It is indeed and undeniably Nightwish as we know it. My fears that this time we would be faced with something entirely different did not materialize. But this very same and familiar style is presented with an added edge to boot.
And it is not more metal. It is darker, more direct, a tad louder than before. There is a distinct or – shall we say – pretty heavy use of symphonic and folk elements that is another hallmark of their 8th full length studio album Endless Forms Most Beautiful. So, this is undeniably Nightwish, but refreshingly different from their last record Imaginaerum. This whole concoction reminds me a bit of Dark Passion Play, but it is different still and for sure faster.
The whole production also sounds tailor-made to the voice of their new (well kind of new…) front vocalist Floor Jansen (ex After Forever and ReVamp). Floor got to replace Nightwish‘s former singer Anette Olzon after the latter’s somewhat bitter and caustically unwilling departure in 2012 for the rest of the Imaginaerum World Tour. Floor was taken on-board as a full member of Nightwish in 2013 together with Troy Donockley, the man for all kind of pipes.
It appears that she did not have any part in the song writing. It is not clear to me if this was willingly or not. Yet she commented kind of pointedly in some interviews how this was of no consequence to her. Well, yeah, right. Perhaps a bit too pointedly to my taste! The band needs to pay attention to this or they will lose another of their front ladies real quick – and this one is a good one. Of course there is a large mass of girls of ubiquitous quality out there who would just love to come on board ‘Tuomas Holopainen‘s flagship, the spiritual master behind all this stuff.
Remarkably, it appears that Tuomas Holopainen worked on Endless Forms Most Beautiful and simultaneously on his solo project The Life and Times of Scrooge that came out back in 2014 (featured on this blog). Marco Hietala again strongly contributed to the quality of this album and also acted as co-author of some of the tracks. And I do appreciate his efforts. His work adds a lot of spice to the productions of Nightwish and it helps to keep the operatic elements at bearable levels.
The band’s long time drummer Jukka Nevalainen took the decision to temporarily (?) abandon his long-standing role in the band due to health reasons. Problems with insomnia so I understand. Kai Hahto (Wintersun, ex Swallow the Sun, ex Rotten Sound) took on the challenge – for Endless Forms Most Beautiful at least. Jukka’s word temporary did however not resound too strongly in my mind, reading between the lines. A decision fully supported, but – understandably – much regretted by the band.
The album itself follows a loose theme based on Charles Darwin‘s theories (good grief..). Commented at some instances by the evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins directly, who is a fervent defender of evolutionary theories – evidently. Funky idea, by the way, but why not.
To the tracks: It is one of the strengths of Nightwish to reinvent themselves continually. Changing themes and directions, but not the overall style too much. And this is what made them very successful – and will continue to do so. They subtly change, but never forget where their roots are. And this becomes very evident in this here record. It is undeniably Nightwish, but of a more straightforward kind.
Shudder before the Beautiful is perfect proof of that. Much to my relief not one of these terrible intros, but stepping right into the deep, down and dirty. Taking off with some energetic speed, using a lot of distorted guitars and dark bass to a furious start of the album. Unfortunately after a somewhat cheesy verbal introduction. This is followed by an equally furious Weak Fantasy, which I like very much.
Here a few words to my only real disappointment in Endless Forms Most Beautiful. And it costs them at least one star from the rating: This is Elan. YES, this is just straight boring! I get it, okay: The melody is kind of alluring, trying to draw you in from the open. And it reminds me of this dark and light production October & April between Anette Olzon and Lauri Ylönen (of The Rasmus). – not in content, but in lack of spice and I daresay imagination. This is some sort of intermezzo written for the commercial mainstream crowd. I am NOT impressed. Speaking of same: The whole album is commercialized to a dangerous extent, so much so that they could be considered part of the mainstream, not leading it anymore.
Our Decades in the Sun is a welcome reprieve from the fast and furious tracks that came before. Very well executed, slow, but fast ballad. Hot and cold – but still rocky, just the way I like it. The Walden appears to go the same direction at first for a few moments, but then all of a sudden changes direction and goes all folksy/rocky on you. Pretty cool that one and I am intrigued.
The next track Endless Forms Most Beautiful (the namesake to the album) is quite rocky and fast, but nothing to write home about unfortunately. This one loses them some stars as well in the overall rating. The track almost reminds me of some more electro-pop metal concoctions that we have recently seen appearing lately.
Alpenglow contains one of the few real solos that I was able to detect in this album. Okay, there are some others, but nothing really exciting. These guys should have strutted your stuff better. A pretty varied song and again fast to a point, this one here is not bad. The last piece The Greatest Show on Earth is a 24 minute epic piece of work that is intriguing to a point, but never boring. I was a bit worried when I saw that one, but I stand corrected. Pretty good – whereas at times teetering on the edge of being overdone in terms of musical style elements thrown into the fray.
Endless Forms Most Beautiful – the newest creation of the masters of symphonic metal – is a good album. But it is missing some real crunch. Loosely themed, nicely followed through, but deeper and darker than before. And after all, a welcome change from the more flashy former record Imaginaerum. However, I still rate Dark Passion Play higher than this one. But all in all a very good magic potion of Symphonic Metal.
Get dat tune:
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