The two-CD Decades is a reverse-chronological trawl through the Finnish symphonic metal behemoth’s catalogue, released to celebrate their 20th anniversary. All the better to trace their trajectory right back to the beginning, and 1996’s self-titled demo, through all the lineup changes, shed vocalists and shifts of emphasis. Nightwish majordomo Tuomas Holopainen formed the band based on a desire to play “atmospheric acoustic music led by a female voice”, but that hardly does justice to the increased focus evinced during their career on bombastic orchestral sonics and neo-operatic acrobatics.
There are tracks here from their eight albums. Just don’t expect bonus or unreleased ones - “for the simple reason that we don’t have any,” deadpans Holopainen, who can be melodramatic, too: he compares leaving songs off the comp to “kill[ing] your darlings”.
If that overwrought, histrionic tone appeals, then you’ll love Decades, especially the 24-minute The Greatest Show On Earth, which starts thunderously florid and goes from there, Celtic interludes, artillery fire, angelic chorale, Richard Dawkins narration and all. But they can also be concisely tuneful: Storytime is (no joke) like a symphonic metal ABBA.
Prepare to Shudder Before The Beautiful, as the title track of Nightwish’s 2015 album would have it, although that particular murdered loved one isn’t included here.