I have not had a best relationship in the past with Nightwish. I love symphonic metal, and when it’s done right it’s done right in the best ways. Truth be told, I had never really held Nightwish to be one of the best examples of the genre. But, Endless Forms Most Beautiful, their most recent release, has significantly changed my view for the better, but by how much exactly?
Straight away, Endless Forms Most Beautiful is truly a cut above the rest of Nightwish’s current discography. After a short spoken-word excerpt by Richard Dawkins, the album opens with “Shudder Before The Beautiful”, and there we hear the grandest force behind this album in a full and live orchestra and choir. To my knowledge, Nightwish has never had this much orchestration before. They have certainly had choirs and orchestral sounds and all that, but never this integrated or with this much grandeur before.
“Shudder Before The Beautiful” is definitely the best example of the band working with all of the elements to create a hugely atmospheric, cinematic, and intense world. The good news is that most of the album uses all of these elements put together, however certain songs do revert back to using synthesized sounds in place. Whether this was a creative or budgetary decision I’m unsure, but it can sort of take away some of the impact temporarily.
"Shudder Before The Beautiful"
The rest of the album, while still beautifully integrated with orchestra and band, tends to drift into the same sort of sound I associate with Nightwish. Some people will love the consistency, and to an extent I do as well, but it makes it feel like more time and devotion has been given to only a couple tracks, and not all of them.
“Shudder Before The Beautiful”, while still having the flavors of Nightwish also feels very developed and matured. On the flipside, other songs sound just a little too similar. Most of the album has this regular driving feel on the drums and kinda gives each of the songs a similar character. “Élan”, “Alpenglow”, and the title track, “Endless Forms Most Beautiful” are guilty of this, however most of these songs do have some awesome moments. “Endless Forms Most Beautiful” in particular has a beautiful breakdown towards the end with a slow-layered entrance of each of the orchestral elements to close the song. Again, die-hard fans are going to love hearing familiar flavors alongside the new ideas, but I for one wanted to hear more of the new ideas and less of the old ones.
Overall, Endless Forms Most Beautiful is probably the most accomplished Nightwish album so far. I think they might have just significantly raised the bar just for themselves alone with the amount of orchestration, emotion, and atmosphere put into one single album. I think we have definitely just seen the start of a continued bright future for Nightwish, and I’m absolutely pumped to hear what’s coming next.
“Élan” Official Video