" in 1996 in Kitee, Finland, what started off as a campfire project founded by musician/composer Tuomas Holopainen
would overtime grow into one of the greatest pioneers of symphonic metal. Records such as "Once
" and "Imaginaerum
" won countless listeners over, seemingly even fans outside of the metal fandom. Though the project started with legendary vocalist Tarja
Turunen, Annette Olson would replace her later on. After she also departed post-"Imaginaerum
," however, Floor
, ex-After Forever
) took up the microphone; what follows would be the release of this band's eighth full-length album called "Endless Forms Most Beautiful
was one of the first bands I discovered in the metal genre when I was still in elementary school, and even to this day, I still have a high opinion of the group (I even plan on seeing the 2012
film based on "Imaginaerum
" in the near future). Even though releases such as "Once
" and "Imaginaerum
" are great in their own respects, what they all seem to have in common is that they have a unique type of epic and wondrous atmosphere that you can't find in most other symphonic metal records. With that in mind, when I found out that the band released yet another full-length, I wasn't quite sure how it would turn out, considering how their last effort "Imaginaerum
" sounded very different from the other albums. After listening to the album, however, I'm glad to say that, while not phenomenal, this record did not disappoint.
For starters, the musicianship is decent overall, but only the vocals are what truly stand out. As stated earlier, Floor
Jansen is the new singer for the band, and this change was for the better. She has a very bold, distinctive voice that accompanies the music very seamlessly, whether the song is mellow or heavy. In fact, the singing is certainly one of the major show-stealers of the album overall, and this is helped Once
again by Marco Hietala's signature hearty, potent vocals as well. On top of that, the rest of the musicianship is solid, too, though nothing particularly groundbreaking. The guitars and drums do show impressive feats every Once
in a while (i.e. The build-up to the climax of "Weak Fantasy"), but in the end, the singing is a remarkable part of what makes this album work.
Helping this are the symphonic elements, which are also greatly done. Groups such as the Orchestre de Grandeur and the Young Musicians London Children
's Choir add so much to the extremely potent ambiance that this band is always so good at dishing out. For an example, the frantic symphonic instrumentation in songs like "Weak Fantasy" add a lot of energy and urgency to the already heavy music, making the tracks both fantasy-like and intense. On the other hand, in the softer and more quiet tracks, "Our Decades in the Sun" is a prime example of how the orchestral elements add to the atmosphere, when the children's choir immediately deliver a very dream-like melody that captivates the listener near-instantly. Just like with the vocals, the symphonic aspects also help in making this album a memorable listening experience.
Speaking of the listening experience, when it comes to the songs themselves, "Endless Forms Most Beautiful
" seems to have two modes of entertainment value: From decent and serviceable to strong and really well-executed. This really all boils down to how the melodies are orchestrated and how the music itself is structured. On one hand, a good portion of the songs, while certainly not bad, are very safe and standard in terms of both their sound and writing. Songs like "Shudder Before the Beautiful" (Aside from the rather breathtaking climax) and "Elan" are entertaining for what they are, but they more or less sound like any other symphonic metal track out there, in terms of both their melodies and verse-chorus writing. They're very simple and somewhat bare-bones, and any skeptics towards the genre definitely won't be swayed by songs such as these.
On the other hand, however, there are still plenty of highlights scattered throughout the album's running time. The main driving force that makes these tracks so memorable is their strong sense of energy and dynamic, whether the song be soft or heavy. For the former, "Our Decades in the Sun" kicks off with an instantly captivating melody delivered by the children's choir, and weaves together powerful melodies from both the vocals and instruments over the span of six-and-a-half minutes. "The Eyes
of Sharbat Gula" is another good example, an interlude that allows the symphonic aspect to fully shine on their own and emit a really fantasy-like atmosphere (A point I will elaborate on later in this review).
As for the other side, Nightwish
manages to embrace a heavier and more energetic vibe for some of their other songs as well. "Weak Fantasy," for an example, is arguably the heaviest song in the album, with a remarkably fast pace and blaring strings in the background. Its climax is the true highlight of that particular track, building up with intense acoustic guitar strumming soon to be stacked on top by pounding tom drums and an ominous children's choir. What follows is an explosive helping of Marco's powerful and hearty vocals with energetic instrumentals working at a marching pace, and it hits hard. With other contenders including the hearty "My Walden
" and "Shudder Before the Beautiful," this album accomplishes some nice dynamic to keep listeners hooked.
Lastly, keeping up with the trend of Nightwish
's previous works, the music as a whole has a very compelling atmosphere to it. Tuomas Holopainen
, the mastermind behind the band, has labelled himself in the past as a serious Disney fan since early childhood (As if his side project releasing an album dedicated to Scrooge McDuck wasn't already an indication), and it really shows in how the melodies and orchestral elements are written and executed, as well as the sound production. While rather hard to describe, the atmosphere has this overall sense of fantasy to it, and it makes the album that much more immersive.
BOTTOM LINE: "Endless Forms Most Beautiful
" is yet another great addition to a highly revered band's ever-growing roster. Even though it tends to play it safe when it comes to its formula, it still manages to show off its strengths with strong vocals, decent musicianship, and gorgeous orchestral elements and atmosphere. Whether you know of this band or not, this album is recommended to anyone looking for an epic and dynamic music, even to those not interested in metal in general. Though not a masterpiece, "Endless Forms Most Beautiful
" has further solidified Nightwish
's reign over the symphonic metal genre.
Originally posted on: http://metaljerky.blogspot.com/