Nightwish - Human. :||: Nature.
Nuclear Blast
Symphonic Rock
Disc 1: 9 songs (50:33) Disc 2: 8 songs (30:58)
Release year: 2020
Nightwish, Nuclear Blast
Reviewed by Goat
Major event

Given that Nightwish already had a reputation of a band given to big, bloated statements, the news that they had decided to make their ninth full-length release a double-album was not received particularly warmly. And the reveal that HVMAN dot colon vertical bar vertical bar colon NATVRE dot (or, from here on, Human:Nature as a less insane band might render it) was to feature not only a full fifty-plus minutes of Nightwish but that the second disc contained a half-hour orchestral suite featuring theatre actress Geraldine James narrating Lord Byron and Carl Sagan pieces suggested the band's ego has expanded way, way beyond all previously known limits! (Apparently they tried to have David Attenborough appear, but he was too busy). Yet if you know Nightwish and lead architect Tuomas Holopainen (a man who, let it never be forgotten, wrote a solo album about Scrooge McDuck) you know that they don't do things by half, and Human:Nature is designed to be just as heady a spectacle as past works...

Does it succeed? Well, no, it's actually a bit of a mess. Opener Music (ugh) is half taken up with an intro piece to the album, subtle ambience soon turning to unsubtle tribal percussion that 90s Sepultura would have thought over the top, before a Muse-esque bit of synth and the introduction, finally, of Floor Jansen, in the first of many sections of the album that will remind you more of musical theatre than symphonic metal. When guitars finally appear they're often buried beneath the orchestration and even a late solo can't help propel this into prime Nightwish territory as the song turns into a more bouncy symphonic rock piece in its closing minutes. The orchestral elements sound fantastic, as does Floor who is able to use more of her vocal range on this album, but the focus is definitely on the symphonic part of the Nightwish sound, guitars used as extra backing beneath the vocals on, for instance, first single Noise, a busy but infectious enough piece that to its credit is not just another entry in the Elan/Storytime/Amaranthe series!

Later in that track comes the first moment where you feel reminded that Nightwish are, supposedly, a metal band as the vocals layer above crunchy riffing. Marko Hietala's gruff backing vocals are minimised to the point of only existing on a single track, uilleann piper Troy Donockley getting more singing time generally and taking the lead on Harvest. The subdued folky vibe here fits well, a break from orchestral overload, and builds well into a metallic instrumental section - one of the better songs on the album. Elsewhere, songs sound pretty but aren't particularly memorable, Shoemaker and Procession both failing to make much of an impact. Which is a shame because in many ways this is the most experimental Nightwish have been in years, an odd highlight being the return of tribal elements for the 90s groove of Tribal, complete with breathy throaty vocals from all. And closing the first disc is the terrific Marko-led Endlessness, opening with a downright My Dying Bride-esque bit of doom and developing into something of a power metal-tinged hymn that's easily the best thing on the whole of Human:Nature.

The second disc, containing the entire All the Works of Nature Which Adorn the World suite, is markedly less good. Although divided up into sub-titled four or so minute chunks, it's one long piece that despite the opening and closing narration comes over as a collection of interlude pieces rather than anything wholly special - those who enjoy cinematic soundtracks will appreciate The Green and Aurorae, although the way that the initial folky touch to Moors turns more towards dungeon synth territory makes it something of a highlight. It's all bland and verging on boring, however, something that for all its faults couldn't be said of Endless Forms Most Beautiful's 24 minute indulgence The Greatest Show on Earth. And ending it all with part of Carl Sagan's famous "pale blue dot" passage is more than a little clichéd in 2020 since the original quote is from 1994 and must have influenced and been referenced by countless musicians already (Dream Theater only last year, for example).

If you care about Nightwish the metal band, as opposed to Nightwish, purveyors of orchestral flamboyance, then your reaction to Human:Nature will most likely be negative. In the band's defence, said orchestral flamboyance is terrific and alongside Floor's vocals and all the backing choirs easily the best element here. The musicianship all around is hard to fault, Kai Hahto's drumming often more complex than it needs to be (although having also played in Rotten Sound, Swallow the Sun, and Wintersun among others, he could definitely have been given more to do!) and the production team (led by Holopainen) did a fine job. Even if you argue that All the Works... should have been an EP or solo release by Holopainen, it's impossible to avoid the fact that the first disc of Human:Nature is considerably below the standards we've come to expect of Nightwish. Moments of the old magic or ear-catching experimentation here and there are the exception rather than the norm, and although the orchestration and Floor's performance are good enough to make this worth hearing for fans of symphonic rock, long-term Nightwish fans may well be more than a little disappointed.

Killing Songs :
Harvest, Tribal, Endlessness
Goat quoted 60 / 100
Other albums by Nightwish that we have reviewed:
Nightwish - Endless Forms Most Beautiful reviewed by Goat and quoted 75 / 100
Nightwish - Oceanborn reviewed by Cory and quoted 91 / 100
Nightwish - Imaginaerum reviewed by Cory and quoted 84 / 100
Nightwish - Dark Passion Play reviewed by Marty and quoted 92 / 100
Nightwish - Wish I Had an Angel reviewed by Ben and quoted no quote
To see all 17 reviews click here
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