Showing posts with label nightwish. Show all posts
Showing posts with label nightwish. Show all posts

Saturday, March 28, 2015

video review: 'endless forms most beautiful' by nightwish

Another album from a favourite band of mine that just doesn't deliver. Not a bad record, but pretty far from great. Eh, it happens.

Next up, I think it's about time I finally get that Modest Mouse review done... stay tuned!

album review: 'endless forms most beautiful' by nightwish

Back when I reviewed Blind Guardian's most recent and pretty damn awesome album Beyond The Red Mirror, I made the comment that it was one of two bands that got me into metal, and without those bands, I probably would never have become a music critic. The second band was always more symphonic, more gothic, and a fair bit more complicated to talk about. Yep, it's time to talk about a band of which I've been a fan for probably over a decade, the first metal band I saw live, a band that has been around for less time than Blind Guardian but is substantially more difficult to talk about. Yes, folks, it's time we talk about the Finnish symphonic metal titan Nightwish, a band that began in a campfire conversations in the mid-90s and spiralled away into becoming one of the most successful acts of the genre. And for the purposes of this conversation, I'm going to divide their output into three distinct categories, categorized by their female lead singer: the Tarja era, the Anette era, and the Floor era.

Nightwish began more in the realm of acoustic-flavoured power and symphonic metal, and their late 90s output was a time of developing a refining a sound that would become iconic, buoyed by the sharply melodic songwriting of Tuomas Holopainen and the glorious vocals of Tarja Turunen. Tuomas was always the band's mastermind when it came to composition, and the choice not to go with a heavy rhythm guitar section meant that melody was placed to the forefront over groove. It wasn't until 2002 and the addition of bassist Marco Hielata that the darker gothic elements moved much closer to the forefront along with some of their best compositions like 'Ever Dream', but the metal landscape was shifting too, with the success of Evanescence suddenly opening up a window for similar sounding - and better - bands to break. Suddenly, the symphonic metal sound was commercially viable, and Nightwish rode that wave to their - at that time - biggest album Once in 2004. And going back to that album, while the seeds were planted for their later expansion, it's also a very compromised record in terms of the subject matter, and I'd argue only about half of that album is very good or up to their usual standard.

And that compromised vision certainly did bleed into the band, which fired frontwoman Tarja Turunen in 2005 and split the fanbase in two with the arrival of Anette Olzon, signalling the second major era for the band. It was a time that signalled even greater ambitions for the band, who ditched any pretense towards following trends and grabbed up richer musical influences wholesale for 2007's Dark Passion Play. And yes, while Anette was not as technically refined and powerful of a singer as Tarja, she balanced against the loose roughness and eclectic style of the album far better, which was able to get darker without needing gothic pretense. Where pretense did become a factor was in Tuomas' writing, which had always walked the line of being too clever and yet bitingly straightforward. And the while the symphonic element became more and more prominent, first with the inclusion of Troy Donockley on the pipes and second with the heavier usage of orchestras, inspired by Tuomas' love of film scores. So it almost seems logical that that their 2011 album Imaginaerum would be paired with a movie and feel even larger and heavier than the last. And it was, and while I could argue that the album was even more self-referential than usual in terms of themes and lyrics, it features some of Nightwish's best melodic compositions and was overall a fantastic release.

But the problems weren't over, and midway through the tour Anette was fired and replaced with Floor Jansen of After Forever. Now there's a lot of ugliness to that conversation and nobody looks good, but it led to Floor Jansen joining the band full time along with Troy Donockley for their next album. Unfortunately, drummer Jukka Nevalainen had to take a brief hiatus and his drums were instead recorded by Kai Hahto, of the melodic death metal acts Swallow The Sun and Wintersun. Also in that intervening time, both Marco Hielata and Troy Donockley participated on the progressive metal album The Theory of Everything from Ayreon, easily one of the best records of that year, and I had to wonder if any progressive influences would be creeping towards Nightwish, especially with Marco as a secondary writer. And then I heard Nightwish was going to be discussing themes surrounding evolution on the album, even quoting Richard Dawkins! Keep in mind that the majority of Nightwish's material seems to fit in its own universe, and the last time they came remotely close to getting political was 'The Kinslayer' back on Wishmaster in 2000! To put things in context, Epica spent almost a decade trying to refinne their political messages before getting it to work consistently - I had no doubts that Tuomas was a good songwriter, but he's playing in a very different ballpark here!

