Nightwish – Endless Forms Most Beautiful
This is a bit different; I don’t often review music. I like music and have a lot to say, but usually my blog is more – well, gardens and cars and ramblings. This does fit with the latter, so please bear with me!
I’ll start off with a disclaimer: I don’t know anything about music; I don’t really know the proper names for things; as a student of Linguistics I couldn’t even get my head around prosody and pitch; however I can bop along to a good song.
Nightwish are my favourite band – mmm, in the first and third incarnations, I should say (though, I suppose, there are 4 incarnations – everybody always forgets about the Sami-Marco swap, but never mind). When they had the second vocalist, I discovered Epica and swapped allegiances. Shocking! Imaginaerum didn’t really do much to win me over (I’m sorry, I found Scaretale really weird and freaky, and the last song was a bit long-winded). But then Showtime, Storytime happened…
I think it’s hard to be a female-fronted/symphonic/whatever you want to call it metal fan without hearing about the whole Nightwish-Tarja-Anette-Floor debacle, and YouTube is rife with the flamers and trolls still rabbiting on about the whole thing. I’ll say my bit here about it then get on with it. I loved Tarja. I love her as a solo artist and as the former Nightwish singer. She has a wonderful tone to her voice that no other singer can replicate, and that’s obvious; every singer has something unique about them, whoever they are. I didn’t like Anette, partly because I was a Tarja fangirl, partly because the amount of ns and ts flummoxed me, but mainly because she was shouty and whiny, and couldn’t match the sheer massiveness of the Nightwish machine. As for Floor? Some of my favourite songs are After Forever songs (pretty much everything on After Forever, but especially Empty Memories & Lonely) so I already knew of her as a singer, and so I was mega, mega excited to see her in Showtime, Storytime, and mega, mega, mega excited to hear her in Endless Forms Most Beautiful.
Now I have to be honest. I’m a bit cross. Not with Nightwish, but with the company I ordered the album from. I ordered it online from a Finnish music shop because I wanted the super special awesome edition with photobooks and signed stuff. It was dispatched on 23rd March.
It is not here!!!!!!!!
In a rage. So I’ve been forced to listen to rips of the album on YouTube. Why should I buy an album I’ve already bought again? If I wasn’t such a skin-flint, I would download it – but I’m cheap, and the Penniless Princess, and an impatient bitch to boot. So, hence, YouTube.
So, onto the poor-quality version of the album I’ve been listening to on YouTube.
The Nightwish sound is there: it’s never gone away. The sound isn’t the vocalist, but the music. Tuomas Holopainen is obviously a god, and that’s that. No question. And this album is certainly no exception. The inclusion of Floor, who can do nice floaty singing (Elan, Edema Ruh), growly angry stuff (Weak Fantasy, the especially cross Yours is an Empty Hope) and big epic turns (Shudder before the Beautiful, The Greatest Show on Earth) allows for a versatility that I think is more evocative of the Once-era Nightwish than the recent stuff. The melodies are good, strong, and I bounce along on my chair to them all. Edema Ruh has been stuck in my head for the past couple of days and is, unsurprisingly, my favourite song.
Lyrics-wise, we’re more on a par with Imaginaerum. There’s more of this Mary Costa name-dropping than the little match girl freezing in the snow. While that might not mean much to anybody else, I just feel like a little bit of the poetry has got lost in the message.
The message. I’ve read a few whinges here and there about it. This album is all about science and evolution, and certainly big songs like Shudder, Greatest Show, Endless Forms and Alpenglow hammer it home. I like the cosmos imagery but I do miss the fantastical stuff – which is where songs like Edema Ruh and Sharbat Gula come in. But I don’t think the message is intrusive at all: Epica often fill their albums to the hilt with political and ethical stuff, and that doesn’t get in the way of some serious headbanging. And at least we haven’t got an album here in a couple of dead languages, as some bands like Leaves’ Eyes tend to be dropping out. (Meredead actually worked nicely for me since I was studying Anglo-Saxon at the time!)
My favourite songs are:
Weak Fantasy – this is a gnarly, cross sort of song. I very much like! I was in a bit of a rage when I first heard it anyway, so it suited my mood. Floor’s angry voice is ideal here; she sounds perfect. I love the little folksy bit in the middle: at first it did sound a bit jarring, but on repeat listens, I wouldn’t be without it. It’s also one of the few times we actually hear Marco. Marco!
Edema Ruh – I’ve gone on about it enough! I love Edema Ruh. It reminds me of For the Heart I Once Had, which was one of the two songs I really liked off Dark Passion Play (the other being Sahara). It’s a ridiculously catchy song, and is apparently based on characters from a book, one which I will be researching. I wonder if Tuomas is taking a commission?! I love the tone, the lyrics, the music – such an uplifting song.
The Eyes of Sharbat Gula – who is Sharbat Gula and why do they have a song? Ooh, I don’t know, but I really like this instrumental.
Shudder before the Beautiful – natch, the second-released song is one of my faves. I liked Elan when it came out, but I wasn’t knocked for six. Here I definitely was: this is Nightwish of old: big, bombastic, taking no prisoners. What an epic way to kick off an album: a punch in the face, or maybe a punch in the eardrums: you end up sat back in your seat, bombarded with the hugeness of this song.
My Walden – remember Moondance, the sat-round-a-campfire mega chant progressive 2 minute instrumental in Oceanborn? With the male voices chanting? That makes you just want to get up and dance, preferably in a village square or in a barn? Well, this is it’s grown up brother. My Walden is folksy: it has a chant in a foreign language that I don’t know and will need to look up; it has a fast dancey pace that I love; it has a cool breakdown; lots of different instruments; I seem to think of this as Troy Donockley’s gig (oooh I love a bit of Troy! What a cool dude).
Now, obviously, I will give this album a million and one stars. It’s Nightwish + Floor Jansen + a range of moods and tones + massive scope + general awesomeness + did I mention it’s Nightwish? But… it’s Nightwish, but not all there: sort of, Nightwis – we’re missing a letter here.
Floor Jansen is amazeballs. Watch her duet with Simone Simons on the Epica Retrospect tour. Listen to anything from After Forever (I’m naughty; I’ve not listened to ReVamp; bad fangirl). Watch her on Showtime, Storyime, or whichever way it’s spelled. She isn’t quite here. Studio-wise, she isn’t Tarja level. Yet. I think that yet is very important. But if you listen to some of Tarja’s mega songs – Ghost Love Score obviously comes to mind; Ever Dream is also a killer (it’s one of my favourites), or anything off Wishmaster (my favourite Tarja-era album, where I think her voice is pitch-perfect and absolutely matches the music) – in the studio, then you get the idea; for some reason or other, Floor was holding back, or held back.
Which brings me to my next point. Where the hell is Marco?! I heard his voice on like two songs. I love me a good bit of Marco Hietala. Not just because I’m convinced he worked in Hellraiser in York. Marco and Tarja did good duet: Romanticide, The Siren, get in my ears now. Marco and Floor could sure as hell do a good growl-off, but I’m quite sure they can do a good sing-off as well. Hmmm. Is there a mega bonus-track hiding somewhere?!
But then you listen to Edema Ruh, and everything is happy again. I love the plinky-plonk in the chorus. It makes me so happy!
So listen: Edema Ruh: ears: now.
Do any of you guys like Nightwish?? Or might you give them a look after my review? Do you know where my CD is?! I swear, it must be swimming here from Finland. It’s actually being brought to me via husky sled.