The Floor Jansen era of Nightwish begins with "Endless Forms Most Beautiful", the band's eight album and first to feature new singer Jansen as well as new member Troy Donockley who plays a myriad of instruments and provides lead and backing vocals as well. Taking inspiration from a Charles Darwin quote, "Endless Forms Most Beautiful" takes the listener on a journey that explores the beauty of life and being on this planet and appreciating all the things that the world has to offer that occur in nature.
Opening track "Shuddering Before the Beautiful" shows the band in true form with a very driving symphonic melody that is overlaid with driving guitars and bass. Jansen's voice transitions between soft and sweet to powerful and commanding as the music rises and falls in its tempo. The incredibly driving and catchy symphonic and guitar riffs meld together so perfectly you'll nodding your head along in unison. "Weak Fantasy" follows as the heaviest track on the album in my opinion. The symphonic element is still there but guitarist Emppu Vuorinen steals the show with his masterful guitar work and thunderous riffing. Jansen's voice matches well with bassist and sometimes vocalist Marco Hietala. Their layered, dual vocals create some very melodious moments as well as providing some stark contrast with Hietala's sonorous voice and Jansen's softer then harder vocal delivery. "Elan" is up next as the feature single the band led with off of the album. This song has one of the more interesting vocal performances that Jansen turns in. Her voice is very sing-songy and elegant, something that shows that she really pushed herself to try different things on her first run with the Nightwish crew. The music has a very Celtic feel to it and just tends to ebb and flow like a gently flowing river.
"Yours Is An Empty Hope" has a similar structure to the album's opening track with a symphonic riff overlaid with heavy riffing and rhythmic work. Again, Hietala and Jansen's dual vocals work well off each other, each having a bit more venom and anger to them. This song is unique to as I listened to it and took it to mean one thing while my wife took something else totally out of it. It's almost like a Choose Your Own Adventure lyrical interpretation with this song, which I think is pretty darn cool. The ballad of the album,"Our Decades In The Sun", is up next. Jansen turns in her most stirring vocal performance on this track with her angelic vocals and emotional performance. Listening to this track almost brought tears to my eyes because of the content. It is about the band's parents and is a very emotional and heartfelt track. The next couple of tracks have a few things that stood out but not enough to break them down, with the one exception being the track "Alpenglow". Jansen's vocals go on the attack and get a bit deeper and then immediately soar to a higher yet softer pitch and the chorus on this track is easily the catchiest on the album. The final track on the album is the epic "The Greatest Show on Earth", a 24 minute masterpiece that may be the finest thing that Nightwish has ever written. The track has everything from a lush, serene orchestral piece to some heavier guitar work and vocal flourishes from Jansen and Hietala to some animal sounds and musical parts that paint a very vivid picture of the world. All in all, I can't think of a better way to close an album and Nightwish did so with perfection.
This album is one of the best I've heard from the band in years and is one that will continue to see heavy rotation in my playlist.
About this Writer: Greg Watson // Greg Watson has been hooked on the loud and heavy sounds since the summer of 1994 when he first heard the opening notes of "Operation: Mindcrime" by Queensryche. Since then his tastes have expanded and grown like the ever evolving heavy metal tree of genres. He has been an active member of Maximum Metal off and on for 10 years. In his spare time, Greg enjoys deciding the fate of his loyal subjects in the realm of Skyrim and secretly playing air keyboard to "Separate Ways" by Journey when no one is watching. He currently resides in Roanoke, VA with his wife and his metal wannabe beagle.
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