Hi again, music fans! It’s time for me to share my never-to-be-read list of songs from another of my favourite bands. This time around, it’s Nightwish!
Nightwish, for those who don’t know, are a Metal Band from Finland
As Metal is such a wacky, all-encompassing genre, Nightwish can roughly be put in the Progressive/Power/Fantasy/Orchestral metal camp, although there are elements of Thrash in there too, obviously. In their earliest days they experimented with indigenous instruments and incorporated a folk sound to their songs, the lyrics dealing with fantasy elements and typical light metal fare. With their next few albums their sound became more straight-forwards and streamlined – basically very past, heavy Power metal, dropping the unique instruments, and focussed instead on honing their songwriting skills, and moving towards songs of greater scope. As they reached their peak of popularity, they merged these Power elements with epic orchestral backing, while retaining catchy hooks and the special talents of their Opera-trained vocalist Tarja. After a much publicized incident, Tarja was dropped from the band, but rather than seeing the scope of the band’s ideas slim, the band continued to grow even more epic, with large, long, winding songs covering a multitude of tones and time signatures. While many fans have fallen away, the band is still immensely popular, and remains one of the first and finest female fronted Metal Bands of all time.
Know Why The Nightingale Sings: We start at the beginning, with a song from their much maligned debut. With Tuomas adding his – ahem – vocals on the album, and with some folk flare and local instruments employed, this is certainly the most unusual sounding Nightwish album, but many of the songs are throwaway, and those male vocals are awful. Even Tarja doesn’t sounds great in places. They did prove however, with a number of the tracks, that they had clear songwriting quality, and Know Why The Nightingale Sings is one of those. In many ways it sounds like a later Nightwish track, with its thunderous opener, and interesting dynamics in speed and tone. There are still some cringeworthy moments, like all that weird moaning and screaming, and the lyrics are a little too cheesy for comfort, but there is enough here that it is still enjoyable, and a sign of what was to come.
Angel Fall First: A gentle acoustic opening with dueling guitars and growing synths, and a drum laden synth heavy finish, with all manner of flutey goodness within. While not exactly an epic, it is Nightwish experimenting with sound and scope, not simply going for the typical verse chorus verse approach.
Astral Romance: One of the heavier, more melodic tracks on the album, this starts with what sounds more like an ending. Unfortunately it does suffer from that classic Nightwish trope of having a spoken word piece, as well as some dreadful male vocals, but once the song gets going it’s pretty good stuff. Again, they avoid a simple structural approach with a bunch of verses, followed by that awful male vocal section, followed by a largely instrumental finish. It does end with some harpsichord weirdness, and a truly glorious set of guitar solos, so it’s a win all round.
Imaginaerum: For a while now, Nightwish have been offering instrumental versions of each of their songs on special editions of albums, and last release Imaginearum was no different. This time round, the band included this title track as part of the actual album – an instrumental suite featuring pieces from every track on the album. Surprisingly it works quite well; it takes the best pieces from each track, merges them together well as a single suite, and makes slight modifications to each. For an album as dense as this, there are moments which miss the mark, but the title track manages to capture the tone and most of the major ideas on display.
Storytime: The lead single to the new album needed to give the fans something to look forward to, and in most respects it doesn’t disappoint. It is fast, catchy, and has that unique Nightwish sound. As the album can also be listened to as a concept album, following the film which would be released later, this track (as with all on the album) tries to work on a number of levels. As a song, it’s a good effort, giving the band free rein to let their commercial side loose, but as a concept it (and the album) doesn’t always work as well as the band would have hoped for.
Bye Bye Beautiful: Dark Passion Play is an album full of pain, anger, and guilt. The much publicized firing of previous singer and friend Tarja caused ripples amongst the band, the fans, and the metal community, with many wondering how the band could continue. A number of songs on the album talk about this, and Bye Bye Beautiful acts as an anguished love letter to Tarja. Giving Marco the most emotional lines in the bridge and chorus was a masterstroke, while new singer Anette Olson gets to give the verses a more melodic, commercial flavour. It may be quite poppy, it’s never less than cutting and disturbingly frank.
