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Nightwish (Finland) – Perfume of the Timeless (single/future album track)

You can often tell a Nightwish song just by its title and this is one of them. It says nothing but immediately invites you down the many ‘rabbit holes’ that the band’s composer in chief, Tuomas Holopainen will lead you to; something he’s perfected now over a period of 28 years this year and counting.

It could be a title of a Doctor Who episode when the Time Lord meets up with his new assistant and takes a fancy to her. Or him.

I don’t think even the most ardent Nightwish fan would disagree with me when I say this is something of a testing time for the symphonic metallers. Since bassist and vocalist Marco Hietala upped sticks in January 2021 for reasons that are still shrouded in mystery, leaving just two of the original founder members (although he wasn’t quite one of them) it’s been a rocky path with multiple delayed shows on the ‘Human. :II: Nature’ tour on account of the pandemic, then singer Floor Jansen’s illness, followed by her pregnancy which caused the cancellation of what would have been the last show of that tour, almost a year ago.

As dyed in the wool fans know, they don’t like scrapping shows.

Then came the announcement that the next, 10th, studio album wouldn’t be toured at all which is, let’s say, unusual, and the reasons given for it were vague and unconvincing.

That sort of thing is bound to prompt speculation. And questions. What if they were asked to appear at Glastonbury, or Coachella? (Which, God knows, they must be some day if they haven’t been already, before it’s too late). Would they reject that?

When things had started to settle down then up popped Marco again as a solo performer with an excellent single, ‘Left on Mars’ featuring Nightwish’s original vocalist Tarja Turunen, and on Nightwish’s label to boot, which stole the show, brought a lot of love and diverted attention for a week or two onto what are probably still the most fondly remembered duet-ting vocalists Nightwish has had.

Questions have been asked too about what direction they would take, after half of the previous album was taken up with practically vocal-less complex orchestrations, as pleasant as they were.

Tuomas Holopainen and other band members have suggested that they would be returning more towards their metal roots this time after forsaking them at least a little on their previous two albums in favour of the smart but lighter symphonic stuff.

So what have we got with ‘Perfume of the Timeless’, the first single from the album ‘Yesterwynde’, which will see the light of day on 20th September? (And that title is suggestive too of a trip down Memory Lane, perhaps stopping off at the Islanders Arms).

It’s over eight minutes long, not the most extensive in their repertoire by any means but long enough that it won’t be turning up on your radio anytime soon, as if their work ever did (I can’t recall once hearing Nightwish, which speaks volumes about the lack of musical knowledge of most radio DJs and producers).

It sets off with what have now become the de rigueur thumping war drum strokes of Kai Hahto, reprising those on ‘Music’, which kicked off the previous album. You’re half expecting Tarzan to come screaming through the trees, hanging from a vine, carrying Jane over his shoulder and pursued by King Kong.

The obligatory choir arrives quickly, at around the forty second mark, accompanied by a typically Holopainen melody line

Then it moves into a more restrained and extended – possibly even laborious, not a word I ever thought I’d use in the same breath as Nightwish – instrumental/choir melody, like a gasp. Unusual for Nightwish. Once their songs get going they don’t usually take a ciggy break.

The full effect takes hold around two minutes in with the arrival of Floor Jansen, for whom a short break from Nightwish hasn’t had any negative impact at all on her vocal which is still mightily impressive.

Emppu Vuorinen’s chunky, grinding rhythm guitar chords make their first appearance too – they’re all here in abundance.

My first impression is that ‘Perfume of the Timeless’ is a loose amalgam of ‘Music’, ‘Tribal’ and ‘Endlessness’ from the previous album.

It’s all a little formulaic and a tad derivative even of their previous work. But it is enlivened as always by a dramatic extended guitar bridge from Emppu which would surely have the strobes dancing all over the auditorium if it ever gets to be played live.

An acoustic (a mandolin, I think) outro sees it through in which Troy Donockley gets to unload his chops with a slightly deeper tone than we’ve hitherto experienced and it trails off into I reckon the tamest (not lamest) ending I can recall on a Nightwish track.

And it seems at times a little forced, as if they are trying to make the point that Marco ain’t coming back and this is the new male voice of Nightwish, so get over it.

Lyrically, well I profess that I haven’t a clue what it is all about. The surely hugely expensive video, which features the band members in many historical incarnations, an owl doing an impersonation of a possessed Regan MacNeil in ‘The Exorcist’ and Floor mimicking Keith Harris and Orville, could be from, at least offers a few indications and there’s a suggestion that it takes over where ‘The Greatest Show on Earth’ left off.

Smatterings of the old favourite themes are there to be found –

“Endless chain unbroken/Silent clocks rewinding/My song it is for mankind/Embers to the stars”


“We are their heir, dust on their palm/We are because of a million loves”.

Its meaningful, yet meaningless at the same time, and supported by the odd bombastic word, in this case “Tesserae” and “eudaemonia”, together with the baffling “12 score and 1 chain of lives unending” (that’s 306 if we’re talking feet – any other offers?)

The biggest disappointment I experienced, and I’ll be candid about this, is that while there is a tune, in fact several tunes, there are no hooks. Not one. From the band of a thousand hooks.

‘Perfume of the Timeless’ is epic and if you judge songs on their epic-ness then Nightwish usually wins hands down every time. But it’s because they do ‘epic’ so well that they have created a rod for their own back. Each successive release demands even more and they don’t deliver it here.

It’s as if they’ve extracted the ingredients from previous work and re-cooked them but forgot to add the herbs and spices. And the goose bumps have gone AWOL too.

If you were suggesting a Nightwish song to the legions of You Tube ‘reactors’ who feature them I doubt this one would make your long list never mind the short one.

I can’t help but feel, and it pains me, that on this song they sound more like an aspiring, ambitious Nightwish wannabe band than Nightwish itself; one that’s knocking on the door of promotion from the Championship rather than the 28 times Premier League title holders.

This is the first time since I chanced upon Nightwish (I was a latecomer, about 10 years ago now), that I’ve ever felt disheartened. Like there’s not much here that is new and they might be starting to run out of ideas. We’ll find out for sure when the album is released.

I’ll probably be met with howls of execration from the Nightwish Army but as much as I love this band I have to retain integrity.

One thing I know for sure though is that it will grow on me. It always does. And it won’t spoil my anticipation for the album. ‘Nuff said.

The forthcoming album offers a cornucopia of delights. It is available for pre-order in various formats including a limited 3CD Earbook featuring the album with its instrumental and orchestral versions, a limited edition Deluxe Box Set with red gold 2LP (album) and silver 2LP (orchestral version) with exclusive artwork, and – only on Nightwish’s Official Shop – a limited CD+Blu-Ray Audio digipak (album in Dolby Atmos surround).

So there you have it.

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