In other words... look, even as a fan, I had no damn clue what to expect from this. Nightwish aiming for an even heavier sound, stabbing outwards with new subject matter and with a good half of the band changed, I had no idea what to expect, especially considering I wasn't really in love with Tuomas' solo album he dropped in 2014, written around the same time as this record. But I'm still a fan and at the very least it'd be an entertaining record, so what did we get with Endless Forms Most Beautiful?

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

video review: 'shine' by anette olzon

Glad I got this out. Think I might be one of the few critics who bothered to look at this, and that's a bit of a shame, because it was pretty good.

Next up, Tokyo Police Club. After that, I'll start tackling the April releases, like Dan & Shay, Lacuna Coil, Mac DeMarco, and Cloud Nothings, plus a few more. Stay tuned!

album review: 'shine' by anette olzon

Let me take you back seven years, when word first broke that the symphonic metal band Nightwish had hired a new lead singer - the former frontwoman of Alyson Avenue, Anette Olzon.

And at that moment, the Nightwish fanbase split into three distinct parts. The first were the fans of Tarja Turunen, who were incensed that she had been fired and took a while to come around to the new singer, if they did at all. The second were pro-Anette, embraced the rougher, looser tone Nightwish took with their next two albums, and really enjoyed her more dynamic stage presence. And the third group - where I would count myself - realized that Nightwish had always been the brainchild of keyboardist and songwriter Tuomas Holopainen and the band was still capable of making great music regardless of the lead singer. And with that in mind, acknowledging the change in direction, I like music that was made by both incarnations of the band.

Now fast-forward to October of 2012, where the news broke mid-tour that Anette Olzon had been dismissed from Nightwish and had been replaced by the female singers from tourmates Kamelot and later by Floor Jansen. I'm not going to get into the back-and-forth drama of the whole endeavour, but I will say this: from what I know of Tuomas and the way he runs Nightwish, I was disappointed, but not surprised. But just like Tarja had done ahead of her, Anette Olzon made the choice to strike out on her own and release a solo album - and I did not expect much. Let's face it, it took Tarja three albums to hammer out a working formula,  and Anette had never been responsible for any of Nightwish's songwriting. Furthermore, the buzz was suggesting this album wasn't a metal or even a hard rock record like she made with either of her previous bands, so I wasn't sure what to expect. So how was Shine?

Sunday, October 27, 2013

album review: 'the theory of everything' by ayreon

It is one of the most ambitious and fascinating projects ever undertaken in metal - hell, some could make the argument that it's one of the biggest in music as a whole. The brainchild of a genius singer-songwriter multi-instrumentalist with a love of prog rock, psychedelia, and science fiction. A project that has spanned dozens of metal acts, big and small. For me, it has been the introduction point to so many bands to which I've consequently discovered and loved, and the fact that something coherent and engaging could have been made from it is mind-boggling.

Yes, folks, I'm talking about Ayreon, the multi-album megaproject masterminded by Arjen Lucassen. Started in 1995 with The Final Experiment, the Ayreon 'story' spanned seven albums, all of them which are good and a few are goddamn classics. In that respect, it's a little hard for me to be heavily critical of this project, partially because it played such a huge role in my discovery of progressive metal and partially because it's so goddamn great. I guess if I was going to try here, Arjen Lucassen's closest analogue in another field would be Kenneth Branagh, in that both men are fiendishly ambitious, produce highly cerebral material that can toe the line between epic and camp, and that they both have unbelievable clout in their ability to recruit players from all across their field. You want a short list of bands from where Lucassen has called up performers? How about After Forever, Blind Guardian, Dream Theater, Avantasia, Epica, Kamelot, Nightwish, Gotthard, Iron Maiden, Lacuna Coil, Rhapsody of Fire, Within Temptation, The Flower Kings, Yes, King Crimson, and even Genesis! And really, I left a whole slew of acts off the list - that's how much clout Lucassen has, and it's kind of incredible how he can call up so many different prog and metal performers to work with him time and time again.

