Genre: Symphonic Metal
Producer: Tuomas Holopainen
Released: March 27, 2015
Now that Nokia has been sold abroad and everyone’s fed up with Angry Birds, Nightwish can safely be considered the biggest export of Finland. With each passing project the band’s songwriter Tuomas Holopainen seems slowly but steadily slide down the slippery slope from “quirky auteur” towards the archetypal “megalomaniac mad artist”. So after his last two efforts, Imagenaerum, a movie based on a soundtrack album instead of the regular other way around, and Life and Times of Scrooge, a ‘soundtrack’ album to Don Rosa’s comic book of the same name, it was interesting to see whether the next step would be composing the greatest piece of music of his career or cutting off his own ear. The result, a bit disappointingly, is neither.
Endless Forms Most Beautiful is, a bit shockingly, a very safe Nightwish album. The first riff we’re treated to sounds suspiciously similar to last album’s “Storytime”. And it’s not the the only time on the album that Nightwish sounds distinctly like Nightwish in a way that implies recyclement of musical ideas rather than distinct creative identity. Songs like the lead single “Élan”, “The Eyes of Sharbat Gula” or the title track are beautiful and melodic, as one has come to expect from the band, but nothing really distinguishes them from the material of the seven previous albums, save for the change of vocalist. The barely-competent Anette Olzon has been replaced with the ex-After Forever frontwoman Floor Jansen, whose voice isn’t quite as distinctive and recognizable, but as a counterpoint has the virtue of never reminding me of Pierce Brosnan’s vocal work in Mamma Mia. Weirdly, Jansen’s voice has been practically buried under other instruments in the mix, as if coyly trying to hide the fact that holding the mic this time is someone with actual singing ability.
It seems like Holopainen has succumbed to the dreaded Tim Burton syndrome: instead of trusting in his own vision, he is crossing a predetermined checklist for items expected from a Nightwish album, ending up mimicking his own mannerisms and ripping off himself. The overall feeling is that he has been listening to Imagenaerum, deemed it too atmospheric and tried to re-edit the album into more standard rock-music format.
Fitting for its name, Endless Forms Most Beautiful seems like the genetically engineered, formulated brother of the creative Imagenaerum. It’s not a terrible album per se, it just has none of the adventurousness of the last album. Musically it is treading incredibly safe, barely ankle-deep waters, wearing a life jacket and a pair of arm floats with smiley faces on them.