Nightwish is the kind of band that seems to have sparked an entire subgenre of female-fronted symphonic metal. They have been one of the “go-to” bands for music that is not only epic and ecliptic, but captivating and beautiful. The recent release by Nightwish “Endless Forms Most Beautiful” is a fine and fair addition to the Nightwish discography, but does it live up to expectations?
Nightwish hit a musical breakthrough with “Imaginaerum.” This form of music, epic symphonic metal, is one that can be strange or cheesy when done incorrectly. However, “Imaginaerum” was the perfect balance of talent, songwriting, performance and imagery to captivate the listener. A large contributing factor to the overall quality of the album was Annette Olzon, the lead singer at the time. Having a singer like Annette Olzon, who may not have the “pipes,” in the sense that Tarja Turunen clearly has much more formal vocal training, makes the music more accessible and simply to the natural and subjective quality of Olzon’s voice.
With the direction Nightwish was trying to move in on “Imaginaerum,” there was simply no room for Turunen. The band needed a singer that can engage and entertain, rather than mystify and fantasize. This music needed a singer that was less perfect.
That parallel can be drawn between the success of “Imaginaerum” and the breakthrough single earlier in the band’s career “Over The Hills And Far Away.”
The band seems to have enjoyed more chart success when making their music purposely more accessible and less strange. It can be said that when it came to “A Dark Passion Play” and “Imaginaerum,” it musically worked out for the better.
There were some key moments on “Endless Forms Most Beautiful” that deserve mentioning. While it doesn’t start off fantastically, if you hang around until the end portion of the record you’ll find some cool tunes like the title track “Endless Forms Most Beautiful” and “Alpenglow.” The first single “Élan” was fairly good, as well as, the B-Side to that single “Sagan,” written about the late scientist Carl Sagan.
The high point of the album is clearly the grand finale, “The Greatest Show On Earth.” The nearly 24-minute epic is exactly what fans want from Nightwish and even with its immense length, it delivers as a top-notch tale that will hopefully stand the test of time in the ranks of Nightwish tunes.
This leaves us with our final judgment of “Endless Forms Most Beautiful.” One word to describe the album would be “fine.” Olzon’s departure has put people in a difficult place if they’re a fan of the talented woman. Floor Jansen has done a fine job filling the high heels of the two incredibly talented ladies that came before her. However, comparing this album to what Nightwish has done in the past, fans will be disappointed. With just the right combination of people Nightwish can be better than the material they came out with on this album. If this was the debut release of a brand new band, the music press might have been raving about it. It’s safe to say that my past impressions of what Nightwish could accomplish have negatively impacted any review, but only by so much. The album was simply not as exciting as fans know the band can be, and for that, they will be disappointed. But don’t let that stop you from checking out this great release. It’s still well worth the time investment.
You can hear songs from this album along with lots of other great heavy music on Evan’s radio show “The Metal Meltdown” Saturdays at 10:00 p.m. on WNYO 88.9 FM.