Finnish/Swedish symphonic metallers NIGHTWISH have posted video footage from the recording sessions for the orchestral parts and choir sections for the band's upcoming album, "Imaginarium", at Angel Studios in London, England.
A new studio diary entry from NIGHTWISH mainman/keyboardist Tuomas Holopainen follows below.
"We arrived at Angel Studios in Islington, London in the evening of Valentine's Day and had a most friendly welcome from studio engineers Steve Price and Mat Bartram. They'd already set up everything for next day's recordings, which would include three three-hour sessions with a 53-piece orchestra, most of the players being familiar faces from the 'Once' and 'Dark Passion Play' sessions. Pip [Williams, the orchestral arranger] joined us at the hotel and we were all excited and ready for a week of long days and for witnessing some superb musicianship.
"A heartwarming feeling of reunion and nostalgia filled the air when we met the session musicians on Tuesday morning. We started off with 'Goat's Liver' (working title... probably), followed by a couple of more epic pieces and all the rest that required a large orchestra.
"The musicianship of these people never ceases to amaze me. They've never heard the songs before, they haven't had any rehearsals, and still they nail all the songs, even those in the hardest imaginable key, after just one or two run-throughs. Their prima vista — playing is something out of a science fiction story... Respect.
"Mr. Thomas Bowes did a fantastic job as our orchestra leader, Mr. James Shearman was a most superb conductor, and once again, Pip topped himself with the arrangements. We had put much more effort and thought into them than on the previous two albums, too.
"On Wednesday we continued with the orchestral recordings, last of the day's sessions being with a 20-piece string / harp - section. Some new working titles were also born, such as 'The Birdie Song', 'Teriyaki' and 'Haunted Mansion Ride'.
Thursday was the day for percussion and ethnic drums. This time we decided to record all the rhythmic instruments separately from the orchestra to make it easier for the mixing process. Because some of the sounds the percussionists came up with would literally blow your eardrums off.
"The highlight of the day was when we let loose Mr. Paul Clarvis and Mr. Stephen Henderson with their ethnic percussion arsenal. Paul's 350-year-old taiko drum really did the trick for me, as did the five-foot hammer and a dustbin. We put all this into a one three-minute instrumental, and the result is breathtaking and madly passionate.
"Friday was booked for choirs. Again that sensation of nostalgia when The Metro Voices entered the building. We had 13 titles to sing and they did it in less than seven hours, prima vista. Utterly gorgeous stuff!
"A childrens' choir is something we haven't tried on a NIGHTWISH album before and its turn was on Saturday morning. The Young Musicians London, led by the wonderful Mary Poppins-like Lynda Richardson, were simply heartbreaking. These kids have immense talent, they are future superstar musicians and we are proud to have them on our album. Their sound was beautiful, innocent and in parts very, very scary. And that's exactly what we were after.
"During the evening we had two more guest musicians, Mr. Dermot Crehan (of 'The Lord Of The Rings' fame) with his hardanger fiddle and Mr. Dirk Campbell with his zurna. Both performances were stunning and added a nice little ancient touch to two of the songs.
"Our most humble thanks to all the session musicians, the Angel Studios staff, Pip, James, Thomas, Lynda, Dick the music copyist and Jenny the choir mistress. It was a huge honor to work with you all and to have such talent and spirit captured on 'Imaginarium'!"
Holopainen told Petri Silas of Finland's Soundi magazine that he was responsible for penning all of the music on "Imaginarium", with the exception of one track, which was written by vocalist/bassist Marco Hietala.
The new NIGHTWISH CD includes an epic 20-minute track which may or may not be split into two sections during the mastering. This is why Holopainen can't say yet whether the album will consist of 12 or 13 songs.
The movie "Imaginarium", directed by Stobe Harju, will follow the album's theme and story closely and will also include dialogue. All the preliminary screenplay work is finished and the storyboards are now done but no actors or actresses have yet been cast. In Holopainen's estimation, mainly unknown actors would be the best choice for the film as "unfamiliar faces tend to leave more space to the viewers' imagination."
No shooting locations have been chosen so far.
Holopainen has a decidedly low-key attitude towards the entire movie project. He has personally adopted a humble "straight-to-DVD" mentality but adds that "of course, it would be great" to experience the movie in a proper theater setting one day. "Time will tell whether we are able to stage some special viewings in select movie theaters in Finland and maybe Sweden and Germany as well," he said. "But I'm gonna be super-happy with even a DVD release."
The underlying themes of "Imaginarium" are a positive outlook and a certain "carpe diem" attitude to life.
"Because 'Dark Passion Play' turned out to be the band's darkest and heaviest album to date, this time I wanted to be inspired by love and the beauty of the world," stated Holopainen.
Petri Silas' entire interview with Tuomas Holopainen will appear in the 3/2011 issue of Soundi magazine, due in Finland on February 23.
NIGHTWISH will hold a press conference related to this project at the end of February.