Every cover song by Nightwish ranked from worst to best

Floor Jansen of Nightwish onstage in 2022
(Image credit: Katja Ogrin/Redferns)

Nightwish have never shied away from a good cover. According to setlist database setlist.fm, Finland’s symphonic metal maximalists have tried their hand at 20 across their decades-long career, tackling everyone from vintage metal mainstays like Ozzy Osbourne to native composer Jean Sibelius.

10 of those majestic reinterpretations have been officially released by the band, so – as Tuomas Holopainen et al gear up to release their next full-length opus – we thought it high time to look back and rank them. This is every Nightwish cover that’s ever made it onto an album, EP or single, listed from worst to best.

Metal Hammer graphic line break

10. Crimson Tide, Deep Blue Sea (medley of Hans Zimmer and Trevor Rabin covers; From Wishes To Eternity, 2001)

Bringing up the rear is this medley of pieces titled Roll Tide and Aftermath, taken from the films Crimson Tide and Deep Blue Sea respectively. As a concert intro played live by the band, it does its fluffing epically enough, but at the end of the day it is just an intro.

9. Symphony Of Destruction (Megadeth cover; The Siren b-side, 2004)

The only cover of an actual metal song on the list, this live version was no doubt fun if you were there, yet it neither beats nor adds anything new to Megadeth’s original. Former vocalist Marko Hietala borrows Dave Mustaine’s sneering delivery on the verses but tries a little too hard on the chorus, over-egging the Mega-pudding with actual singing that doesn’t quite sit right.

8. Hilma Ja Onni (Jaakko Teppo cover; Pörsänmäen Sanomat – Tribuutti Jaakko Tepolle, 2009)

The late Jaakko Teppo was a Finnish satirist and protest singer associated with the labour movement. Nightwish were among a long list of fellow Finns who recorded a tribute album, with all proceeds going to Teppo, when illness forced him from the stage. Their contribution is a creditable enough slab of impassioned folk metal, although it’s unlikely to mean much to anyone outside the country.

7. High Hopes (Pink Floyd cover; End Of An Era, 2006)

Taken from the prog icons’ 1994 album The Division Bell, this understated track isn’t the most obvious Pink Floyd offering to cover. The lyrical cocktail of nostalgia, loss and forward-looking optimism does have a resonance, however, when you realise the recording (again with Marko on lead vocals) was taken from original frontwoman Tarja Turunen’s last-ever show with Nightwish. 

6. Elvenjig (Iona cover; Decades: Live In Buenos Aires, 2019)

This slice of Celtic-style folk actually started life as a piece by Nightwish piper/multi-instrumentalist Troy Donockley’s UK-based former outfit Iona. Originally known simply as Jigs, it was given a pointy-eared makeover and paired with Nightwish’s own song Elvenpath for a fae-themed duology. It’s been played live at numerous shows, including the one captured on Decades: Live in Buenos Aires.

5. Where Were You Last Night (Ankie Bagger cover; Wish I Had An Angel B-side, 2004)

It might not be very well known outside Nordic markets, but Swedish singer Ankie Bagger scored a moderate hit at home with high-energy pop banger Where Were You Last Night. Nightwish’s version hits like a slice of prime Bon Jovi-esque pop-rock perfection. “I liked the song when I was a kid,” Tuomas Holopainen told Rockunited. “The lyrics are terrible though. And the point why we did this song was that people usually take us and the music too seriously.”

4. Over The Hills And Far Away (Gary Moore cover; Over The Hills And Far Away EP, 2001)

Originally featuring Irish folk band The Chieftains and with lyrics following a man unjustly imprisoned, Gary Moore’s version very much played like a rocked-up trad song, à la his former band Thin Lizzy’s take on Whiskey In The Jar. Nightwish’s redo keeps the Celtic overtones but ups the bombast considerably, with a slightly more metallic crunch and Tarja’s powerful vocals electrifying the cover. It served as the lead track on the band’s first EP and they even made a Viking-themed music video to accompany it. 

3. Walking In The Air (Howard Blake cover; Oceanborn, 1998)

Who would have thought that a song written in the 1980s for a British animated film about a snowman who comes to life would one day serve as a breakthrough single for a symphonic metal band? Tuomas Holopainen once described Walking In The Air – which was initially sung by choirboy Peter Auty, then later released as a single featuring 14-year-old chorister Aled Jones – as “the best piece of music ever recorded”. It’s certainly suited to Nightwish’s power ballad remake, particularly Tarja’s crystalline voice. It also gave the band their second consecutive number one in the Finnish singles chart, following their own original Sacrament Of Wilderness.

2. The Heart Asks Pleasure First (Michael Nyman cover; The Crow, The Owl And The Dove b-side, 2012)

This one was a complete reworking. Tuomas started with the original, which was a sparsely beautiful piece written by composer Michael Nyman for 90s film The Piano, and added his own lyrics, drums and layers of lush instrumentation. Mid-era vocalist Anette Olzon provides a wonderful performance and the whole thing retains a stirring emotional power. The cover was originally slated for the Dark Passion Play album, but Nyman had not given permission in time, which is why it surfaced as a b-side instead.

1. The Phantom Of The Opera (Andrew Lloyd Webber cover; Century Child, 2002)

The female/male vocals frequently employed in symphonic and gothic metal have been referred to as a ‘beauty and the beast’ style. Forget the implications for poor old Marko Hietala for a second, because the approach couldn’t be more apt than it is for the spectacular duet at the dark heart of this cover. The Phantom Of The Opera is the centrepiece from the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical of the same name (not the similarly titled Iron Maiden track). It proves that most songs can be improved by the strategic insertion of distorted power chords and provides the perfect vehicle for Tarja’s classically trained voice.

Paul Travers has spent the best part of three decades writing about punk rock, heavy metal, and every associated sub-genre for the UK's biggest rock magazines, including Kerrang! and Metal Hammer