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Finding Nemo: the making of the song that made Nightwish superstars

As Nightwish celebrate their 20th anniversary, Tuomas Holopainen and Tarja Turunen remember the orchestral masterwork that broke them to an audience of millions

Most successful bands can trace their rise to glory back to one particular moment in time. For Finland’s Nightwish, the undisputed champions of symphonic metal, that moment came with the release of Nemo, the first single to be unveiled from the band’s fifth album, Once. Although they had already established themselves as a major force in large parts of Europe and South America, it was Nemo, released in 2004, that proved to be the band’s major international breakthrough.

As Nightwish celebrate two decades as metal’s most extravagant standard-bearers, we asked founder, creative driving force and keyboard maestro Tuomas Holopainen and former vocalist Tarja Turunen to cast their minds back to the song that brought them worldwide fame. Tuomas explains that it had a painful birth.

“I remember vividly that Nemo is one of the most difficult songs we’ve ever done,” he tells us. “It was really, really difficult to get it to work. We worked with the arrangement for months, just to get the lyrics and melodies completely right. I don’t know why. It was originally two minutes longer and the music was faster, but it was Tero [Kinnunen], the recording engineer, who said, ‘This part is completely stupid. Take it away, and we need to slow this down by about 10bpm.’ We rearranged it again and again. I can’t even remember how it went originally. It must be on one of my floppy discs!”

Many people assumed the song was some kind of tribute to either Disney’s Finding Nemo or Captain Nemo from Jules Verne’s classic novel, 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, but the truth is that it was inspired by the troubled emotional state that Tuomas found himself in at the time of its composition.


From the archive

From the archive

From the archive

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