Having been five years since Nightwish released ‘Endless Forms Most Beautiful’, a new studio album had been highly anticipated. In a bold move to release a double album, with one dedicated to symphonic orchestral only, I was hooked and had to hear what Finland’s most successful band had to offer for their ninth album. As this is a double album and I am known for my thoroughness, I would get comfortable as to write this review in only a few paragraphs would be an insult to this piece of art.
Questioning as to what this new concept would bring fans, we asked ourselves would Human. :II: Nature follow suit of its predecessor in lyrical and musical composition. The answer was steeped in wonder and amazement as Nightwish have pushed beyond what was seemingly was a masterpiece in ‘Endless Forms Most Beautiful’ and have created a successor that has not only stepped out of the shadows of its counterpart but will amass its own cult following amongst fans.
‘Music’, the opening track is a testament to the reason we ache to see this band live, the orchestral build up melding with Celtic influences that is a staple of Nightwish’s DNA entices us into the story of music as Floor Jansen, captures our attention fully with a striking vocal melody as the band kicks in to reveal the riffs and percussion of metal.
Jansen’s vocal is on point with throughout Human. :II: Nature. and from the seemingly effortless classical flourishes within ‘Noise’ to the raspy chorus in ‘Tribal’, her talent seems boundless and although one would not have thought possible, her ability has increased since the last studio album.
A notable denominator within the bones of the album is Troy Donockley who showcases his multi instrumental talents from his famed Uilleann Pipes to the Bouzouki and the Aerophone.
Lyrical content is as always with Nightwish, taken to a new extreme, the album grapples with humanity versus nature, humanistic and technological integrations and clashes whilst art is apparent within all. Each word being placed with precision to create a narrative to the theme within the song
Within a few bars of ‘Procession’ we are reminded of the vast abilities of Tuomas Holopainen, as we are captivated as his fingers dance across the keys weaving a magical adventure throughout the lyrical and melody.
Nightwish haven’t spared the dramatic riffs that we love them for, from the guitar splendor of ‘Pan’ and the solo within ‘Noise’ to the driving riff within the power ballad that is ‘Hows The Heart’. Emppu Vuorinen, has thrown his mark into these songs and placed his soul bare on the line forging that unmistakable connection between creator and listener, this is abruptly apparent within the stellar and stand out track that is ‘Tribal’.
‘Tribal’ is one of those songs that engulfs you, drawn from the soft beginnings of curiosity with Jansen’s classical vocals, we are then treated to a drum performance by Kai Hahto that epitomizes the namesake. Whilst his work and talent on Human. :II: Nature. show why Hahto is a natural permanent addition to Nightwish after Jukka Nevalainen’s departure, ‘Tribal’ is truly where his abilities as a drummer are seen. This piece has varying layers of composition, lyrically foretelling the myth between man and gods, it builds to an awe-inspiring crescendo that would have any audience up for a standing ovation, this is a moment I for one cannot wait to see live. My one problem with this song is three minutes fifty seven seconds is not long enough, radio edit of course but please give me another five minutes!
To end album one we see ‘Endlessness’, it has that catchy theatrical horror riff I crave for with Nightwish. On first listening to Human. :II: Nature. I felt this track had that classical stadium feel, one that has you thinking you’ve been singing along to for years, it’s a quick favourite. This is where we see bassist, Marco Hietala step forward and duet with Jansen, his raucous vocals of prior albums disappearing for a more controlled rasp that is welcome to the track. His bassline fitting in tightly with Hahto as the rhythm section exhibit the relationship that two albums and five years of touring can achieve. Every element of this song works, the production is sublime, as I listen through the studio monitors, I feel as I’m sat in the circle at The Opera House, surrounded by every instrument. ‘Endlessness’ is perfectly placed from its opening upsurge of rock and metal, finishing with the delights of a simple string sequence. I do wonder on my fifth listen whether this was written as an intelligent bridge between albums or a piece that was written earlier by Holopainen that somehow brilliantly acts as a musical porthole to ‘All The Works of Nature Which Adorn The World’.
As I mentioned earlier, for a band to give a whole album in a release to orchestral only, is bold. Its an expensive and extravagant move, but in which for Nightwish, works completely.
The album starts with ‘Vista’ and a spoken piece voiced by Geraldine James OBE (Ghandi, The Tall Guy, Sherlock Holmes, Downtown Abbey and The Merchant Of Venice). The quote spoken is taken from Lord Byron’s ‘Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage’;
“There is a pleasure in the pathless woods, There is a rapture on the lonely shore, There is society, where none intrudes By the deep Sea, and music in its roar: I love not Man the less, but Nature more”
It is within the quote that we are again shown Holopainen’s journey for the listener through nature and humanity, the constant desire for distraction within society and to return to a simpler way.
‘All The Works of Nature Which Adorn The World’ flows effortlessly, with production and execution enchanting even the heavier of Nightwish fans. The arrangements by Holopainen are worthy to stand amongst Composers such as Ilan Eshkeri, Klaud Badelt and Alexandre Desplat. The London Symphony Orchestra has outdone itself to bring the symphonies of Nightwish to their admirers with finesse.
‘Moors’, ‘Aurorae’ and "Anthropocene" (incl. "Hurrian Hymn to Nikkal") are pieces that fascinated me within one listen, transporting me film scores that I am yet to see. The marvel that encompasses them displays a maturity within song writing that I feel has not yet reached its peak.
To bring the double album to a close we are treated to ‘Ad Astra’ which features spoken word and a quotation from Carl Sagan’s ‘Pale Blue Dot’. An Astronomers thoughts and observations whilst looking down on the small dot (Earth) we call Home, for it contains everything and everyone that has ever been and will ever be.
Its an apt choice to complete what is a stellar double album, one that cannot be listened to in haste. It has an eloquence of simplicity whilst being soaked in grandeur, it is its own creation brought to life by the delicate precision of a well oiled machine that is Nightwish.
Disc 1: 01. Music 02. Noise 03. Shoemaker 04. Harvest 05. Pan 06. How’s The Heart? 07. Procession 08. Tribal 09. Endlessness
Disc 2: 01. All The Works Of Nature Which Adorn The World – Vista 02. All The Works Of Nature Which Adorn The World – The Blue 03. All The Works Of Nature Which Adorn The World – The Green 04. All The Works Of Nature Which Adorn The World – Moors 05. All The Works Of Nature Which Adorn The World – Aurorae 06. All The Works Of Nature Which Adorn The World – Quiet As The Snow 07. All The Works Of Nature Which Adorn The World – Anthropocene (incl. “Hurrian Hymn To Nikkal”) 08. All The Works Of Nature Which Adorn The World – Ad Astra
Review conducted for The Rockpit, Australia 20 April 2020