When it comes to exceptional bands, there may be none better than NIGHTWISH. This awesome group from Kitee, Finland began publishing their musical scores in 1996. They bring some of their best works and definitely a trip back through time with Decades (out now, Nuclear Blast Records). I think each selection is an exclamation point at the end of a certain era for the band. The NIGHTWISH lineup is currently Floor Jansen – vocals, Tuomas Holopainen – keyboards, Marco Hietala – bass & vocals, Emppu Vuorinen – guitars, Jukka Nevalainen – drums and Troy Donockley – pipes, flutes, & whistles.
Decades takes you backward through the transformation from earliest release to the most recent, beginning with Endless Forms Most Beautiful, Imaginaerum, Dark Passion Play, Once, Century Child, Wishmaster, Oceanborn, Angels Fall First, and Over the Hills and Far Away. While Decades is an intentional journey, back to the beginning, the album really needs to be listened to in the order it is laid out. My observations are more chronological from the beginning and are ordered that way for those not familiar with the band.
The concept of NIGHTWISH began of all places, around a Finnish campfire. The idea was to have acoustic guitars, flutes, strings and piano with a female singer. Enter Tarja Turunen, the original voice for the band. Interestingly, the final song on the compilation is the demo titled “Nightwish (Demo)” which was their first effort. One can almost hear the apprehension in her voice at the beginning as Tarja chants the angelic lyrics, but she gains strength and confidence toward the end. To me, in the demo, one hears the foundation of the troupe that would be brought forward for the next 20 years.
“Elven Path” and “The Carpenter” are chosen from Angels Fall First and introduce electric guitar into the compilations. Almost at opposite ends of the spectrum, these tunes show a wide diversity in their first effort. “Sleeping Sun”, “Sacrament of Wilderness”, “Devil and the Deep Dark Ocean” and “Gethsemane” are birthed from Oceanborn. Such a stronger effort in all respects from the first album, these tracks illustrate Tarja’s diversity to vocalize a beautiful ballad and incorporate her operatic voice into a heavy symphonic metal blend. This album lays more of the concrete that defines NIGHTWISH as \m/etal intertwined with that base. You hear this style all the way to the present release.
Three weeks at number one on the Finnish charts, pulled from Wishmaster, “Dead Boys Poem” and “Kingslayer” are added to the compilation. I think once again these illustrate two great blends of metal and balad storytelling. From EP Over the Hills and Far Away, comes “Tenth Man Down”. I’m guessing this track was selected as a reminder that the band’s interest was beginning to wane, but it might very well have also been a turning point for them. “End of All Hope” and “Slaying the Dreamer” is shared from Century Child and “Ghost Love Score”, “Wish I Had an Angel” and “Nemo” from Once, one can hear the definitely heavier edge transition in the band with new bassist Marco Hietala replacing Sami Vanska.
Dark Passion Play debuted “Poet and the Pendulum” and “Amaranth” with new frontwoman Anette Olzon. While a definite change, according to their web page, this album sold 50,000 albums in a single day. The addition of Olzon is an obvious success. Imaginaerum is born in 2011 and two of its 13 children are on display. “I Want My Tears Back” features Hietala in a more dominant vocal position and each member in more prominent individual parts. “Storytime” shows Olzon’s vocal dominance and the song as the teaser to the upcoming movie release. The next year in mid tour, Olzon would become ill and have to turn the vocal reigns over to Floor Jansen, who stepped up to the plate in mid tour and hit a home run.
Lastly (so far) comes Endless Forms Most Beautiful ending the compilation with “My Walden”, “Elan” and one of THE most incredible \m/etal \m/asterpieces EVER, is 22 minute long “Greatest Show on Earth”. With my background in Geology, not only does “Greatest Show” have a special meaning to me, I think it is one of the most entertaining and well done metal songs ever written. If they can top it, my brain will officially explode. Decades, birthed from an idea around a campfire, this NIGHTWISH journey might well be one of the “Greatest Shows on Earth”. Salude’
STANDOUT TRACKS: ALL OF THEM
-MARK “\M/ETAL \M/ESSIAH” EHRLICH