Released: Mar 27, 2015
Genre: Symphonic Metal, Power Metal, Celtic Folk Metal
Label: Nuclear Blast, Roadrunner
Number Of Tracks: 11
Floor Jansen's first album with Nightwish conquers new territory while staying as catchy, classical, and divine as ever.
Endless Forms Most BeautifulFeatured review by: UG Team, on april 08, 2015 5 of 7 people found this review helpful
Sound: 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. // 8
Lyrics: 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. // 10
Overall Impression: 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. // 9
Endless Forms Most Beautiful
Randomkid37, on april 09, 2015 2 of 3 people found this review helpful
Sound: "Elan," the first single, is by far the most accessible of the 11 tracks and is a perfect example of how the songs bring out the best from each individual band member. While some die-hards will be disappointed at a lack of operatic vocals from Floor Jansen (which she can do proficiently enough for the Tarja-era songs), the album benefits greatly from using the other timbres in her repertoire. In "Elan" alone, she goes from satin-soft to powerful in a way that would put most of pop's big names to shame. Troy Donockley, in his first album as a permanent member, does not pipe and whistle in every song on the album, but where he does have a contribution, such as in "Elan," the songs are the more beautiful for it.
"Shudder Before the Beautiful," "Weak Fantasy," "Yours Is an Empty Hope" and the title track also seem to return to a level of heaviness that the band couldn't really attain during the "Anette era." Perhaps the vocal power, if not the versatility, will become the calling card of the new "Floor era." Floor at her most astonishing in this album is probably in the visceral growls in the breakdown of "Yours Is an Empty Hope" and giving Marco Hietala a run for his money.
The guitar work actually seems more understated in this album compared to Nightwish's previous offerings. There are less power metal-style shredfests; Emppu Vuorinen's shift to playing short licks between verses is probably the most noticeable change in his style of play, and my favourite bits of guitar-playing here are actually the heavy riffing and the Mediterranean-style guitar on "Weak Fantasy."
"Our Decades in the Sun" is a beautiful power ballad that would not sound out of place in a Disney film, and like "Elan," makes good use of Floor Jansen's broad spectrum of tones. Another highlight comes in the form of vocal lines sung in Welsh in the energetic "My Walden," which is probably as folk metal a song as it gets in this album; there's an Uillean pipe-guitar duel, too. "Alpenglow" and "Edema Ruh" are both pieces of solid songwriting: soft verses, loud and uplifting choruses. The latter is as live as Nightwish have ever sounded on a studio album, complete with a slowed-down finish and licks played by almost every band member at the end.
The album's only instrumental, "The Eyes of Sharbat Gula" is a subdued and atmospheric prelude to the great finale which is rather aptly titled "The Greatest Show on Earth," Nightwish's longest track to date at just under 24 minutes. It is a sublime and heavily orchestrated finish to "Endless Forms Most Beautiful" in the same way that "Song of Myself" was to the previous album. The song is in five parts, but with measured doses of contemplative instrumental parts and symphonic metal, not to mention the final two chapters in which Richard Dawkins performs spoken words on top of a theatrical background of marine noises. These last two chapters, whilst sounding rather tacky in description, add something to the album that makes it worthy of appreciation not just as a heavy metal album, but as a work of art. // 8
Lyrics: I was somewhat sceptical about the upcoming album when it was announced that science would play a central theme to this album in the same way that the imagination did in the previous album, and even more sceptic when it was announced that Richard Dawkins will be involved. Cue suspicions of atheistic supremacy and anti-religious polemics in the Nightwish camp.
Admittedly, "Weak Fantasy" and "Yours Is an Empty Hope" are both blatantly anti-religion to put it bluntly, although it's impressive how the Mediterranean/Middle Eastern feel of "Weak Fantasy" puts an emphasis on the absurdity of the origins of today's predominant religions. The poetic talents of Tuomas Holopainen lie in how the lyrics stick the middle finger up to thieving religious leaders while at the same time being able to act as words of warning to those being thieved in both songs.
As much as the album cover may suggest, the lyrics aren't all about science. The lyrics to "My Walden" seem like a remnant of the previous albums' "man-child" finally coming to terms with reality, whilst "Edema Ruh" has nothing to do with fluids, but is actually a more subtle tribute to the band itself than the comical "Nightquest" from the Tarja years.
The rest of the songs, while focusing on science and nature, still feel like classic Nightwish because the lyrics seep with wonder and imagination. Two main themes do appear to be the beauty of nature and the universe ("Shudder Before the Beautiful," "Endless Forms Most Beautiful," "Elan"); and the evolution of man as a species ("Alpenglow"). Both are tied together in "The Greatest Show on Earth" in the chapters "Life" and "The Toolmaker" respectively.
Finally, "Our Decades in the Sun" is unique in that it is a tribute to one's parents. Quite astonishingly, this ties in nicely with the scientific theme in an unexpected way despite being a very simple ballad, which is not only a testament to Holopainen's poetic skill but also to the beauty of existence that he masterfully expresses throughout the album. // 9
Overall Impression: There are good albums and there are great albums. "Endless Forms Most Beautiful" is an album that makes you sit by yourself for a few minutes just to contemplate how great it is...
Perhaps that was exaggerated, but it is an album that will give you something new with every listen because of the creativity and craft that has gone into it.
Many Nightwish fans might have looked forward a return to a more "Tarja-era" sound on the band's next album after the announcement that Floor Jansen had agreed to be their permanent frontwoman. Perhaps sadly for these nostalgics, there is no evidence to indicate a full regression to the 'opera metal' they were once famous for.
