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Nightwish / Arch Enermy / Amorphis

Symphonic metal titans reach God-like status

It may not go down as the most historically significant part of tonight’s show, but for the fans of an esoteric, fairly obscure little folky death/doom band, seeing AMORPHIS [8] play Wembley Arena is a remarkable start to an evening.

Of course, with 25 years experience under their belt, they are far from overawed by the occasion. The as-usual flawless vocals of Tomi Joutsen artfully, gently guide an audience that visibly grows between the first and second song, the delicious melodies immediately more interesting than the bar. By the time the sumptuous Silver Bride rolls around, the Finns must have made several hundred new fans.

Amorphis: making mates in London

Amorphis: making mates in London
(Image credit: Kevin Nixon)

It’s a momentum that stops dead for ARCH ENEMY [6], who simply don’t get the crowd going tonight. The band look and sound built for arenas, their massive extreme metal tunes and the commanding charisma of Alissa White-Gluz forming a slick, gripping performance that deserves better than the polite sea of motionless apathy that greets them. Still, it’s probably predictable that a band with no clean vocals would struggle here – even if none of the blame lies with Arch Enemy themselves.

Arch Enemy's Alissa White-Gluz tries to get Wembley on-side

Arch Enemy's Alissa White-Gluz tries to get Wembley on-side
(Image credit: Kevin Nixon)

The headliners tonight have long since been packing out arenas across Europe, so on its own, the sold-out capacity of Wembley should not be news. But this is Britain, and female clean vocals, lush symphonics and a musical style that owes more to Stratovarius than Slayer has historically been less fashionable than nostril hairs in omelettes here. So that the second Finnish act of the night are not just here but ramming the place to the gills with fans ready to go nuts is exceptional. And of course NIGHTWISH [10], with years of practice at this, don’t just look comfortable, they look like they fucking own the place.

Nightwish: right at home in arenas

Nightwish: right at home in arenas
(Image credit: Kevin Nixon)

The list of everything Nightwish have going for them tonight is impressively large – as you would expect from a band well experienced at this level. They’ve got a back catalogue so fantastic at this point that they can leave out an entire album of hits (Wishmaster material is nowhere to be seen) and not play a duff song all night. They have a spectacular stage show that demands the big venue, from the choreographed jets of flame punctuating I Want My Tears Back to the perfectly synced back projections playing throughout, but most effective during Alpenglow. They’re musically flawless, Floor Jansen sounding several million dollars, and everyone else superbly building the platform for her to strut her vocal mastery. There’s even a dose of wit, the band’s resident Brit Troy Donockley announcing My Walden with the line “Forgive me, but I’ve wanted to say this since I was nine years old: GOOD EVENING, WEMBLEY!”

Nightwish give Rammstein a run for their money on the pyro front

Nightwish give Rammstein a run for their money on the pyro front
(Image credit: Kevin Nixon)

But it’s the emotional punch Nightwish carry that makes tonight special, that unites thousands of people into one cohesive crowd, that makes grown men cry during a heartbreaking The Poet & The Pendulum, and makes everyone grin cheesily for Last Ride Of The Day. There is an unselfconscious injection of passion that doesn’t give two shits about potentially looking ridiculous or revealing too much of themselves, and it’s what creates the kind of atmosphere that could vanish in a venue this vast, but tonight is sustained with ease from beginning to end.

Tuomas and Floor: the keys to success

Tuomas and Floor: the keys to success
(Image credit: Kevin Nixon)

And what an end it is at that. It takes balls of solid rock to try and write a 24-minute-long symphonic paean to humanism, empiricism and the glory of evolution, but to finish your show on it takes a special kind of gonad. Tonight, with Professor Richard Dawkins himself joining them on stage for the closing narration, Nightwish earn the right to play The Greatest Show On Earth.

Whether it is the couple clutching each other in mutual bliss, or the drunk bloke dancing on his own without inhibition, the lady in the Black Sabbath shirt singing like no one is watching during Nemo, or the awestruck-looking child quite probably at their first gig, the scenes around Wembley are not what a casual observer might expect. This does not look like a band making their first splash in a UK arena. This looks like a band that was born to be here, and has spent 15 years making sure that, when they get here, they are so ready that they are not ashamed to stand amongst the mighty company they now walk with.

Look at the crowd and not the stage, and you could be forgiven for mistaking this for an Iron Maiden show. From the numbers, the raw emotion on people’s faces and the fact that no one is bored after a two-hour set, and this could be Britain’s favourite metal sons. Look at the stage, see a world-famous scientist quoting Darwin in front of the drummer from Wintersun, and hear those songs, and it could only possibly be Nightwish proving they belong on the biggest of stages. Glorious.