Amaranth: The first single from Dark Passion Play was a huge success – the cynical may say that much of that success came from the fact that everyone familiar with the band simply wanted to hear this new singer. Many were disappointed, but most fans realized that the band was more than one single person, and deserved to continue, progress, and change. Most importantly, it’s another strong Nightwish single with a great chorus. Anette clearly has a completely different style from Tarja, and though her voice tends towards the more commercial, the material that the band wrote with her was arguably their darkest yet, but in tone and sound. Anette also brings her own necessary theatrical flare to proceedings.
Feel For You: One of the shortest tracks on Century Child at under 4 minutes means that this one needs to be punchy and immediately catchy. Opening with a sinister bass riff, it quickly opens into a theatrical metal ballad. Another duet, fitting with much of the rest of the album, both male and female vocals work well to tell a twisted tale of love, but it is the effortless melding of melodies throughout, along with a wonderfully constructed atmosphere, which mark this as another classic on arguably their best record.
End Of All Hope: The weakest of the opening trio from Century Child, End Of All Hope is still a great song, blending in well with the two tracks with hug it. It’s pretty heavy, with a number of thunderous riffs and machine gun Metallica style attacks. As with almost all the tracks on the album, the verses are just as strong as the chorus, meaning the listener wants to return repeatedly to the song, not just for repeated listens, but to find all those little moments which are easily missed. There are a lot of ideas and musical shifts packed into a few minutes, a sign of a band on top of their songwriting craft, and brimming with confidence, even if the name of the song betrays that fact.
Bare Grace Misery: Wishmaster may be the band’s most straightforward metal album, with each song aiming for the throat and ears with venom precision. There is nothing complex about this track, it’s simply a driving, melodic, metal piece, but it has plenty of catchy moments, it avoids most of the cheesy pitfalls which other tracks on the album suffer from, and it manages to have a suitably operatic and fantastical sound to give that quintessential Nightwish vibe.
Wanderlust: As above, Wanderlust is a shot of simple, melodic metal straight to the vein. Opening with an interesting, fast paced guitar and piano dual solo battle, Tarja spits out the verse lyrics quickly, before taking a short breather in the bridge. The chorus is one of the most interesting and unique in the Nightwish canon, ascending and descending through scales rapidly. We even get time for a middle section which sounds completely at odds to the rest of the song – one a good day it sounds fine, one a bad day it sounds jarring – in all likelihood the song could have done without it, but it’s quickly forgotten while the rest of the song while stay in your head.
The Forever Moments: One of the earliest demos from the band, it’s a surprisingly mature effort. Musically, the Nightwish style is there for all to hear, although the lyrics are typical fairytale cheese. It’s a slow, sleepy number, with gentle piano and soft guitars, and Tarja blasting out the vocals showing her amazing talent. It’s pretty far from metal – there are no drums or bass, but it does weave through various parts, some of which do not work as well as others, but for the most part it all comes together as some unusual folk piece. That is, until the final minute or so when it threatens to become a new Final Countdown with a surging synth section, before breaking down into a tearful piano climax. Even in their demo, the band were showing that they weren’t afraid of pushing boundaries.
Nightwish: Another demo, this time firmly in the metal, theatrical camp, without ever becoming heavy or bombastic. Opening with whirling, wind noises, and synth, we get gorgeous acoustic guitars growing and building before Tarja comes in. It sounds a lot like many of the tracks on their debut album, and indeed is a stronger effort than some. Ideas from this one are clearly taken and used in later tracks, but it’s still a fine song on its own, and once again shows an ambitious young band unafraid to plough their own track. It does however, like many other early tracks, suffer from a terrible spoken piece, although it isn’t as cringeworthy as what comes on Angels Falls First.
Gethsemene: The second track from the second album continues the heavier sound introduced on the opening song, and builds upon it with adding layers of guitar and piano riffs and the now familiar shifts in style. The verses are not the strongest on the album, but the chorus is strong, and the middle section is an effective head banging couple of minutes, cementing their metal credentials. The final couple of minutes are the most effective, featuring many mini melodic phrases, moving far away from the first half of the track, and ending with a fantastic guitar solo.
