If you’ve ever seen the Finnish symphonic metal giants Nightwish at one of their 951 gigs (at the time of penning this list), there’s a good chance you’ll have heard them play Nemo, Wish I Had an Angel and Dark Chest of Wonders. The band’s top three most-played songs all come from the 2005 album Once, but what are they not playing?
With the help of tour Bible and gig reviewer’s best friend, Setlist.fm, we found 34 tracks from the band that have never been played live. For context, there are around 117 recorded songs in their discography; “around”, because their later albums have frequently been accompanied by a second disc of purely orchestral versions, and because Tuomas Holopainen has a penchant for composing songs that go over the 25-minute mark and consist of multiple movements.
Some of these, like the Lappi (Lapland) quadrilogy, are treated as four separate tracks here per the album’s tracklisting, whereas songs like The Greatest Show On Earth are treated as one long song. Cover songs that are B-sides such as Where Were You Last Night, and the instrumental Imaginaerum soundtrack album, haven’t been included, nor has the second disc of Human. :||: Nature.
Now that we’ve explained our highly sophisticated scientific methodology, below are the songs that have never seen the stage lights. Is your favourite Nightwish song on here? Get ready to strap in, and nerd out…
Angels Fall First (1997)
Besides the recently released Human. :||: Nature, the band’s debut album is the one they’ve delved into the least when it comes to live shows: the aforementioned Lappi (Lapland) and the largely acoustic Nightwish demo have all been skipped over, as have the mellow Return to the Sea and the folky Nymphomaniac Fantasia.
The release of Oceanborn saw the band start to tour outside of Finland, and with the 1998 record full of tracks like Sacrament of Wilderness and Passion & The Opera, you could forgive them for overlooking The Riddler and Nightquest. Though if you ask us, we might swap Walking In The Air for either.
From the band’s second-most played record, there are just two songs they’ve consistently skipped over: the mournful ballad Two for Tragedy, and the histrionic Bare Grace Misery, a song with a delightfully melodramatic chorus that frankly deserves at least one live outing.
Century Child (2002)
2002’s Century Child and the addition of Marko Hietala’s powerful voice ushered in a new era for Nightwish and brought what would become a new setlist staple in the form of the stunning Ever Dream. It’s not surprising they favoured other songs over the slow, plodding Forever Yours and Ocean Soul, but we reckon that the sultry Feel For You should have its day in the sun at least once. Speaking of which…
Once is big for many reasons: their most played album, their last with Tarja Turunen, and the one that gained them a significant new following outside of Europe; of all its songs, only one has never been played, and it’s the guitar-driven Dead Gardens.
Dark Passion Play (2007)
The Dark Passion Play tour was, and still is, Nightwish’s biggest tour to date, which is why it comes as little surprise that they’ve played nearly every song on the record with the exception of the sweet mid-tempo For The Heart I Once Had and the vitriolic Master Passion Greed.
With the latter widely understood to be a thinly-veiled jab at Tarja’s husband, perhaps the band felt that playing the song live would be taking things a bit too far, or that those bitter feelings are best left in the past.
With a feature film to promote and another massive world tour, only the instrumental Arabesque and the gentle folky ballad Turn Loose The Mermaids were missed off the setlist for the Imaginaerum shows. The latter, featuring a gorgeous violin solo by Pekka Kuusisto, definitely deserves to be heard in a live setting.
Endless Forms Most Beautiful (2015)
Enter Floor Jansen to take Nightwish into their Attenborough-metal era. Nothing says “I’ve got a National Geographic subscription” like writing an instrumental track called The Eyes of Sharbat Gula as tribute to the publication’s most iconic cover photograph, featuring the piercing green-eyed stare of a young Afghan woman. Of course, instrumentals are tricky to do justice live, so we’ll let them off for not giving this one an airing.
Human. :||: Nature (2020)
They band are only now touring their most recent record two-and-a-bit years after its release, thanks to a little something we’d probably rather not think about anymore, but so far they haven’t shown any love to the album opener Music (except as an intro played over the PA), Procession or closing track Endlessness. Watch this space.
Like any band with as many albums and singles as Nightwish have, they bring out the odd B-side from time to time. Personally, we’d love to hear Floor have a stab at the ludicrous The Heart Asks Pleasure First, a sweeping, cinematic waltz from with some eye-wateringly high notes and beautiful violin outro.
They’ve also never played Away, Lagoon, Live to Tell The Tale, Once Upon a Troubadour, Sagan, Sleepwalker, The Wayfarer or White Night Fantasy. While there’s probably little chance of them playing Erämaan Viimeinen unless Floor really knuckles down in her language studies, perhaps Tuomas’ wife, Finnish singer Johanna Kurkela, could join in for the Dark Passion Play-era jig.