A Bard’s Eye View: Artist Profile- Nightwish Part One: The Tarja Years

Artist Profile

Nightwish – Part One: The Tarja Years


Country of origin: Finland
Genres: Symphonic metal, gothic metal, power metal, folk metal, heavy metal, symphonic power metal
Years active: 1996-current
Current members: Tuomas Holopainen (keyboards, piano, synthesizers), Jukka Nevaleinen (drums, percussion), Emppu Vuorinen (guitars), Marco Hietala (bass, vocals), Troy Donockley (uilleann pipes, tin whistle, low whistle, guitars, bouzouki, bodhran, backing vocals),
Number of albums: 8
Number of concerts attended: 4
Notable cameos on artist’s records: Kai Hahto

Nightwish is the number one selling artist ever to come out of Finland, selling 8 million copies worldwide. They appeal to a wide audience of people who ordinarily wouldn’t listen to any music in the metal genre because of their lyrical content (often containing fantasy references) as well as the female/male dynamic that has since dominated much of the scene.

There are obvious inspirations taken from Therion, who is said to be pioneers of the symphonic metal genre and also were early in working with female/male combinations (The Gathering are also very early). They have since inspired a number of bands including, most notably, Sonata Arctica whom they have a strong relationship with.

They are also well known for the departure of their original singer as well as their second singer. Nightwish has a long storied career and we will be splitting this article up into two phases to make it easier to digest. The first half will be looking at the first five albums by Nightwish, all of which featured Tarja Turunen.

Angels Fall First is their debut album from 1997. I was reading up on Wikipedia and found a bunch of crazy information about it. I found out that the album was initially intended to be a demo to send out to shop record labels but Spinefarm was so impressed they decided to keep the album as is. Tuomas, the keyboardist and writer provided the male vocals on the album but was largely uncomfortable with the sound of his own voice and decided to forgo vocals on future albums. As a fan, you may also notice its absence from Spotify. I particularly enjoy many songs on this album as well as its low key folk ambiance. “Beauty and the Beast” is the first song that really stuck with me by this band.

In 1998, Nightwish followed up with Oceanborn, an album with much more symphonic elements but keeping some of the folk sounds from their debut album.  It was very important after that album that the band release something that they felt represented their sound a little more accurately.  Stratovarius is cited as a large inspiration for this album.  A Howard Blake cover, “Walking in the Air” is featured at the end of this album and it is one of my favorites.

In 2000, Wishmaster was released.  For many of my friends, this is their best record.  The songs are much quicker and more power metal influenced.  The song “FantasMic”, I just learned, is a tribute to Disney and their films/characters.  If you are a Disney fan, I definitely encourage you to check out this song and listen to all of the references made.  It’s pretty awesome.

Century Child followed in 2002 and featured male vocals from Marco Hietala for the first time as he was a recent addition prior to the recording of this album.  This marks the beginning of their albums becoming more symphonic and aggressive in nature.  “End of All Hope” is one of my favorites on this album and is often featured live when I see them perform.  Also, a pretty sweet cover of “The Phantom of the Opera” is featured on this album.

The album Once, in 2004, became the most expensive album ever recorded in Finland (to be outdone by the NEXT Nightwish album three years later).  Once was a huge success and to this day has sold more than two million copies worldwide.  It entered #1 in Finland, Germany, Greece, Norway, Slovakia, and the general European albums chart.  “Ghost Love Score” is probably my favorite Tarja era song and will conclude this half of the Nightwish piece.

That’s all for this week. Next week we will showcase music from the next three albums, which feature different lead female vocals.  Thanks for listening!


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