Beyond the pseudo-aggro thrash metal and grinding nu-metal, Finland’s Nightwish were a surging new sound when they hit the scene in 1997. Influenced by dark gothic atmosphere, classical and symphonic musicianship and the heaviness of thrash metal, Nightwish blew the doors down and brought an epic and majestic sound to metal, all capped off with the angelic vocals of a female lead singer. For the time, it was unprecedented to hear such elegance in a heavy metal outfit, but 17 years later, Nightwish have gained a tremendous following in their home country and continue to rise in popularity overseas as well. Despite lineup changes, the band is still the go-to group for their iconic “symphonic metal” sound. With a new lead singer on board, Nightwish rocked Wacken, Germany and documented their performance on the concert film, Showtime, Storytime. Though it has some minor production flaws and a slightly reserved tracklist, Showtime, Storytime is a fine demonstration of Nightwish’s persistent appeal, while also showing off the talents of two brand new members of the Nightwish family.
Showtime, Storytime marks the first production for the band that features new lead vocalist Floor Jansen, who replaced Anette Olzen in October 2013. Like past Nightwish singers, Jansen provides ascendant melodic and operatic force. Her incredible use of soprano continues the band’s defining vocal vibe of siren arias and heavenly pitch. Jansen’s stage presence is very powerful, especially for the concert being her first production as a full-time member of the band. Her performance of “She Is My Sin” varies the rhythm a bit as the tone lowers slightly, while the onslaught of “Romanticide” lets her pipes blast off into the stratosphere. Bassist Marco Hietala also provides backup vocals with a snarling shout. His furious battlecry at the conclusion of “Wish I Had an Angel” brings a slightly rugged aesthetic to the table, but his fantastic performance during “Ever Dream” echoes the late power metal icon Ronnie James Dio with lengthy sustenance and surprisingly expansive range. Worry not, long-time Nightwish fans: the band hasn’t lost their black magic, even with another new lead singer running the front lines.
The band became famous for mixing cinematic and soaring female-fronted vocals with the heaviness of thrash and power metal. 17 years later and lineup changes across the board, Nightwish are still able to deliver some of the most atmospheric heavy metal tracks you’ll find. Many of the more ambient moments during the concert come from Jansen’s excellent vocals and the haunting synths of keyboardist Tuomas Holopainen. Like a church choir, Holopainen’s keyboards add resonance and atmosphere to the grinding guitars and pounding drums. Guitarist Emppu Vuorinen doesn’t demonstrate many intricate solos, but shares some nice virtuosity on “Nemo” and “Romanticide.” Another highlight is the work of newly inducted band member Troy Donockley, who offers incredible sounds on the folk woodwind instrument, the uillean pipes. His stellar performance on the instrumental “Last of the Wilds” is something spectral and otherworldly, but still natural and apropos for the band’s signature sound. Showtime, Storytime keeps the fans happy with the same awesome sound the band has been showing for years, but it also acts as a great demo reel of sorts for new members Jansen and Donockley, who have the potential to push the band to even greater heights in the future.
The concert itself digs into the band’s discography a respectable amount, but doesn’t go further back than the band’s 2000 album, Wishmaster. That might disappoint the long-time fans, but the selected tracks are definitely varied enough to keep viewers interested. Opener “Dark Chest of Wonders” is as energized as it is elegant, two qualities that have always made Nightwish stand out in their genre, while the superb “Ever Dream” darkens the tone further. The cinematic experience of Nightwish is alive in Showtime, Storytime, with haunting lighting illuminating the band and creeping into the roaring crowd. The cinematography, however, suffers a bit too much from abrupt camera cuts, especially in the first half. For a band so infused with elegance and majesty, the very brief shots stick out more than they would for the show of, say, a punk or alternative band. In addition to the concert film, Showtime, Storytime also features a two-hour documentary about Jansen adjusting to performing with Nightwish at live shows and eventually becoming the official lead singer. It’s a nice inclusion and that story of moving from replacement to full-timer is something that few bands have demonstrated publicly. The transition is a moment so overlooked to an audience, so seeing the awkwardness steadily dissipate for Jansen is enlightening whether you like Nightwish or not.
Showtime, Storytime may not be the perfect concert film for the long-running symphonic metal band due to its slightly reserved song selections and rather awkward cinematography, but the excellent introduction to Jansen and Donockley is definitely a sign of good things to come. If you’ve been listening to Nightwish since their inception and are curious to see how they sound with Jansen on board, rest assured that the band’s signature tone is not lost in the slightest. As a group that pioneered the symphonic metal genre, it’s remarkable that Nightwish’s music still sounds fantastic, especially with the roar of a crowd brewing in the background. Showtime, Storytime is a solid representation of the band and thanks to their lively stage presence and ambient gothic tone, it will likely make some new fans as well as satisfying older ones.