Review Summary: A rather poor selection for a supposed collector's item that is ultimately disappointing albeit with a few redeeming qualities.LepreCon presents: Rock Legends
Legend In Focus: Tuomas Holopainen- NIGHTWISH
Part Ten: Made In This Place But Also Everywhere Esle...Dig"
It would appear that Nightwish- or perhaps just the record company, maybe both- are not afraid to jump at any chance to make an extra buck between album releases. Made In Hong Kong (And In Various Other Places)
is the first live record from the four-fifth' s Finnish symphonic metal quintet with new vocalist Anette Olzon, who joined in 2007 following the dismissal of previous singer Tarja Turunen. All live tracks on the album are taken from the band’s Dark Passion Play world tour in support of their most recent studio effort of the same name. Also included are three bonus tracks- two B-sides and a demo.
Nightwish are synonymous with the symphonic metal sub-genre, ask any casual metal fan to name a band from the genre and there is a 99% (unproven estimate) chance that they will answer naming this band. Up until 2005, Nightwish were well known for being “that metal band with the opera singer chick”, and their sound was well loved and received worldwide. Bandleader, keyboardist, main songwriter and composer Tuomas Holopainen caused quite a stir in October 2005 when he quite publicly handed Tarja Turunen her walking papers. Even more fuss ensued a few years later when it was revealed that Turunen’s replacement, cue Olzon, did not have any operatic quality to her voice whatsoever. Many ‘fans’ gave up on the band on the basis of the belief that Nightwish without Turunen was not Nightwish. Having caught them live myself in Brixton, as well as being a long-time fan of the band, I can honestly say that the spirit of the band is more present than ever in their music and performances. Sadly, I cannot use this release as a shining example to back my argument.
Getting straight to the point, Made in Hong Kong seems to be a very rushed effort. It seems to be a half-EP and half-live album more so than anything. If you have not heard the studio album Dark Passion Play, from which all live tracks on this release are taken from, I would suggest you read no further, nor even listen to this until you have listened to that album. Of the eleven tracks on this record, eight are live renditions of Dark Passion Play songs. This is the main source of negative criticism for this release, as there are no pre-DPP tracks rendered either live or even remade, as some fans were expecting. Apparently this is because of record company conflicts. This is quite sad as the most annoying accusation I have ever heard to be flung at vocalist Anette Olzon is that her vocals are incapable of carrying any Tarja-era songs, and having seen live videos and seen them live myself, this is completely false. In fact, Tarja could not sing Wish I Had An Angel worth a damn, and Anette pulls that track off very well. But getting back to this record…
A minor niggle I have discovered with the album is the sound quality. While there is passion and gusto in the music playing, sadly the production is below par. Nothing has been touched-up in studio; what you hear is what was played. But the soundboard mixing leaves much to be desired. The main offender here is guitarist, little Emppu Vuorinen, whose playing sounds as if it is being amplified through an aluminium bucket. Most of the time his riffing is heard as a buzzing cacophony. This is most apparent in tracks such as Amaranth
and 7 Days To The Wolves
. However, he does have his shining moments, particularly the little solos he fires off in the latter track, as well as in Whoever Brings The Night
and the epic Poet And The Pendulum.
As far as the other music playing goes, each band member holds their own quite well. It is far from being a Holopainen solo project or a mere vehicle for Olzon that it was beoming with Turunen at the helm. Holopainen keeps his keyboard melodies tight and relatively simple but nonetheless beautiful, rather than engaging in overtly technical wankery. While not the most technically proficient drummer of all time, Jukka Nevalainen keeps the rhythm admirably whilst throwing in some great fills. Hietala’s bass playing, again while not madcap technical, comes through quite well and gives many tracks that deep push without which would make them seem very shallow.
