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Nightwish: Endless Forms Most Beautiful

Finnish symphonic metal veterans Nightwish first burst onto the scene in 1996, and here we are nearly 20 years later, 8 albums in, and on their third lead vocalist, with the band sounding better than ever. Everyone by now knows the story of the bitter split with original vocalist Tarja Turunen, as well as the equally tense parting with her replacement Anette Olzon, which led to ex-After Forever singer Floor Jansen coming into the fold, first as a part-time live solution and eventually as the official replacement for Olzon. Endless Forms Most Beautiful is the first studio album from this pairing, with Jansen joining Tuomas Holopainen (keyboards) Marco Hietala (bass, vocals) , Emppu Vourinen (guitars), Jukka Nevalainen (drums), and Tony Donockley (pipes, flutes, and whistles) for what could be their strongest line-up yet. [Note: Kai Hahto actually played drums on the album and is slated to tour with the band while Nevalainen is on hiatus]

While no one can deny the power of those early, classic Nightwish albums, for my money, I always found the vocals of Tarja to be a tad too operatic and overbearing at times (and I'm sure I'm in the minority on that opinion), and Anette's more straightforward style a better fit for the band. Floor is the meeting of those two styles; she can certainly do the soaring operatic thing when she wants to, but she has a pure, melodic metal side that neither former singer had, and can also do the pop crooning that Olzon was so good at. Jansen just shoots off to the heavens on the gorgeous "Elan", and dazzles with power & passion on the triumphant symphonic metal gems "Shudder Before the Beautiful" and "Weak Fantasy". "Yours Is An Empty Hope" features chugging guitar riffs, loads of orchestral keyboards, and Jansen dueling vocals with Hietala in fine fashion. The lovely "Our Decades in the Sun" is a great vehicle for stunning Jansen vocals, sumptuous keyboards, and a tasty guitar solo, and the utterly addicting "My Walden" is a catchy slice of Celtic metal, with Donockley making his presence known with engaging Uilleann pipes. For vintage Nightwish, the title track is a can't miss, a thumping, symphonic metal ripper, with keyboard passages that will sweep you off your feet, massive riffs, and Jansen soaring to the stratosphere. More of those luscious keyboards show up on "Edema Ruh", another memorable pop/metal number, and "Alpenglow" again weaves pop melodies with symphonic metal fury to great effect. The only real throwaway track here in my view is "Eyes of Sharbat Gula", which is six minutes of piano, keys, and chanting that could be been more effective as the flair for the dramatic is there, but it just doesn't go anywhere. This leads us into the 24-minute closing epic "The Greatest Show on Earth", as prog-meets-classical-meets-metal as only Nightwish can deliver. Jansen goes back and forth between lovely crooning to a more menacing mid-range tone while the band churns out adventurous prog-metal arrangements mixed with orchestral and atmospheric moments. Stunning stuff.

For a band that's never put out a bad album, Endless Forms Most Beautiful is another remarkable release from Nightwish. Honestly, Floor Jansen was the best choice for a lead vocalist, and she's fit in quite snuggly here, the band sounding refreshed, rejuvenated, and revitalized. This one's going to be on a lot of peoples Best of 2015 come the end of the year, mark my words.

See more about this release on our recent YouTube show!

Track Listing
1. Shudder before the Beautiful
2. Weak Fantasy
3. Elan
4. Yours Is An Empty Hope
5. Our Decades in the Sun
6. My Walden
7. Endless Forms Most Beautiful
8. Edema Ruh
9. Alpenglow
10. Eyes of Sharbat Gula
11. The Greatest Show on Earth

Added: June 13th 2015
Reviewer: Pete Pardo
Related Link: Band Website
Hits: 3523
Language: english

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Nightwish: Endless Forms Most Beautiful
Posted by Steven Reid, SoT Staff Writer on 2015-06-12 18:56:16
My Score:

Nightwish are not alone here, recent months have found a growing number of bands struggling to decide whether they're a metal act with theatrical leanings, or a musical troupe who happen to have stumbled into a wall of Marshall amps. So for their grand comeback (well comeback from their comeback...) song writer Tuomas Holopainen flips and flops between bombastic orchestral pieces with touches of guitar and thumping drums with gritty riffs. In here somewhere is vocalist number three, the inimitable Floor Jansen, who puts in a fine performance when she's called upon. The album itself centres round Darwin's theory of "endless forms most beautiful" and as such, renowned thinker Richard Dawkins takes on the roll of narrator, adding a spoken word element to both the album's opening and close, coming across like a young Michael Palin as he does so. It's a grand topic and one which in many ways sums up the issues this album works under, the over reaching ambitiousness of bringing together orchestra, spoken word, samples of animal sounds, Troy Donockley's pipes and whistly folkisms oh and some guitars, bass, drums and keyboards and vocals, there's vocals as well...

