Nightwish is a symphonic metal band from Kitee, Finland. The band was formed in 1996 by lead songwriter and keyboardist Tuomas Holopainen, guitarist Emppu Vuorinen, and lead singer Tarja Turunen. The band soon picked up drummer Jukka Nevalainen, and then bassist Sami Vänskä after the release of their debut album, Angels Fall First (1997). In 2002, Vänskä was replaced by Marco Hietala, who also took over the male vocalist role previously filled by Holopainen or guest singers.
Although Nightwish have been prominent in their home country since Angels Fall First, they did not achieve worldwide fame until the release of the albums Oceanborn (1998), Wishmaster (2000) and Century Child (2002). Their 2004 album, Once, has sold more than one million copies and was the band's breakthrough in the United States. Their biggest US hit single, "Wish I Had an Angel" (2004), received MTV airplay and was included on three US film soundtracks to promote their North American tour. The band produced three more singles and two music videos for Once, as well as a re-recording of "Sleeping Sun" for the "Best of Nightwish" compilation album, Highest Hopes (2005), before Tarja Turunen's dismissal in October 2005. Her last performance with Nightwish was during a concert recorded for the live album/DVD End of an Era. After the concert, the other members informed her with an open letter that she was no longer a member of Nightwish.
In May 2007, Nightwish announced Anette Olzon as Tarja's replacement.
That September, the band released their sixth album, Dark Passion Play, which has sold almost 2 million copies. The album's lead single, "Amaranth", became one of Nightwish's most successful in Europe. The supporting tour, one of the band's largest, started on October 6, 2007 and ended on September 19, 2009. The band released an EP/live album, Made in Hong Kong (And in Various Other Places), in March 2009 as a CD/DVD, and their seventh studio album, Imaginaerum, was released globally on various days in late 2011/early 2012.
On October 1, 2012, Nightwish announced that they had parted ways with Olzon and would be finishing the tour with ReVamp and former After Forever vocalist Floor Jansen. In October 2013, Nightwish made Jansen and longtime session uillean pipes player Troy Donockley permanent members of the band, and they were featured in the acclaimed album Endless Forms Most Beautiful, released on March 27, 2015.
Nightwish is the third-best-selling band and musical entity in Finland with certified sales of nearly 900,000 copies. The group is also the most successful Finnish band worldwide, selling more than 8 million records and receiving more than 60 gold and platinum awards, having released five Number 1 albums and thirteen Number 1 singles.
After playing keyboards in several heavy metal bands in the 1990s, including Nattvindens Gråt, Perkele Börk and Darkwoods My Betrothed, Tuomas Holopainen decided to create his own project while sitting around a campfire with friends in 1996. He immediately had a clear idea of the music: experimental acoustic music he wrote himself during his time in the Finnish Army, similar to the music usually played around campfires, but with a distinct sound and atmosphere, played on his keyboards.
He soon invited friend and schoolmate Erno "Emppu" Vuorinen to play acoustic guitars, and the classical vocalist Tarja Turunen, who shared the same music teacher, Plamen Dimov. The three musicians recorded their self-titled acoustic demo in winter 1996. The name "Nightwish" was derived from their first song together – the demo also included the song "The Forever Moments", and an early version of "Etiäinen".
Debut album and first tour (1997-1998)
In early 1997, following the release of the Nightwish demo, Jukka "Julius" Nevalainen joined the band, and acoustic guitar was replaced with electric guitar. The addition of heavy metal elements to the band's existing experimental style gave the band a different sound, forming the core of the Nightwish sound.
The band entered the studio in April 1997 to record seven songs for their second demo, Angels Fall First. In May 1997, the demo made its way to the Finnish record label Spinefarm Records, who wanted to release it as the band's debut album of the same name. The label offered Nightwish to a record deal, and the band returned to the studio to record four more songs to accompany the tracks of the demo. The full-length album was released in November 1997 and reached number 31 on the Finnish album charts, with the single "The Carpenter" reaching number 3 on the Finnish singles chart. "The Carpenter" single was released as a split with label mates Children of Bodom and Thy Serpent; the album is also one of the two releases which features Holopainen's vocals, appearing on four of the album's eleven tracks alongside Turunen's.
