They top the charts in Finland, Switzerland, Germany and rank high in at least eight other European countries. On their last tour, they played 130 gigs across the world, in places including Czech Republic, Japan, Australia and Ecuador. They recorded their most recent live DVD before 11,500 fans.
Now Nightwish is coming here. Local fans of the Finnish metal group are ecstatic: The band is set to play its first South Florida date Wednesday night at Fort Lauderdale's Culture Room, a venue known for hosting lesser-known, local rock bands.
Nightwish is considered one of the founders of symphonic metal, a genre characterized by the combination of two styles of music seldom heard together: classical music and heavy metal.
Though some rock bands have attempted to immortalize their hits by performing with an orchestra, few write songs that meld the two from the start. But Tuomas Holopainen, Nightwish's keyboardist, writes every note, every word, specifically for the orchestra.
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Each song, as Holopainen has put it, is a miniature film score under a mask of heavy metal.
''There are so many things I want to write about, so many stories to tell. I need to have the storyline or the key emotion, the concept solid enough before I write even a single note,'' Holopainen says. ``We have never just sat down for 10 minutes and written a song by jamming. Each one is thought out and themed.''
Holopainen, who composes about 95 percent of Nightwish's music and lyrics, says that it's like writing the diary of his own life.
'If I could describe myself in one word, it would be `escapist,' with a capital E. The planet has a beautiful face, but when you have a chance to create your own microcosm to escape into . . . writing music is definitely my mechanism for doing that,'' Holopainen says.
``We're giving people a little bit of mystery, a little bit of freedom from this world.''
Nightwish's current tour promotes its sixth studio album, Dark Passion Play, the first with new singer Anette Olzon, who replaced operatic singer Tarja Turunen. Its growling, Poe-influenced choruses flow into Disney-like ballads. Unrefined, down-and-dirty riffs mixed with violin and flute solos transition into Celtic penny-flute instrumentals.
More than 130 musicians contributed to the album, which went double platinum in Finland (more than 60,000 copies) in just two days after its September release. (The album hit No. 84 on The Billboard 200 here in October.)
The American tour this fall will take Nightwish to 23 venues. During their 2004 tour, it only visited 11 American cities.
Holopainen says that attendance at American venues ranges from about 600 to 2,500 people, with the largest crowd so far this fall at about 2,200. Some shows have sold out.
''I personally take the whole North American market as a challenge,'' he says. A lot of European musicians say the American market is the toughest crowd, the hardest place to break into. And if you can achieve even the tiniest bit of success here, you're doing well.''