Review by Rick Ossian
A beautifully brilliant 2 CD or 2 DVD extravaganza documenting the triumphant introduction of siren extraordinaire Floor Jansen at the Wacken Open Air Festival 2013, Nightwish’s ‘Showtime, Storytime‘ is, indeed, the icing on the cake. Those of you who are familiar with this sextet from Kitee, Finland, will know of what I speak. This aggregation have been plying their wares worldwide since their 1997 debut, ‘Angels Fall Fast‘. As for Floor, following in Tarja Turunen’s (1996-2005) and Anette Olzon‘s ( 2007-2012) footsteps can’t have been an easy task. She acquits herself with aplomb on every single track. I’m told that Wacken is ‘the place to be’ when it comes to open air metal festivals, and judging from the footage on the various YouTube videos I watched, the rumours are true. Something else I noticed about Nightwish‘s audience in particular; they knew all the words to the songs, and were singing very enthusiastically back to their heroes.
Nightwish‘s brand of symphonic slam is unique in both their presentation and their delivery. They have the fury and bombast of the best progressive metallers, and in Floor they have a vocal bombshell of practically peerless talent. Granted, their are others (the aforementioned Tarja and Anette come to mind). We could speak at length of the merits of Magenta’s Christina Booth or Mostly Autumn’s Heather Findlay. That is not our purpose here. Our purpose is to extoll the virtues of the inimitable Floor. She can hold her end down brilliantly, and the way she stalks the stage at Wacken, you can tell she was born to do this.
Joining Floor in her symphonic systematic mayhem are Tuomas Holopainen (keys), Marco Hietala (bass, vocals), Jukka Nevalainen (drums), Emppu Vuorinen (guitar) and Troy Donockley (pipes, flutes and whistles). Now how many symphonic prog metallers do you know who can boast a geezer on pipes, flutes and whistles? Why the mind reels, boggling with the infinite non-possibilities!
Dark Chest of Wonders is a heavy duty thrasher, featuring what I lovingly refer to as ‘Children of the Corn‘ – style vocalizations (I may have referred to them as monks chanting previously to this ). There are some turn-on-a-dime thrash-type shifts, in particular at 2:40. ‘Wish I Had An Angel‘ is another heavy, hard-charging number, with a vocal crescendo of sorts at about 2:45 to the 3-minute mark. ‘She’s My Sin‘ is another mover and groover, with more angelic vocals and some really neat guitar work, particularly the rhythm and power chords, and the guitar break about 3 minutes in.
‘Ghost River‘ (“here’s a cold shower from the”) is an epic slammer with (almost) straight male vocals. A bit growly, but by now I should be used to that, shouldn’t I, readers? It is among the longer numbers here. ‘Everdream‘ includes a beautiful piano ballad-style intro, then slams us into submission about a minute or so in. This is an exercise in vocals, as many of these tunes are. Check out the tasty guitar solo at 3:20. Storytime features a bells (and whistles?) and bass slamming power chord intro. This is a more uptempo number, and a signature tune for the band, I’m told. More Children of the Corn-style vocal chanting here as well.
‘I Want My Tears Back‘ (“the tax collector’s comin!”) wins the award for most provocative title. The mere concept brings to mind heartbreaks/relationships past. This is another uptempo tune with both the angelic (female) and straight, almost growly (male) vocal counterparts. ‘Nemo‘ features more of the sky angel vocals (courtesy of Floor) and a thumping drum/bass figure. ‘Last of the Wilds‘ includes a really sweet introduction, upon listening to which I was reminded of bagpipes, for some reason. Probably best not to linger over that one for too long… Nice guitar solo at the close, by the way.
Bless the Child is a vocal tour-de-force, featuring slamming thrash chords and some pretty cool drum work as well. ‘Romanticide‘ is another heavy head-banger, chock full of riffs and another tasty guitar solo at 2:30. Also more of the chanting vocals mentioned before, and some RIFFS! Again, I noticed on the video that the audience knew ALL the words. Bull for them! ‘Amaranth‘ is a sequence of slamming chords with only a brief breakdown for us to catch our breath, then we go into the next two numbers, both epic in their own right, from sheer length if nothing else.
‘Ghost Love Score‘, at 10:30, is a mammoth epic. Most of us would look at the sheer length along and think ‘o gee whiz not another long, boring prog-fest’. Fear not, dear readers – this one moves along at a nice cracking pace! The intro could only be described as slamming symphonics, for lack of better words. All the elements come together here; the angelic vocals, the cool bass lines, etc. At the one-minute mark we settle into the main groove, which is interrupted by a guitar solo at 3:50 and a break of forest flute and synths, which could probably best be described as a classical interlude (4:30). At the 8-minute mark it’s back to the main story, so to speak, then another crescendo, both musically and vocally, at the close. What a piece of work this one is!
‘Song of Myself‘ is another hard slammer, featuring what sounds like violin (probably synth) and those chanting vocals again! The drummer gets pretty busy here, and Floor sounds, by turns, delicate and menacing. At 1:15 things kick into place, cementing both vocals and musical concerns directly into our brains. If nothing else, the music itself is very demanding of our interest, particularly when viewing the videos. These folks are enigmatic, and their passion transfixes us – at least, that’s the effect they had on me! At the half-way point, they show no signs of slowing. Instead, they just shift gears and show us how hard they can slam. Outstanding stuff! I suppose it doesn’t hurt that Floor is very easy on the eyes, as well…
‘Last Ride of the Day‘ is dramatic at the very least. Again the intro slams us into complete submission, and the drums and guitars remind us they are not just background fodder. Bass and keys come into play as well here, and we are suddenly made to realize that Nightwish are not going silently into that good night. Not until the next number, that is; ‘Imaginaerum (Outro)‘ is indeed, just that. One gets the impression that, during this number, the crowd would begin filing towards the doors — but wait, we’re outdoors! Never mind, then! Full marks for sheer musicality and audacity!