By Carl Begai
During a recent interview with Nightwish keyboardist mastermind Tuomas Holopainen about the band’s forthcoming DVD Showtime, Storytime and their decision to make vocalist Floor Jansen a permanent member, he discussed his orchestral project currently on the go, The Life And Times Of Scrooge McDuck. At press time the album was being mixed and a release date was tentatively slated for April 2014. Described by Holopainen as “somewhere between film music, folk and classical, echoing distantly the works of Vaughan Williams, Enya, Mike Oldfield and Michael Nyman”, he’s in the process of bringing another one of his dreams to life.
“This particular graphic novel called The Life And Times Of Scrooge McDuck would be my desert island book,” says Holopainen. “That or Lord Of The Rings, I’m not sure. It had such a huge impact on me ever since I read it for the first time in 1996, and I had the idea for Scrooge back in 1999. It’s been there for 14 years. Every time I read those wonderful stories by Don Rosa my head is filled with music, and at some point it just needed to come out. Then I had the idea of doing a soundtrack to the graphic novel, and it was an idea that just sounded so awkward and far off that I had to do it (laughs). I can’t think of too many albums that are made as a soundtrack to a book; there was a guy in the ’70s that did it for Lord Of The Rings but that’s the only one that comes to mind. So this project is quite innovative in that sense.”
It sounds like an odd undertaking, no question, but Holopainen is known for thinking outside the box. When word came down that Nightwish would release a movie based on his concept for the Imaginaerum album a lot of people – critics and fans – were left wondering why they’d bother. Ultimately, anyone who asked Holopainen why he and the band would bother to invest time and a couple million dollars on the project received what amounted to “because we want to” as an answer. (continue reading…)
By Carl Begai
The day after it was announced that Nightwish touring vocalist Floor Jansen (Revamp, ex-After Forever) had been made an official band member, BW&BK was given the opportunity to speak with keyboardist/mastermind Tuomas Holopainen about the band’s forthcoming live/tour documentary DVD Showtime, Storytime. Good thing they took care of business before press began, because if they hadn’t most of this conversation would have consisted of yours truly telling Holopainen he would have to be a special kind of insane to let Jansen slip away. But really, it’s no surprise that Jansen was asked to stay considering her monumental efforts since coming on board at the last minute to replace the booted Anette Olzon back in October 2012.
“I know it didn’t come as a surprise to anybody,” Holopainen says of the news. “We wanted to make it official at this point because we knew we were going to do a lot of promotion for the upcoming DVD. It’s just easier to do things this way; we don’t need to keep our mouths shut.”
The documentary portion of the DVD begins appropriately with footage from Denver, Colorado as Nightwish makes a mad scramble to put together some semblance of a setlist in the wake of Olzon falling ill. With their singer unable to perform and an audience willing to stick around for whatever the band can come up with, Nightwish enlist support band Kamelot’s backing singers Elize Ryd (Amaranthe) and Alissa White-Gluz (The Agonist). The rest is a pretty amazing piece of history. Holopainen is caught on camera after the show stating that he’d never been as scared as he was two hours earlier.
“That was the truth,” he admits. “The whole day is just a hazy dream to me now. It was such an awkward moment. A big hand to Elize and Alissa… they were amazing. But that’s what doing live shows is all about. Sometimes these things happen and it’s really memorable stuff; a mass karaoke with those two lovely girls joining us, doing some instrumental stuff as well. It was something different and I don’t think anybody left the venue upset or annoyed.”
Olzon, on the other hand, was genuinely upset and took to her official website to air her feelings. She made it clear she thought the band was wrong to go ahead without her. On October 1st the band released a statement announcing Olzon’s departure and that Jansen would be filling in for the rest of the tour.
“We got quite a bit of criticism for doing the show without Anette,” Holopainen reveals. “Some people asking us how we could be so selfish and do the show without her. It was quite the opposite. We had to think about the 1,600 fans, the promoter, the crew, everybody. Seriously, if something happened to me or any of the other band members, I’d do anything to still make the show happen. We offered the money back from the tickets. We told the fans how the show was going to be, so of course if they wanted to leave they should get their money back. It was seven refunds out of 1,600 so that was pretty good.” (continue reading…)
By Carl Begai
Not to take away from Amaranthe’s current shine, but part of the reason for this current buzz is singer Elize Ryd, who has toured with Florida-based Kamelot as a backing vocalist for the last four years and hit the studio for their latest record, Silverthorn. The ongoing collaboration has been a blessing for an up-and-coming young band like Amaranthe trying to gain a foothold in the big leagues.
