The top 20 best Nightwish songs ranked

10. Last Ride Of The Day (2011)

A rollercoaster of a song, this is the track from Imaginaerum that flips the power switch at the abandoned theme park that forms the album’s richly-imagined backdrop, turning all the rides back on for one last hurrah. The dynamics in Anette’s voice from the whisper-soft verse to the dizzyingly high final note make it a thrilling sonic journey.

9. Wish I Had an Angel (2004)

The second single from the Once album is a back-and-forth duet between Tarja and Marko, with an intoxicating dance beat and lyrics positively oozing with lust. Consistently one of their most-performed songs with each of their three singers, it’s a perennial favourite that never fails to get the crowd moving – what’s more, it charted in ten countries including the UK and went gold in their home country of Finland. Kaching!

8. Dark Chest of Wonders (2004)

It comes as no surprise that multiple Once tracks made it into the top ten, as arguably the band’s most successful album to date in terms of sales, and the one that put them on the global map. Dark Chest of Wonders is a perfect album opener in many ways: the hushed tones of Tarja’s “Once, I had a dream…” straight into a guitar riff punctuated by dramatic orchestra hits and culminating in a triumphant final cadence.

7. Storytime (2011)

The chart-topping lead single from the Imaginaerum record is a song that perhaps best encapsulates the band’s sound of that era. A testament to the imagination of Tuomas Holopainen and his love for children’s fantasy tales, his lyrics reference literary icons such as Alice and Peter Pan, as well as the beloved titular character from The Snowman, and the track opens the gates to the album’s tumultuous carnival ride in signature Nightwish style.

6. Sleeping Sun (1999)

Being the only ballad to make the top ten just goes to show the impact of Sleeping Sun, from a standalone maxi single named 4 Ballads Of The Eclipse that was released to coincide with the total solar eclipse of August ’99. Introspective and reverential, this gorgeous ode to the beauty in darkness is powerfully evocative in a way only someone who has experienced Arctic polar nights could know. So good, they recorded it twice.

5. Nemo (2004)

Undeniably a breakthrough track for the band, earning them their first entry into the UK charts and hitting the top ten in multiple countries, the lead single from Once remains their most-performed live song to date. Accompanied by a big-budget music video set against a fittingly wintry backdrop, the sparse piano hook and infectiously catchy chorus melody set it apart as one of their more accessible songs that still packs a punch.

4. Ever Dream (2002)

Famously the song that got Anette Olzon the job of Nightwish lead singer when she chose to audition for the band with it, the band’s fourth studio album Century Child saw the inclusion of Marko Hietala on vocal duties alongside Tarja for the first time, adding a brand new dimension to the band’s evolving symphonic metal sound with his powerful power-metal screams. 

Ever Dream earned the band their first platinum record, and with good reason: full of light and shade, the dynamic contrasts between the verse, chorus and middle eight, as well as between Tarja and Marko’s voices, all serve to heighten the drama of the song.

3. The Poet and the Pendulum (2007)

Starting a record with an opening track just shy of the fourteen-minute mark was certainly a bold choice, and a fitting way to set the stage for Dark Passion Play

From the youthful voice of a boy treble in the introduction to Marko’s furious, blasphemous snarls and an astonishingly beautiful performance by Anette in the final movement, it’s a multi-part epic that encompasses seemingly every emotion that can be expressed with music, albeit at the darker end of the spectrum; all of the turbulence and personal strife experienced by its composer shrouds the song in a stormy cloak of angst.

2. The Greatest Show on Earth (2015)

Enter Floor – with eight years in the band already under her belt, it’s only fitting that one of the Dutch singer’s stunning contributions to the Nightwish canon should make it into the top ten; even more so that it’s the closing track from Endless Forms Most Beautiful

Another one of their signature multi-part compositions which, at twenty-four minutes long, is their longest, most ambitious and arguably most progressive to date, The Greatest Show On Earth is a celebration of life on our blue rock that draws inspiration heavily from Darwin’s On The Origin Of Species. A live favourite (in an abridged form) ever since Endless Forms… came out, the climactic chant of “We were here!” is its crowning moment.

1. Ghost Love Score (2004)

Of course, the number one spot on the list could only go to one song: Ghost Love Score. The ninth track on the double-platinum-selling Once unofficially sort of marks the beginning of an arc of ten-minute-plus songs composed of multiple distinct movements that have been present on every Nightwish album since. 

The Poet and the Pendulum, The Greatest Show on Earth, and Song of Myself all continued this pattern, but Ghost Love Score is still, for many, the blueprint, having taken on a life beyond its original form thanks to many now-legendary performances of the song by Floor Jansen, everywhere from Buenos Aires to Wacken Open Air. 

Compositionally perhaps their most accomplished song, it’s always played in its entirety, unlike the aforementioned tracks; it flows beautifully from one movement into another, changing time signatures from 4/4 to a waltz seamlessly for its cinematic “seafaring” middle string section and returning to its original themes at the end to bring it home. 

Add to that the hopelessly romantic lyrics (“You were the one to cut me, so I’ll bleed forever!”) and the fantastic backing of the London Philharmonic Orchestra and there you have it: Nightwish’s best song, as chosen by the fans.

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