Instead, "Endless Forms Most Beautiful" is, amongst other things, another artful showcase of this band's songwriting, musical and technical chops. Like its predecessor, "Imaginaerum," this album is beautifully coloured by Tuomas Holopainen's impressive musical palette, with equal contributions from a talented and tight-sounding band, as well as well-conducted orchestras and choirs.
This album, however, does not come close to the impressive breadth and grandeur of "Imaginaerum" (although the inclusion of Richard Dawkins will give this band some extra prestige for managing to acquire his artistic services). Instead, it would probably stand proudly alongside "Century Child" as a promising start of a new and hopefully long era of Nightwish. Nonetheless, that should never take away the fact that "Endless Forms Most Beautiful" in itself is a brilliant work of art and possibly the greatest musical tribute to science to date. // 8
Endless Forms Most Beautiful
JoshC_0201, on july 03, 2015 1 of 1 people found this review helpful
Sound: First of all, a change in singer has definitely benefited Nightwish on this album. While Tarja was great and Anette wasn't as bad as some people think, Floor is amazing on her first album with the band. Her voice, in my opinion, works perfectly with Marco's. Not only this, she also sings phenomenally well on the opening track "Shudder Before the Beautiful."
Speaking of "Shudder...," it reminds me of "Dark Chest of Wonders" from the band's album "Once." The heavy instrumental, the epic-sounding chorus, the great drumming from Kai Hahto is perfect for the song and the heavy and fast intro with an awesome riff from guitarist Emppu Vuorinen. Bassist Marco Hietala plays a great bassline to accompany the guitar. While the orchestral parts may seem overdone, they have been perfectly used in this song.
"Weak Fantasy" and "Elan" see the band slow down in comparison to "Shudder..." "Weak Fantasy" sees the band keeping a heavy guitar style, but "Elan" seems more pop than metal. A four-chord progression, used in a lot of pop music, has been used in this song, with the only real feature of metal being distorted guitars. However, Floor and Marco are still phenomenal together in both of these songs. Despite there being positives in "Elan," it is the first of three songs that I personally struggle to listen to.
"Yours Is an Empty Hope" goes back to having a faster pace and seems to take off where "Shudder..." left off. The dark, gothic sound in this perfectly works. The orchestral instruments contributing perfectly (credit to Tuomas Holopainen). The fast tempo is back, along with the use of heavy guitar riffs returning to this song. This song also sees the band using "screams" in the chorus, something the band have never used before, showing the development of their sound.
"Our Decades in the Sun" is another instance of Nightwish sounding more pop, but it is still a great song that again can be seen to show the development of Nightwish's sound over the years. This is followed by "My Walden," a song that shows the band going back to the kind of sound of "I Want My Tears Back" - mid-paced, pipes, power chords, with an instrumental that sounds totally different to the rest of the song.
"Endless Forms Most Beautiful" isn't the first song I've struggled to like. However, there are certain elements I like. For example, the chord progression, the use of string instruments and a choir. Lyrically, this is, personally, their weakest effort on the album so far. Despite having weaknesses, this song is catchy and may well appeal to fans of which have more of an appeal to the more mainstream songs of Nightwish.
"Edema Ruh" is basically a newer version of "Nemo" to my ears. I'm not saying this is bad, as this is definitely one of the better songs on the album. However, by now, I've realised that the band may be reminiscing too much on old material. While this was a welcome surprise at the start of the album, it's starting to get boring just being reminded of older songs by the band.
With the only vocals on "The Eyes of Sharbat Gula" being a choir, this song seems extremely unnecessary to me. It's just six minutes of orchestra when I listened to this album. It's the most boring song iт my opinion on the whole album as it doesn't seem to lead to anything interesting in the song.
"The Greatest Show on Earth" is unnecessarily long. The last five or six minutes of the song just bore me. Excluding that, this is a good song. The music fits really well with the lyrics. However, the unnecessary length of this track just doesn't take my fancy.
"Sagan" was a great song to end the album. It brings back the energy of the tracks towards the beginning of the album. The use of pipes in the instrumental really suits the tone of the song, along with the guitar, the drums, the bassline, the vocals, the keyboards and the orchestral instruments. Despite this, I feel that the ending could have been the chorus carrying on for longer and fading out, but that's just my personal taste. It was a good song to end the album with, but was not the greatest song on the disc. // 7
Lyrics: The lyrics on this album suit the songs. The lyrics on heavier songs such as "Shudder..." and "Yours Is an Empty Hope" are perfect lyrics for a heavier song, and the lyrics for "Elan" being great for a slower song. However, I fail to grasp the meaning of the lyrics on this album without remembering what Tuomas said they were about. However, this is just me. Others may easily be able to interpret the lyrics in their way or the meaning that Tuomas wrote in them. Despite this, some of the lyrics, in my opinion, are among some of the best by Nightwish. For example, the lyrics to "Shudder..." rank in my top five all time lyrics by the band. However, songs like "Elan" and "The Greatest Show..." feel weaker lyrically in comparison to the rest of the album. // 6
Overall Impression: "Endless Forms Most Beautiful" shows the band trying to appeal to all forms of metal fan. The heavier tracks could appeal to most metal fans, while "The Greatest Show on Earth" could appeal to progressive metal fans and "Elan" could also appeal to fans of more mainstream rock and metal, maybe even pop music. While this can benefit the band in gaining more fans, this makes the album feel like it lacks direction. Focusing on one sound, while only appealing to one group of metal fans, this gives an album a direction, which I feel this album lacks. However, it is a solid effort, featuring some of the band's longest and most complex songs to date ("The Greatest Show..."). It also features good songs, as well as a fair share of bad ones, while also showcasing the ability of all the musicians very well. I would recommend some songs from the album, but I would only recommend the whole album to die hard Nightwish fans. // 7