“I think working with Kamelot has had an effect,” Elize agrees, “because we have a lot of fans in South America and in North America, and I’ve been on tour with Kamelot in those territories. I was with them when they supported Nightwish on top of that, and Nightwish have a huge audience.”
As for how she became involved with Kamelot in the first place…
Elize: “From the beginning, when we started Amaranthe, we didn’t have a lot of shows so I had a lot of free time…”
Male clean vocalist Jake E. picks up the thread: “The whole story is like this: I used to be a pyro-technician and I toured with every band out there. We started this project called Amaranthe, and I was great friends with Kamelot so they asked me if we’d like to go on tour and if they could ‘borrow’ Elize. We actually did two tours with them, when I was also a back-up singer, so we were pulling double duty. Then we grew, of course, so Elize works with them when she has the time. This year, for example, it’s totally impossible…”
The depth of Elize’s involvement with Kamelot has increased over the last four years, to the point she’s become a recognizable part of the band’s roster. Amaranthe is her first priority, but going in to record The Nexus still ended up being a balancing act. (continue reading…)
By Carl Begai
On September 28th, 2012 in Denver, Colorado fans of Finnish bashers Nightwish witnessed something special at the Ogden Theater. So special, in fact, that if everyone who claims they attended the show was actually there the venue would have literally burst at the seams.
To recap, now ex-Nightwish vocalist Anette Olzon fell seriously ill prior to the show and was hospitalized. Her bandmates had the difficult task of choosing between cancelling the gig and going ahead with support band Kamelot’s backing vocalists Elize Ryd (Amaranthe) and Alissa White-Gluz (The Agonist) in Olzon’s place. With the audience’s blessing they chose the latter, resulting an unforgettable and historic show. Elize, Alissa and Nightwish were applauded for their efforts by seemingly everyone except Olzon, who made her rather ungrateful opinions known the next day via an online post. A few days later – October 1st, 2012 – Olzon was officially given the boot and the tour continued with ReVamp / ex-After Forever singer Floor Jansen fronting the band.
During a BW&BK interview (found here) for Amaranthe’s new album, The Nexus, Elize discussed the unexpected once in a lifetime experience. Note that we kept any behind-the-scenes dirt regarding the disintegration between Nightwish and Anette out of the conversation, so if you’re a tabloid drama junkie you’ll be disappointed by what you’re about to read.
“It was a very special thing,” Elize says of the night. “I love Nightwish and I’ve sung their songs many times for myself (laughs). When you’re on tour you’re in a little bubble, so you don’t really think too much about what’s happening outside that bubble. They asked me if I would be willing to sing for them that night, and we decided that if the audience agreed it was okay for them that I sing, of course I was going to help Nightwish out so they could do the show. At least with some singing so they wouldn’t have to do it all instrumental.” (continue reading…)
By Carl Begai
During the last half of the ’90s, Stratovarius ruled the roost when it came to top-notch A-game power metal. Over the course of three albums in three years – Episode (’96), Visions (’97) and Destiny (’98) – the band set a standard that was hard to match. Guitarist Timo Tolkki was elevated to the status of guitar god, new vocalist Timo Kotipelto (as of ’95) cemented his position as the band’s frontman in spite of initial fan misgivings, and the quintet was deemed pretty much unstoppable. That wasn’t the case, and Stratovarius’ fall from grace in the years that followed was well documented, with the brakes finally being applied to halt complete self-destruction when Tolkki departed once and for all in 2008. Three albums into what has been touted since 2009 as a fresh start with axe-monster Matias Kupiainen in Tolkki’s place and the band have hit one out of the park with new album, Nemesis. It’s a record based on change of a tried and true formula, and nobody – not even vocalist Timo Kotipelto – could have predicted the wave after wave of positive feedback that’s come down since the press got a hold of it.
“The reactions haven’t been like this in about 12 or 15 years,” says Kotipelto. “I’m always excited about releasing a new album when it’s done, of course, but this time it feels like a fresh new start. Not just because we have a new drummer (Rolf Pilve) but because things also clicked together in a good way.”
Which is a huge understatement to the ears of anyone that has followed Stratovarius since the ’90s. Kotipelto is hard pressed to identify what it was about the creative process this time out that coughed up a record worthy of their late ’90s run.
