It’s simply not possible to talk about symphonic metal, or indeed Finland, without hearing the name Nightwish. From their humble beginnings playing acoustic songs around the campfire in their hometown of Kitee, Northern Karelia, to the stages of arenas and stadiums around the world, Nightwish have become the most successful Finnish band globally and one of their country’s best-selling acts.
It’s been an eventful and at times, turbulent journey: in their nearly thirty year career, the band have endured less-than-cordial splits with two out of three singers, and all the backlash that went with the controversial decisions. More recently, they’ve undergone more lineup changes within the fold, but they’ve always come back, seemingly stronger than ever – and in their current incarnation, fronted by the insanely talented Floor Jansen, they continue to dominate.
With nine studio albums, a feature film and around 117 total recorded songs in their back catalogue (some of which have never been played live, we put it to you, the fans, to definitively rank the best musical offerings from the band’s varied and illustrious career. Three distinctive voices have all made their mark on the Nightwish sound during her ‘era’, and each one has had her moment of glory, as evidenced by the below list.
Which one came out as the definitive fan favourite? Keep scrolling, and you’ll see…
And if you want to read more about Nighwish, be sure to pick up this month's issue of Metal Hammer where Finland's finest symphonic export are once again gracing our cover. From getting Tuomas Holopainen to talk us through every Nightwish album to date, to an in-depth chat with Floor Jansen about her upcoming solo record and recent breast cancer diagnosis, there's plenty to get into for Nightwish fanatics and newcomers alike.
20. Wishmaster (2000)
From the album of the same name, the lyrics of this Lord of the Rings-inspired track might initially be hard to decipher for some (some pretty spectacularly misheard versions exist online), but the punchiness of the chorus and Tarja Turunen’s haunting siren-call in the verses make Wishmaster a firm fan favourite.
19. I Want My Tears Back (2011)
This sweet uptempo jig from the band’s conceptual Imaginaerum album takes listeners into the Disney esque dreamscape of Tuomas Holopainen’s lost childhood, with its charmingly nostalgic lyrics and Troy Donockley’s uilleann pipe riff as the song’s focal point. It quickly became a staple on tour setlists and has remained so ever since.
18. The Islander (2007)
One of the few occasions former bassist Marko Hietala provided lead vocals, with then-singer Anette only a ghostly echo in the chorus, was on this folky acoustic ditty from Dark Passion Play, which provides a soothing respite from the overall heaviness of the record and was the first Nightwish to feature Troy prominently.
17. Bless the Child (2002)
The second single from Century Child is a sparkling, operatic mid-tempo lament that’s 2000s- Nightwish through and through: spoken word, lyrics lifted from Walter Raleigh’s poetry and plenty of navel-gazing. Century Child is the band’s first album to feature an orchestra, and they certainly got their money’s worth on Bless The Child.
16. Amaranth (2007)
After Dark Passion Play ballad Eva leaked online, the world’s first visual introduction to Anette Olzon came in the form of the album’s first music video for the catchy and upbeat Amaranth. Showcasing a dramatically different singing style to Tarja, her impressively high belting won over many sceptical fans.
15. Élan (2015)
Similarly, the band’s first single that introduced singer Floor Jansen made a spectacular impression – a tribute to Tuomas’ hero Walt Whitman, the Endless Forms Most Beautiful track is a rousing ode to the beauty and mystery of life that gently introduces the listener to the album’s themes of evolution and natural history.
14. Dead Boy's Poem (2000)
One of Tuomas’ most personal compositions, the penultimate track on Wishmaster has a slow, hymnlike pace and deeply melancholic lyrics; introducing the ‘Dead Boy’ motif to represent the songwriter and employing a child narrator, the song climaxes in a stunning vocal delivery by Tarja that never fails to induce goosebumps.
13. 7 Days to the Wolves (2007)
“The wolves, my love, will come,” purrs Anette at the beginning of this Dark Passion Play track that sits firmly at the heavier end of the Nightwish oeuvre. Ostensibly inspired by Stephen King’s Dark Tower series, the build into its middle 8 section is one of the most thrilling moments on the album.
12. Song of Myself (2011)
The last proper song on Imaginaerum is a thirteen-minute-long epic in four parts. Taking direct inspiration from the Whitman poem of the same name, it’s a grandiose, sprawling track that ties together all the themes of the record and ends in a lengthy spoken-word section narrated with Troy’s soothing Northern lilt.
11. Shoemaker (2020)
Human. :||: Nature’s only entry on this list is Shoemaker, the band’s tribute to Dr Eugene Shoemaker, a planetary scientist who became the first man to be buried on the Moon per his wishes after dying in an accident. The song’s repeated outro of “Ad Astra!” sees Floor go fully operatic and it is simply, heartbreakingly beautiful.