Stargazers: The opening track of the second album, is one which opens with clear, immediate purpose; within a few seconds it is clear that the band’s sound has changed and is now firmly in the metal genre. The machine gun synth and drum attack is both melodic and heavy, and when the synth riff, then guitar riff follow it, we know that the band has forged a sound all of their own – yes, they are playing melodic metal music, but they haven’t abandoned what made the debut charming. The songwriting is improved, much of the cheese has been left behind, and although the band have streamlined their approach from an instrumental approach, it’s obvious that the sound is bigger than before, and the ideas are now beginning to shine through with glee. As was becoming common, the song doesn’t have a simple structure, but instead bounces around the expected formulas, while adding twists in timing and expectation – one moment it is fast paced and guitar and drum driven, two seconds later the sound is pulled back for a forlorn flute-led section. And it isn’t a gimmick – it’s crafted by a writer at the top of his game.
Lappi: What is actually a 4 track piece, Lappi can also be considered a single track, as I am doing here. It is the most ambitious effort on the album, and although the 4 pieces each have their own individuality, they work best as a whole. Opening with sad acoustic guitars, Tarja sings in Finnish briefly, before the piece entitle Witchdrums takes over. There is an otherwordly feel throughout, as if witnessing the singer travelling on some perilous quest. This Moment Is Eternity is a wonderful track on its own, while still working well in the context of the larger piece, free from the normal expectations of a 3 minute track it manages to cover a lot of ground while remaining emotional, catchy, and unique. The final piece returns to the acoustic leanings of the opening section, and serves as a nice bridge to the album’s closer.
10th Man Down: Taken from the Over The Hills And Far Away EP, this song packs a definite punch, sounding like the bridge between the metal of Wishmaster and the more operatic Century Child. The verses have a sinister atmosphere, while the chorus is a memorable one – both instantly catchy and unusual. There’s even room for a couple of silly spoken pieces, some sort of growling about war, but even those don’t take too much away from the quality, though clearly the song could have done without them.
Turn Loose The Mermaids: Not quite Turn Loose The Swans, but still one of the better songs on Imaginaerum. A ballad that manages to avoid many of cheesy traps that other metal ballads can fall into, this is another deftly crafted piece which grows with each passing minute, starting off fairly quietly, gradually becoming like something from a Leone Western after the halfway point. Anette is unfairly berated by many fans, but it is on these songs where she truly shines, moving from gentle, luscious lows, to sudden emotive highs.
Slow, Love, Slow: An unusual song in the Nightwish book of songs, this one has elements of Jazz and feels like a sultry siren call from a forgotten 1940s Film Noir. Once again, Anette takes full control of the track and it would be hard to see anyone else singing it and crafting such a seedy, smokey atmosphere. I admit that the first time I heard this song on my first listen through of the album I thought the band had completely lost it; after the album had finished though, this the song I couldn’t get out of my head, and it has since continued to grow on me. There isn’t really another Nightwish song which sounds anything like it, even when the typical Nightwish guitar blast and choir backing comes in towards the end – it’s a fleeting, chaotic moment, but suits the song’s finale.
Two For Tragedy: One of several ballads on Wishmaster, this one could be the most emotional, featuring heartbreaking lyrics delivered with Tarja’s special operatic style. She seems to be yawning with each line – not out of boredom, but to evoke the feelings of exhaustion one goes through when suffering loss. Mostly free of guitars, the solo is shocking when it comes, like the pulling of hair.
Deep Silent Complete: This one opens like a ballad, with its soft, fawning vocal intro, before one of the best shredding riffs the band have written comes in. That melody is repeated on guitar and vocals throughout but never gets tiresome. It’s another song without a chorus, relying instead on that melodic refrain and the pace of the verses to carry it through. A fairly straightforward song by the band, but all the more effective in its simplicity.
Swanheart: Arguably the band’s most cheese-filled effort, I can’t help but enjoy it. As if the title wasn’t enough to make you run for the hills, the beautiful and sobbing flute/piano intro likely will. But there’s a reason Nightwish have such rabid fans, and those fans I’m sure enjoy this song just as much as I do. Really, it’s an extraordinarily well crafted song – yes it deliberately tries to tug at the heart-strings, and yes when the drums pop in halfway through it feels like a lost 80s power anthem, but the melodies are perfect, Tarja’s voice is epic, the lyrics are pretty good, and that guitar solo is exquisite.
