Tag Archives: Nightwish

2015 Albums of the Year – Part Three

We’re into the top ten now, with the top five to go. It says a lot about how good this year has been that many of these would have been in the top five in other years.

Gazpacho – Molok

Gazpacho - MolokThe Norwegian six-piece pick up where they left off with last year’s “Demon”. The vibe resembles late period Talk Talk crossed with Storm Corrosion, sinister atmospheric soundscapes making prominent use of violin and the occasional irruptions of central European folk motifs. But be careful when you play it. The sound resembling modem noises at the very end of “Molok Rising” is a code which may destroy the universe.

Lonely Robot – Please Come Home

John Mitchell - Lonely RobotLonely Robot is the project from John Mitchell of It Bites, Arena and Frost* fame, with a all-star supporting cast including Nick Beggs, Go West’s Peter Cox, Marillion’s Steve Hogarth, Heather Findlay and Kim Seviour. The end result is a varied but hugely impressive album. It goes from dense guitar-heavy industrial prog-metal to gorgeous ballads to uptempo 80s-style pop-rock, with imaginative arrangements that frequently veer off in unexpected directions.

Nightwish – Endless Forms Most Beautiful

Nightwish Endless FormsThe latest release by the Finnish masters of symphonic metal marks the studio début of lead singer Floor Jansen, and is also the first to feature celtic folk multi-instrumentalist Troy Donockley as a full member of the band. It’s rather heavier than their previous “Imaginaerum“, thought the straight-up metal numbers end up less interesting than the soaring ballads and folk-rock workouts. It might have done without the spoken word parts from the odious Richard Dawkins, though at least he’s talking about evolutionary biology here.

Peter Knight’s Gigspanner – Layers of Ages

Gigspanner - Layers of AgesGigspanner are an acoustic trio led by former Steeleye Span fiddle player Peter Knight, and Layers of Ages sees imaginative arrangements of traditional folk numbers. Though not an instrumental record, Knight’s evocative and lyrical violin playing is the heart of the sound, full of melody and emotion. Much like contemporary jazz, some modern folk has a lot of appeal for fans of progressive rock wanting to venture out of their comfort zone, and this record is a very good place to start.

Steven Wilson – Hand. Cannot. Erase

Hand Cannot EraseSteven Wilson’s third release following the dissolution of Porcupine Tree is an ambitious concept album about isolation that’s drawn comparisons with Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” and Marillion’s “Brave”. He reins in the wind-driven jazz-rock elements in favour of more guitar-centred sound that’s closer to the spirit of Porcupine Tree than earlier solo releases, going from stripped-back minimalism that evokes XTC to dense layered prog-metal workouts. It’s perhaps not quite as consistently strong as “The Raven That Refused to Sing”, but nevertheless contains many powerful moments.

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Nightwish – Élan

First taste of the new Nightwish album, with Floor Jansen on vocals and lots of Troy Donockley.

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Musicians Are People Too

Another camera in my face
Another hand around my waist
Don’t even know you
– Panic Room, “Freedon to Breathe”

A very insightful post by HippyDave on when fan entitlement goes bad, specifically the backlash faced by Floor Jansen from South American fans when she dared to make some polite requests about boundaries. Some of the quoted fan posts are quite scary, and it’s notable that half of them are from women.

I’m wondering how much this is a South American thing, stemming from differing cultural expectations, and reminded of the recent story about Avril Lavigne stipulating a three-foot separation between her and fans for photos at a meet-and-greet she was charging hundreds of pounds for, because she’d been groped by a fan on a previous South American tour.

That might even explain where the ridiculous-seeming accusations of racism are coming from, but that might just be an excuse for bad behaviour that’s not confined to one part of the world.

As a gig photographer who’s photographed Floor Jansen from the pit, I completely agree about flash photography. It’s bloody annoying, and if you have a half-decent camera you don’t need it anyway.

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Floor Jansen to stay with Nightwish

Nightwish confirm on their Facebook Page that Floor Jansen is to stay as the band’s singer.

Ms. Floor Jansen is a keeper.

