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  • David Bentley

Down Memory Lane – Nightwish’s ‘Eva’ (plus Tarja Turunen UK Live dates)

Every so often something crops up to remind you of a particular event or experience. In this instance it was discovering a video for a Nightwish song that seems to fit that song almost perfectly (and allowing for the fact that other videos have done a pretty good job of that as well). It took me instantly back to when I first heard this song and the impact it had on me.

For those not familiar with Nightwish they are from (originally) a small town, Kitee, in the eastern part of Finland, within throwing distance of the Russian border, and are a metal band, not a genre that features regularly in Nordic Music Review. However that classification is a broad one. ‘Symphonic metal’ is a more distinct and apt one. Moreover, I would argue personally that Nightwish has evolved during its 24 years of existence to be more of a modern prog rock band, with metal riffs thrown in for good measure.

They are probably best known for the ‘opuses’ concocted during the last decade by chief writer and keyboardist Tuomas Holopainen, such as ‘Ghost Love Score’, ‘The Poet & the Pendulum’ (yes, it is a wordplay on Poe’s short story) and the remarkable ‘The Greatest Show on Earth’ which attempts to tell the story of evolution in less than 20 minutes and which contains one of the most stirring and emotional endings of any song ever written. Holopainen is often compared with the likes of Philip Glass and Hans Zimmer as one of the leading contemporary composers.

However, this song and video is on a more modest scale, albeit quite beautiful. In 2005, at the end of a concert ironically labelled ‘The End of an Era’ at the Hartwall Arena in Helsinki, Nightwish’s singer, the classically-trained Tarja Turunen, a founding member of the band, was sacked online by way of a public statement.

I won’t go into the reasons here, I’ll just say that the incident split the band’s fans then and ever since but Turunen recovered to lead a successful solo career and in fact is in the UK this month (details at the end).

Since then, Nightwish has had two female vocalists. The current one is Floor Jansen, from the Netherlands. The intermediate one (who was also sacked, but that’s also another story) is Sweden’s Anette Olzen. Anette was never a favourite with many of Nightwish’s fans, mainly on account of having a voice that was considered too ‘poppy’ compared to Tarja’s operatic style and Floor’s belting technique.

Personally I think she laid down some of Nightwish’s best tracks and the one which always stands out for me is ‘Eva.’

When she joined the band following Tarja’s departure this was the first track recorded for the new album, ‘Dark Passion Play’. Holopainen, as ever, wrote it specifically for her vocal, and she actually asked him to write it. The song concerns childhood bullying, of which she had been a victim. It was released as a charity single but after she left the band was never played again (as in fact was the case with several songs written for Tarja).

It concerns a bullied child, scorned by children and adults alike, who finds solace in conversing with animals and insects (‘For a memory of one kind word/She would stay among the beasts’) while she plots her escape (‘Eva sails away/Dreams the world far away…Time for one more daring dream/Before her escape, edenbeam’). She does have one friend, the narrator, though we do not discover who that is (‘Kindest heart which always made/Me ashamed of my own…The good in her will be my sunflower field’).

Another video pictures Eva as a girl of five or six, carrying a teddy bear and I suspect that was the intention when the song was written (‘little girl with life ahead’). This one pictures her as a teenager, complete with studs and rings, probably a little inaccurately, but not of any great consequence. In fact, she even looks a little like Anette Olzon.

I don’t know who the people are who put together these amateur videos but I wish I had the skill. Some of the imagery in this one is top class, especially the solitary swing hanging from the tree and the raven (3:04…) that she’s desperately avoiding

As for the music, well other than the fact that Nightwish have been blessed with three of the greatest female vocalists of all time they are all about arrangements. Emppu Vuorinen’s restrained guitar break underlines how you don’t have to shred for effect and the huge ending is just so Nightwish.

Bullying is an increasingly ‘popular’ theme in song writing. There’s at least one song being released on that subject in the UK right now. The very talented young Swede Johanna Brun’s ‘Bird’ should have been released in the UK by now but has been held up by various issues, while I believe Marianne Sveen (ex Katzenjammer) will also tackle the subject on her debut album to be released shortly.

This one always brings a lump to my throat though.

Nightwish will release their ninth studio album ‘Human :II: Nature’ on 10thApril. The second single from it, ‘Harvest’ has just been released and is about as far from ‘metal’ as you can get, somewhere between folk and a Celtic jig. They have two dates in the UK in December, London (Wembley Arena) and Cardiff. More could follow but it is looking unlikely.

Tarja will tour the UK as follows:

March 17th – London, Electric Ballroom

March 19th – Manchester, Academy 2

March 20th – Glasgow, Garage

She released her seventh studio album, ‘In the Raw’, last year.


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