Away: It seems like I’m going through quite a few ballads here, but then I’ve always been a sucker for ’em. This one from the OTHAFA EP is another strong one, with that mystical, fantasy feel the band were so good at. This one is all about the chorus, big, bold, memorable, and one you can see thousands of fans swaying to. The verses are strong too, but fairly short and musically uneventful and easy to miss, but without their subtlety the bombast of the chorus may not have the same impact.
Master Passion Greed: This is most certainly not a ballad. In fact, this one is likely the most metal, most vicious song the band have written yet. It’s target it the man they feel stole Tarja from the band, and they aren’t afraid to make that obvious, or their feelings towards them. Opening with a pretty dark riff, this soon gives way to million mile an hour thrash. Marco gets the lead vocal here, with not the faintest sign of female vocals in stark contrast to everything else the band has done – it isn’t subtle or clever, but it is raw, angry, emotional, fast, and heavy. The ‘seek her, seduce her, tame her’ section is memorable, the vocals are guttural and filled with rage – it’s not a song they’re likely to play live too often.
Sacrament Of Wilderness: A staple of live shows for many years, this one seems to have fallen by the wayside a little. With a leading keyboard intro, and an abundance of riffs, ideas, and melodies, it has some of the best verses and choruses which are suitably strong when performed live. It even has a weird keyboard solo played at alarming speeds, and some squealing guitar parts which are sure to upset many an ear.
Taikatalvi: An album opener can do many things; catch the listener’s attention, introduce many of the musical and lyrical themes of the album, and ensure the listener that parting with their cash was a good idea. When you are famous for being a female fronted metal band, it’s a bold choice to open your album with a twisted, folksy introductory piece with male vocals. Thankfully though it works, and immediately grabs your attention – have the band gone for some extreme change? What are these Finnish lyrics about? What is the backing orchestra building up to? It’s one of the strongest tracks on the album, and it could be argued that much of the album doesn’t live up to the beginning.
The Crow, The Owl, And The Dove: Another acoustic opener proves that it’s the softer, more straightforward songs which make the greatest impact on Imaginearum. A simple story, a duet with a wonderful chorus, a bunch of catchy moments squished into a 4 minute space in an otherwise overpopulated record.
Rest Calm: A dark pseudo-ballad, this starts with a doom-laden pace and atmosphere. The song picks up pace, and is ostensibly another duet with Marco taking the verses and Anette blasting out the chorus. This never feels like a 7 minute song, with both verse and chorus melodies being honey to the ears, and all the pieces in between never feeling like filler. It’s the best song on the album, one where the light and dark, the heavy and soft play off each other perfectly, it never becomes too cluttered, and even the children’s choir doesn’t spoil proceedings or feel like a gimmick.
Bless The Child: The opening track to the band’s best album is unsurprisingly one of their best openers, and it does that even with having two (count em) spoken sections. Yes, those moments are pretty annoying, but the rest of the song is epic, from the blasting drums, to the chattering over the top operatic synth, to the wonderful melodies. And look, the lyrics are pretty great too! This is another change in sound for the band, a much darker tone, a more theatrical style while cutting away most of the cheesy theatrics of the past. The Byron influence is clear on this track and throughout the album, as the band tries to tell a more coherent, darkly comic story, and the sound is fuller than ever, whether that be the production or simply a trick of the music.
Dead To The World: The final part of Century Child’s opening trilogy is arguably the best part. With male and female vocals being equally strong, with brilliant verse melodies, with nods to other songs and ideas on the album, and with lyrical nods to past great works of fiction, it’s another supremely crafted piece. The chorus, if that’s what it is, is another winner, one good enough to be repeated as the songs closing moments. It’s always surprising that this song is just over 4 minutes long, with the amount of structural changes it ploughs throw, and it’s another which is endlessly listenable.
Slaying The Dreamer: One of the heaviest tracks the band has written so far, and certainly the most metal moment on Century Child, this is one I would frequently throw into set lists when I was DJing at metal venues. It isn’t the most complex song, but is packed with riffs, and does still go through at least one large structural shift towards the end. The first section of the song has a wonderfully dark atmosphere, a vampiric love song with the catchy melodies you would expect, and there is an unusual miniature guitar solo. The last section is a gnashing of teeth, filled with wailing, glorious Pantera style head banging riffs and percussion, and more madness than a gerbil inside another gerbil. But not like that.
