After playing keyboards in several heavy metal bands in the 1990s, including Nattvindens Gråt 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 third 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 the other 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 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 rumors 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.
Chart-topping success of Once and Turunen's dismissal (2004–2005)
A new album, Once, was released on June 7, 2004, along with its first single, "Nemo". The single topped the charts in Finland and Hungary, and reached the charts in six additional countries. "Nemo" remains the band's most successful single release to date.
Once utilizes a full orchestra in nine of the eleven songs on the album. Unlike Century Child, Nightwish decided to look for an orchestra outside of Finland this time, choosing the London Philharmonic Orchestra. It is also their second album to feature a full-length song in Finnish, "Kuolema tekee taiteilijan" (English: "Death Makes an Artist"). Once has sold triple platinum in Finland, platinum in Germany, and Gold in 6 other countries, it also reached No. 1 in the Greek, Norwegian and German album charts, and charted the Top 10 in France, Hungary and Sweden. The following singles were: "Wish I Had an Angel" (featured on the soundtrack of the film Alone in the Dark), "Kuolema Tekee Taiteilijan" (released only in Finland and Japan) and "The Siren". Besides the commercial success, Once was also well received by critics, with many positive reviewers drawing comparisons with Oceanborn.
Nightwish live in Jämsä
, Finland, on June 25, 2005
The success of the album allowed them to perform the Once World Tour, taking them to play in many countries the band had never visited before. Nightwish performed at the opening ceremony of the 2005 World Championships in Athletics, held in Helsinki, highlighting the acclaim the band had gained. A "best of" album, Highest Hopes, was released in September 2005. The compilation also featured a live cover "High Hopes" (from the Pink Floyd album sample). Besides "High Hopes", a remake of "Sleeping Sun" (from Oceanborn) was included on the album and released as a single. A video for the remake was shot, featuring a medieval battle, and can be found on the German release of the single and as a separate DVD released by Spinefarm.
The four other members of Nightwish had decided that it was best to continue Nightwish without Turunen. After a concert in the Hartwall Areena (Helsinki) on October 21, 2005, recorded for the live DVD End of an Era (released June 2006), they expressed their decision through an open letter which was given to Turunen by Holopainen, and afterwards posted on the band's website. It was written by Holopainen and signed by all four band members. The main justification given in the letter for Turunen's dismissal was that the band felt that both her husband Marcelo Cabuli (an Argentine businessman) and commercial interests had changed her attitude towards the band.
Turunen responded to the incident twice, during press conferences in Finland and Germany, saying that her dismissal came entirely as a shock to her, given that she had not been notified before the letter was given to her. She felt that the personal attacks on her husband were unwarranted, and that playing the issue out in public was "senselessly cruel". She expressed these feelings through her own open letter, which was published on her personal website, and through various TV, magazine, and newspaper interviews.
Hiatus and arrival of Anette Olzon (2006–2009)
In order to find a replacement for Turunen as the female vocalist of the band, on March 17, 2006 the band allowed vocalists interested for the position to send in demo tapes as an audition for the spot. During this time, speculation began to emerge about who would eventually be chosen, and the band stated on their website that fans should not believe any source other than the band itself for information regarding the new vocalist. In the end, the 35-year-old Alyson Avenue's ex-lead singer, Anette Olzon, from Sweden, was chosen.
In September 2006, the band entered the studio to record their sixth studio album, Dark Passion Play. In May, next year, Anette Olzon was announced to replace Turunen. Holopainen has said in interviews that he did not wish to reveal her identity until new material was available because he did not want fans judging her by nothing more than a picture, or past work.
The day after this revealing, May 25, 2007, charity single "Eva" was released for download only as the first offering from the new album, and the first featuring Olzon. It was originally scheduled for release on 30 May, but the date was changed because of a leak on a British music download site. On June 13, Nightwish revealed the title and artwork for the new album on their official website, as well as the name and cover of the second single (this time CD), "Amaranth"; it was released in Finland on August 22 and included a bonus track entitled "While Your Lips Are Still Red" written by Tuomas as the main theme track for the upcoming Finnish feature film "Lieksa!". The single achieved gold status in Finland after less than two days in stores.
