We’ve had a taste of Nightwish in this series when I featured their cover of “The Phantom of the Opera”. Let’s now begin our exploration of the wonder that is their original work.
Nightwish are currently on their third singer; I’ll make no secret of the fact that the one I’m by far the most partial to is the first, Tarja Turunen, who sang on the first five of their (as of this writing eight) albums.
The Tarja-era songs have such raw emotional power; none more so than the heart-wrenching love songs, like today’s selection: “Ever Dream” from the album Century Child.
The song’s title comes from a dedication that appears at the end of the song in the album’s lyrics book; it’s never performed:
All I ever craved were the two dreams I shared with you
One I now have, while the other one ever dream remain
There’s a theory in the Nightwish fandom that Tuomas Holopainien, the band’s composer and lyricist, who is said to write all the lyrics in his own voice, was in love with Tarja; that he didn’t have the courage to tell her how he felt directly, but instead tried to tell her through his lyrics; but that this love was never requited (Tarja eventually married another guy).
This theory certainly fits well with the dedication to this song: the first dream can be interpreted as making music with Tarja, while the second, being involved with her romantically. This song would have been written around the time Tarja got married, hence the second dream will “ever dream remain”.
The notion that the song is addressed to Tarja also fits well with the line “My song can but borrow your grace” (remember, this is to be read in Tuomas’ voice), and – some fans will argue – with many other lyrics in other Nighwish songs.
I suppose we fans will never know whether there is truth behind this theory, but one thing is for certain: whatever happened in their private lives, Tuomas and Tarja had great chemistry on stage, and in their music in general. As Tuomas once put it, “The fire was burning between her voice and my songs”, and so it was; to me, this is the source of Nightwish’s magic.
This is a recording of Nightwish performing “Ever Dream” at their End of an Era concert; it was their last time performing the song with Tarja. (Some fans claim this is why Tuomas got emotional and buried his face in his hands at the beginning of the song, though that may have been staged.)
Notice the one-semitone-up key change before the last repetition of the chorus; this is one of my favourite musical techniques. I know some consider it to be clichéd, but I think it works really well in symphonic metal, allowing you to ride a wave of dramatic tension and take it to the next level.
My song can but borrow your grace
Your beauty cascaded on me
In this white night fantasy
Full lyrics and discussion here.
Enjoy, and let the story behind the song – true or not – be a lesson to us all: let us speak out about our feelings, lest our dreams ever dreams remain.