It's July, 1996. A hidden campfire looms on the island in the middle of Lake Pyhäjärvi, Kitee. Then at midnight, something happens that has far-reaching consequences. Tuomas has an idea of a solo project that would play atmospheric "mood music".
The idea quickly crystallises: the sound would include acoustic guitars, flutes, strings, piano — and female vocals. Guitarist Erno "Emppu" Vuorinen and vocalist Tarja Turunen soon join the project.
Holopainen's embryonic idea takes form in just a few months, and the first Nightwish demo is completed in early 1997. Outsiders' opinions are reservedly positive, and the seeds sown during the summer start sprouting during the freezing winter of Karelia.
New dimensions soon appear in the band's music: Vuorinen changes from acoustic to electric guitar, and Jukka Nevalainen joins as the drummer. A few weeks of furious practise culminate in a studio demo recorded in April, featuring seven songs by the new line-up.
The songs attract the attention of Spinefarm Records, and the band is offered a deal. During the summer, Nightwish record four more songs, and their debut album Angels Fall First is released in November. The album rises to number 31 on the Finnish charts, while the single "The Carpenter", has already made it to Top Ten.
Wrapping up a year of surprisingly hectic action, Nightwish play their debut gig on New Year's eve. Over 400 people show up at Huvikeskus, Kitee, and the band is jumpy as hell, but the concert surpasses all expectations.
After their debut live appearance, Nightwish play only a few select gigs, as compulsory military service and studies prevent any heavy-duty touring. On just their second gig, they hit the stage of Lepakko, Helsinki, and everybody is extremely nervous: Turunen bursts into tears on stage and Tuomas nearly passes out from sheer excitement. Still, the band pass their trial by fire with flying colours and without any emotional or physical scars.
During the summer, Nightwish recruit a permanent bassist, Sami Vänskä. The summer is spent writing new material, and the band enter the studio in early August. Oceanborn, an album significantly more powerful and professional than their debut, is released on December 7. Mixed by Mikko Karmila, who will later become their trusted ally, Oceanborn rises to number five on the Finnish charts. The success surprises everyone, although the single "Sacrament of Wilderness" had already conquered the pole position of the singles charts.
Oceanborn is released internationally during the spring, boosted by the new single "Sleeping Sun" that sells more than 15,000 copies in a few weeks in Germany alone.
When the guys get out of the army, Nightwish are truly able to hit the live circuit, and as Nightwish is booked for almost all major Finnish festival, the summer sees some furious gigging.
The lively festival season ends on a happy note, as both Oceanborn and the single "Sacrament of Wilderness" are certified Gold. Shortly afterwards, Nightwish embark on their first European tour, supporting Rage for four weeks during November and December.
The new millennium begins with busy activity, as Nightwish start recording their third album during the first weeks of January. The band also take part in the Eurovision Song Contest, overwhelmingly winning the public vote, but the jury responsible for the final choice does not want Nightwish to represent Finland.
Wishmaster is released in mid-May, and the band celebrate the occasion with a concert at the Kitee Icehall. The album rises to number one on the Finnish charts and stays there for three weeks, earning a Gold Record. Wishmaster is released internationally during early summer, and the CD becomes the Album of the Month in several magazines, particularly in Germany.
Boosted by the success of Wishmaster, Nightwish set out on their first world tour, and the summer months see the band perform to crazed audiences in places like Brazil, Chile, Argentina, Panama, and Mexico. In the autumn, Nightwish headline their first European tour, and in late November, they fly to North America for the first time to play two concerts in Montreal.
To cap off a hectic year, Nightwish play a concert in Tampere that's recorded and shot for DVD. During the gig at Pakkahuone, the guys are also presented with some valuable memories, as the domestic sales of Wishmaster have earned them a Platinum Record.
There's no rest for Nightwish, as the band immediately hit the studio after a Finnish tour early in the year. The EP "Over the Hills and Far Away" is released in June and stays on the charts for nearly a year. The concert recorded at Pakkahuone comes out in April, titled From Wishes to Eternity — Live.
