‘Once’ and ‘The Angel of Grief’ as a representation of dying love

Are you a romantic guy? Said the interviewer. I am yes. Tuomas says bashfully. I really like candlelight and good wine, campfire and all that stuff. From the very first albums of Nightwish Hololopainen’s inspirations have been genius that expressed his fascination towards science, nature and fantasy. After admitting that indeed Bye Bye Beautiful was dedicated to Turunen, rumors to whether Holopainen was inspired by her in many of his other compositions are still growing. The ‘love that lies so deep’ in Ever Dream and ‘the song that can but borrow her grace’ are examples of his dedication to his muse. Although Disney inspirations (Imaginaerum), dedication in art (The eyes of Sharbat Gula) and the glorification of science (Sagan), topics which have a complicated theme have not been an issue to Holopainen in explaining their source of inspiration, Holopainen is always reluctant in discussing his feelings about love. However, those who can see beyond the lead sheet, chords and lyrics can feel a deeper connection with the content of his songs. The lyrics of his songs as well as the ambiguous artworks have never been superficial, and this can be seen by examining in depth the most successful album of Nightwish: Once. I would describe the album as ‘a masterpiece of meticulous poetry’ with a strong emphasis in narrative, as well as an ambiguous reflection of a choking heart enhanced by a live orchestra and the dramatic operatic vocals of Tarja Turunen.

Although lyrics and music are key elements of the songs, what seems to go unnoticed is the artwork of the album, The angel of grief. A powerful statue of William Wetmore that was sculptured when his kids asked him to bring sadness to life. Consequently, Wetmore created a powerful and detailed female figure expressing the suffer in which he went through with the loss of his wife. Wetmore’s female figures are a characteristic of his work and the reason they look depressing is because by simply looking at the picture it creates a sense of empathy as a result of evoking psychological indicators of sadness. The artwork of Once might have a deeper and bitterness meaning as a reflection of Holopainen’s grieving heart, the struggle of letting go and rejection. According to Nicole Fisher who is specializing in neuroscience, rejection is processed by the brain in the same way it does with physical pain. However, it varies in each case with some individuals releasing more opioids as a response to a social rejection which means that some have a stronger protective ability while others are more vulnerable.

Despite the depressing grieving statue, Holopainen innocently made physical pain an art that was embraced by the audience in response to mutual emotions. If we take it metaphorically, can we interpret Wetmore’s statue as a representation of Holopainen’s dying love as well as a reflection of the pain of letting go? Is Turunen the lady with the violin in The siren?  The siren with the enchanting voice who charmed the ‘sailor’ that only became an illusion to his fantasies? Is she the siren that came from the deep in ‘Ghost Love Score’? Are the intense ostinatos of the orchestra a representation of despair? A silent scream of a fight to restore and bring to life something that was gone? Although the album is not superficial and probably our questions will remain unanswered, the angel of grief, the grieving lady, the suffering figure, was preparing the audience for the End of an Era.