She Is My Sin: We’re getting into the upper-echelons of the Nightwish catalogue now, and this one is another effective opener. Once again it lets the listener know what is in store – the band have ditched a lot of the instrumental complexity of previous works, and are going for a more streamlined melodic metal approach. We can expect big, fast riffs, and stadium crushing anthemic choruses. It’s a fast paced, immediately impactful first track, and although the structure is basic, there are enough dynamics and memorable moments to keep you coming back for just one more listen.
Creek Mary’s Blood: Another song which doesn’t really sound like anything else the band have done, this one takes an idea, some may say a gimmick, and builds it into something epic and classy. There’s a strong case for this being the band’s best song, with excellent lyrics, wonderful musicianship, and a reverence and respect to the subject matter. Covering Native American history, it is another example of how truly gifted a songwriter Tuomas is. Beginning softly with Native American vocals and instruments, the songs does eventually turn into a rock anthem, but it’s a deft and gradual process, one which pays off the listener, and demands a thorough listen. It’s another dense track, with the perfect orchestral accompaniment, and naturally the melodies, as I always go on about, are powerful and will stick like glue.
Higher Than Hope: The final song from the album Once is a somber one, a song dealing with dying, grief, hope, in one dark, pretty package. It’s an apt closing song, one with all the huge backing instrumentation which punctuates the album, a massive chorus, soft and smooth verses, and strong lyrics inspired by the life and death of one of the band’s fans.
7 Days To The Wolves: Now, I love Stephen King, I love The Dark Tower, and I love Nightwish. Put em all together, and you get this epic. Based off King’s Wolves Of The Calla it is another weaving song which seems fairly straightforward for the first few minutes. Those opening minutes are good enough on their own, with strong verse chorus combos, but around the 3 minute mark the galloping begins and fans of the book can just see the Ka-Tet fighting back against the Wolves. This fast paced instrumental section has all the hallmarks of Tuomas’ love for movie music, although this time around he is clearly trying to create his own soundtrack to a movie not yet made. The song continues for another couple of minutes of thrashing and mayhem for a breathless finish.
The Poet And The Pendulum: It isn’t easy to review the really long songs without breaking them down into individual sections, and as any readers will no doubt agree, I’m pretty bad at reviewing the shorter songs anyway. At almost 14 minutes long, this is certainly a beast, and as an opener to an album it’s another bold choice, forcing the listener to invest in a large undertaking from the second they hit play. Thankfully, it’s fucking epic in every way, even the cheesy stuff like creepy little children singing. A longish instrumental introduction makes way for some standard verse chorus stuff, all with wonderful music, a huge production with sounds coming from everywhere, and of course those catchy melodies. It all sounds like it cost a hell of a lot of money, but it’s worth every penny. We are then treated to a long section with creepy children singing, some dubious lyrics, some brilliant lyrics, and some weird nightmarish noises before it all explodes in a deafening orchestral ogre of madness. This middle section is fantastic, with ideas spat out at a hundred miles per hour, changes in timing and tone, metal and classical merging together beautifully, before a sudden return to the choruses from before. And just when we think it is over, we get another few minutes of breathtaking beauty courtesy of Anette, a piece which conceivably is a separate song but is added on to the overall 14 minutes regardless. The orchestral, no vocals version of this is extraordinary too.
Kuolema Tekee Taiteilijan: A song entirely in Finnish is still one which I love to try to sing along too, even though I have no idea what it’s about. The penultimate song from Once it helps to set the sombre tone for the close of the album. It sounds like this song would have been perfect for one of the LOTR films too. A gentle, and less densely orchestrated song than most on the album, it is essentially a Tarja solo effort, supported by a sweeping string section. It’s all so beautiful, sad, yet oddly hopeful, you’ll find yourself making up English lyrics which kind of sound like the Finnish, such as ‘woman tied up in her room, under mirror, bastard moon’ and ‘Oh Annie, looks sexy – under minions too looks sexy minxy’. Or maybe it’s better not doing that.
Wish I Had An Angel: One of the band’s most successful songs, managing to break in the US as well as all over Europe and Asia, this one obviously sees them at their most commercial and capitalizing on the unusual success of Evanescence. It’s just heavy enough to still be considered metal, yet bridges that commercial gap which gives all the biggest metal bands their biggest successes. Fast paced, angry, and with powerful melodies throughout, it once again showcases the songwriting skills of the band during their most collaborative period.
