Endless Forms Most Beautiful review by Nightwish

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  • Released: Mar 27, 2015
  • Sound: 8
  • Lyrics: 10
  • Overall Impression: 9
  • Reviewer's score: 9 Superb
  • Users' score: 8.3 (45 votes)
Nightwish: Endless Forms Most Beautiful

Sound — 8
Nightwish is probably the most popular band to come out of the Scandinavian heavy metal movement. With platinum sales in multiple countries, the band was domestically successful starting with their first album and internationally successful from their second. With a soothing symphonic tone as well as soaring lead vocals, the band has managed to get that mainstream, foreign following which eludes so many Scandinavian metal bands. The title of this album, the band's eighth, is related to a line from Darwin's seminal work, "On the Origin of Species," which proclaimed the theory of evolution. 

The first thing I noticed about this album was its bass heavy mixing, something I have noticed on many Finnish metal releases. The result is that the guitar can feel drowned out at times and I have more trouble than usual listening to the album on my iPod when there is outside noise. Of course, there is the pleasant trade-off that the album has a rather soft feel that can feel like laying your head on a pillow before bedtime (a rather ingratiating effect). On the other hand, I believe it is this production that is responsible for dulling my first listen of the album, making all the songs blend to the point that I could barely tell the difference between them.

However, after multiple listens I have found that this album is a grower. The dynamics and the differing chord progressions are only now beginning to shine through. One aspect that has remained constant throughout is the catchiness of the melodies. "Alpenglow" is the best song from this perspective because it has numerous catchy riffs, one of which borrows quietly from "Live and Let Die." Meanwhile, the fast-paced "Shudder Before the Beautiful" is the perfect opener for the album. The vocals come out in full force and the synth-driven melody is sure to rope you in at least for another song or two. The next song, "Weak Fantasy" builds off its predecessor well by beginning with another heavy, fast metal riff that transitions beautifully into an offbeat tempo that slows the music down and sets up the rest of the album, most of which is slower than the first two songs.

It may have taken me a day or two, but now I can't stop listening to this album. Each song alone is great, but together they form a synergy that is sorely missed from most albums. This album is definitely an album in the traditional sense of the word and not the collection of singles that most releases have become. There is also a more than decent mix of metal and folk sections to make the album seem varied. In addition, that bassy production I mentioned before hides some of the intricacies of the music that are then revealed upon subsequent, more critical listens. This aspect gives the album immense replay value.

For guitar, the highlight comes during the breakdown for the song "Endless Forms Most Beautiful." The riff keeps repeating on itself, but because it is so good, it never gets boring. The synth is dispersed throughout the repetitions of the riff, adding a good deal of texture. And just for good measure, once the guitar has gone through the riff a couple of times, a piano repeats it a few times and though it does not seem like the most exciting thing, the feeling is actually surreal. Otherwise, the guitar is mostly a support instrument, chugging the main chord progression when called upon. There are a couple of guitar solos, but they aren't very notable, just a little bit of shredding over some modes.

The only thing that seems slightly overdone with this album is the chorus effect from the synth that sounds like people singing. It makes sense in certain areas, but in others, it seems to overtake the sound in an unpleasant way. Also, the over twenty minute long epic, "The Greatest Show on Earth," is defined enough into sections that it should be separated into shorter tracks like Rush's "2112" for the sake of easier sorting. However, for such a great album, these criticisms are nitpicking.

Lyrics — 10
The star of this album is Floor Jansen. Some reviewers comment that she did not stretch her range as far as she could have. From my perspective, she must have a truly astounding vocal range if she did not use it all here. In reality, Floor uses a varied approach to the songs, sounding harsh or soft when the music calls for it. Her voice fits the music much better than how Tarja Turunen's voice would have. Tarja's voice fit the band when their sound was heavier and rawer, but now given the large folk aspect of the group, Floor is a great fit. More than anything else, her voice gives the album its soaring feel.

Tuomas Holopainen's lyrics are well developed and fit the music well. There are some instances where the lyrics become cliché, but overall they are at a level above what is considered normal in today's musical world. What makes the vocals truly spectacular though is how Floor Jansen adapts her voice to fit the theme. There is some narration done by evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, but it sounds very plain. The whole time he is speaking, I am just waiting to get back to the music.

