’s lyrics and musical scores, says that he gets most of the inspiration for Nightwish’s songs from film music. Songs like “Beauty of the Beast” (from Century Child), “Ghost Love Score” (from Once) and “The Poet and the Pendulum” (from Dark Passion Play) are examples of this influence. Other songs, such as “Bye Bye Beautiful” (from Dark Passion Play), and “Wish I Had an Angel” (from Once) have elements of industrial metal, and some others, like “The Islander” and “Last of the Wilds” (from Dark Passion Play), “Creek Mary's Blood” (from Once), and the Angels Fall First album have elements of folk metal. Holopainen has also said that film music is the music he listens to for leisure. He likes, for example, the musical scores to The Village, Van Helsing, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and Crimson Tide, and practically everything written by Hans Zimmer. Bands stated as an influence on Nightwish include Children of Bodom, My Dying Bride, Tiamat and The 3rd and the Mortal.
Fantasy novels are also a big influence on Nightwish’s music. Many of the lyrics make fairly clear references to fantasy novels, especially the Dragonlance series and J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings. Songs such as “Wishmaster,” "Elvenpath," and “Wanderlust” seem to be heavily influenced by the novels. References to The Kharolis Mountains, 'Shalafi' and Krynn, as well as 'Elbereth,' the 'Rings of Power' and 'Gray Havens', can be found in these songs. The music of “7 Days to the Wolves” is inspired by Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series.
Nightwish has also been noted as a source of inspiration for other bands. Simone Simons, lead singer of Dutch symphonic/gothic metal band Epica, stated that she began singing because of Nightwish's 1998 Oceanborn album. Ex-singer of symphonic metal band Visions of Atlantis, Nicole Bogner, also acknowledged that Nightwish had greatly inspired them for their first album. Sander Gommans of After Forever said that Nightwish “will certainly influence us in creating new songs”. Power metal band Sonata Arctica’s lead singer Tony Kakko has explained how much of an influence Nightwish is to him.
Nightwish performs symphonic metal with soaring female operatic vocals. Their music has been described as “bombastic heavy, symphonic and cinematic, with keyboards and strings creating a gothic atmosphere”.
The band's music is also known to be complex and layered. Their approach is epic, theatrical and operatic. Critic Chad Bowar notes that the music is "always very melodic with memorable choruses and a lot of hooks."
The usage of a female vocalist has become a sort of trademark, though less so since the outbreak of new female fronted metal bands in the mid-2000s with the popularization of bands such as Evanescence, Within Temptation, Leaves' Eyes, and several gothic metal bands mixing female and male vocals, such as Lacuna Coil, Tristania, Epica and the early Within Temptation.
Bassist and vocalist Marco Hietala describes the style of the band's music as "melodic symphonic metal;" though this is not a view shared by all members of the group, including band composer Tuomas Holopainen, who describes the band as simply symphonic metal. Nightwish was perceived to shift from their trademark power metal style for a more "commercial" gothic sound on their albums Century Child and Once. The music of Nightwish had been "distinguished by the operatic voice" of soprano Tarja Turunen, a "charismatic frontwoman with a powerful voice". Critics observed that her vocals became less operatic with the release of Once. Following the departure of Tarja Turunen from the group, Nightwish left behind the "signature operatic vocals" of their earlier albums.
While the music of Nightwish is centered around a female lead singer, the band has also featured some male vocals on their albums ever since their debut release Angels Fall First. This debut album also included "elements of folk music and ambience" that were discarded on their subsequent album Oceanborn. However, the song "Creek Mary's Blood" from the album "Once" featured some use of folk-oriented native American melodies, and their 2007 release Dark Passion Play featured a return to folk metal territory with the songs "The Islander" and "Last of the Wilds".
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