Review – Dead Boy’s Poem (Nightwish)

With a new Nightwish album released, their first since the extraordinary Imaginaerum in 2011, I thought it timely to delve into the archive and bring out a little known song from their 2000 album Wishmaster.

Fourteen years ago and since then Nightwish have only had three lead singers (five if you include the temporary arrangement during their US tour with Alissa White-Gluz and Elize Ryd replacing an ill Anette Olzon)

Fourteen years which means one of the stars of the Wishmaster album will be twenty-five years old now!

Sam Hardwick was eleven years old when he was asked to recite the poetry sections of the song Dead Boy’s Poem. Before you start moaning and groaning, I know what you’re thinking. Kids, actors, recitals = wooden, timber, stilted narrative lacking in any expressive emotion.

And that’s what makes Hardwick’s performance on this song so interesting, so unusual. There’s a weird maturity to his recital that you seldom hear in kids without the experiences of life to emote words the way their adult writer intended them.

The song itself contains a theme that songwriter Tuomas Holopainen returns to again and again: a boy’s disappointment in the eyes of his parents. (The feature length film to accompany the album Imaginaerum is exclusively about this theme.) Where this comes from I won’t speculate, but Dead Boy’s Poem passed over my head the first few times I heard it. But the boy’s voice, Hardwick Jnr’s enunciation, a sort of cross between Adrian Mole and football commentator John Motson, snagged my attention.

He turned up again on two songs on the 2002 album Century Child. Voice a little deeper, fewer words to say, but the distinctive tone was still there, the sad innocence gone, the regret buried.

The best thing to do is let you hear the performance itself. It doesn’t dominate the song, drifts in and out here and there, but tell me if you think this is a typically wooden performance from a typical child actor. Apparently, Sam Hardwick isn’t and never became an actor, which might be cinema and televisions’ loss.

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