Isoaho, Timo-Nightwish:We Were Here (Book Review)

Spread the metal:

Reviewed: May 2021
Released: 2018, Deggael Communications
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: JP

I’m on a bit of a Nightwish kick lately and have bought and read two books on the band; Marco Hietala’s autobiography, STAINLESS? and this one.  Please feel free to enjoy both.

There are many, many ways to structure a book; biographies, autobiographies,  memoirs, illustrated histories, academic works but one of the most rare is the tour documentation book. Most bands usually do some sort of DVD, a bonus feature, fly-on-the-wall, cameras rolling type feature to document a tour.  These types of books are exceedingly rare and only the biggest bands can afford a full time biographer and /or photographer to travel with them.

WE ARE HERE goes far beyond a simple, text-based, ‘making of’’ the album. It is no surprise that Nightwish, one of the world’s biggest Metal bands can afford to produce this type of luxury product.  These types of tour books have the added disadvantage is that they really only capture a very narrow point in time.  However, as a big fan of nightwish, I’m sold. I saw this tour as well so I splurged.

Night wish is at the point, along with other huge bands such as Dream Theater, Metallica, Iron Maiden (and until recently Rush) that they can do an album every three to five years, then tour for a couple of years, then take a year off, then record for a year, then do it all again.  WE WERE HERE captures the entire ENDLESS FORMS MOST BEAUTIFUL album and tour cycle; from coming off the road at the end of the Imaginaerum tour cycle in early 2013 to walking off the stage and a celebratory ‘end-of-tour’ farewell dinner in Japan over three years later in October of 2016.

WE ARE HERE is a most excellent hard cover, coffee-table book. It is a 368 page, illustrated history with full participation of the band.  The book is full colour printed on glossy paper and the main author/designer/photographer is Timo Isoaho.  The book was published in Finland first in 2018 and translated into English and issued in February of 2019. I can’t even begin to count how many photos there are, it is a giant art book, so probably over 1000 photos.

The book is broken into several main sections and sub-sections. It starts with a bit of a prologue about the fallout of the departure of the former singer Annette, and the down-time and creative concepts behind the forthcoming album.  The next section is all about the song-writing and pre-production.  Next comes the recording of the album.  Then we learn about the tour planning and preparation, publicity cycle, album release and video shoots.   The largest section of the book (from p. 184 onwards) is the documentation of the world tour. This section is broken down in 21 shows in thirteen nations (America, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Czech Republic, England, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Norway, Russia) including theaters, festivals, amphitheaters, stadiums and a cruise!  The camera was never silent it seems.  Each of those 21 shows gets a full detailing of what happened that day and that is just a snap-shot of the 150+ date tour.

WE ARE HERE is a deep and intimate look at every single aspect of the entire organization; the band, the staff, the crew, the supporting organizations, managers, media, guests, and of course the fans.  The structure and layout are the same for every section; many small digestible quotes from a variety of people from every aspect of the cycle. It is a very brave for a band of that stature to open the doors like that. It really is incredible the amount of time and money must be spent to plan, organize and launch a tour of this size.

The entire ENDLESS FORMS MOST BEAUTIFUL album/tour cycle had a constant theme running across it that permeated every aspect, the music, the lyrics, the visual design, the acoustics and beyond.  In case you are not familiar the lynch-pin was the work of atheistic, evolutionary scientist and author Richard Dawkins.  Band founder and main song-writer, Holopainen had read the work of Dawkins and became profoundly inspired to move away from the fantasy realms of the first seven albums and into the realms of biological sciences.  Some of the band members were mildly skeptical at first but once they saw the vision of Holopainen everyone became engaged. The end result was something pretty unique and an album that went multi-platinum and hit the Top 40 charts in a few dozen countries around the world, making them by far the second biggest Metal band on the planet. They were second only to Iron Maiden that year who released THE BOOK OF SOULS and partly perhaps because Metallica didn’t release an album that year.

The author Isoaho did a superb job.  It is more than just pretty pictures of the band on stage. Aside from dozens of interviews, we get to look at parties, photo shoots, behind the scenes video shoots, media stuff, set-lists, tour-lists, backstage, front stage, recording studios, autograph sessions, technical stage info, artwork from across the tour and album, the bands cabin retreat in Finland, and more. It is a visual spendour.
As I said earlier, this type of in-depth look at an album/tour cycle is almost never created, so once again, Nightwish have created a product. For anyone who saw the tour can enjoy the book behind the scenes and say, I was there.