Released: March 30th, 2015
Released By: Nuclear Blast Records
Genre: Symphonic Power Metal
Floor Jansen – Lead Vocals
Tuomas Holopainen – Keyboards
Emppu Vuorinen – Guitar
Marco Hietala – Bass & Vocals
Troy Donckley – Uilleann pipes, low whistles, bouzouki, bodhran & vocals
Kai Hahto – Drums
Shudder Before The Beautiful
Yours Is An Empty Hope
Our Decades In The Sun
Endless Forms Most Beautiful
The Eyes of Sharbat Gula
The Greatest Show On Earth
It’s hard to believe that Nightwish have been around for almost twenty years. Less surprising is that they’re the most successful band to come out of Finland (but only the third best-selling band in Finland!), especially when you think of the orchestral-style songs that they’re best known for.
Nightwish are also known for their incredible female, borderline-operatic singers, starting back in 1996 with Tarja Turunen. This legacy meant Floor Jansen had some pretty big shoes to fill. Luckily, she’s blessed with her own incredible voice which shows why she was such a good choice to fill the void and make the spot her own.
When an album starts off with some spoken-word from Richard Dawkins, you know you’re in for an interesting time. Shudder Before The Beautiful is one hell of a way to open an album, with galloping drums, exhilarating guitar work and some of the best keyboard action you’ll have heard in a long time. Floor’s vocals add beautifully to the mix, creating an epic opener.
They don’t let up from there. Weak Fantasy’s opening drums evoke scenes of being chased through an icy wilderness, while Elan is quite simply stunning. Everything melds together beautifully here. This is the sort of song that wouldn’t have felt out of place on the soundtrack to Lord of the Rings.
Yours Is An Empty Hope has an altogether more orchestral feel to it, at least at first. Then it’s all about the guitar. Floor’s vocals become almost primal and ferocious…which actually works here. It contrasts wonderfully with the following song, Our Decades In The Sun, which moves her back to an almost-vulnerable state. With her longing lyrics and wistful tone, it’s an incredibly beautiful and (dare I say it) moving song.
My Walden is one of those songs that could have been a standout on most other albums, but with the caliber of other songs on display here, it’s just…well, decent. Luckily, Endless Forms Most Beautiful brings the album thundering back to life with a song that combines great guitars, eerie choral work and an orchestra in a maelstrom of sheer awesomeness.
Edema Ruh (which is one of the more bizarre song names I’ve heard) keeps the album going by being pretty darn solid, with parts that you could almost find yourself singing along to on your third listen (I didn’t, out of respect for Floor and anyone who would have the misfortune to hear me). Alpenglow is just as atmospheric as its name suggests, with a story being told that would fit perfectly into an Asgardian tavern.
The Eyes of Sharbat Gula is, well, different. It’s hugely atmospheric and an oasis of calm in this otherwise pretty high tempo album. The Greatest Show On Earth, weighing in at close to 24 minutes is certainly an epic song. The start of it fits well with Sharbat Gula, but this feels almost forced into the album. Once it gets going, around 5 minutes through, it’s a different story. Bringing Richard Dawkins back seems to hint at the evolution involved in this song. The ambition shown in this song is immense, and it certainly pays off.
Overall, this is a pretty solid album, with only Sharbat Gula feeling out of place. Definitely worth a listen, though, if you like your vocals operatic and your songs fantasy-driven.
Written by Gareth Franklin