NIGHTWISH – Endless Forms Most Beautiful (2015)
NIGHTWISH are set to release their eighth studio album, “Endless Forms Most Beautiful” on 30th March in the UK (three days earlier in Europe). As the first album since Floor Jansen replaced Anette Olzon on vocals there has been a huge amount of speculation about it.
That was the question all were wondering, if Floor has such a wide vocal range and can do the operatic vocal style that Tarja did, or a metal vocal style as she does with Revamp. In practice on the new album her vocals are smooth and are close to those of Anette than Tarja, but with more power in them.
I can see the vocals being the divisive element with this album – many fans will love them and some maybe not, but Nightwish leader Tuomas Holopainen had already signalled there would be no return to the past.
My opinion? Floor Jansen is the best singer Nightwish had. I don’t like Tarja and love Olzon’s, although not in the Nightwish concept.
“Endless Forms Most Beautiful” was primarily inspired by the work of naturalist Charles Darwin. According to Holopainen, the album found its main inspiration from a famous quote from Darwin’s 1859 highly influential book On the Origin of Species.
This quote included the words ‘endless forms most beautiful’, used by Darwin to describe the evolution from one common ancestor to all living organisms, that were subsequently chosen as the title of the album.
Tuomas said he would like fans to listen to the album from beginning to the end, like they do when they watch a movie, instead of listening to songs on a random basis.
But this is not concept album.
Produced by Tero ‘TeeCee’ Kinnumen, “Endless Forms Most Beautiful“ features album artwork by Finnish artist Toxic Angel and includes adult & childrens choirs, collaborative work with esteemed orchestral arranger Pip Williams, session drum work by Kai Hahto of Wintersun (who is sitting in for the ailing Nightwish drummer Jukka Nevalainen), and a guest appearance by evolutionary biologist, writer, and atheist Richard Dawkins.
The CD kicks off with “Shudder Before the Beautiful”. A spoken introduction starts it off before the band and orchestration kicks in. Right from the start it’s recognisable as Nightwish. I felt that the vocals were a bit low in the mix on this song – there’s so much going on musically that the vocals were swamped at times.
In “Weak fantasy” the vocals are clearer. They sound great – clean and beautiful and at times you do get a feeling that Floor is struggling to hold back the power in her voice rather than letting rip at full power. Bass player Marco Hietala adds his harsh vocals to this track.
“Elan” is the first single, already presented as video, so press play below to taste it: a very melodic, commercial track. However, it does not represents the whole album feeling, more powerful I’d say.
The power is evident on follower “Your’s is an Empty Hope”, driven by a quite heavy riff. It features some particularly beautiful orchestration and a nice instrumental section in the middle of the song. Again Marco adds the harsh vocals, but I do think it would have been interesting to hear Floor do them instead.
“Our Decades in the Sun” is a lovely ballad featuring soft choral vocals, polished lead vocals from Floor and some light music although the power does build up towards the end.
“My Walden” opens with a verse in Welsh – not something I’d expected from a Finnish band. That opening verse is a male vocal but it isn’t Marco – it’s actually Troy Donockley. His pipes add to the Celtic feel and there is a choir adding backing vocals on the chorus.
Title track “Endless Forms Most Beautiful” has a soft subdued opening then the guitars kick in and it really ramps up the power. It’s heavy and sympho, one of the best cuts on tha album.
Another highlight for me is “Edema Ruh”, which takes it’s name as far as I can tell from the Kingkiller Chronicle trilogy of books by Partick Rothfuss: the Edema Ruh are a nomadic tribe of entertainers (including musicians).
It’s another great track with an almost Melodic Hard Rock refrain and a single potential.
The album ends with “The greatest Show on Earth”, a 24 minute epic that is split into several sections. It’s a long time before the vocals kick in – the first part is largely instrumental. There’s a Richard Dawkins spoken intro for the second part, which includes some clean vocals from Floor as well as some quite eerie vocals.
As we move into part three the sounds of the jungle appear. Vocal duties in this part of the song are shared by Floor and Marco. The remaining parts of the song are instrumental along with another spoken word section from Richard Dawkins.
It’s a truly epic song – almost an entire album in itself.
Nightwish never were among my favorite bands. However, “Endless Forms Most Beautiful” has changed my interest to them. Perhaps it’s Floor Jansen vocals – which I like a lot – not overly ‘operatic’ and much more ‘rocking’, and also some different arrangement approach.
I mean, apart from the usual Nightwish light-sympho ‘commercialism’, there is something ‘different’ on this album, and for good.
Many tracks have – believe or not – a Melodic Hard Rock feel. Just listen “Edema Ruh” and then tell me. On various places in this CD, Nightwish are more close to Avantasia than the early Nightwish itself.
Additionally, there’s some kind of ‘cinematic’ way to construct some songs, especially the instrumental passages in “The greatest Show on Earth”, and I really dig this stuff.
I like this ‘new Nightwish’, much more than ever.
01 – Shudder Before The Beautiful
02 – Weak Fantasy
03 – Elan (Album Version)
04 – Yours Is An Empty Hope
05 – Our Decades In The Sun
06 – My Walden
07 – Endless Forms Most Beautiful
08 – Edema Ruh
09 – Alpenglow
10 – The Eyes Of Sharbat Gula
11 – The Greatest Show On Earth
Floor Jansen – lead vocals
Marco Hietala – lead vocals, bass guitar
Emppu Vuorinen – guitars
Tuomas Holopainen – keyboards, piano
Troy Donockley – uilleann pipes, tin whistle, backing vocals
Kai Hahto – drumsdrums, percussion
Richard Dawkins – narration
Pip Williams – orchestral arrangements
Metro Voices – choir