Things begin on an even footing, "Shudder Before The Beautiful" chugging along on a gritty riffs which just about finds enough room alongside strings and woodwind to peel off a super trade off solo with the keyboards. Jansen gets little time to shine, but she uses the short limelight periods well enough, although not in a way which particularly stands out. Add in Dawkins intro and the balancing act is negotiated reasonably well. "Weak Fantasy" allows the guitars to step to the front, the riff leading all the other aspects as Jansen finds a grit and determination in her voice which sends shivers down the spine. If there was more of this to come, then we'd have a sure fire winner. Yet, after the folky, Jansen highlighting "Elan", which as lead single we all know by now, and the dramatic "Yours Is An Empty Hope", where the best riff on the album rolls in on full power, things take a turn for the worse. The ballad "Our Decade In The Sun" a mixture of over-long "album intro" and a schmaltzy plod along, while the pipe led (am I the only person tiring of Donockley's contribution to countless metal acts?) "My Walden" simply feels like Nightwish by numbers.

The title track illustrates exactly where Nightwish now are; an orchestra with a guitarist, bassist and drummer; the usual rock or metal elements left to crumble under banks of voices, strings and bombast. However closing the album with the indulgence of "Alpenglow", which spends its six minutes utilising gently chanting choirs, plaintive piano and parping tuba wears the patience somewhat, before the "epic" of the album arrives in the shape of the juddering 24 minute "The Greatest Show On Earth"; proving, for me, the real disconnect point. If I want to listen to classical music, I will (and do) but not on a Nightwish album. As for "The Greatest...", well it's ambitious and deserves to be commended as such, yet the piece decides to simply never get going as over stretched themes are augmented by animal sounds, which over egg things by some distance and a long spoken word outro which adds little, and fails to keep you engaged after the first couple of spins. Add in that the guitars only make cameo appearances for long sections and that Jansen is also dormant for much of this song and I really have to question if we aren't dealing with a songwriter who'd rather be a classical composer here. Nothing wrong with that of course, but it hasn't stopped me being thoroughly bored for at least half of this long track, or indeed large sections of this album.

The formula seems simple, nod reverentially at your past Once and Dark Passion Play add ever more layers of orchestra and choirs, let the pipes and whistles lead for a few seconds and hey presto, a new album. Endless? In places unfortunately so. Most beautiful? Possibly too much and at the same time, not as convincingly as hoped for...

Nightwish: Endless Forms Most Beautiful
Posted by Scott Jessup, SoT Staff Writer on 2015-04-02 17:59:44
My Score:

They do say third time lucky and Nightwish's Endless Forms Most Beautiful features lead vocalist number three Floor Jansen (ReVamp, After Forever). Floor is one of the best also having also performed with the likes of Ayreon including Star One and should have replaced Tarja Turunen in the first place, I had my fingers crossed at the time but it wasn't to be and Anette Olzon (ex. Alyson Avenue) landed the gig. Despite any initial apprehensions about Nightwish losing such a key part of what made them so different in the first place I grew to appreciate Anette's vocals, and I found enjoyment with those albums that she subsequently appeared on. While I do have a preference for Floor, I'm sure given the opportunity that Anette would have been able to put a positive spin on the songs presented here. As Nightwish haven't reverted back to that operatic Tarja era. Bass player Marco Hietala's input is always so welcome and his vocals still have a role on this album though less than one might be expecting. Change isn't just limited to lead vocals as another appealing addition to the line-up is the multi-instrumentalist Troy Donockley (Uilleann pipes, low whistles, bodhran, bouzouki and vocals) a past contributor has become a member of the band. Wintersun's Kai Hahto is filling in for long time drummer Jukka Nevalainen due to health issues. I was eager for more input from Kai given his performances with Wintersun though they are a different kind of band, and Kai gets the job done here staying faithful to Nightwish's style. There is also a long list of contributors for the orchestral and choir inclusions on this recording.

My feelings are torn towards Endless Forms Most Beautiful. Yes there are songs that I do like a lot such as "Weak Fantasy", and Nightwish are no strangers to fine lengthy tracks with "Beauty Of the Beast" and especially the very moving "Ghost Love Score" which hasn't been surpassed or matched here. But now with the much longer epic "The Greatest Show On Earth" they also take us on a appealing musical ride, on the flipside others just had me feeling like it isn't the totally fresh sounding release that I was longing to hear. For example take opener "Shudder Before The Beautiful" a super catchy song for sure, but comparisons can be drawn with one of my all-time favourite Nightwish tracks "Dark Chest Of Wonders" and again with those riffs on "Yours Is An Empty Hope". Though granted you do expect some similarities. Endless Forms Most Beautiful wont replace my favourite Nightwish albums but with Floor in the band maybe now there's potential to do just that with future releases.

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