Nightwish is a band who can start an argument in an empty room when it comes to their 2 previous singers and current singer. The followers of the band from 20 years ago will always suggest Tarja was and is the only singer of any consequence for Nightwish. The fact is Tarja departed in 2005 after nearly 10 years with the band and Anette Olzen was drafted in from 2007 and recorded vocals on 2 albums (Dark Passion Play and Imaginaerum) until her departure in 2012. Floor Jansen (After Forever, ReVamp) is the third and current incumbent and she has showcased her vocal talents on their previous album (Endless Forms Most Beautiful). For the first time all 3 singers can be heard on this 20 year anthology of Nightwish and, for me, each singer brings their own unique voice and talent to the vocals within the band.
The first thing to say is the album is in reverse chronological order starting with their most recent releases and ending with their first. So, how do you start an album to define your career? With a 24 minute epic, bombastic and completely over-the-top song obviously. The Greatest Show On Earth is one of the Greatest Songs On Earth with absolutely everything thrown into the musical pot and really does define everything Nightwish is about. The song itself concerns itself with life and evolution by natural selection and has a brilliant cameo from evolutionary biologist and author Richard Dawkins self-quoting and also reading an excerpt from Charles Darwin’s book ‘On The Origin Of Species’. Along with the following 2 tracks (Elan and My Walden) Floor demonstrates she has the perfect voice for the future of Nightwish and is utterly brilliant singing live and covering the very varied back catalog of the band.
The next 4 songs are all sung by Anette and show why the band selected her as their singer following Tarja’s departure. Her finest hour (14 minutes really) is surely The Poet And The Pendulum. This song was the first time Anette was heard on a Nightwish album and was a brilliant introduction to her talent as a singer. The energy and power of the song and the 2 albums her voice appeared on was perfect for Nightwish. Replacing Tarja was an impossible and thankless task, however, Anette carried the torch and definitely afforded the band a new legion of fans during her 2 album tenure.
The rest of the albums 15 songs are sung by Tarja. She will always be associated with Nightwish and their rise to the pinnacle of the Symphonic Rock genre. Her voice is absolutely unique and one of the most identifiable within music. I think it is very admirable of the band to not re-record the tracks with their current singer. This is how the songs were supposed to be heard and show the evolution of the band throughout their 20 years. I was slightly surprised Sleeping Sun was the original recording and not the 2005 release although I am sure the purists will argue the authentic is always the best. The album ends with the original demo for the song Nightwish which will please the fans who want something new and different and unheard.
Nightwish is not only the best Symphonic Rock/Metal band but also one of the best bands around at this moment in time. The brilliant songwriting of Tuomas Holopainen and Marco Hietala combined with the fine musicianship of the rest of the band meant this could have been a 3 album release instead of 2. There were many songs left off including The Islander (superbly sung by Marco Hietala) which is a particular favorite of mine. Nightwish has always pushed the boundaries with their songwriting and the subjects covered in the music.
To summarise, this is an essential album belonging to everyone’s music collection. 22 superb songs on a 2 album set with absolutely no filler. This is how music should be – brilliant, epic, bombastic and utterly enthralling. I wait with baited breath to see where the future of the greatest band on the planet goes next.
Written by: Simon Kneller