All concert photos by: Scott Kahn
Long before Americans discovered Evanescence, there was a female-fronted metal band from Finland producing brilliant albums combining aggressive metal guitars with a recto crunch and double-kick drums, songs awash in big synthesizers, larger orchestras, choirs, and topped off with vocals that moved seamlessly from operatic female leads to aggressive, grinding, male vocals. Whether or not the American band can develop a long-lasting career, they’ll always be playing catch-up to Nightwish, currently celebrating over a decade of making award-winning recordings with international appeal.
With a sound that is at once intense, complex, and dynamic, Nightwish music fuels the passion that burns within most of its members, and after only a few listens to their latest release, Dark Passion Play, that passion should take hold of new listeners as well.
Nightwish have only recently begun gaining recognition in the United States despite having a string of gold and platinum albums in numerous countries worldwide, but as with many other artists, the great international ones rarely get the exposure they need on American radio to make an impact on our charts and become household names.
One part metal and one part rock, one part pop and one part musical theater, it’s hard to define the Nightwish sound (or maybe we just did). Symphonic Metal works as a label for some, but Euro-pop influences can be heard in many songs. ‘80s rock comes to mind at times, too, but then so does ‘90s Nu-metal. There are just so many ways to describe this band, yet none is totally encompassing. We might climb out on a limb and call them progressive rock due to the tremendous orchestration of their music, but that would only further label them as something appealing only to one type of music listener, and really, their music touches a broad audience.
“All of us are pretty ambitious people within this band,” bassist/vocalist Marco Hietala explained when talking about the band’s diverse sound. “The whole variety of stuff that we do goes from soft and sensitive stuff to really hard extremes, and there aren’t that many groups doing that. The orchestral stuff is just one aspect of this.”
If you’re the kind of musician who appreciates everything from metal to pop to orchestral, there’s something here for you. In our review of their latest and sixth studio release (the second release in the US), Dark Passion Play, we referred to the band as a heavy metal version of Abba. This still seems to be the best general summary of their sound, though it hardly qualifies as a specific category of rock.