Forever Yours: As already mentioned, the greatest strength of the ballads on Century Child, is that they abandon the cheese of previous efforts and are instead genuinely heartfelt, dark, honest, and filled with broken yearning. This one is no different, sounding at once brutally emotional, crestfallen, and exhausted. It’s a short one too, and one which almost seems to end too soon. The guitars are rarely more than a background hiss, instead given Tarja room to shine along with a tremendous string and woodwind backing.
Dark Chest Of Wonders: For years now, the opening track of their live shows, this opening to Once is immediately powerful and breathless. Probably the best opening track of their career so far it works on many levels, giving the suitable thematic and musical introductions to the album, showcasing the massive choir and orchestra backing, and the peak of their merging of darkness and commercial viability. It’s also filled with crushing head banging moments, change of pace, overlapping melodies, an abundance of ideas, and a huge chorus.
Eva: The central ballad from Dark Passion Play is tender, gorgeous, and one of Anette’s finest vocal moments. A sad tale, the lyrics are filled with wonder and sadness and work extremely well with the music. As expected at this point, the backing and production are top-notch, but take all the extras away and you’d still be left with an excellent vocal performance and melodies which will linger long after the song has ended.
Meadows Of Heaven: Dark Passion Play’s closer could ostensibly be seen as a ballad, but it’s so much more, a mini epic tour of Tuomas’ psyche, a conclusion to the story and ideas presented throughout the album, endlessly cinematic, endlessly glorious. Opening softly with only piano and violin accompanying Anette’s (again brilliant) vocals, we soar through sumptuous melodies before the song’s powerful middle section. Tears are destined to be shed, and you can imagine this being the end credits song to some movie epic set in ye olde ancient times. Unusually, the ending sees a range of different singers adding their voices to the mix, making for a cacophony of voices heading to the afterlife, and unleashing a torrent of emotion as they pass on.
For The Heart I Once Had: I’ll probably get a lot of stick for this, as it will be seen by many as pure cheese, but I can’t help but love that guitar riff, and the combination of wonderful melodies and pace. An underrated song for sure, in my mind at least, this deserves to be seen with th best of the band’s ballads. It’s a simple song without all of the backing or complex structure of most of the other songs of this point in their career, a short one-two verse chorus punch with all the poptastic fun you would never expect.
Ocean Soul: An atmospheric, fantasy style opening, with hooded men with heads bowed (presumably) providing backing into vocals, this pumping rocker merges Tarja’s theatrical sensibilities with some of the best verse melodies, and one of the best choruses the band have yet produced. Fitting in with the overall dark tone of the album, the lyrics are dusted and beaten, the music operatic, thunderous, and with moments of quiet introversion.
Ever Dream: More than simply a practice run for Nemo, this piano and synth led fast paced rock song hits all of the commercial notes dead on, yet keeps the operatic metal approach the band are renowned for. There’s another absolute beast of a chorus with a coda of male vocals, punchy verses with equally strong melodies, and of course a middle piece which adds the extra spark and ties everything together. There’s even a waving, quick solo and explosive finish with the big backing we all know and love.
Come Cover Me: We’re into the top five now, and while at least 3-4 of my picks will be similar to what many other fans would select, I don’t expect that number five itself would feature on many best ofs. I can’t say why though, as it’s Wishmaster’s best song, another beautiful cross between mid-paced metal and ballad, with that odd fantasy feel which features prominently on the album. With a great leading riff, charging backing chords, and lots of twiddly guitar stuff going on, there’s enough to please the headbanger within, while the verse melodies are floating and ultimately as catchy as the band’s most famous work. The chorus though (without sounding like a broken record) is another classic, echoing the lead riff, but expanding upon it. The song is well structured, but again doesn’t have any real complexity. Everyone is at the top of their game, and the song is all the more powerful due to the fact that is isn’t overly popular, but I guarantee that the chorus will stick with you, and return to your mind when you least expect it.
