Nightwish, the rulers of symphonic metal have returned and are ready to take over the world with their new album Endless Forms Most Beautiful (Nuclear Blast). This much anticipated album is the first studio album with not only Metal queen Floor Jansen on vocals, but also Wintersun drummer Kai Hahto, who took over when long-time drummer Jukka Nevalainen had to drop out due to health issues.
Composed primarily by Tuomas Holopainen, the sound on this new album hearkens back to the old Nightwish but one major difference is the vocal performance given by Floor. While she is fully capable of the high operatic capers we know from former Nightwish vocalist Tarja Turunen, there is little of that on this album. Instead, we get to enjoy her full range of power and emotions, from very small and sweet vocals on ‘Élan’ and ‘Our Decades in the Sun’, to the intense and distorted power in ‘Yours is an Empty Hope’. In fact, this album shows an even greater range than her own projects (After Forever, ReVamp) have done.
The album also contrasts with previous Nightwish works in subject matter; while Imaginaerum (Nuclear Blast) dealt with the world of the imagination, this album describes the beauty of the natural world. In fact, the album title is a quote from Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species.
‘Élan’ is the first single and video for the album, even though it is one of the softest songs on the album; Troy Donockley’s whistles give the son a Celtic vibe, and Floor’s vocals are sweet at first, however, this sweetness does not last the whole song, since towards the end a very pleasing modulation brings more powerful vocals. It might not be the song most representative of the album, but it is beautiful and driven. On the album ‘Élan’ is followed by ‘Yours is an Empty Hope’, a song that brings all the bombast one can hope to find in a Nightwish song. The heavy guitar riffs are supplemented with an excellent orchestra and choir, and it is the heaviest song on the album. Floor totally rips on these vocals, and it a very intense song to experience. Tuomas’ genius as a composer is demonstrated by the contrast between this and the next song, ‘Our Decades in the Sun’. Despite the gentility of this song, with ethereal choir song and such sweet vocals by Floor, the song still doesn’t fall flat, has an astounding energy for a song so serene, and is definitely one of my favourites from this album.
‘Weak Fantasy’ is epic, the title track is very catchy, and ‘Edemah Ruh’ is very smooth. However, there is one song that stands apart from anything Nightwish has ever produced, namely ‘The Greatest Show on Earth’. This is the last song on the album, and lasts a staggering 23 minutes 58. There is no real good way to describe this song, other than as varied as nature itself; it has operatics, power vocals, narration, and instrumental sections and varies from intense piano to orchestral masterpieces, to heavy metal.
Trying to pick out highlights form this album is like trying to pick needles out of a stack of predominantly needles. There may be an occasional pin, depending on your personal tastes, but there is not a strand of hay in sight.