Also, we will be a six-piece band from now on, as Mr. Troy Donockley (uilleann pipes, low whistles, vocals) will become a full-time member of NIGHTWISH.

Originally we were going to wait until 2014 to make a decision about the future line-up of the band, but the past year has clearly shown us that Floor and Troy are perfect matching pieces to our puzzle, and we are really grateful of the bond that has grown between all of us. We love you guys.

Given the way Floor nailed material from both Tarja and Annette on tour, and the way she was warmly received by fans, it’s difficult to imagine Nightwish making any other decision.

It’s also very interesting to see Troy becoming a full member. Does this indicate the celtic-folk elements from the last couple of albums will become a stronger part of the band’s music in future? It will be very interesting to see what the new six-piece Nightwish comes up with on their next album.

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Nightwish from the Photo Pit

Trebuchet Magazine have published my review of Nightwish at Brixton Academy, with their new singer Floor Jansen.

It was the first time I’ve got a pass for the photo pit at a big venue, which was something of an experience. I’ve done plenty of concert photography in the past, but it’s all been at small club venues where I’ve been shooting from the front row of the audience. Seeing a major band on a big stage at close quarters in front of a huge crowd is something else entirely. The only downside was missing a couple of songs after the three songs in the pit while I deposited my camara in the cloakroom – we weren’t allowed to keep our cameras with us for the rest of the show.

One thing I found notable was the equipment other photographers were using. I was expecting to be outgunned by the pros, with my gear being an entry-level DSLR and a second-hand 28-75mm f2.8 lens I’d bought for £199 two days before. But the two-grand bazooka lenses I’ve seen at Mostly Autumn gigs were conspicuous by their absence.

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Anette Olzen leaves Nightwish

Who saw that coming?

Another chapter of the Nightwish story has ended today. Nightwish and Anette Olzon have decided to part company, in mutual understanding, for the good of all parties involved.

In recent times 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.

Nightwish has no intention of cancelling any upcoming shows, and as a result we have decided to bring in a substitute vocalist starting in Seattle 1.10.2012. Her name is Floor Jansen from The Netherlands (ex-After Forever, ReVamp), and she has graciously stepped in to help us complete the Imaginaerum world tour.

We are all strongly committed to this journey, this vehicle of spirit, and we are sure that this will lead to a brighter future for everyone.

We forever remain excited about the adventures to come, and we are extremely proud of the two beautiful albums and the wonderful shows we shared together.

If you look at Anette’s blog, it’s not a happy picture that emerges. She had been forced to miss a gig due to a quite serious illness, and the show went ahead with a stand-in singer rather than cancelling the gig. The fall-out from that led to her parting company with the band just days later, although it’s difficult to escape the conclusion that trouble may have been brewing for a while, and this was just the final straw.

It retrospect, it’s probably a good thing Olivia Sparnenn didn’t get the gig when she auditioned, if that’s how Tuomas Holopainen treats his singers.

Update: It gets worse. According to Prog Magazine, they’d already made the decision to replace Anette Olzen with Floor Jansen some time ago, without Anette’s knowledge. Showbiz can be a nasty business.

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Top Ten Albums of the Noughties

Loads of other people are doing subjective lists of best albums of the past decade – here are mine.  I always think personal lists are much more interesting than the sorts of bland lists of CDs you can get in Tesco’s compiled by committees that you’ll see in the mainstream.media  But I would say that, wouldn’t I?

In order to keep it varied I’ve imposed a rule that no artist may appear more than once in the top 10.

  • 10: Nightwish - Dark Passion Play
    There are so many female-fronted symphonic metal bands coming from various parts of Europe that it’s very difficult to single out just one. Finland’s Nightwish throw choirs, orchestras, Uilleann pipes and kitchen sinks into a gloriously over-the-top album mixing metal and opera with a touch of celtic folk, with new singer Anette Olzon adding a touch of warmth to lead vocals that’s missing from some bands in the genre.
  • 9: The Pineapple Thief – Tightly Unwound
    The Pineapple Thief describle themselves as ‘indie prog’, whatever that’s supposed to mean.  Some sonic similarities with pre-Kid A Radiohead, but with more traditional style rock vocals, and a extremely strong sense of melody, which is what makes this album stand out.
  • 8:  The Mars Volta – Deloused in the Comatorium
    After a string of disappointing albums over the past few years it’s easy to forget just how great their incendiary debut was. What’s been described as a mix of speed-metal and free jazz somehow combines the raw energy of punk with the complexity and technical skill of progressive rock.  It’s all completely bonkers, but in a good way.