Nightwish at signing session in Hamburg
Dark Passion Play was released around Europe in the last week of September 2007, in the UK on October 1, and the United States on October 2. It was awarded double platinum in Finland the second day after its release and took the number one position on the charts of Germany, Finland, Switzerland, Hungary and Croatia and got in top 100 in other 16 countries, including the United States.
On this album, male vocalist Marco Hietala had more freedom in the use of his voice: he sings back up in the songs "Cadence of Her Last Breath" and "Sahara", lead vocals in the songs "The Islander", "Master Passion Greed" and "While Your Lips Are Still Red", and chorus in the songs "Bye Bye Beautiful" and "7 Days to the Wolves". He also sings one part in "The Poet and the Pendulum", besides singing back up in the chorus. Before the band found the new singer and the album was recorded, Marco sang on all the demo versions. Holopainen also sang on the demo versions of "Bye Bye Beautiful" and "Master Passion Greed" but these songs have never been released.
On September 22, 2007, the band hosted a secret concert at Rock Café in Tallinn, Estonia, disguising itself as a Nightwish cover band called "Nachtwasser". Their first official concert with Olzon was in Tel Aviv, Israel, on October 6, 2007. The Dark Passion Play tour thus started, visiting the United States, Canada, most of Europe, Asia, and Australia.
Nightwish live in Paris
, France, on April 6, 2008
The third single of the album was "Erämaan viimeinen", a previously unreleased vocal version of the instrumental "Last of the Wilds". It was released in Finland only on December 5, 2007. On this song, Jonsu of the Finnish pop and rock band Indica performs the Finnish vocals. "Bye Bye Beautiful", the fourth single, was released on February 15, 2008, and concerns the 2005 dismissal of Turunen, as does one other song on the album (Master Passion Greed). The single includes yet another bonus track, "Escapist", which is also included on the Japanese version of Dark Passion Play. Within a week after the release, the fifth single was announced to be "The Islander". It was released over a month after the release of its music video, shot in late 2007 in Rovaniemi in Finnish Lapland.
The Dark Passion Play tour turned out to be Nightwish's longest tour yet, lasting from late 2007 to September 2009 when it ended with a concert in Hartwall Arena – the band's second concert there – with the band Apocalyptica.
On March 6, 2009, Nightwish released a new live EP/DVD entitled Made in Hong Kong (And in Various Other Places). The eight live tracks were recorded during the "Dark Passion Play World Tour" in 2007–2008, and the album also includes one b-side from the "Bye Bye Beautiful" single, one b-side from the "Amaranth" single, a previously unreleased demo version of "Cadence of Her Last Breath", and a bonus-DVD with three music videos as well as a 37-minute documentary called Back in the Day is Now.
Imaginaerum and Olzon's dismissal (2009–2012)
In the June 2009 edition of the Finnish magazine Soundi, Holopainen stated that he had started work on a new Nightwish album. In October 2009, rumors about the new album's name were going around with the title Wind Embraced, but lead vocalist Anette Olzon listed the rumors as "not true" and said that the songs for the new album had not yet been completed apart from three songs written before May 2009. Holopainen said in a 2010 interview that "[...]I can't reveal to you any more but there is going to be a big twist so to say, on the next album." In an interview with Uilleann pipist Troy Donockley (who recorded with the band on Dark Passion Play), when asked about his involvement in the new album, he stated "Oh yes, I will be playing on the next album and from what Tuomas has told me, it is going to be something extraordinary..."
On February 1, 2010, Olzon stated on her blog that Holopainen had nine songs ready for the new album. In April 2010, Holopainen revealed on the Nightwish homepage that he had finished writing the songs, and on June 2, it was announced that he had finished recording the pre-production demo.
The band announced in late 2010 that more information on the album's actual content would be released in late January, but on February 1, the official website bore a statement written by Holopainen that because of the schedule changes he can't yet give away as much details as he would have wanted, but more information will be out after a couple of months. He added, however, that "it still is the Burton-Gaiman-Dalí - amusement park we are about to enter"; In the same statement it was revealed that the album will be a theme album and "mood changes seem to be more present than ever before", and the orchestration demos he had received from Pip Williams were described as "beautiful, twisted, tribal and cinematic stuff". In the Finnish version of the statement, it was also revealed that a few songs will not get any orchestrations at all, differing from their latest album on which all songs had the background orchestra.
