Endless Forms Most Beautiful
(Nuclear Blast Records)
I'll be the first to admit that I enjoy well-executed Symphonic Metal as much--if not more--than the average Metalhead. In fact, throughout my adventure-filled 'career' as a music and occasional entertainment journalist, I've had a genuine and sincere appreciation for artists and groups such as the Epica, Kamelot, Leaves' Eyes and to a lesser extent, the woefully under-sung Theater Of Tragedy. Deftly combining the traditional heavy guitars, bass and drums with elements of Classical music and, in some cases, choirs and symphonic instruments, the sub-genre has grown from an obscure Scandinavian and Swiss obscurity to Gold and Platinum mainstream prominence. A prime example of this unlikely transformation is Kitee, Finland-born veterans Nightwish. Having officially unleashed their eighth full-length studio effort (and first with statuesque former After Forever frontwoman Floor Jansen) Endless Forms Most Beautiful, the sextet is truly poised for international domination.
On the stellar Endless Forms Most Beautiful (2015), an expertly assembled fifteen song collection of Power Metal-infused Symphonic Heavy Metal, each track, beginning with the relentlessly pummeling “Shudder Before The Beautiful” and the hook-laden tirade “Weak Fantasy”, immediately commands the rapt and undivided attention of all parties involved, myself most definitely included. Based, in part, on the controversial writings of embattled English naturalist Charles Darwin, the group employed the London-based The Metro Voices choir group, and the Young Musicians Children's Choir and the Pip Williams-led Orchestre De Grandeur. Wisely re-emphasizing the Metal content of their overall 'approach' (a factor that will undoubtedly appeal to even the most staunch of post-Dark Passion Play detractors) while simultaneously allowing Jansen to make a lasting creative impact within a studio environment, the group's meteoric re-birth is now more evident than ever.
Continuing with the sweeping--albeit delightfully metallic--“Yours Is An Empty Hope” and the shimmering 'power ballad' “Our Decades In The Sun”, the newly-rejuvenated combination of classically-trained vocalist Floor Jansen (ex-After Forever, ReVamp, Star One) guitarist Emppu Vuorinen, bassist/vocalist Marco Hietala, keyboardist Tuomas Holopainen, multi-instrumentalist Troy Donockley and ex-Arthemesia/Swallow The Sun drummer Kai Hahto (temporarily replacing founding skinsman Jukka Nevalainen, who was unable to participate due to an ongoing battle with insomnia) steamrolls ahead like they well-oiled machine they so obviously have become. Driving home each key focal point via the seamless, multi-dimensional blend of unabashed pomp and circumstance as well as elements of the Celtic, Folk and Power Metal that has defined their storied career, the group flexes their more-than-considerable creative muscles amid overwhelming displays of affected grandiosity.
With Jansen presumably offering the group the a long-overdue modicum of line-up stability and acclaimed co-conspirator/Producer Tero 'Tee Cee' Kinnunen adding his trademark touch, other standouts, including the thought-provoking lament “Alpenglow” and the uniquely exhaustive (24:00), Professor Richard Dawkins-narrated closer “The Greatest Show On Earth”, once again showcase their already much-celebrated lyrical and compositional wizardry. Bridging the insurmountable distance between the Tarja Turunen (Angels Fall First – Once) and Anette Olzon (Dark Passion Play, Imaginaerum) eras, the release of Endless Forms Most Beautiful effectively represents the dawn of a new chapter for the group, arguably making it the group's most pivotal effort to date. While far from groundbreaking or, for that matter, revolutionary (aside from the addition of Jansen, the group's tonalities remain entirely unaffected), the end results of their efforts are thoroughly stunning.
But is it really that good? Absolutely! A definite must have for both die-hard completists and the occasional clueless newcomer alike (assuming they still actually exist), the majority--if not all--of the decidedly wares at the epicenter of the refreshingly intricate Endless Forms Most Beautiful are seemingly guaranteed to further cement the improbably long-running group's already undeniably well-deserved reputation as a bona fide creative force not to be ignored. Even you somehow find yourself less than enthralled with their notoriously insatiable penchant for all things bombastic, one must, at the very least, sincerely admire the group's ability to persevere amid the most dire of professional circumstances. Needless to say, if you've once again found yourself in search of an adrenaline-fueled alternative to the puréed drivel that is so often force fed en mass, then this, my friends, might just be the high-octane counter irritant for what ails you. Trust me, you won't be disappointed.
Endless Forms Most Beautiful (2015)
Showtime, Storytime (2013)
Made In Hong Kong (2009)
Dark Passion Play (2007)
End Of An Era (2006)
Highest Hopes: The Best Of Nightwish (2005)
Century Child (2002)
Over The Hills And Far Away (EP) (2001)
From Wishes To Eternity (2001)
Angels Fall First (1997)
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