By Inna Allen | Photos: Ville Juurikkala
Nightwish, the grandmasters of metal, are back with a vengeance. After a long break, they are now spoiling their fans with a new album, a full-length film and a year-long world tour. Originally from Kitee, a small town in eastern Finland, Nightwish has become the most successful Finnish band abroad. Scan Magazine spoke to the band’s front man, songwriter and keyboardist Tuomas Holopainen.
Gaining critical acclaim and enjoying tremendous success both in Scandinavia and the rest of the world, Nightwish has become synonymous with symphonic metal. Established in 1996 by Tuomas Holopainen, the band became known for its epic, theatrical and classical approach to metal music. The operatic vocals of former lead singer Tarja Turunen and the use of keyboard and strings to create a gothic atmosphere gave Nightwish a unique edge. In 2007, however, after the public exit of former vocalist Turunen and the recruitment of new singer, Swedish Anette Olzon, the band left behind their signature operatic vocals and embarked on a fresher, cooler and more commercial sound. The band (consisting of guitarist Emppu Vuorinen, bassist and male vocalist Marco Hietala and drummer Jukka Nevalainen, along with Holopainen and Olzon) felt it was time to move on and wanted something different. In addition to the new songs, Anette’s voice has provided a different spin on the old material as well.
“Landscape metal meets movie magic”
These are the five words Holopainen would use to describe the band. Nightwish has been labelled a symphonic metal band, a power metal band and a gothic metal band, but Holopainen is not keen on being pigeonholed – he wants to try out new elements and approaches on each album. When asked about how he thinks being Scandinavian comes through in his music, he says: “We get the Scandinavian side in us already from our mothers’ milk. It’s the melancholy, guts, creative craziness and a strong sense of self-irony that describe us, and all those things can be heard in our music, as well.”
The metal scene is very strong in Scandinavian countries, especially in Finland. Holopainen’s view on it is simple. “We have nothing else to do during the long winters and darkness than stay in our basement and play metal. This kind of music or a way to express our feelings comes naturally to us; it’s deep in our roots and blood, just like reggae for Jamaicans or jazz and hip hop for Americans.”
The Imaginaerum Concept
Released at the end of last year, Imaginaerum is Nightwish’s seventh album. The making of it took almost four years, and according to the band, the process was jovial and relaxed. “Imaginaerum is a gospel for imagination, memories, beauty and unconditional love,” Holopainen explains. “It’s a 75-minute rollercoaster ride through wondrous and twisted landscapes, deep into human imagination and memories, and finally to the very core of everything.”
Imaginaerum continues the Nightwish saga rather naturally and is not radically different from the previous albums. “It is more theatrical, weird, dynamic and cinematic, and also holds a more uplifting overall atmosphere than the previous album Dark Passion Play,” says Holopainen.
The band had an idea of adding another dimension, a visual one, to the musical experience – like making a music video of each of the songs and adding them together to create a thematic entity. Accompanying the Imaginaerum album is a full-length movie of the same title. All of the songs on the album are made for certain scenes in the movie. The film, out this year, is explained on the band’s official website as “a fictional story about a songwriter with an otherworldly imagination. He is an old man who still thinks he’s a young boy. While asleep he travels into his distant past where his dreams of old come back to him mixed with the young boy’s world of fantasy and music.”
As well as the album and the film, the band has embarked on another stint around the world. The Imaginaerum World Tour began in Los Angeles in January and will last about a year. The European leg will take place in March-May 2012. Through the years, the band has seen almost every corner of the world and sung before thousands of fans. But Holopainen’s ideal concert is “a nice and small club with a warm and intimate feeling, when the band is in a great groove and everything is working on the technical side of things. After the show, we give each other a hug, have a glass of fine Shiraz, have a chat with the fans and enter the bus for some good night’s sleep”.
Feeding the creativity
Life, people and all the different worlds imaginable are what inspire this creative songwriter. “The marriage of beauty and cruelty of this world and its inhabitants never ceases to amaze and inspire me,” Holopainen explains. With so much going on professionally, how does one relax and unwind? “Hiking in the wilderness is my ultimate relaxation. A strenuous 20-kilometre hike, then sitting by the campfire until falling asleep under the stars. And next day, the same thing. That’s my paradise,” Holopainen enthuses. “Movies, books, fine dining or sports do the trick, too.”
Now, after 16 years, seven albums, hundreds of concerts and thousands of hours spent in the recording studio, Holopainen looks back at Nightwish’s journey through the years with great fondness. Has anything changed? “The basic philosophy behind the band has remained the same, which is doing music from the depths of heart and imagination without any pre-calculation. That hasn’t changed. We have, however, matured as musicians and songwriters, hopefully as human beings as well.”
For more information, please visit www.nightwish.com