Ready for the movies
As a venue for the Nightwish première the Loose Bar in Helsinki seems to be quite a prosaic choice. But this way the representatives of the writing guild are able to concentrate on the music of the new masterpiece ‘Once’ completely with a cup of coffee or a glass of beer.
The warm welcome from band-boss Tuomas Holopainen makes you curious at once:” Actually the whole album is a soundtrack that disguises as metal”, the keyboarder smiles cryptically. And really: the listening session starts and the darkness is lighten up. Never before Nightwish sounded that symphonic. The classical elements seem to be bigger, more dynamic and completely mature. “This time I really wanted only the best quality for the orchestra parts”, Tuomas explains. “Being able to work with the London Session Orchestra was the wonderful fulfilment of an old dream.” No wonder because this orchestra also took part in the ‘Lord of the rings’-soundtrack. “I flew to London with our demo and talked about my ideas with the composer Pip Williams”, the Finn remembers. “He worked on the arrangements for two months and then we recorded all the orchestra parts in only two days. I hadn’t heard the final version because Pip doesn’t use a computer and writes down everything by hand. But all strain vanished in the moment when fifty-two musicians stroke up ‘Ghost Love Score’. It was an unbelievable feeling to hear my own piece of music being played in such a wonderful way.”
The next thing that attracts attention is the bigger variety of the songs which surprise you with one or more changes. “That’s what I wanted right from the beginning”, Mister Holopainen emphasizes. “The songs’ structure is more complex and they change their atmosphere. ‘Once’ consists of eleven ‘short-movies’ that you shall not only be able to listen to. They shall wake up pictures inside your head as well.” Very clearly you can realize this strong visual side of the songs for example in the mourning ‘Creek Mary’s Blood’ with its Native American references based on the book of the same name by Dee Brown. “For me the expulsion and the extermination of the native inhabitants of North America belongs to the biggest sins of mankind”, Tuomas complains. “The Native American culture has fascinated me since my childhood and for ‘Creek Mary’s Blood’ the Lakota John Two-Hawks sings a few lines in his language for us. We sent him records of Nightwish which he liked. Afterwards he told us about a dream in which his ancestors revealed to him that Nightwish really deserve his support.”
The spiritual manner of the North American impressed Tuomas a lot and he also got a Native American name during the recording session. “The ceremony was a huge honour for me”, the Finn explains. John used his drum and was moving around me and he used different types of smoke and a few herbs and gave me my name which means ‘Shadow wolf’.” Tarja ranks ‘Creek Mary’s Blood’ with her favourite songs as well. On the one hand the singer brings in more operatic passages; on the other hand she is open for changes. “Once again I discovered new aspects of my voice”, Tarja informs. “Using the softer side of my voice is more and more easy for me and it sounds stronger. I like my voice on ‘Once’ a lot more because I wasn’t ill during the recordings this time. Everything that I sing comes from my heart.”
All in all the studio work went very smoothly while the new found harmony helped the band very much. “It was very relaxed this time”, drummer Jukka Nevalainen confirms. “We rehearsed in Kitee for one month and afterwards in the studio we knew exactly where we wanted to go.” And the singing bassist is content as well:” My voice spreads more over the whole album and for a few duets Tarja and I sing in the same pitch and voice range so sometimes it can be difficult to distinguish between both of us”, Marco grins.
‘Once’ – eleven Finnish pearls with annotations by Tuomas Holopainen.
- ‘Dark Chest Of Wonders’:
A very heavy start. Dramatic ‘Tristania’-choir and a Finnish folklore-melody. In the middle orchestra and heavy guitars.
Tuomas: The content of the song refers to ‘Oceanborn’. Starts with a heavy riff, afterwards there is a flute solo. Power Metal-chorus and finally a Pantera-part.
- ’Wish I Had An Angel’:
Never before there was that much electronic. Almost EBM-like and definitely a song to dance to. Tarja has a singing duel with Marco. Nightwish goes Rammstein…
Tuomas: The song aims very much at a shocking effect. At the same time it’s very tight. Our planned second single…
A classic Nightwish-half ballade with yearning strings and Tarjas melting opera voice. In addition to that rocky Finnish Gothic-guitars.
Tuomas: An obvious choice for the first single because of the simple chorus and the moderate length. It is not about aquarium fish.
- ’Planet Hell’:
The opening reminds you of Therion, afterwards the guitars enter heavily. Another singing duel and mighty soundtrack-atmosphere.
Tuomas: The most aggressive song and very direct.
- ’Creek Mary’s Blood’:
Native American flutes and drums, melancholic violins, discreet guitars. Tarja’s soft voice bets under your skin. Epic, unusual and symphonic.
Tuomas: For me this is the best song that I’ve ever written. Very epic and with a contribution from John Two-Hawks. Almost perfect.
- ’The Siren’:
A dramatic beginning, afterwards lurking with a steady change of orchestra and guitars. Tarja sings very seductively.
Tuomas: Musically quite experimental. Inspired by a Scottish woman that plays her violin to the seals at the beach every evening.
- ’Dead Gardens’:
Simple, strong, dark. An almost vicious song with an unusual grade of heaviness.
Tuomas: The first song for ‘Once’ which tells about how it is like when you are not able to compose anything. Full of frustration.
Sawing guitars and a trashy riff. Emppu is allowed to play a wild solo. Reminds you of ‘Slaying the dreamer’.
Tuomas: The structure is similar. For the first time in our history Tarja raps – at least almost.
- ’Ghost Love Score’:
Monumental and heavy guitar work. Grand orchestra passages which distantly remind of the Conan-film music. A mad song with a Taraj who comes it strong.
Tuomas: Perhaps the most ambitious piece of music of the Finnish rock history. After listening to it for twenty times it gets clearer.
- ’Kuolema Tekee Taiteilijan’:
Tarja sings a ballad in Finnish, partly only accompanied by the orchestra. Very beautiful with a male choir á la Morricone.
Tuomas: A very personal song and a nice ballad. During our demo-period the song seemed weak but with singing and the orchestra the goose bumps came in.
- ’Higher Than Hope’:
Bombastic power-ballad with depth. A real final.
Tuomas: Marco composed most of the music. The lyrics couldn’t be more depressed. Beautiful and cruel at the same time. Dedicated to a friend from the USA who died of cancer.