Wish for a Night
Long time, no post–amirite?
My apologies. Two weeks ago I went to visit Derek for the celebration of our nation’s birthday and he cruelly kept me from my posting duties. Then, as I was departing back to responsibility and proper work ethic, I was gifted a delightful cold as a departing present. So I spent much of last week unconscious upon the couch bemoaning the suffering of existence and life. I also produced lots of mucus. I have no idea what people did with that stuff before the invention of disposable tissues.
However, that won’t dissuade me any further. I have returned from the land of the half dead and weary to insure that I put some scribbling upon the site. Last I concluded was with a short endorsement for the very aged Thieves’ World anthologies. I realized that there may, perhaps, be a persistent negative edge to this blog. It is not my desire to fill the Interwebs with my criticism and pessimism. Thusly, I have decided I’m going to do nothing but a month’s worth of posts covering things that I actually like.
Today, I want to discuss one such topic that I am wholly ill-equipped to cover: music.
I must confess, my knowledge and understanding of music is about as shallow as it can possibly get. I don’t know much musical theory. I know the basic components of songs and the handful of information bestowed upon me during my two years of musical classes in middle school which predominantly were composed of wailing futile on instruments that were very much not saxophones or drums. Of all the entertainment mediums, I always feel the least equipped to speak on music. I suppose, in a sense, that gives me the closest experience to those that interact solely on popular media: they are driven near entirely on their personal tastes with nary a consideration for the history or theory which directs and shapes the art.
My ability to discuss music is further hampered by the fact that I was born on the wrong continent. I have turned on a radio and what blares from the speakers holds very little interest to me. I can’t stand pop music which sounds so empty and soulless to my ears. Things like Brittany Spears, Lady Gaga and the girl with the whipped cream bra that shoots long streams of the desert in her music video all blur together both in sound and presentation. I loathe rap–it’s like someone took poetry and forced it to only concern an equally manufactured sense of toughened authenticity by elevating the worst of urban crime and discrimination. It also sounds the same and horrendous to my unrefined ears.
I won’t even touch country.
Alas, those three genres are the kings of North America and woe be to the counter-culture individual who finds their ears incapable of processing their noise into pleasurable sensations. However, I have discovered that the rest of the world does not languish beneath this vice-grip of the record moguls interested solely in regurgitating the same message and experience at infinitum. Other countries rebel against the oppression of the established elites. Other countries revel in the untamed anarchy of a style which refuses to be tamed and pacified.
Other countries still enjoy metal.
Europe and, to a lesser extent, Japan have their metal scenes which bear the torch of the 1970s subgenre which broke from the ruling Rock in the United Kingdom and United States. Here were the familiar sounds for a kid raised on Metallica and System of a Down (though, I think that’s technically Rock – I didn’t care as a kid). Actually, if I were to be honest and drop all this pretension of a downtrodden music genre, I can see some issues with the culture of metal on par with those of the prevailing genres today. There’s no denying the large emphasis on masculinity, aggression and machoism. I simply don’t have an issue with their general portrayal and, simply put, it’s fun to rock out to some head pounding beats.
Which brings me to my current tastes. Needless to say, while I still hold a fond part of my heart for the entertainment of my childhood and adolescence, my preference in music has become refined. In particular, the development of power metal is near the perfect amalgamation of sounds which I adore. They’re emotionally powerful, typically focusing on choruses which you can understand and covering theatrical fantasy subject matter. Sonata Arctica has songs about werewolves. Coheed and Cambria (though they’re more a mish-mash of various influences still have heavy metal components) releases concept albums covering a science fiction storyline set across planets connected by energy beams known as the Keywork (I think, I have no idea what’s going on with it). Dragonforce sings a lot about dragons. And Powerwolf… well… they also sing about werewolves.
Out of all of them, however, there is one band which I like the most. The range and variety of their soundscape is matched by none. And no other band really hits the symphonic components of the genre like they do.
I am, of course, talking about Nightwish.
Of course, any mention of Nightwish inevitably draws the question, “Tarja or Anette?” To this, I can merely shrug my shoulders and ask in the immortal words of the Old El Paso spokesgirl, “Why not both?” Course, now that Anette has left, I guess we’re going to have to start drawing lines amongst the fanbase into thirds. However, there is no denying that both have their place and each singer represents an almost completely different sound for the band. Tarja was the first and her almost operatic voice was equally commanding whether she was striking out the typical metal sounds of Wishmaster, a cover of Phantom of the Opera (even though that’s technically a musical) or even the eerie Finnish folklore songs of the Lappi ballad.
And though Anette doesn’t have nearly the power of Tarja, there’s something entrancing by her softer vocals. Contrast Lappi with The Islander and there’s just something that clicks with her rendition of the more folkish acoustics. Her wispy and childlike range fit Imaginaerum perfectly. I wasn’t a fan of the album at first but it would not have had the proper whimsy had Tarja been heading it. And she can hold her own with the standard metal fare like Bye, Bye Beautiful and Amaranth with the latter one of my favourites from the band.
The songs themselves cover a huge swathe of topics, too. The earliest albums cover the genre’s typical fantasy fare as demonstrated by Elvenpath and Wanderlust. But as the years have progressed, so have the subjects. Over the Hills and Far Away is about civil war. The Poet and the Pendulum seems to cover composing and being an artist. Bye Bye Beautiful is unapologetically about the split between Nightwish and Tarja.
And the best part of all this is the music is still metal. However, it sheds the standard preconceptions that metal has to be all about screaming and noise. I find the symphonic elements heighten the emotional punch of the scores but it also softens the overall effect so that even my sister will unfailing start bobbing her head and whistling to the beats.
So, yeah, if you haven’t heard Nightwish this is my endorsement. It’s impossible to say where someone should begin given their wide breadth of sound. So I’ll just end off with a short list of what I think are the band’s most popular and leave it to you, discerning reader, to try them at your own wish… or peril.
Storytime (Imaginaerum) – their single from their latest album
Nemo (Once) – Kait recommended this one so it must have widespread appeal
The Islander (Dark Passion Play) – And now for something completely different
Wish I Had An Angel (Once) – The song that got me first hooked on the band
The Phantom of the Opera (Century Child) – Everyone loves cover songs
Ghost Love Score (Once) – I can’t make a list without including one of their ten minute songs