  • 7:  Breathing Space – Below the Radar
    The York band really come of age with their third album. They may have dropped the jazzier elements of their sound in favour of a harder rock edge, but they still find room for some atmospheric ballads and big soaring epics which showcase Olivia Sparnenn’s amazing voice.  Iain Jennings production job gives the lie to the idea that you need a major-label budget to come up with a great-sounding album.
  • 6: Porcupine Tree – In Absentia
    It’s difficult to choose a single Porcupine Tree album out of several great ones they’ve recorded over the past decade. Indeed, with the possible exception of 2005′s slight misstep of Deadwing, all their albums in the noughties have been classics. If the 90s charted their progress from ambient Floydian soundscapes to a more song-orientated approach, 2002′s In Absentia saw them add some metal to the mix.  The combination of some Zeppelineque riffing and some darkly ambiguous lyrics may have lost them some older fans, but introduced them to a younger audience of metal fans.
  • 5 Karnataka – Strange Behaviour
    Some may say including a live album in the decade’s top ten may be cheating, but this is my blog, where I make up the rules. Strange Behaviour caught the atmospheric celtic-tinged prog outfit  just when they seemed poised for a major breakthrough, the live dynamics making the songs far more powerful than the studio recordings.  Sadly this double album turned out to their magnificent swansong, and the band were to implode shortly after it’s release.
  • 4 Marillion – Marbles
    Marillion are a rare example of a veteran act who can still make great new  music more than two decades into their career. Their output in the noughties may have been uneven, but this double album shows the Steve Hogarth incarnation of the band at their best; a hugely varied work which goes from experiments with drum loops and dub rhythms to huge soaring epics filled with Steve Rothery’s trademark sustain-drenched guitar. Ignore the single-disk retail edition; you need the double album available only from the band’s website.
  • 3 Fish – 13th Star
    Marillion’s former frontman’s career seemed to be petering out by the middle of the decade after a couple of disappointingly weak albums.  But he bounced back very strongly indeed with this one.  Musically it’s far removed from the ornate neo-prog of 80′s Marillion, a mix of metallic grooves and heart-on-sleeve ballads, lyrically it’s just about the most intense and emotionally charged thing he’s even done.
  • 2 Opeth – Blackwater Park
    Sweden’s Opeth combine death metal with 70′s style pastoral prog-rock to produce the perfect antidote to anyone who thinks heavy metal hasn’t progressed since Toni Iommi started playing tritones through a fuzzbox way back in 1970.  Blackwater Park, produced by Porcupine Tree’s Steve Wilson, marks the point where they established their signature sound, Mikael Åkerfeldt switching back and forth between ‘Cookie Monster’ and ‘clean’ vocals, and the music switching back and forth between dense swirling heavyness and reflective acoustic passages. Metal has never quite been the same since.
  • 1 Mostly Autumn – The Last Bright Light
    As I said at the very beginning, this is a personal list. And this is the album which has changed my life more than any of the preceding ones. This was very much the coming-of-age album for York’s finest progressive rock band, and marked the high point of their celtic-prog phase of their career, full of soaring and emotionally powerful epics making use of flutes and even crumhorns alongside traditional rock instruments. Although they subsequently moved to the more polished commercial sound of the follow-up Passengers, even now their live sets still draw heavily from this album.

There are plenty of other great albums just outside the top 10; Therion’s totally bonkers choral metal Gothic Kabbalah, Muse’s recent The Resistance, IQ’s neo-prog masterpiece Frequency, Pure Reason Revolution’s hypnotically captivating The Dark Third, either of The Reasoning’s two albums, and Dream Theater’s recent return to form Black Clouds and Silver Linings.

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