The record itself starts off very strongly with the synth and bass-heavy middle finger to Turunen, Bye Bye Beautiful
. A high point of the album that is demonstrated from the get-go is the solid vocal performances from Olzon as well as bassist and backup vocalist Marco Hietela. Any doubts one might have about Olzon’s live vocal abilities are dispelled immediately, with the Swede rarely going off key and adding in her own little nuances, but Hietela’s abilities should never be called into question in the first place. The epic, Poet And The Pendulum
features a prominent recording of an entire orchestra and choir playing as it does on the DPP album, beneath the band, as well as pre-recorded vocal tracks from Anette-you could be hearing up to three Anettes on stage at once! The band does an admirable job of playing this fantastic track live, and is without a doubt the highlight of the live selection as it’s studio counterpart was on it’s respective album.
Unfortunately there are some stinkers and those stinkers are more heinous than I could have ever imagined. The Islander
and instrumental Last of The Wilds
are almost utterly butchered in this live setting. Despite featuring live performances on the Irish Uillean Pipes by guest musician Troy Donockley, they simply lack the charm and intimacy that they held on the studio album. However, Hietela’s vocals on the former save it from being a complete dud. Also included on the album is Sahara
, one of the weakest tracks on DPP and it fares no better live. Sorely missing is DPP’s heaviest track, Master Passion Greed.
Moving on to the studio recordings, first up we meet that song
is infamous for being a track that was included on the Japanese-only edition of DPP, then later on special releases and as a single b-side. Almost Eurovision-like in sound to the uninitiated, Escapist is an amazing Nightwish track that blends new style with old. The main riff is reminiscent of She Is My Sin off the Wishmaster album, with Olzon delivering a powerful performance covering her entire vocal range. Having appeared on several releases already, however, the novelty of this track is diluted.
The following track is not strictly a Nightwish song, but rather a collaboration between members Hietala, Holopainen and Nevalainen. While Your Lips Are Still Red
is a beautiful and melodic song about young love, recorded for the Finnish movie Lieksa!
, and showcases the softer side to Hietela’s vocal talents, backed up by Holopainen on vocals and keyboards as well as Nevalainen on drums.
The final track is one of the pre-Anette DPP demos recorded with Hietela on main vocals, Cadence of Her Last Breath
. It is neither better nor worse than the final recording, unlike in the case of the other demos, but rather it is different and again shows another side to the band, one that would make a listener wonder whether they could possibly go on without a female vocalist at all.
As I have previously stated, content is somewhat lacklustre for a collector’s item. What’s here is solid enough, but the live recordings are simply some recordings from the tour, not even a ‘best-of’ collection of performances. Having caught the band live myself, I know that this was not the best that they could have offered and I would put a lot of money on there being bootlegs of Nightwish concerts in existence that are better than this. Also included in the package is a DVD with the 37-minute documentary Back In The Day…Is Now
, a mildly interesting but hardly in-depth look at the life in the band following the kickoff of the tour. Along with the three music videos for singles Bye Bye Beautiful, Amaranth and The Islander, the DVD does add to the bundle but at the same time leaves much to be desired. I think a fuller live experience in the vein of the brilliant End of an Era concert would have been much, much better, even if it would take longer to put out. Or perhaps an official B-Side collection with their various obscure tracks from through the years as well as demos would have been an equally grand item.
Nightwish are most definitely an impressive live act, sadly this album could not have convinced me of that. If you have not heard the Dark Passion Play album and yet ignored my earlier advice and read on anyway, I’ll tell you this: listen to that album before you listen to this one. For the rest of you, this is nothing of interest here unless you are really a die-hard fan and simply must have everything that Nightwish have put out. If you are looking to get into the band, I can’t think of a worse place to start than here. If you don’t like them at all, then naturally steer well clear of this. To bookend my opening statement, this release serves as nothing more than a bridge between albums and a further means of income for the band while the Dark Passion Play tour is winding up, being ultimately disappointing with a few redeeming qualities, leaving listeners hungry for a new release of original material.
The Made In Hong Kong Lineup Was:
Anette Olzon- lead vocals
Tuomas Holopainen- keyboards
Marco Hietala- bass
Emppu Vuorinen- guitar
Julius Nevalainen- drums
Troy Donockley- Uilleán Pipes
To Be Continued in Part Eleven: Imaginaerum