Overall Impression — 9
This album is probably the most complete, well-written album in Nightwish's catalog. It has a tremendous deal of variation, from the headbanger title track to the much more benign "The Eyes of Sharbat Gula." Troy Donockley's presence is felt throughout the album to marvelous effect. And while "The Greatest Show on Earth" sounds as pretentious in title as One Direction's "Best Song Ever," it is as close to the truth as Nightwish has gotten ever before.

15 comments sorted by best / new / date

    My only real complaint is that Marco didn't sing more. Otherwise a fantastic album.
    Big fan of this album! It goes without saying that The Greatest Show on Earth is possibly the best song they've ever written, alongside Ghost Love Score. The only criticism I have of this album is that the closing track significantly overshadows the rest of the album. I know that was somewhat the intention, however, as Tuomas did state that it was the "main act" of the album. Regardless, I Can't wait to see them in a few weeks!
    I don't agree with most of your review. In my opinion this is nowhere even close to being the best nightwish album, and I also feel that half of the songs are totally forgettable. Floor's voice is totally misused too. Last track is magnificent though. I'd give it a 6/10 and I am being generous because I love Nightwish. Cheers!
    Don't agree with the 10/10 for the lyrics. Far too much corny stuff for my taste and I'm a Pain of Salvation fan so that's saying something. And yes, Floor has incredible range but the songs don't give her enough opportunity to show it off. Check out Ghost Love Score live to hear what she's capable of. The last song is this album's saving grace though. Just awesome.
    I want to like it but I feel like the vocals are a bit laid-back, as if she's not really pushing her voice. Feels lazy in a way.
    Decent review, I'll certainly give this a listen. On the subject of nitpicking though, 2112 isn't broken up into different tracks. Different sections yes, but the track has always played at it's full length on releases. Nightwish did break up a more epic song into different tracks on their first album, but the effect was a little jarring.
    This is a pretty fantastic album, I actually find it quite heavy despite so many softer parts; great dynamics.
    A lot of people are saying that Floor's performance is overwhelming. Personally, I think that this is clearly the worst vocal performance on any nightwish album. Her voice sounds so common, really nothing special (excluding some passages of shudder and greatest show on earth). I do not want to be misunderstood, I LOVE Floor and I am happy she is a part of Nightwish, but the songs do not take advantage of her voice at all! All in all, an acceptable album, nothing special, but just good.
    Honestly, I didn't care for this album, and I didn't find the synergy you claimed it has in your review. Each song feels like an exhaustive repeat of the same, whimsical "folkish" repeat that they burned out in both Imaginaerum and Dark Passion Play. I used to like their folkish songs, but now with practically two albums that are almost entirely folkish, it's getting really tiring. I don't know what Tuomas is doing anymore. I've always loved his style and his lyrics have been admirably poetic and greatly inspired, but in the past recent years, his aethestic in his music has shifted rather drastically, and it is very evident in Endless Forms Most Beautiful.The only song that is mildly recognizable in style to me is Yours is an Endless Hope, but barely even then. The Greatest Show on Earth was literally about four songs strung together as one, with almost no transition in between parts. To top it all off, Floor is not given an opportunity to actually sing in her full vocal range. There's really too much instrumental and synth accompaniment, and not nearly enough singing and screaming guitars. Everything is just drowned out by Tuomas throwing in elements on a soundboard and midi -- it's rather nauseating. I also have to wonder why you think that Floor's voice fits better than Tarja's would have -- Floor is a dramatic soprano, Tarja is a classically trained, light lyric soprano and lied singer -- as much as I like Floor's voice, Tarja's vocal range is much more fitting to a "folkish" song than a metal, and in the same way, Floor's voice is much more fitting to a metal song than a folk song, and that's really just how it is.
    To me, the best albums should be one that shows the full scale of a band's capabilities with quality tracks encompassing everything they are able to do. This one does it for me. The majesty of Shudder, the catchy simplicity of Elan, the more complex catchiness of My Walden, the heaviness of Yours Is An Empty Hope, the grandeur of The Greatest Show, the beauty of Our Decades In The Sun. This album, in my opinion, is the one that defines my favourite band - and although I haven't had time to listen to it as much as say Once or Imaginaerum, I'd rank this as possibly their best, with Once pushing it very hard. Damn near perfect album in my opinion.
    While they do have a Swedish singer, the rest of the band is from Finland, which is not a member of Scandinavia. This ends the almost pointless correction of the day.
    That would only be true if Anette were still the singer, and they'd have been a Fennoscandian band.
    Ghost Love Score is still the best song Tuomas written. The last track is okay. Too much fill it seems. But overall a good start with Floor.