Announcements continued throughout 2011. On February 10, Nightwish announced on their website that the new album title would be Imaginaerum. They also declared that the band had been preparing a movie based on the album, which would be released in 2012 and directed by Stobe Harju, who previously directed the music video for "The Islander". On August 22, 2011, it was announced on their official website that the album of Imaginaerum would be released at the end of the year. On August 31, Nightwish announced on their website their decision to change Imaginarium title to Imaginaerum "In order to avoid mix-ups with various things named 'Imaginarium'". Then on September 2, Nightwish announced on their website that the new single called "Storytime" will be released on Friday, November 11 and on September 9, Nightwish revealed the cover and tracklist.
On January 11, 2012, Nightwish announced on their website that the second single "The Crow, the Owl and the Dove" would be released on February 29. Roadrunner Records announced that Nightwish would be releasing a 10-inch LP titled Trials of Imaginaerum in conjunction with Record Store Day (April 21, 2012). The 10" LP is a two-sided picture disk, which contains four early demos of "Storytime", "The Crow, The Owl and The Dove", "I Want My Tears Back" and "Slow, Love, Slow".
On October 1, 2012, Nightwish announced via their Facebook page that they were parting ways with Olzon. According to the press statement, "it has become increasingly obvious that the direction and the needs of the band were in conflict, and this has led to a division from which we cannot recover". This announcement came days after Olzon fell ill at a show in Denver, Colorado and was unable to perform. Nightwish used replacement singers from the opening band, Kamelot, and Olzon later expressed her disappointment, saying "I was never asked if it was OK that they used Elize and Alissa in the show [Friday] night [...] I don't think it's a good decision they made and I'm sorry for those of you who came to see the whole band but got something else. But I was very ill and this decision wasn't mine." According to the statement, Dutch singer Floor Jansen (ex-After Forever, ReVamp) would sing for the remainder of the Imaginaerum World Tour.
On January 11, 2013, Olzon announced on her official blog that she was pregnant with her third child, due in spring 2013. This was a contributing factor to her being dismissed. The band then released a statement on their website declaring that the reason Olzon gave for her dismissal and other statements she made were untrue and that Olzon herself had agreed to help find a replacement while she was on maternity leave. Later on, Olzon gave several interviews in which she told that she never agreed with a replacement, even when she was pregnant, and proposed to the band to postpone the tour, culminating on her firing. She also added that she was against Jansen joining the band in her period of maternity, mainly because of the difference in their vocal styles.
In a 2015 interview, Holopainen said the band "emerged stronger" from the line-up changes it went through.
Endless Forms Most Beautiful, arrival of Floor Jansen and Troy Donockley (2013–present)
In an interview with Metal Hammer in November 2012, Tuomas Holopainen stated that they already had a rehearsal place booked from July 2014 to September 2014, but before they began rehearsing the band members would be taking a break from Nightwish for several months.
(left) and Troy Donockley
(right) were made official members in 2013, turning the band into a sextet for the first time.
On October 9, 2013, Nightwish announced Jansen as the permanent replacement for Olzon. Troy Donockley was also announced as a full-time member, making the band become a sextet for the first time. In a later interview, Tuomas said that because of Donockley's previous work with Nightwish already made him "much a band member", so the band just "made it official". According to the band's webpage, the band would enter the studio in 2014 to record their eighth full-length album for a 2015 release. At that time the band already announced that it would contain Nightwish's longest song to date.
At the end of November, the band released the live album Showtime, Storytime. Despite the recording happening when they were only tour members, it is the first Nightwish release to feature Jansen, and to have her and Donockley credited as band members. The album also carries a documentary containing the behind-the-scenes of Jansen's first days in the band and the process of replacing Olzon.
