Tonight I was reminded of an old saying via a random Instagram post: “It is always better to light a candle, than to curse the darkness.” There seems to be a lot of debate as to where this saying first came from or to what it precisely refers, but the first thing it made me think of was the song “Last Ride of the Day” from Imaginaerum, the seventh studio album from symphonic metal band Nightwish.
Tuomas Holopainen, main lyricist and keyboard / synthesizer player for Nightwish has explained this song was inspired by his love of roller-coasters and describes it as being the perfect metaphor for life. Listening to the song, you do actually feel like you are riding on a roller coaster, the slow tempo and soft intonations of the opening verse crank upwards slowly but steadily into the almost mad, rapid pace of the rest of the song. It’s a journey you can’t help but want to take, despite the twists and turns and almost uncertainty of where the song is heading next. The very structure of the song is just like life itself; and then come Holopainen’s incredible lyrics…
The reason the above quote made me instantly think of this song was due to the clever twist Holopainen put on it for this song:
“It’s hard to light a candle, easy to curse the dark instead.”
One of the things Holopainen does best, one of the many reasons I absolutely adore his lyrics and the reason he has earned the moniker of the “Ocean Soul Poet,” is his ability to look beyond what everyone else thinks and believes. He goes far deeper than any other writer dares and comes up with these seemingly subtle changes that say far more than they first appear to. He’s not afraid to say that sometimes the notion of “lighting the candle” is not only too hard at times, but it’s not even always necessary to keep going, to push on, to ride hard and get through each day.
“Last Ride of the Day” is filled with such beautiful imagery from the very first verse; you can almost see the “smile of a stranger” and “starry skies,” hear the “sweet music” and the joyous din of the “open theme park gates,” smell the “scent of fresh mown grass in the morning sun.” Holopainen wants us to to focus on the hidden beauty all around us by pointing out that “we live in every moment but this one.” He wants us to stop arguing about our differences because “what’s God, if not the spark that started life?” He wants us all to bravely keep going, candle or not, straight into the chorus where he hits us with:
“Once upon a night, we’ll wake to the carnival of life
The beauty of this ride ahead, such an incredible high
It’s hard to light a candle, easy to curse the dark instead
This moment the dawn of humanity
The last ride of the day.”
Never a lyricist to do things by halves, he continues to persuade us in the second verse, where he transports us into that very “carnival of life” by inviting us to “enter adventureland.” Here we find “tricksters, magicians,” and “careless jugglers, snakecharmers” showing us “all that’s real” as they appear “by your trail.” He reminds us again, to focus on this moment and it’s magic with that simple word, “abracadabra” before he launches us back into the chorus, taking us on that last ride, where we again curse the dark but keep moving forward “finding the way back home.”
With “Last Ride of the Day,” Nightwish have created the perfect roller-coaster ride of beauty, emotion, depth, hope, uncertainty and fear that perfectly represents life. While some people may hold true to that old saying that lighting the candle is better, I for one agree with Holopainen. Sometimes all we can do is curse the dark and keep going. Keep riding towards that glorious carnival of life where a simple candle will finally seem like a quaint notion.