But for those of you who don't know, the Ayreon project had its concluding element with 01011001 (the binary term for Y) in 2008, with Lucassen finally setting it aside to go onto other projects, like the follow-up Star One album and the fascinating experimentation of Guilt Machine. Yet, this year, he announced he was calling together a whole new crop of musicians to come work with him on an album titled The Theory of Everything. And as an Ayreon fan and a physics grad, I was more than intrigued by what Lucassen would be able to create from his insane vision and fetish for weird science. Joking aside, this has been my most highly anticipated album of the year thus far. So, did he pull off another classic?

Sunday, September 1, 2013

video review: 'colours in the dark' by tarja turunen

Whoops, missed putting this up last night. Anyway, here's my newest video review of Tarja Turunen's album 'Colours in The Dark'. I'm kind of flabbergasted that I spent the entire damn review pronouncing Tarja's name wrong, but to be honest, that's always the way I heard in pronounced, and I never even expected I was wrong. But then again, the translation of a 'j' to a 'y' is really common over there, and frankly, I should have known better. God, that's embarrassing.

Also, the fact I have a tan is really not showing up on screen. That's deeply annoying to me. Eh, you can't win them all.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

album review: 'colours in the dark' by tarja turunen

It's really hard to talk about Tarja Turunen without talking about Nightwish. Yes, even her solo career.

I should explain for those of you who have no idea what I'm talking about, and it's going to require a bit of a history lesson. Back in 1996, there was a keyboardist and insanely talented songwriter in Finland named Tuomas Holopainen, and he recruited guitarist Emppu Vuorinen and classical singer Tarja Turunen to form a band that would fuse classical symphonic music with heavy metal. In 1997, they (along with future symphonic metal titan Within Temptation) released their first albums, birthing a whole new genre of metal that would take them to fame and fortune. 

It was also one of the first genres of metal I ever explored, and Nightwish was one of the first bands I discovered that I really liked, which was in large part thanks to Tarja Turunen's soaring, powerful, operatic vocals. To put it another way, Nightwish is one of the few bands to cover 'Phantom of the Opera' and actually manage to match Sarah Brightman's incredible delivery. Throughout the late 90s and early 2000s, Nightwish made a ton of fantastic music that I still love to this day...

And then in 2005, Tarja Turunen was fired from the band through an open letter by Tuomas, and the fanbase split violently in two. Now as somebody with the benefit of context and hindsight, I can say that there was no party involved in this split that is completely innocent or deserves all of the blame. Tuomas was always a brilliant, introverted control freak who couldn't stand not getting his own way, and Tarja got used to being the face of the band and thus became a bit of a diva (whether or not it was encouraged by her husband, who has nothing but contempt for Tuomas, is an entirely different can of worms I don't want to touch).

But Tarja swore she was going to keep making music on her own, so the same year Nightwish released their comeback album Dark Passion Play with new vocalist Anette Olzon (which also happened to be one of the best albums of their career), Tarja also released her solo album My Winter Storm. One thing was for sure on both of those albums: neither Tarja or Tuomas were over the whole breakup thing, and were taking more than their fair share of complicated emotions regarding the whole affair. 

However, the important questions regarding that album from Tarja tend to get overlooked amid the hysterics, and I'm here to provide an answer to it: is Tarja's solo material any good? Well, to be blunt, it's better than I expected. Considering it was Tarja's first attempt to write songs on her own (with an arsenal of professionals behind her, of course), I was surprised how well many of the songs came together. And Tarja's voice is as strong and gorgeous as ever, and she has always had a lot of personality and energy in her delivery. The problem becomes that this album is automatically compared with Dark Passion Play, one of the best albums Nightwish ever made that still holds up today. Nightwish made a classic album of the symphonic metal genre, and My Winter Storm just can't compete with that, on songwriting or instrumentation (I'm not jumping into the pit of comparing the vocals of Tarja and Anette, and you can't make me).

Fortunately, her follow-up What Lies Beneath was actually a fair bit better, actually showing that Tarja's (and her collaborators') songwriting was only getting better, and Tarja was experimenting with differing symphonic metal sounds and styles, proving that she could indeed be a pretty potent solo act. Yeah, not all of the experimentation worked - the hints of more industrial sounds were especially hit-and-miss, and some of the tempo changes mid-song brought mixed results, but it was enough to give me a bit of hope that her newest album this year (released while Nightwish is in a bit of a complicated state as a band, having replaced Anette Olzon with Floor Jansen) could actually be something special.

So what do I think of Tarja Turunen's newest album Colours In The Dark?