Anyone who’s into Finnish metal, especially the epic, symphonic side of it, did most likely not miss the latest spectacle from Nighwish. In case some poor bastard did here’s roughly what he/she missed.
From what was revealed of the virtual venue called Islander’s Arms beforehand it seemed like a perfect place for Nightwish to set up their stream gig in considering the escapistic fantasy elements found in the band’s music, too. The visual spectacle wasn’t the only reason to be excited about the event, though. The band hasn’t set foot on stage in two and a half years which also includes a whole new studio album, too. It’s about time for the new songs to be heard live.
Also, most importantly, there’s been a big change in the lineup. Long-time bassist and singer Marko Hietala left the band early this year. The identity of his replacement was kept a secret until an hour before the first gig, when a VIP session was held with the new bassist. Against practically anyone’s guesses and speculations the new bassist turned out to be Jukka Koskinen, known best as the bassist of Wintersun. Koskinen will work as a session bassist for the upcoming Nightwish tour and won’t be singing Hietala’s parts.
How did it all turn out, then? Well, the outcome was epic, visually impressive and, all in all, very Nightwish.
The appearance of the Islander’s Arms follows the example set by the band’s music videos. The tavern, stylized with medieval and steampunk elements, stands atop a huge waterfall. If one wero to imagine Nightwish in a virtual world this is exactly how it would be. Islander’s Arms is a wonderful display of the possibilities offered by the format and I see something like this working beautifully with a lot of other bands, too.
Material from “Human. :II: Nature.”, band’s latest album, saw its live debut in the tavern, and new songs were some of the highlights of the gigs. The band woke from its slumber on the first moments of “Noise” opening the gig, and the massive ending of “Shoemaker” sounded even better live. On the first night “How’s the Heart” was heard as a fully acoustic version performed by singer Floor Jansen and multi-instrumentalist Troy Donockley. As someone who normally doesn’t see the song as one of his favorites I really liked the version!
Yes, I know bands are all about teamwork and that Nightwish is a band where each member does exactly what the music needs but how could I not praise Floor Jansen to high heavens after a performance like this?! Whereas Tuomas Holopainen is the creative force behind the music Floor Jansen is the undisputed star of the band on stage. Jansen’s charisma, performance and sheer skill make it really difficult for me to understand how some people are still crying over Tarja Turunen. I’ve been saying for a long time that Nightwish currently has the best singer it has ever had or can ever have. And after this night I’m even more certain of it.
The music still lives on
Holopainen revealed in an interview that he was very close to just quitting the band after Hietala left the band. In the end they all felt that music still lives on, and so should the band. These gigs proved it to be true. I still miss Hietala very badly, especially on certain songs, but the joy of performing and the band’s on-stage chemistry is still wonderful to behold. Before these gigs there was no way I could have imagined the band with out Hietala. It will still definitely take a while to get used to his absence but the band has now successfully proved that it made the right decision by continuing its voyage.
A new chapter
The first of the two gigs was a turning point in the history of the band, and those watching the stream got to witness the trial from the front row seat. Jukka Koskinen performed his parts professionally staying mostly in the background. Hietala’s bass parts were in good hands but what about the vocals? Hearing the first notes of “Planet Hell” ring out made me feel somewhat skeptical. How do they think they can pull this off with out Hietala? Well, shortly put, pretty goddamn impressively. As already previously stated Nightwish happens to have an incredible frontwoman who, once again, proved the versatility of her voice. It almost felt like she was both herself, Hietala and Turunen, all in one song. Jansen impressively pulled off some of Hietala’s parts, and Troy Donockley got more vocal duties, too. All in all, Nightwish proved that it still has a lot to give and that the Vehicle of Spirit isn’t stopping anytime soon.