Nightwish - Endless Forms Most Beautiful
Nuclear Blast
Symphonic Power Metal
11 songs (1:18:39)
Release year: 2015
Nightwish, Nuclear Blast
Reviewed by Goat
Major event

I wasn't particularly inspired by Endless Forms Most Beautiful at first, from the dull artwork to the fact that the first voice you hear on the album isn't (the wonderful) Floor Jansen's, but Richard Dawkins'. Yes, after Anette Olzon (who I thought was terrific on Dark Passion Play and the best thing about the otherwise disappointing Imaginaerum) was fired for getting pregnant replaced, Tuomas Holopainen felt it was better to dilute the impact of Nightwish's third singer's debut by hiding her behind the world's most obnoxious atheist. Harsher folk than I would say well, we are talking about the Russell Brand of metal after all, a man who last year released a musical about Scrooge McDuck for god's sake! Yet, unlike Brand, Holopainen at least has talent, and although Endless Forms Most Beautiful contains one of the most ridiculously over the top songs ever written by any band ever, it's nonetheless a solid and, at moments, terrific Nightwish album.

Part of this is down to something of a back-to-basics feel in terms of the metallic content. Yes, opener Shudder Before the Beautiful starts with Dawkins, but the song itself is solid power metal with some great soloing (both guitar and keyboard) and plenty of dramatic orchestration – as an album introduction, it's hard to fault. The following Weak Fantasy is even better, using the orchestration to more epic effect and having more of a folky vibe thanks in part to new band member Troy Donockley and his Uilleann pipes, having worked with Nightwish since 2007 but was given full-time membership alongside Jansen. Marco Hietala pops up on vocals here too, his singing contribution surprisingly limited on the album as a whole, which will displease Tarot fans. First single Élan feels very much like previous Nightwish singles, perhaps with more of a folky vibe to the melodies but still very much a continuation of the Amaranth and Storytime tradition of simple but catchy songs.

Fortunately the album gets more interesting, with Yours Is an Empty Hope a bit heavier, continuing to make good use of the symphonic elements, and almost like a female-fronted Blind Guardian at moments. That Floor Jansen sounds great should go without saying, although those used to hearing her elsewhere will find her performance here rather plain and unthreatening. She is at her best on this song, putting an edge in lacking from other female vocalists, although elsewhere on the album rarely does anything that you wouldn't have heard from Olzon, despite having a far broader range – perhaps Holopainen was still writing with his former singer in mind? It's a little disappointing, but nothing to complain about really, given how perfectly Floor has slotted in. Her voice is lovely, and enough to elevate solid but samey fare like Edema Ruh and Alpineglow, while ballad Our Decades in the Sun and folk rock oddity My Walden stand out even more as a result.

Sadly, the same can't be said for album-ending monster The Greatest Show on Earth, which even gets its own six-minute intro in the form of instrumental The Eyes of Sharbat Gula. Nearly twenty-four minutes in length, The Greatest Show on Earth is the band's longest and most over-the-top song to date, seeming to be some sort of epic based around an evolutionary theme. It moves from initial ominous piano to explosions and orchestral crashes, through choirs and more Dawkins narration... and that's just the first five minutes! Once the actual metal comes in at about the six-minute mark, the song improves considerably, not least because Floor is let off the leash a little with her own rather gothic narration and almost operatic vocals. That the song throws in some speed metal riffing is icing on the cake, really – so long have you waited to hear Floor in full power that it's a relief to hear the merest hint! From then on, The Greatest Show on Earth is a rollercoaster ride of good vs bad decisions; to pick a couple of examples, Hietala vocals in the good and a flurry of sampled zoo noises in the bad columns respectively. I suppose it's one of those things everyone should listen to at least once in their life just so they can say they've heard one of metal's most melodramatic bands allowed to run wild, but it really would have been better at less than half the length, and with none of the narration. The album is still over fifty-five minutes long without The Greatest Show On Earth however, and is perfectly solid otherwise. I'd like to hear Nightwish move away from their formula in ways that don't involve famous atheist biologists; hell, just building the next album around Floor Jansen and allowing her to show all that she can do will be enough for it to be a possible classic. Yet I was never less than entertained throughout the near-eighty minutes length of Endless Forms Most Beautiful, and it fits into their discography well.

Killing Songs :
Weak Fantasy, Yours Is an Empty Hope, My Walden, Endless Forms Most Beautiful
Goat quoted 75 / 100
Chris quoted 89 / 100
Other albums by Nightwish that we have reviewed:
Nightwish - Human. :||: Nature. reviewed by Goat and quoted 60 / 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
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