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Nightwish are a Finnish metal band, who infuse their heavy-hitting sound with symphonic cutaways and choral backing vocals. They are known as much for their gaudy aesthetic as for their progressive, new age fusion of neoclassical and power metal.
Onstage, they adorn themselves with satin and red velvet, black, shin-length leather coats and silver trinkets, mascara and long, warlock-like locks.
Vocalist and keyboard player, Thomas Holopainen is frequently seen in his cabaret-esque top hat, and vocalist/bassist Marco Hietala is equally impressive, with a meticulously maintained double-platted beard.
Lead female vocalist, Floor Jansen, is partial to the odd bit of studded leather and, being classically trained as a soprano at the Dutch Rock Academy, can belt out operatic wails and death growls interchangeably.
Nightwish are some of the pioneers of the symphonic metal sub-genre, alongside Sweden’s Therion, the Netherlands’ Epica and Norway’s Theatre of Tragedy. They formed back in 1996 and lay the foundation for a new, classically-gilt sound that would take off in Scandinavia and across Europe in the 90s and into the 2000s with a new swathe of Nightwish-inspired bands appearing including the likes of Epica out of the Netherlands, Haggard out of Germany and Norwegian Leaves’ Eyes.
Typically of symphonic metal, their influences are expansive and literary, ranging from cinematic musical scores to nursery rhymes and fantasy novels by CS Lewis, JRR Tolkein and Steven King.
Their songwriting draws strongly on fantastical and mythological themes. “Elvenpath” off their debut, Angels Fall First (1997), and “Wishmaster”, the title track of their 2000 album contain an array of references to Tolkien and other fantasy writers, the latter also taking its title from the 1997 horror film directed by Robert Kurtzman and produced by Wes Craven. “FantasMic”, also off “Wishmaster”, is a tribute to Walt Disney and the animations to come out of Walt Disney Studios, amongst the broad list of references being Fantasia, The Little Mermaid, Snow White, The Lion King and Mulan, and the classic Mickey Mouse, Scrooge McDuck and Donald Duck.
Other songs touch on darker, perhaps more mature, themes. “She is My Sin” is about frustrated desire and lust, “The Kinslayer” refers to the 1999 Columbine High School massacre and “10th Man Down” deals with civil war.
Lyrically rich, classically trained and nerdily fulfilled, for those that aren’t diehard fans, Nightwish are much to be discovered. They are luminaries of symphonic metal with an impressive gambit of intriguing songs.