The band made their live debut in their hometown Kitee in December 1997. Since they were missing a bass player, Samppa Hirvonen joined them as a sessional live member. Marianna Pellinen was also a sessional live member as an additional keyboard player and a backing vocalist for Turunen. There were plans to make Hirvonen a permanent member, but he joined the army as part of Finnish army conscription just as they began recording Oceanborn, so they asked Sami Vänskä to join instead, since Tuomas knew him from the band Nattvindens Gråt. During the winter of 1997 and 1998, the band performed only seven times, because Turunen was finishing her schooling, and Nevalainen and Vuorinen were serving their obligatory Finnish military service. Nightwish returned to the studio in August 1998 as a five-piece to record their follow-up album for Spinefarm Records.
International success (1998-2000)
On October 7, 1998, Nightwish released their second full-length album, Oceanborn, in Finland only. Adopting a more technical and progressive sound than Angels Fall First, Oceanborn saw the band abandon much of the ambient and folk elements present on their debut release, with the exception of the song "Moondance". In contrast to the female vocals of Turunen, the album also featured guest growling vocals by Tapio Wilska (ex-Finntroll), since Tuomas did not want to sing again. Wilska is also a former member of Nattvindens Gråt.
AllMusic review said that the album "as a whole works great", with songs that are "very strong". Oceanborn was an instant success in Finland, reaching number 5 on the Finnish album charts. The album's first single, "Sacrament of Wilderness", hit number 1 on the Finnish singles charts, where it stayed for several weeks. The album's release was initially limited to Finland, but because of the success of "Sacrament of Wilderness", Spinefarm released Oceanborn internationally in the spring of 1999. In May 1999, Nightwish recorded the single "Sleeping Sun (Four Ballads of the Eclipse)", and in one month the single sold 15,000 copies in Germany alone. Following the band's first international success, Nightwish was added as the opening band for Rage's 1999 European tour. Both the album Oceanborn and the singles "Sacrament of Wilderness" and "Walking in the Air" were certified gold in Finland in August 1999.
While in the studio in early 2000 working on their third album, Nightwish was accepted in the Finnish Eurovision Song Contest tryouts with the song "Sleepwalker". Despite winning the public vote, Nightwish eventually finished in second place, with the jury choosing local gospel singer Nina Åström to represent Finland.
On May 19, 2000, Nightwish released their third studio album Wishmaster. This debuted at No. 1 on the Finnish album charts, and was certified gold in Finland after three weeks at number one. Critical response to the album was mixed, with Allmusic citing the album as repetitive, and saying "as a whole album, it can be a little annoying, even frustrating". However, German magazine Rock Hard declared Wishmaster "Album of the Month", despite competing against long-awaited May releases from Iron Maiden and Bon Jovi. Following the release of Wishmaster, Nightwish embarked on their first world tour, playing dates in South America, Mexico, Canada, and the first headlining European tour with Sinergy and Eternal Tears of Sorrow. In the summer, the band returned to Europe, appearing at the Wacken Open Air festival and the Biebop Metal Fest.
New bassist and symphonic elements (2001-2003)
In 2001, Nightwish recorded a cover of Gary Moore's "Over the Hills and Far Away" together with two new songs ("10th Man Down", unreleased from Oceanborn sessions, and "Away", unreleased from Wishmaster sessions) and a remake of "Astral Romance" (from the Angels Fall First album) with Tony Kakko (Sonata Arctica) singing Tuomas' part. This new material was released as their first (and until 2009 the only) EP, Over the Hills and Far Away.
The record also included guest performances by Tapio Wilska once again on "10th Man Down". Nightwish's version of "Over the Hills and Far Away" was well received by fans, becoming a frequent part of the band's live performances, but other the songs never had a great break-through and have not been re-released, with the exception of a live performance of "10th Man Down" on the End of Innocence DVD with Marco Hietala (current bass player and male vocalist). In the same year, they also released (as VHS, DVD and CD) their first live album, From Wishes to Eternity, recorded during a show in Tampere, Finland, on December 29, 2000.
