Nightwish – Endless Forms Most Beautiful
Release Date: March 31st, 2015
My journey today involves an extremely seasoned, near two-decade-old band mastered in the art of symphonic metal. They have sold millions of records worldwide, including the greats; Once, Wishmaster, Century Child and Imaginaerum. The band in question is none other than Finland’s Nightwish.
Formed in the mid-90’s by lead songwriter and keyboardist Tuomas Holopainen and guitarist Emppu Vuorinen, the duo has surrounded themselves with the amazing talents of drummer Jukka Nevalainen and bassist Marco Hietala. The band returns this spring with their latest album, the breathtaking the first Nightwish album to feature new vocalist Floor Jansen (ReVamp, After Forever), and the first with multi-instrumentalist Troy Donockley as a full-time, official member.
Let’s start off with the artwork: It definitely portrays the symphonic Goliath and this album’s philosophy decently well. However, I do miss some of the classic imaginary and sentimentality provided by erstwhile albums like Century Child or Imaginaerum for that matter. It does look very good by all means, but does not possess that one-emotion representation the predecessors had. If a Nightwish album is a story, then the artwork should serve as a painting and nothing less.
Coming to the album itself, the mix quality is top-notch. The album is written in a pattern that when followed in sequence is far more surpassing as compared to ad-hoc. It follows a representation of a story just like any of their older works; however, I do credit the artists here for taking their time on every song and not just rushing it out. It sounds and feels very systematic and progressive, which by itself does justice to a symphony-oriented record simply because it rewards the listener with an orchestrated recital that is pure nectar to the ears. Having said that, there are songs which will simply stick with you and leave you yearning for one more listen. One may not remember the name of the song, but it is impossible to not like the wonderfully symphonized metal madness led by the protagonist voice of Floor Jansen.
“Shudder Before The Beautiful”, “My Walden” and “Élan” show off the talent and ability of the group with the front-woman leading the charge. “Yours Is An Empty Hope” and the aforementioned title track portray a more cinematic orchestration that is a showcase of how versatile this genre of metal can be. Donockley’s work in “Élan” is mesmerizing.
However, all was not well with Endless Forms Most Beautiful. By the second half of the album, I could not shake off a certain sense of beguile. Nightwish are not just a musically successful band; they are also commercially adequate, leading to the introspection of whether they have tried too hard to go the commercial route. At this stage, my inquest out-did my lament as to what if the monarchs of symphonic metal have attempted to make a record to reach newer audiences, and have appealed to a congregation that is far less comprehending to their choral philosophy, and as a result have lost a trifle out to their own die-hard fans? My answer came post listening to the album’s curtain call, “The Greatest Show on Earth”. This is a tune that I am glad I spent a whole 24 minutes of my life listening to, thus leading to my conclusion. “The Greatest Show on Earth” was truly the greatest epiphany of Endless Forms Most Beautiful. It isn’t a mere song, but is the painting I missed on the album artwork. This is an absolute accomplishment for Nightwish, staying true to themselves and their story. This shows why even after two decades, despite being among a tournament of related bands, Nightwish still stand apart from all of them.
Coming to the voice of Nightwish, the biggest mistake one could do here is go into comparisons of Floor vs. the predecessors. I urge fellow fans, metalheads, and audiences to take a moment to realize that she is very different from the others, and that Nightwish have taken their time in making this choice and haven’t been petty in trying to have their current voice emulate the sound of their yester-years. Respect that fact, and it will allow your mind more freedom to appreciate what this album represents. Tarja, Anette and Floor are unique and distinctly different, but as of the present, Ms. Jansen is the voice of Nightwish… and what a voice she is!
Endless Forms Most Beautiful is not a perfect album, considering the sense of commercial appeasement in sections of the record. But is it a distinctly alluring album? YES! Some of the songs here can get imprinted in the mind and heart permanently. All the members of the band have contributed to this record so equally and unconditionally with all their heart, that one will feel their pulse while listening in; and that is a far bigger accomplishment.
On a final note, drummer Kai Hahto (Wintersun, Swallow the Sun) did a brilliant turn behind the kit in place of Nevalainen who took hiatus from the band during this tour album and tour.