They kept their brand again, for sure. 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.
The album is darker and more direct, a tad louder than before. You will also find a distinct or – shall we say – pretty heavy use of symphonic and folk elements. Which is yet 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 only just.
The 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 Floor Jansen did not have any part in the song writing. If this happened willingly or not is a matter of debate. Yet, she commented kind of pointedly in some interviews as to 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 the market bears a large mass of girls of ubiquitous quality out there. And most would just love to come on board Tuomas Holopainen‘s flagship, the spiritual master behind all this stuff.
Remarkably, it appears that 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. 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 hey, 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 on this record.
Shudder before the Beautiful – the track – is perfect proof of that. Much to my relief the track steps right into the deep, down and dirty. Without any extra-loop coming to us via an intro. The track speeds off pretty energetically, using a lot of distorted guitars and dark bass to pretty stiff start of this album. Unfortunately only after a somewhat cheesy verbal introduction. This is followed by an equally furious Weak Fantasy.
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 track is just straight boring! I get it, okay: The melody is kind of alluring, but it truly grinds to the masses. Some sort of a super-weak intermezzo written for the commercial mainstream crowd. With a dangerous lack in spice and – I daresay – imagination. 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. I am NOT impressed.
Our Decades in the Sun is a welcome reprieve from the fast and furious tracks that came before. A very well executed, slow, and greatly arranged ballad. Hot and cold – but still rocky, just the way I like it. And what a change from their aforementioned flagship track they commercialized so hard.
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.
Now, what devil rode them to saddle us with a 24 minute monster at the very end I cannot tell. But fear not, the last piece The Greatest Show on Earth 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 is a good album, but nothing more. It misses some real crunch, some of the passion and spice that was so prevalent before. Loosely themed, nicely followed through, it appears deeper and darker than former works.
In the end, the album presents a welcome change away 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.
[Editorial note: The review made it successfully onto the first ever Intermittent Best Of of the RockmusicRaider blog. Congrats!]