Sleeping Sun: Up until the release of Once, this was arguably the band’s most famous and celebrated song. Guess what – it’s another ballad. In many ways it’s the archetypal song of the Tarja period, merging fantasy, metal, melody and those operatic vocals. It does veer awfully close to being a cheese-fest, but the ethereal nature of the music, Tarja’s unique performance, and the honest, poetic lyrics should be enough to satisfy even the hardest heart. For much of the song, the guitars and metal influence takes a backseat, letting Tarja and the arrangement shine. It’s a lighters in the air, crowd-pleasing tear-jerker, evocative, mysterious, beautifully realised, and with a storming mini solo towards the end. Again, the power is in its simplicity, and even though the band have gone on to much greater success, it remains one of their most popular, and best songs.
Nemo: Tuomas frequently states that he is much more comfortable turning his ideas and stories into dense, long, epic songs, but few would argue the fact that he has a knack for creating shorter, more simple songs. With Nemo, the band entered the stratosphere, being one of the few Euro metal bands to break out of their native land and make it BIG all over the world, conquering the US and UK (for a time at least). It’s an instant classic, coming at the perfect time for the band, just as metal was enjoying a surge in popularity throughout the Western World, but even without the timing, without the big budget video, you know it’s a hit as soon as the piano riff starts. Simply constructed, yet keeping much of the big backing from the rest of the album, the song is fast, gothic, melodic, and features probably the best verse and chorus combination they have written so far. Lyrically strong, it takes one of the stories of Odysseus and gives it a modern, darkly romantic, philosophical flavour, while making sure all those Nightwish trademarks are present – driving pace, atmospheric synth, vocal perfection, and plenty of guitars!
Beauty Of The Beast: And so we end the list with not one, but two epics – what the band has been getting better and better at since their first album. The closing song of Century Child, an album where most of the songs are around the 4 minute mark, passes 10 minutes, and even though there is some annoying speaking pieces, they suit the song and the album perfectly, mirroring what the song is about, and harking back to the opening of the album. Probably their first true masterpiece, and first real vision of what Tuomas wants his epics to sound like, it is a song split into distinct parts, all of which flow together to make a whole which is both daunting and eternally impressive. Calling back to many of the lyrics already spoken throughout the album, it is the culmination of the record, and of years of building and honing songwriting ability. With a massive backing production, the first phase is epic enough, even though it follows a fairly standard pattern. The song soon shifts, the story continues, and jaws are suitably dropped. The song movies from a slow pace, to a sudden surge with galloping, frenetic drumming and guitars, the song threatens to fall apart in a hail of chaos, before it is all brought back with a grin – Tuomas has us all in his grip, and is loving the power he has over us. Although the ending would have been stronger had someone else read the words, it’s a fine conclusion to one of the most stunning achievements of the genre.
Ghost Love Score: The only song which could top my number two, is of course this one; one which likely tops the chart of most fans’ best Nightwish songs. Awe-inspiring with every listen, no matter how many times I hear it, it never ceases to amaze, being not only the best song the band has written, but quite simply the best song of the decade. It’s always amusing to see all the best of lists at the end of a decade written by more mainstream critics, as this is never mentioned anywhere, but in all honesty nothing else comes close. Even though Once does appear on my list of the decade’s best 15 albums, I can understand why music critics, and even metal critics would not feature the album, but to not mention Ghost Love Score is an embarrassment, a tragedy, and (if the critics are aware of the song) a complete falsehood. If there was any doubt over the ability of Tuomas – play this song. If there was ever any doubt over metal’s ability to be complex and clever, play this song. Deserving to be mentioned in the same breath as any classic piece of classical music from past centuries, deserving of being mentioned as one of the best songs ever written, this is the crowning achievement of a band which continues to impress and challenge with their scope and efforts. I could break down the song, badly, I could mention how the guitar solo, one of the most simple ever written, is also one of my favourites, I could go on about the million different ephemeral ideas , but the best service I can do is to simply tell you to listen to it. I can only imagine that only Nightwish fans will be reading this, but if anyone out there hasn’t heard of the band, or if this song, set aside 10 minutes, put on some headphones, and let yourself be carried away to a place where only Gods live – surely mere humans cannot create such beauty.
There you have it, another oddly numbered list of great songs by a person with ears. What do you think? Drop some words below, feel free to add any songs you feel I’ve missed and let us know your own favourites.