Let us be perfectly honest here. I am not the most knowledgeable person regarding the Finnish band Nightwish. Sure, I am familiar with their existence and possibly their most well known song “Wishmaster,” but if you were to ask me to match songs to albums, I would most likely fail. Furthermore, if you gave me a list of similar sounding phrases and asked me to pick out the Nightwish album, I would probably be average. The point is, if you were looking for an authoritative review on Endless Forms Most Beautiful, the band’s 8th studio album, you might as well go somewhere else. If you are like me, however, and have always had Nightwish at the periphery of your interest, then please sit on down and prepare yourself for the world of well dressed, slightly sensual, symphonic metal.
Even though Endless Forms Most Beautiful is the band’s 8th record, Nightwish is currently about to celebrate 20 years in existence. This fact feels more sobering looking at the rotation of vocalists, with Floor Jansen debuting after the recent departure of Anette Olzon. Additionally, Endless Forms Most Beautiful is the first record without longtime drummer Jukka Nevalainen following health complications and exhaustion. Though the album feels like a strange space to operate from, Nightwish still has the experience of Emppu Vuorinen, Tuomas Holopainen, and even Marco Hietala who have seen a fair bit of changes over the years. If anything can be said about Endless Forms Most Beautiful it is how solid and studious it is compared to the unstable environment in which is was created.
If I sound at all surprised, it is because Endless Forms Most Beautiful is an engaging power metal record whose presentation and production is never boring, dull, or pompous. I only say this because I felt that previous Nightwish records possessed all of these qualities. Jansen’s voice is surprisingly sweet and complementary to the production and orchestration. The album’s mix is of course filled with orchestral flair and uses of ancillary instruments like tin whistles and other folk instruments, but what is most surprising is how well restrained those elements are. Endless Forms Most Beautiful possesses a quality that is modest in its symphonic flair. Compared to Blind Guardian’s newest record, Nightwish is the salt of the earth.
Perhaps the most discussed aspect of Endless Forms Most Beautiful is the album’s 23 minute closer. Though I just discussed modesty in terms of selling points, this song, entitled “The Greatest Show on Earth” may be grand in scope but never reaches the level of absurdity it is capable of. Jansen’s voice floats in and out of the song’s opener, which gives way to narration and various song sections blanketed by sound effects and atmosphere. The song never reaches a blinding climax, which, in the world of power metal, is actually interesting. Though the song as a conclusion to the record is somewhat expected, the presence of “The Greatest Show on Earth” in contrast to the rest of Endless Forms Most Beautiful is pleasing and never weighs down the record with its ambition.
Endless Forms Most Beautiful maybe the first Nightwish record I enjoyed, or even gotten through its entirety in one sitting. I told you that I was going to be honest. Even as someone who is interested in power metal, Nightwish has always remained further down the lists of bands that I would actively seek out. Endless Forms Most Beautiful was surprising to me, but its strength did not rest on my low expectations. This album sees Nightwish as a competent band who has weathered change to make a decent record. Though I can’t say this for the entirety of their career, their current album is deceptively enjoyable.
Album: Endless Forms Most Beautiful
Released: March 27th, 2015
Label: Nuclear Blast
Score: 5/9 Hammers