“When I had the demos there weren’t any vocals, just guitar melodies or weird keyboard melodies from Jens (Johansson). At that stage it’s hard to tell if it’s going to be a good song or not. I can recognize of there’s a melody in there that makes some sense that I can work with, but it can be difficult. Especially with Matias’ songs because he doesn’t compose with vocals and lyrics in mind; a lot of the time I end up thinking ‘What the fuck is this…’ when I hear his stuff (laughs). And sometimes when we’re recording Matias sometimes suggests we change things about the vocals because he has a vision in his head of what he wants. We give each other feedback in the studio, and it really works. When Jens composes he has a more melodic approach from a singer’s perspective, and I guess that’s because we’ve been in the band together for so long. For the last couple albums we made demos and Matias mixed them in the studio so we could hear how the songs would sound. They weren’t perfect but they gave us a better picture of where we were going. Of course, by the time I get to do my vocals two or three months have passed and the songs have changed a bit.” (continue reading…)
So, me and my extended BW&BK family have issued our individual Best Of 2012 lists because that’s the sort of thing you do in this biz as the new year kicks off. I’ve decided to post my long-winded overview of the last 12 months here, with a link provided leading to my Top 10 Albums list along with other honourable (and dishonourable) mentions…
It was a rollercoaster of a year, as they all are in the music biz.
From being blindsided by Halestorm’s new album The Strange Case Of… and becoming a fan against my will, to dealing with a fuckwit promo rep at Roadrunner Records who decided to change my questions in an email interview because she felt they were “too harsh” for her artist (um, shouldn’t that be for the artist to decide?), to bucket list interviews with Brighton Rock’s Gerry McGhee and the lovely Lita Ford, to witnessing some amazing shows on both sides of the pond, 2012 has been quite the adventure.
See the list here for the Hot and Not albums of my year, then pick apart my sanity at your leisure.
Gotta say that I was surprised at not being disappointed by any of the shows I was able to attend this year. The third annual European run of Rock Meets Classic featuring Ian Gillan (Deep Purple), Steve Lukather (Toto), Chris Thompson (Manfred Mann’s Earth Band), three-fifths of Primal Fear’s roster and Trillium vocalist Amanda Somerville was positively brilliant, with PF singer Ralf Scheepers going above and beyond lending his voice to the Toto hit ‘Rosanna’ (!). Watching Devin Townsend successfully manipulate a Motörhead crowd into doing his bidding was a gut-buster, seeing former Helloween members Michael Kiske and Kai Hansen on stage together with Unisonic belting out classics ‘I Want Out’ and ‘Future World’ was ’87 surreal, and the Leaves’ Eyes / Firewind tour that looked so weird on paper turned out to be one of the best gigs of the past 12 months.
Nightwish gets a scrapbook all its own due to a brilliant show in Nuremberg – featuring more pyro than the sun – and a day and night hanging with some of the finest people in the metal business. (continue reading…)
By Carl Begai
“The new record turned out better than I expected and the reaction has been phenomenal. It’s a testament to the fans and their love for this band. Everyone is so re-energized, it’s awesome.”
Things could have been very different for guitarist Thomas Youngblood and his Kamelot bandmates. Following the recordings for their Poetry For The Poisoned album in 2010 and only days before the band was due to embark on a fall headline tour, vocalist Roy Khan fell ill and plans were shelved until the end of the year. Although it hasn’t been said out loud – at least not to the extent that the press jumped all over it – Khan’s tenure with Kamelot was done at that point, both sides making it official in April 2011. The writing was on the wall when the band opted to hit the road prior to the announcement with Rhapsody Of Fire frontman Fabio Lione filling in and doing a decent to killer job depending on who you talked to. By many accounts he was a worthwhile prospect as Khan’s successor. In the end, however, Kamelot opted to enlist little known singer Tommy Karevik from the Swedish band Seventh Wonder as the band’s new voice, and the result is outstanding according to a ravenous fanbase.
