The piece was called out by some fans for commenting on, apparently stirring up, this friction. But at the end of the Once Upon A Tour run, immediately following a triumphant final show at Helsinki’s Hartwall Areena, Tarja was sacked via letter sent from Tuomas and signed by the rest of the band, citing difficulties with her attitude, her husband and manager, and having literally said that “the next Nightwish album will be my last”.
Stingingly, it was also posted online by the band. Whatever your thoughts on this, points of the missive are, in hindsight, telling of what had happened to the band over the previous two years, and just what Once had done. “It's time to choose whether the story of Nightwish ends here or whether it will still continue an undetermined period of time,” it read. “We've been working with this creation for nine years and we are not ready to give up yet. Nightwish is a way of life, something to live for, and we're certain we can't let it go.
“You have said yourself that you are merely a ‘guest musician’ in Nightwish. Now that visit ends and we will continue Nightwish with a new female vocalist. We're sure this is an equally big relief to you as it is for us. We have all been feeling bad long enough.”
But the letter also points to a confidence in the band – that they had reached a point of being almost too big to fail, and that such a huge change in personnel could be swallowed. “In interviews I've mentioned that if Tarja leaves, that would be the end of the band. I understand that people will think this way,” Tuomas wrote. “Nightwish is, however, a scenery of my soul and I'm not ready to let go because of one person.”
It was a gamble that would save Nightwish, rather than allow the band to fall apart. Sixteen years – and, indeed, two singers – on, Nightwish remain one of Europe’s biggest metal bands. Every album since Once has been recorded with an orchestra and choir, as Tuomas continues to prove himself as a truly singular musician, part sonic visionary, part magician. But it was Once that pushed them from being a (big) cult concern into genuine megastars, where genius collided with success and propelled them to a height from which they have yet to fall.
Nightwish’s Once remastered version is out now via Nuclear Blast.