"Showtime, Storytime"

(Nuclear Blast)

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RATING: 8/10

NIGHTWISH fans were no doubt feeling cold-conked in 2012 when the abrupt decision to part ways with Anette Olzon was made in the middle of the Finnish symphonic metal band's U.S. tour. This becomes the controversial subject of a documentary film, "Please Learn the Set List in 48 Hours" accompanying NIGHTWISH's new live DVD/CD package, "Showtime, Storytime".

Thus we awkwardly enter the Floor Jansen era. While the painful circumstances of Olzon's departure from NIGHTWISH may not settle with every fan, there's no doubt much of the band's devout have quickly accepted Floor as their new monarch of symphonic power metal. While the absence of original singer Tarja Turunen became difficult for many fans to accept initially, most appear to be a forgiving bunch and Dutch soprano Jansen gives the Wacken attendance all they can handle. The ex-AFTER FOREVER and current REVAMP vocalist was expected to learn a difficult repertoire in only two days and Floor Jansen's quick study produced an immediate grab with the band and their followers.

"Showtime, Storytime" is a presentation of the group's performance at the 2013 Wacken Open Air festival in the midst of their "Imaginaerum" tour. As expected, it becomes a showcase for Floor Jansen as well as British multi-instrumentalist Troy Donockley, both recently made official members of NIGHTWISH. Now as a sextet, the band prepares to write their next album for release in 2015. In the meantime, NIGHTWISH issues this live package as a teaser for their next phase that includes a front woman carrying a brasher delivery and ceaselessly pinwheeling follicles, plus the capacity for broadening their reach into folk territories courtesy of Donockley's Uilleann pipes and tin whistles.

Say what you will about the NIGHTWISH enclave's handling of Anette Olzon contracting the flu and her subsequent pregnancy. The circumstances reek, but in an apparent concession, NIGHTWISH has openly stricken "Wishmaster" from future set lists, while Floor Jansen ends up, like it or not, becoming a terrific replacement. Floor carries a dominating swagger in the Wacken show that might not have been there in her first few gigs with the band. Yet she takes on the band's melodic favorites "Wish I Had an Angel" and "I Want My Tears Back" with respectful confidence, reserving her full powers for NIGHTWISH's more epic-minded selections.

Floor and bassist/vocalist Marco Hietala exhibit a natural grace at this point in their association, and while Hietala frequently employs harder edges to his voices, his cleans in this show are as engaging as Floor's. They transition together beautifully during "Ever Dream" as the song morphs from ballad to power pump, and then Floor is left to command the heavier numbers (many from "Imaginaerum"), "Story Time", "Bless the Child", "Romanticide", "Song of Myself", "Ghost Love Score" and the gusting finale, "Last Ride of the Day".

Floor's knack for combining toughness and sensuality will ultimately usher her as a household name in the symphonic metal bracket. Her ability to reach siren pitches through the stamping modes of "Bless the Child" will endear her automatically to NIGHTWISH fans, while the expansion of Troy Donockley's Uilleann pipes provides an added dimension that manifest on many of the songs, most superbly on the heaving instrumental "Nemo".

Visually, the NIGHTWISH stage set even is broader, set with what is now becoming customary pyro and flash charges, plus a gorgeous marquee flaring "Imaginaerum" in lights. There are also mountainous backdrops bearing gramophones and an impressive stack of tubing jutting out from Tuomas Holopainen's keyboards. Emppu Vuorinen is a master of guitar poses, crouching, lurching, arching and flailing in his stage location. Then it's impressive to watch drummer Jukka Nevalainen pound away with such fluidity he looks nearly mechanical. The view of the Wacken festival from behind his riser is stunning.

Alas, the main gripe about "Showtime, Storytime" (from a visual perspective anyway) is its dizzying multi-angles. The blitzing edits of the video footage are a sign of the hurry-up times we live in, particularly from a contemporary advertising standpoint. Yet, the one-to-three-second intervals between view changes throughout the entire visual presentation begins to wear down the eyes and worse, it loses players' spots even when the intent is to spotlight everyone from the stage to the audience. For the first song, "Dark Chest of Wonders", the darting cuts create excitement. Afterwards, you want the camera to linger longer on Floor, as you do on Emppu when he's soloing or Marco when he's interjecting vocally. The alternating angles on each player is good to a point, but there's something lost emotionally with the sensory overload approach to the video's tiresome flash-edits.

"Showtime, Storyline" is a nice a way to get acclimated with Floor Jansen and Troy Donockley, but the "Please Learn the Set List in 48 Hours" documentary is more compelling, particularly watching KAMELOT backing singers Alissa White-Gluz and Elize Ryd whip together a handful of NIGHTWISH songs on the spot. Call it a cheat having replacement singers wield numbers from freshly printed lyric sheets and the crowd in Denver participate in sing-alongs for other tracks. However, it's what the audience wanted that night instead of outright cancellation. Ugly as the transfer in tenure between Anette Olzon and Floor Jansen may be, the show goes on in this camp. Anette refused to be featured in the documentary and perhaps with good reason. Nonetheless, NIGHTWISH is now bolstered by a major force at the helm and in the end, the band will persevere. Watching the band members goof it up in a table hockey tournament as one of the second DVD bonus features, the issue of perseverance appears already behind them.


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