Endless forms most beautiful
Because this album has been long-awaited and the collaboration of NIGHTWISH and Floor Jansen is a milestone in female fronted metal, we decided to both (Kiki and Pia) share our thoughts about “Endless Forms Most Beautiful”.
The long awaited NIGHTWISH-album has finally reached our ears, but let’s back up for a second and count the records that prepared us for this one. First there is “Imaginaerum” with its cinematic sound and fantastic orchestration; then there is the last work of Revamp – new fronter Floor Jansen’s old band, now officially on an indefinite hiatus – “Wild Card”, which entailed her most outstanding vocals, going from operatic, to soft, to poppy and even grunting.
With these expectations in mind, we have to mention that the two previously released singles ‘Élan’ and ‘Shudder Before The Beautiful’ left us wanting more, but also wondering if the vast range of Jansen’s vocal abilities would show throughout this album and how the music would play with and around it.
Strong songs, strong voices.
I must admit I didn’t really like the opener at first, but after attentively listening to it a couple of times it totally won my heart. It feels like a celebration of a new beginning of the band, while also glorifying their past. The second track, ‘Weak Fantasy’ allows Jansen to show the raw aspect of her voice in the chorus, alongside Marco Hietala’s known powerful singing, but I can’t help the feeling that the chorus would have been better off with only Hietala’s voice. Musically the song also successfully combines orchestral elegance with some folky guitars, topping it off with the heavy riffs. ‘Élan’ is next and already a favorite, being a catchy mid-tempo track with lots of sing-along-potential and a plain invitation to dance. But as if to counteract the ease and lightness of the first single, ‘Yours Is An Empty Hope’ comes at the listener with full force: aggressive and rapid vocals from both singers – including some background grunting from Jansen in the chorus – blend in with some dramatic orchestration and powerful heavy metal.
A strong metal ballad is characteristic of NIGHTWISH and this album naturally wouldn’t do without one. And ‘Our Decades In The Sun’ has all the ingredients for a good one of those: wonderful acoustic guitar and piano melodies (and not to compare, but the piano did remind me of Dutch band Stream Of Passion); slow, atmospheric, goose-bump-inducing parts with some moving vocals and choirs and a guitar solo that makes us head-bang even though we’re deep in thought about the emotional lyrical ode to all our parents.
There’s not only Floor new in the band!
The presence of the other new member of the band, Troy Donockley, materializes in the joyful ‘My Walden’ and not only because of his introduction as a singer, but also because of the Celtic character of the tune: Donockley’s flutes and strings, the melodies and rhythms that invite us to dance right from the beginning. But this is NIGHTWISH and no folk-metal band, and the heavier second part of the song reminds us of that.
Oh, yeah, that’s right, Floor Jansen can also sing operatic vocals! Had almost forgotten about it, but for the first time on this album, we hear a short demonstration of that ability on the title track ‘Endless Forms Most Beautiful’. Musically ‘Edema Ruh’ reminds me of the band’s earlier works, as early as “Oceanborn”, only with soft, fair vocals. It gets more interesting near the end of the song, when we can hear Donockley’s recitative singing again and the last chorus gains force to give way to an ending fit to close up concerts.
NIGHTWISH really show what they are up to!
‘Alpenglow’ is another track full of NIGHTWISH-essence, allowing us to hear more of Jansen’s raw and raspy qualities alternating with her softer side on a catchy tune that stays in your head way after the album has stopped playing. And of course, no album of the Finnish band would be complete without a powerfully touching instrumental song. And even if ‘The Eyes Of Sharbat Gula’ does indeed feature all three singers of the band, the song remains wordless and demonstrates that sometimes words are not needed to express endless amounts of emotion. The album closes with the band’s longest song up-to-date, ‘The Greatest Show on Earth’. Short of 24 minutes of music – and with the name Tuomas Holopainen written all over it – the track starts with three and a half instrumental minutes, which give way to a short operatic verse that transports us back in time to the band’s beginnings and leaves us wanting more of that sound. This is pure torture! The band teases us fans of their old sound, in the last song no less. The rest of the song keeps the mood of the album, giving us a perfect end to this record.
“Endless Forms Most Beautiful” is definitely an album I will be listening to more and more in the near future, although maybe not in its entirety. I did miss the more operatic vocals, but that’s only a matter of personal taste. Apart from that aspect, the new singer’s abilities are being showcased and fit the music in a spectacular way. I am wondering though, how much Jansen contributed to the album in general, and can’t wait to see how NIGHTWISH develops with her. But for the nearer future, I can’t wait to see these songs performed live!
Opera metal is dead. Who thought NIGHTWISH would go back to their roots now with Floor Jansen, former singer of After Forever, was wrong. As we already heard in her project ReVamp, Floor varies much more with her voice now. And in NIGHTWISH she mostly uses her rocky vocal colour. Opera is reserved for the choirs most of the time.
When I listened to their “Imaginaerum” album I felt like NIGHTWISH would just copy themselves. Every riff on that album was on another one before. The first song ‘Shudder Before The Beautiful’ (which begins very abruptly by the way) made me feel the same… But forget about that song. NIGHTWISH had me again with ‘Weak Fantasy’. The song stands for NIGHTWISH 2015 – still symphonic, still operatic voices with the choirs but rocky, with more folk elements and somehow just cool!
NIGHTWISH has finally grown up!
The band developed from a serious, emotional, sometimes depressive melodic metal band to an arisen, self-confident, easy-going symphonic metal band with musicians who know what they do. “Endless Forms Most Beautiful” is the prove that there is and has never been a better singer for NIGHTWISH than Floor Jansen.
And you can still hear Tuomas Holopainen’s personal touch every second. He is still obsessed by the topic of beauty (not only because of the title). And every single chord of the album just shouts NIGHTWISH – something I did not feel on the two albums with Anette Olzon.
Okay, not everything is perfect on “Endless Forms Most Beautiful”. ‘Yours Is An Empty Hope’ sounds a lot like a mixture of ‘Dark Chest Of Wonders’ and ‘Planet Hell’, especially in the beginning. But the following ballad ‘Our Decades In The Sun’ is unbelievably beautiful and this time we hear Floor’s operatic voice, as we do in ‘Edema Ruh’, a song that puts us back into Tarja’s era somehow.
Luxury problem: who should sing which parts?
Because of Floor’s variance, Marco sings less, but we can hear him from time to time. Their voices fit perfectly in already mentioned ‘Edema Ruh’ – one of the best songs on the album. ‘The Eyes Of Sharbat Gula’ is a beautiful wannabe instrumental (choirs and singing without words) and warm-up for the epic, blasting 24-minute-monster ‘The Greatest Show On Earth’. What a song! It has piano, drama, beautiful voices (Floor’s opera voice at it’s best!), operatic song development, everything.
Well, if you are still insecure if “Endless Forms Most Beautiful” is a good album, you should check ‘Weak Fantasy’ and ‘Edema Ruh’. After “Once” I thought, NIGHTWISH should quit the band because they’ll never be able to create something better. Their new album might not be perfect every single moment, but Floor upgrades the music in a very special and touching way and the band’s development is so impressive that I am very, very happy they made this album happen!
NIGHTWISH are back on top of female fronted and symphonic metal bands. With Floor Jansen they are unstoppable.
01. Shudder Before The Beautiful
02. Weak Fantasy
04. Yours Is An Empty Hope
05. Our Decades In The Sun
06. My Walden
07. Endless Forms Most Beautiful
08. Edema Ruh
10. The Eyes Of Sharbat Gula
11. The Greatest Show On Earth