Made in Hong Kong (And in Various Other Places)

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All things considered, Finnish heavy metal hitmakers Nightwish rebounded remarkably well from their traumatic divorce proceedings with lead singer Tarja Turunen, moving relatively quickly, once the dust had settled, to replace her with accomplished Swedish siren Anette Olzon (multiple auditions notwithstanding) before carrying on with their career, as usual, on 2007's Dark Passion Play. Another multi-platinum seller in their homeland, yielding a pair of number one singles, the record was also eagerly embraced by the band's supportive global fan base and led to the most ambitious world tour of Nightwish's career, then, perhaps not surprisingly, 2009's Made in Hong Kong (And Various Other Places) live album. To be clear, though, this was actually a mini-live album, containing just eight in-concert recordings of songs from Dark Passion Play, which were then rounded out with two B-sides and a demo -- also from that same LP. Needless to say, some observers may find it a bit odd that Nightwish would choose not to touch any of their legacy material from the Turunen era here, since, despite having a far less operatic, more traditionally rock-bred voice, Olzon handled those old hits very capably throughout the tour. But if the remaining members of Nightwish have done anything consistently throughout this transition, it's been to look forward, never backwards; so in that sense, the five-piece's meticulous (if not exactly surprise-filled) renditions of new fan favorites such as "Bye Bye Beautiful," "Amaranth," and "The Islander" -- not to mention all 14 minutes of leader Tuomas Holopainen's latest micro-symphony, "The Poet and the Pendulum" -- offer a suitable document of this maiden tour with Olzon out front. As for those aforementioned B-sides, "Escapist" is a hooky power metal anthem that could have easily made the album, and "While Your Lips Are Still Red" is another of bassist Marco Hietala's acoustic folk ditties, after which comes the demo for Dark Passion Play standout "Cadence of Her Last Breath." So with all that in mind, possibly the most enticing feature of Made in Hong Kong is its bonus DVD (for the most part spoken in Finnish with English subtitles), which features all three videos from Dark Passion Play and a penetrating 37-minute tour documentary. In it, fans get the bandmembers' uncensored, very candid thoughts on this crucial new chapter of their career, front-row views of the on-stage and off-stage highs and lows of 150-plus grueling shows, the insecurities of introducing their new singer to Turunen loyalists (although there's finally a quick glimpse of the band rocking through an old staple, "Wishmaster"), and the sort of "boys will be boys" tour bus behavior that led Olzon to demand her own ride, for the sake of sanity and sobriety (drunken Uno, anyone?). In sum, Made in Hong Kong is a perfect post-tour souvenir for devoted Nightwish fans to while away the wait for the band's next studio album.

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