"A Hispanic in the Nightwish works"
Financial success, artistic ambition, and a power struggle broke up the Finnish rockers
Mape Ollila: Nightwish.
Like, 2006. 380 pages, EUR 39.00 (in Finnish)
Review by Jarkko Jokelainen
The butler did it!
Well, no, since this is after all a rock band whodunit, it wasn't really the butler, it was the manager!
The fall-out from the great Nightwish rift, which shocked the entire nation last October, continues in the band's long-awaited history, released on the world last week.
The book points the finger most firmly in the direction of Marcelo Cabuli, husband and personal manager of the band's former vocal soloist Tarja Turunen. With every turning page, the charges against the Argentine Cabuli get heavier and heavier.
The portrait of Marcelo Cabuli depicts a money-grasping, less than honest, arbitrary, and manipulative manager who was engaged on setting up his wife's solo career and who drove a wedge between her and the other members of the power metal band.
Nightwish's contractual dealings and touring plans became a painful exercise, as there was "a Hispanic in the works" at every turn.
Against this background, it is somewhat awkward that the defendant himself does not get a hearing in the book, even though the other sources close to the band are given full rein to open their hearts and mouths. Not even Tarja Turunen gets to comment on her husband's doings.
It is probable that the decision is the couple's own, but this does not disguise the fact that it is the book's greatest drawback. The author Marko "Mape" Ollila has sought to be even-handed in his coverage, but in part for the reasons above, this band-history inevitably becomes a speech on behalf of the male members of the group and other figures in the background.
Nightwish would seem on the basis of this work to have been so divided into two distinct camps that both sides of the story cannot be fitted between the covers of one book.
The book itself does reveal that the sacked vocalist Tarja Turunen is planning her own biography.
Not even a 380-page illustrated volume such as this is able, then, to offer the final word on the fuss that surrounded this incident last October, which swelled to quite astonishing dimensions in the media.
Once again, it is only a rock band. They do have a tendency to self-destruct and to drift into arguments over differences, musical or otherwise.
In the Finnish experience, the Nightwish story is one of a kind, but as far as the end-result goes, there is nothing very new here under the sun.
The book describes in quite frank and brutal terms how financial and chart success, artistic ambition, and a power struggle have eaten away at the personal relationships inside the band.
The actions of Marcelo Cabuli may have been the straw that did for the Nightwish camel, but the members of the band, too, could do well to take a look in the mirror. And this includes the composer and keyboards player Tuomas Holopainen, generally seen as the leader of the group.
"Yeah, but I'm the guy who gave these people the opportunity for that rock glamour thing and to play music in a band and see the world and all that", Holopainen pours out liberally, adding his suspicions that none of any of this would have come to anything without him.
If this is really the attitude, then it is hardly any wonder that the going gets tense and weird every now and then!
Especially as only a few pages earlier we have heard how Turunen - to everyone's surprise - brought her operatic singing style to the band's performances, and how the heavy rock backgrounds of guitarist Emppu Vuorinen and drummer Jukka Nevalainen made the music heavier than it was.
Errrr... and what is it that Nightwish is primarily known for? Surely it is the fusion, into something called "symphonic metal" or "opera metal", of classical singing and heavy rock?
Might it possibly have been that without these surprising turns of events, Holopainen's acoustic numbers would have remained on the drawing board or as songs strummed around the campfire, and that the band's name would not have travelled outside Finland or the eastern town of Kitee.
The Nightwish story offers up a spectacular dramatic arc, and Mape Ollila grabs it with both hands.
He has clearly been close and personal with the people he has interviewed for the book, and this shows up in the candidness of the statements that find their way onto the page. No stone is left unturned, whether it is about personal chemistry, contractual wrangling, or simple old-fashioned "rock stars getting trashed".
The chain of events that led to the sacking of Tarja Turunen runs throughout the book, but the work has other merits.
This is the first occasion when the nature of the international rock business has been examined in such comprehensive detail in a Finnish volume. The most detailed portrait of the characters involved is that of Tuomas Holopainen. A multifaceted image of Holopainen's escapist view of the world is presented.
In the end, it is probably most interesting to read just how these innocent young people from rural Kitee became a worldwide success-story: the band have performed and toured in 40 countries and have shifted nearly three million CDs.
There are a number of surprising factors that pop up and influence the tale - not least the Finnish school system. It turns out that each and every one of the original members of the band was at some time the pupil of the enthusiasitic music teacher Plamen Dimov, who also incidentally provides violin back-up on the band's second album Oceanborn.
Furthermore, little Kitee seems to have taken a surprisingly sanguine and positive view of its rock ambassadors, right from the very earliest days.
Which just goes to show that when you are out conquering the world, it does no harm at all to have things in good running order at home.
Helsingin Sanomat / First published in print 12.5.2006
More on this subject:
Selected quotes from the Nightwish history
Previously in HS International Edition:
Nightwish sack female vocalist after lengthy world tour (24.10.2005)
Sacked Nightwish vocalist responds with her own open letter (26.10.2005)
JARKKO JOKELAINEN / Helsingin Sanomat