Nightwish are set to release their eighth studio album, “Endless forms most beautiful” on 30th March in the UK (three days earlier in Europe). As the first album since Floor Jansen replaced Anette Olzon on vocals there has been a huge amount of speculation about the album. I was lucky enough to be able to hear the album at a special listening session at the end of January, but the tight secrecy around the album means I wasn’t allowed to write about it till now. This isn’t a full review – it’s a preview based on a single listen to the album. Expect a full review on Planetmosh shortly after the album is released.
Now that the first single has been released (Elan), fans have been able to hear for the first time what the vocals on the new album would sound like. That was the question I was wondering when I first hear the album as Floor has such a wide vocal range and can do the operatic vocal style that Tarja does, or a metal vocal style as she does with Revamp. In practice on the new album her vocals are smooth and are close to those of Anette than Tarja, but with more power in them. I can see the vocals being the divisive element with this album – many fans will love them and some will hate them, but Tuomas had already signalled there would be no return to the past, so whatever they did was bound to leave some people unhappy.
The album kicks off with “Shudder before the beautiful”. A spoken introduction starts it off before the band and orchestration kicks in. Right fromt he stat it’s recognisable as Nightwish. I felt that the vocals were a bit low in the mix on this song – there’s so much going on musically that the vocals were swamped at times.
In “Weak fantasy” the vocals are clearer. They sound great – clean and beautiful and at times you do get a feeling that Floor is struggling to hold back the power in her voice rather than letting rip at full power. Marco adds his harsh vocals to this track.
“Elan” is the track everyone has now heard, so you’ll already know what this song is like.
“Your’s is an empty hope” – THis song features some particularly beautiful orchestration and a nice instrumental section in the middle of the song. Again Marco adds the harsh vocals, but I do think it would ahve been interesting to hear Floor do them instead
“Our decades in the sun” is a lovely ballad featuring soft choral vocals, beautiful lead vocals from Floor and some soft music although the power does build up towards the end.
“My Walden” opens with a verse in Welsh – not something I’d expected from a Finnish band. That opening verse is a male vocal but it isn’tMarco – it’s actually Troy. Troy’s pipes add to the Celtic feel and there is a choir adding backing vocals on the chorus.
“Endless forms most beautiful” has a soft subdued opening then the guitars kick in and it really ramps up the power.
“Edema Ruh” takes it’s name as far as I can tell from the Kingkiller Chronicle trilogy of books by Partick Rothfuss. The Edema Ruh are a nomadic tribe of entertainers (including musicians). It’s another great track – but then there isn’t a single weak track on the album.
“Alpenglow” – another great track.
“The eyes of Sharbat Gula”. The name may not be familar but the chances are that you’ve seen a photo of Sharbat Gula. She’s an Afghan girl who’s photograph graced the cover of National Geographic magazine in 1985. It’s become a very well known photo but it wasnt till 2002 that she was identified. The track is an instrumental one featuring paino, drums and an instrument I couldn’t identify but which has a vaguely Indian sound which fits with the Afghan subject and probably means it’s an instrument used in that part of the world. There are no vocals as such – no lyrics at all, just some male vocal harmonies.
The album ends with “The greatest show on earth”, a 24 minute epic that is split into several sections. It’s a long time before the vocals kick in – the first part is largely instrumental. There’s a Richard Dawkins spoken intro for the second part. The seconf part includes some clean vocals from Floor as well as some quite eerie vocals. As we move into part three the sounds of the jungle appear. Vocal duties in this part of the song are shared by Floor and Marco. The remaining parts of the song are instrumental along with another spoken word section from Richard Dawkins. It’s a truly epic song – almost an entire album in itself.
So, after one listen of the album I was seriously impressed. It’s a stunning piece of work and one that you really can’t do justice to after a single listen – it’s the sort of album that as you listen to it more, you’ll notice more subtle details. I’ve ordered my copy already.
1. Shudder before the beautiful
2. Weak fantasy
4. Your’s is an empty hope
5. Our decades in the sun
6. My Walden
7. Endless forms most beautiful
8. Edema Ruh
10. The eyes of Sharbat Gula
11. The greatest show on earth