Soon after the release of Over the Hills and Far Away, Nightwish met what has been described as one of their hardest points as a band. The issues centered on the bassist, Sami Vänskä, who had started misbehaving towards the band, according to Holopainen, by missing appointments and failing to take gigs as seriously as the other members did. After the band discussed of his behavior with Vänskä several times, without getting any change, everyone simply stopped caring and tensions grew. Meanwhile, guitarist Emppu Vuorinen had started complaining about his role in the band, feeling like "a hired gun who would only do what he's asked to". According to their music teacher, Plamen Dimov, he and Holopainen have totally different characters, and thus difficulties were expected to arise. But Vuorinen was told to stay cool and "bite the bullet", and the problem was never addressed again.
Later, Holopainen confessed that, at that time, he seriously started thinking about breaking Nightwish up. After a gig in Russia, he sent a text message to fellow musician Tony Kakko of metal band Sonata Arctica, telling him that he did not think he had a band any longer, and asking him what plans he had for next year. After Nightwish's last gig for the Over the Hills and Far Away tour in 2001, Holopainen called their labels Drakkar and Spinefarm, unofficially declaring Nightwish was over. He told them he might produce another album, but he'd never perform another show with the band. The same message was also written on the band's message board.
Straight after the last gig, Holopainen went on a week-long hiking trip to Lapland with Tony Kakko. During the hiking trip, they talked about the band and Holopainen decided he could not break up Nightwish that easily. When he returned from Lapland he immediately received a phone call from Ewo Pohjola, CEO of Spinefarm, offering himself to become their manager and help him straighten things up, and Holopainen agreed.
In order to continue with Nightwish, Holopainen decided some changes were in order. Beside choosing Ewo as their new manager, he also asked Vänskä to leave the band. He would later cite musical differences as another reason for the breakup. Marco Hietala (Tarot) was asked to replace Vänskä, effectively leaving his previous band Sinergy. As well as playing bass guitar, Hietala would also perform male vocals. Holopainen has since said publicly that he and Vänskä still keep in touch, contrary to rumours saying that they have not met since. However, they are not interested in making another project together.
In 2002, Nightwish released Century Child, along with the singles "Ever Dream" and "Bless the Child". The main difference from previous albums is the use of a live Finnish orchestra on the tracks "Bless the Child", "Ever Dream", "Feel For You" and "The Beauty of the Beast". An enduring favorite of fans, though, is the band's version of "The Phantom of the Opera", from the famous musical of the same name by composer Andrew Lloyd Webber. The song was repeatedly played on concerts until vocalist Tarja Turunen was replaced with Anette Olzon, whereupon the band announced that they would never play the song live again.
Century Child was certified gold two hours after its release, and platinum two weeks afterwards. It set a record on the Finnish album charts as well: Never before had a first place album been so distant from the second place. After the "Bless the Child" music video, a second one was recorded, without any single support. The chosen track was "End of All Hope". The clip contains pieces from the Finnish movie, Kohtalon kirja (English: The Book of Fate).
In 2003, Nightwish released their second DVD, the documentary End of Innocence. It tells the story of the band in Holopainen, Nevalainen and Tapio Wilska's words for two hours. The documentary also features bits of live concerts, exclusive footage, etc. vocalist Tarja Turunen also got married during the summer of 2003, and there were rumours that the band was about to be dissolved. These rumours were, at the time, proven to be false, as the band continued to play concerts for another year and released another album. Tarja's marriage later played a part in her dismissal from the band in the autumn of 2005.
Angels Fall First (1997)
Century Child (2002)
Dark Passion Play (2007)
Endless Forms Most Beautiful (2015)
Human. :II: Nature. (2020)
Tuomas Holopainen – keyboards, piano, synthesizers (1996–present), vocals (1996–1998)
Emppu Vuorinen – guitars (1996–present), bass (1997)
Kai Hahto – drums (2019–present; session/touring member: 2014–2019)
Floor Jansen – lead vocals (2013–present; touring member: 2012–2013)
Tarja Turunen – lead vocals (1996–2005)
Sami Vänskä – bass (1998–2001, guested in 2016)
Anette Olzon – lead vocals (2007–2012)
Jukka Nevalainen – drums (1997–2019; hiatus 2014-2019)
Marco Hietala – bass, male vocals (2001–present), acoustic guitar (2006-2021)
Former session members
Samppa Hirvonen – bass (1997–1998, live)
Marianna Pellinen – keyboards, backing vocals (1997–1998, live)
Esa Lehtinen – flutes (1997–2000, studio)
Session / touring member
Kai Hahto – drums (2014–present)