Nightwish play their last concert of the year in Nivala already in mid-September — and it could have well been their swan song, as Vänskä's interest in the band is waning, Turunen spends less and less time with the other musicians, and numerous problems have kept piling up. After finishing the tour, Holopainen states that the story of Nightwish is most likely at its end.
While hiking in the wilds of Lapland in the autumn, the mastermind changes his mind, however: Nightwish will continue their career — but only after major tweaks have been made. Ewo Pohjola from Spinefarm Records becomes the band's manager, King Foo Entertainment starts booking the gigs, and Vänskä is replaced by bass player and vocalist Marco Hietala.
To mark the beginning of the new era, the band's own online merchandise store Nightwish-Shop is opened in November in connection with the band's home page.
Nightwish quickly gain momentum again, as they start recording Century Child in January. The single "Ever Dream" comes out in early May and earns them a Finnish Gold Record in two days. After three weeks, Century Child does even better, selling Gold in just two hours. In Germany, the album rises to number five on the official charts.
A South American tour in July turns out to be a triumph with many sold-out gigs, and the successful gigs continue in South Korea, Russia, and all over Europe.
At the end of the year Nightwish take a break, but the musicians still keep themselves busy with other projects, like Sethian, For My Pain, Trio Niskalaukaus, Altarian, and Tarot.
Nightwish kick off the year with high-profile appearances in Germany at König-Pilsener Arena, Oberhausen and at Zenith, Munich. In the end, the band manage to squeeze in only a few Finnish gigs but appear on such European festivals as Bloodstock (UK), Lowlands (NL), and M'era Luna (GER). Across the pond, they play places like New York, Atlanta, and Mexico City.
A documentary DVD End of Innocence is released in the beginning of October, and during the final months of the year, the band start recording their fifth album.
Early 2004 flies by fast in the studio, and in early June, Once is released; an hour-long musical masterpiece that introduces new flavours to the band's trademark sound. The British genius Pip Williams has created some majestic orchestral and choral arrangements, and the Native American musician John Two-Hawks appears on the track "Creek Mary's Blood".
Once tops the charts in Finland as well as in Germany, Norway, Hungary, and Greece, and becomes the most successful album of the summer in Europe. The first single release "Nemo" is followed by "Wish I Had an Angel", "Kuolema tekee taiteilijan", and "The Siren".
The "Once" World Tour kicks off from Kitee Ice Hall in late May and takes Nightwish on a long journey through USA, South America, and Europe.
As the "Once" World Tour criss-crosses through Europe in February, Holopainen and Hietala take a short break and fly to Finland, where they are presented with no less than five awards in the prestigious Emma Gala. The European leg of the tour ends on a grand scale, as the band play in Stuttgart, Germany, for over 10.000 people.
During a busy summer, Nightwish appear alongside such luminaries as Iron Maiden and Mötley Crüe. Early autumn offers the band no respite, as they continue to sell out places such as Hammersmith Apollo, London and play an arena gig with the Scorpions at a São Paulo arena. In September, a greatest hits album called Highest Hopes: The Best of Nightwish is released.
The "Once" World Tour culminates in a sold-out gig at Hartwall Arena, Helsinki, where almost 12.000 fans fill the arena. The final gig of the tour is recorded for the forthcoming release End of an Era.
All in all, the" Once" World Tour comprised of over 130 concerts, enabling the fans in places like Australia, Columbia, Poland, Portugal, and Greece to see the band for the first time. After tireless touring, Once had sold about one million copies.
However, the year was not over yet — far from it. Immediately after the final concert, Tarja Turunen is presented with an open letter signed by the musicians in the band. Their message is clear: Holopainen, Nevalainen, Vuorinen, and Hietala have decided to continue Nightwish without Turunen. The "Once" World Tour had shown the rest of the band that continued collaboration with Turunen and her husband and manager Marcelo Cabuli had become impossible.
As the hullaballoo caused by Turunen's departure slowly dies out, Nightwish announce a search for new vocalist. In early summer, the DVD End of an Era is released, along with a biography by Mape Ollila called Once upon A Nightwish.
The musicians spend their summer on the Finnish countryside, rehearsing and arranging the songs for their forthcoming album, and the actual recordings begin in September.
