NIGHTWISH – That Was Then, This Is Awesome
April 4, 2018, a year ago
At the time of this writing, Finland-based symphonic metal powerhouse Nightwish were two-and-a-half weeks into a North American tour supporting their new album, Decades. It marks the end of a year-long hiatus following the Endless Forms Most Beautiful world tour, which ran for 18 months between 2015 - 2016, a firing-up of the engines that will see one of metal's most popular bands crisscross the globe on a Best Of jaunt before (eventually) heading back to the studio to record a full-length studio album. This is anything but a nostalgia trip, however, and Nightwish have no plans to call it quits any time soon. The Decades album and tour are meant as a celebration of the music that has earned the band a staggering legion of fans.
"We have this special connection with one another," says Dutch vocalist Floor Jansen of her bandmates, "and I couldn't believe that after one hour of being together after not seeing each other for a year that it was like we saw each other the day before."
That camaraderie is what finds Nightwish at their strongest... except to those naysayers that STILL insist on pining and whining over the original singer Tarja Turunen's firing in 2005. The tour is a celebration of the music that made Nightwish the juggernaut it is today, and in some cases a reminder of classic tracks and deep cuts from the band's catalogue that have been overshadowed by newer, fresher (but not necessarily better) songs.
"The original idea for Decades was completely based around all the band's old stuff, with the idea of going out and playing those songs for the people that have been asking Nightwish about doing that for years," Jansen reveals. "The idea of celebrating two decades of Nightwish came from our manager. Then we started thinking about it and the idea of a tour came up, and that's where the idea of having an album offering an overview of the band's history came from. The choice of songs for Decades was tricky, of course, and there are many songs that never made it onto the album that people will say and have said should have made it, but we had to choose. That started with everybody in the band putting in their favourite songs, and then Tuomas (Holopainen / founder, keyboardist) as the guy in charge made the final decision."
Which makes the omission of a call-sign track like "Wishmaster" from the 2000 album of the same name a shock; only one example of many surprises with regards to the Decades tracklist.
"Yes, but you've mentioned one song and there are a lot of people that will mention other songs if you ask them for their favourites. It's impossible to get it right. Decades is not a Best Of album, it's a trip through time. If you'd never heard of Nightwish before and need an introduction, this would be a good album for that."
Jansen started her music career as the vocalist for Dutch symphonic metallers After Forever in 1997, who disbanded in 2009. Asked if she was a fan of Nightwish prior to joining the band, Jansen answers with a "definitely." A very good thing given that the current tour setlist delves deep into the songs making up the core of Decades CD2, most of which haven't been played live in over 10 years.
"I was a Nightwish fan long before I joined the band and I've always loved their music, so this is a time machine for me as well. When their early albums came out, when these songs were played for the first time, everybody was at a different place in life, even the members of Nightwish themselves. Everyone has different perspectives of the same songs. For me it was a huge challenge to not simply know the material; I had to learn how to sing these songs and make them come alive."
"The pressure is there for me," Jansen adds, "because I want to do my absolute best and make the fans happy. But, it takes time to start owning the songs. Just because I can remember what to sing and what the songs should sound like, that doesn't mean they were exactly right yet when we started rehearsing. It was nice to be able to take the time to get to know the songs and give them the sound that we have now, especially with Troy (Donockley) and all his instruments as part of the band (laughs). And with my vocals we had to decide if we were going to take a more rock approach to some of the songs or stick to the opera sound. With the different kinds of possibilities that we have it was a gradual and natural progression as we discovered what works best for those older songs."
Jansen proved early on, after replacing previous Anette Olzon mid-tour in 2012, that she can sing anything from the Nightwish catalogue. Constant touring since her arrival has made it clear that Olzon's songs (on Dark Passion Play and Imaginaerum) are a walk in the park, and the Decades tour is cementing the long-held belief that Jansen is as good as Tarja ever was. Bottom line: Jansen has made those songs her own.
"I really do feel that way, but if you want the songs to sound like they do on the albums you should just listen to the albums," she warns. "Those old songs are going to sound different live with Troy and me in the band. On the original recordings there are a lot of backing vocals, and because Troy and Marco (Hietala / bass) and me have been playing together for so long now there's no reason to pre-record any of that stuff. Why would we do that? There's a big difference with three voices singing together instead of one singing along with a recording, and the songs literally come to life. It's a lot of fun singing with Marco, and we've even played around a little with who sings what where. Things just work out so well when we're together, I don't think there's any song we can't pull off. It's a really cool thing. I invite people to come and check out the show. It's something special."
Talk turns to whether a new Nightwish album of all original music is in the cards. Jansen says we'll have to wait.
"No concrete ideas yet, but Tuomas is back in the saddle writing like a madman again (laughs). I have no idea when the new album will see the light of day, but it's going to be quite a while yet."
When the next album finally does surface it will be Jansen's second official studio recording with Nightwish. Looking back on her studio debut, Endless Forms Most Beautiful, is there anything she hope to or plans on doing differently next time out?
"I have to admit that the new album isn't something I've really thought about too much at this point. The entire focus has been on preparing for the Decades tour. I've also been working on my solo project which I recently finished, the Ayreon album last year (The Source), a few other things, so the new Nightwish album hasn't really been on my radar. If I think about it, though, it's natural that my approach to doing the album will be different because of the experience I have now, but I'll cross that bridge when we get there (laughs)."
(Photos by: Tim Tronckoe)