In May 2014, Tuomas updated his official website, stating that he and producer Tero "TeeCee" Kinnunen have been recording 12 demos (and possibly 3 bonus tracks) for the new album in Hattula, Finland. The band expected to start rehearsing in July in Eno, Finland, with the recording finished in January 2015, and the album released in Spring that year, "If everything goes as scheduled". Commenting on the music, Tuomas said:
It's still too early to analyze the material more closely, but the album will once again explore all the ends of the spectrum, bringing the very best out of the newcomers' Floor and Troy. And stealthily the album ended up having a theme running through it.
On August 6, the band announced that founding member and drummer Jukka Nevalainen would not be part of the upcoming album due to his very difficult insomnia. Kai Hahto (Wintersun) would be taking his place in the album and the upcoming tour.
Evolutionary biologist and author Richard Dawkins was announced as a guest star on the album, with Holopainen stating that he had "been so enthusiastic about this kind of literature for the past few months, and will be for the upcoming months, that it's going to come out somehow."
Nightwish performing in Oberhausen, Germany, in November 2015
In November, the band filmed a music video for "Élan", one of the tracks of the album. On December 8, the band announced that it would be the first single from the album, which would be released on February 13, 2015.
The new album's cover art and its title, Endless Forms Most Beautiful, were revealed on December 22, and the album was released on March 27, 2015. Produced by Tero "TeeCee" Kinnunen, the title for Endless Forms Most Beautiful was taken from the writings of English naturalist Charles Darwin. The album features the participation of London's The Metro Voices choir group, London's Young Musicians Children‘s Choir, and the Orchestre De Grandeur led by the esteemed orchestral arranger Pip Williams, who teaches Music and Music Technology at the London College of Music. Professor Richard Dawkins not only narrates the introduction to the album's opener, "Shudder Before the Beautiful," but also the album's closer, "The Greatest Show on Earth," which takes its name from his 2009 book on evolution. The album sold in its first week 18,342 copies in the US and debuted at 34 on the Billboard 200, making it Nightwish's third album (after Dark Passion Play and Imaginaerum) to chart in this category. In the Czech Republic, the album debuted atop the charts and received gold-status after just two days. The album charted in top 10 in other countries as well, including Finland, Netherlands, Poland, Austria, and Mexico. In the support of album's release the band embarked on an Endless Forms Most Beautiful World Tour, which started on April 9, 2015 in New York, USA and ended on October 9, 2016 in Saitama, Japan.
In July 2015, it was announced that Sonata Arctica's vocalist Tony Kakko would replace Jukka Nevalainen as the band's special guest at the 2015 edition of Rock in Rio. In December 2015, they became the first Finnish band to headline a show at the Wembley Arena, in London. The sold-out show had the guest performance of Richard Dawkins, who spoke his parts on stage. The Tampere and London shows were filmed for a live album release known as Vehicle of Spirit.
On August 20, 2016, the band played a special 20th-anniversary show at Himos Areena in Finland. The show featured original bassist Sami Vänskä on the song "Stargazers" and drummer Jukka Nevalainen on the song "Last Ride of the Day". The band took a break in 2017, in which Jansen was focusing on her first child. Holopainen has said that the band will continue between the years of 2018 and 2020, with another album that will continue the themes explored in Endless Forms Most Beautiful.
On June 9, 2017, the band announced that March 9, 2018, would mark both the debut of a nine-month world tour titled Decades: World Tour, which had concluded in December that same year, and the release of a new compilation album, titled Decades. The tour featured "rarely heard material" and a special set for fans; on the US and Canadian portion of the tour, every audience member was offered the Decades album for free. During the Latin American leg of the tour, the São Paulo and Buenos Aires shows were filmed for a live DVD.
In July 2018, Holopainen stated that he had written "80 or 90%" of the material for Nightwish's next album, which would consist of ten or eleven songs; he stated that the inspiration for a new album came from the completion of the 2018 self-titled debut album of Auri, a band he created with Donockley and Johanna Kurkela the previous year. Recording will start in July 2019, for a planned Spring 2020 release. The band will "use the [orchestral] instrumentation in a different way than before", with Holopainen stating "You want to search for some new ways of using it so that it doesn't end up sounding the same as before." Jansen stated in November that she believed the recording process would be similar to Endless Forms Most Beautiful's, for which the band went through lengthy rehearsals before starting to record.