All in all, Nightwish receive over two thousand demos from hopeful vocalists. The task seems endless, but slowly but surely the number of candidates decreases. After considering long and hard, the band choose Anette Olzon from Sweden as their new front woman. The recording of Dark Passion Play then continues at Abbey Road studios, London and at Finnvox, Helsinki.
The veil of secrecy is lifted at the end of May, when Nightwish announce the identity of their new singer in connection with the release of "Eva", the first single off the forthcoming album. Yet another single, "Amaranth", is released before Dark Passion Play is finally unleashed in the end of September. The multifaceted album sells 50,000 copies in Finland in one day.
Just as Once incorporated new influences to the band's sound a few years earlier, Dark Passion Play also sees Nightwish navigate unknown waters: "Master Passion Greed" is probably the heaviest track the band had ever recorded, while "Last of the Wilds", featuring the multi-instrumentalist Troy Donockley, takes the listener to the moors of Scottish Highland.
The "Dark Passion Play" World Tour kicks off with three secret warm-up gigs under various pseudonyms, and during the autumn, the band tour heavily in the US as well as in Scandinavia. A video for "The Islander" is also shot in Lapland, and as you will see, this production will have long-lasting effect on the future of Nightwish.
The intensive "Dark Passion Play" World Tour continues on the first day of the year in Helsinki and takes Nightwish all over the world, from Australia to the Far East, from South America to North America, and onwards to Europe. It's not until the end of the year that the band get some well-earned R&R.
The "Dark Passion Play" World Tour continues in March, as the new live EP "Made in Hong Kong (and in Various Other Places)" is released. The European venues have become gigantic, as Nightwish appear on arenas such as Ahoy, Rotterdam and Zenith, Paris.
After an US tour in the spring and some European festival appearances in the summer, the "Dark Passion Play" World Tour (that saw the band play no less than 200 gigs) culminates in a sold-out show at the Hartwall Arena in Helsinki. After the tour, the band retire from the public eye, but outside the limelight, there's a lot of stuff going on, as the preparations for the new studio album are already in full swing.
The first months of the year are spent writing music and lyrics, and already in April, Holopainen is ready to record an early demo of the forthcoming album Imaginarium. During the hot summer, Nightwish arrange their own summer camp near Kitee, where they rehearse and arrange the material on Imaginarium, a process that takes a couple of months.
The actual recordings begin in October at Petrax studios in Hollola, Finland. The drum, bass, and guitar parts are finished by the end of the year.
February starts with a blast, as Holopainen makes the following statement: "We're recording a concept album, where the moods in the songs vary even more radically than ever before. Our amusement park and its surreal, Burton/Gaiman/Dali-type rides are almost ready."
After a bit over a week, the band reveal a closely-guarded secret. As the press release read: "In all silence, along with their forthcoming album, Nightwish have also been working on a movie. Imaginarium is a musical fantasy based on the album of the same name and its 13 songs."
The double nature of Imaginarium had been conceived already years earlier, as Holopainen had presented Stobe Harju — the director of "The Islander" video — with the idea of shooting 13 music videos for the album. As the director suggested they'd add some dialogue between the songs, the final idea was crystallized: Imaginarium would be a full-length movie that carries a story.
The recordings of Imaginarium continued during the first part of the year in Helsinki and London, and once again, Nightwish trusted Pip Williams with the orchestral and choral arrangements. This time there would also to be a children's choir on the album, among other new things. After Anette Olzon had recorded her vocal parts in April, Mikko Karmila could start with the final mix.
In late summer, Nightwish refine the spelling of the title to Imaginaerum and announce that the new album will be released in Finland in late November. The single "Storytime" is released as a taster for the 75-minute roller coaster ride.
In mid-September, Nightwish fly to a Montreal movie studio, where the Imaginaerum movie, to be released in spring 2012, is being filmed. The musicians' parts are immortalized during an intensive week.
At the same time, the band announce their forthcoming gigs in Europe, while the details of the Finnish tour are revealed in late October. The world tour will kick off from Los Angeles on January 21, 2012.
The last weeks of 2011 will be interesting indeed, as the next year should become the most eventful and exciting in the history of Nightwish...