“I think fans are more willing to accept a band changing the singer as long as he or she has similar characteristics to the one they had for 13 years.” says Youngblood. “It would have been hard for us to bring in some power metal singer or an opera singer that didn’t have the tonal characteristics the fans want. That’s what I wanted for the band. For me, having Tommy in the band is a no-brainer.” (continue reading…)
Only In Canada, Eh! – October / November 2012: BLACKGUARD, GLEN DROVER, KOBRA AND THE LOTUS, And THE AGONIST’s Alissa White-Gluz Visits KAMELOT
Since there’s no NHL hockey season thanks to certain greedy sons of bitches, you can brush up on your Canuck metal below:
Blackguard are back on the road yet again, only this time they’re on the other side of the pond on the highly anticipated Kamelot tour. This is going to be huge for the band in the Kamelot are a huge draw right across Europe, and the band’s new Silverthorn has been receiving rave rviews across the board. Vocalist Paul Zinay recently commented on the trek:
“We had a blast conquering North America with Kamelot and now it’s time to conquer some new territories. We are very honored that we were asked to join them on this tour and we’d like to give our deepest thanks and gratitude to Thomas (Youngblood / guitars) and all of the Kamelot crew for extending us this invitation. This will be the last tour supporting our latest album Firefight and we can’t imagine ending on a higher note than this.”
Blackguard is due to release their new album, Storm, in the spring of 2013 via Victory Records. (continue reading…)
By Carl Begai
I’m going to preface this with a head’s up:
The following piece is my opinion, and as such it is neither wrong nor right. That said, if you feel the urge to respond to it because I’ve somehow insulted nine generations of your family and called into question your Nightwish fanboy/girl-ship, please do so intelligently. I don’t mind a conflicting view at all, so long as the person offering it put some thought into it and doesn’t need to rely on name-calling and bullshit attitude. This isn’t Bladdermouth.
Lotsa love. Read on…
So, it seems Nightwish is minus another singer. Anette Olzon (pictured above), replacement for original vocalist Tarja Turunen, became a part of the band’s history as of October 1st, 2012 and they’re supposedly better for it if the official press release is to be believed. There’s no reason why it shouldn’t be. Unfortunately, Nightwish is now faced with the unenviable task of doing damage control and explaining why the woman they touted and defended left and right as Turunen’s ideal replacement was given the boot.
Olzon’s haters are, of course, celebrating with thoughts and babble of a reunion with Turunen. Who knows? It may happen, especially now that we have the technology to preserve snowballs in hell, but I doubt it. And with the positive buzz surrounding ex-After Forever singer Floor Jansen’s performance filling in, this may well be a learning-by-doing audition. The fact remains, however, that Olzon was a part of two solid albums that turned the band into a bigger deal than when Lady Tarja was with them, so whatever the follow-up may be it has to be a home run of cosmic proportions or the band is finished (in my humble opinion).
As for the reasons behind Olzon’s seemingly blink-of-an-eye ejection from her day job, the fans are going to be treated with two versions of the truth over the next several months. Chances are there were little issues between Olzon and her former bandmates that got tensions brewing to begin with – no band is immune to internal conflict – but there’s no doubt in my mind that her reaction to being temporarily replaced for the September 28th show in Denver, Colorado is what smashed the camel’s back to splinters. (continue reading…)
By Carl Begai
Finnish bashers Nightwish recently wrapped up the European leg of their ongoing Imaginaerum tour, which will continue for the forseeable future given the impact of the band’s latest album and the forthcoming Imaginaerum-based movie. Prior to one of the final gigs of the European jaunt, keyboardist/found Tuomas Holopainen sat down to discuss the success of the new record and the state of the band.
Last time out Nightwish had unenviable task of promoting their Dark Passion Play album while continuing to defend their decision to bring vocalist Anette Olzon into the fold in 2007 as a replacement for Tarja Turunen. The band had been expecting the inevitable shitstorm long before they hit the road for the album – fan opinion regarding Olzon was widely divided upon Dark Passion Play’s release – but the negativity and tension endured over two years took its toll. Upon meeting Holopainen for this chat it’s immediately clear the strife from the previous tour is a thing of the past. Perhaps the only thing plaguing Nightwish at this point is a collective lack of sleep.
“It’s so much more relaxed, we’re so much more confident because we know that the people know what to expect,” says Holopainen. “They’re coming to see a show, not to judge the ‘new’ vocalist. It’s been so much more relaxed, easygoing and fun.”
YouTube is one public forum offering a resounding show of support for Olzon, who has definitely improved in her role as the band’s voice. Sure, there are the expected debates of whether or not she holds a candle to Turunen, but the fans that stuck around after Dark Passion Play are quick to defend Olzon nowadays and quite vocal about her having cemented a place in Nightwish. (continue reading…)