REVIEW: NIGHTWISH – “Human :II: Nature”
Twenty-five years in the making, ruling demigods of Symphonic Metal, Nightwish, are mere hours away from dropping their long awaited ‘Human :II: Nature’. The follow-up to the widely acclaimed ‘Endless Forms Most Beautiful,’ their latest offering delivers two for the price of one. Firstly, an album of individual songs that are sure to enhance any Nightwish live experience. Second, an additional album containing a staggering orchestral composition, symphonic in aspiration and in scope. And whether you come away thinking fish and chips, or chalk and cheese, the juxtaposition of these opposites show Nightwish still testing the limits and finding many high points.
Nightwish have always been boisterously and riotously untamed, in both scale and sound. Live or recorded, they sound big. Really big! Which leading singles “Noise” and “Harvest” leave no doubt about, being simply an outright pleasure. Unapologetically, ”Noise” delivers some impressive instrumentation enriched by the remarkable dynamic between guitarist Emppu Vuorinen and drummer Kai hahto, sounding like a rain of live grenades exploding on impact. In contrast, “Harvest” captures the always enjoyable, dance-inducing folk element that lives close to the heart of Nightwish. If it doesn’t send loud guitars and booming rhythm sections rushing in your direction, it offers instead a joyous charm. With such numbers easily among the highlights of any Nightwish show.
These same components trend across the entire album. Indeed, the trend across the band’s entire career. Synth based piano, epic choirs, as well as traditional folk instrumentation, being just a few of their essential ingredients. Wonderfully rendered in the tongue in cheek titled “How’s The Heart”. A piece that, if you don’t find yourself doing an embarrassing jig while attempt to sing backing vocals, you probably need to check your pulse. Especially given the voice you’re attempting to duet with. Floor Jansen is, as always, magnificent, being an unequivocal pleasure to hear singing through your speakers. Her extraordinary range, her monstrous power, and her unconditional commitment to each lyric warrant all the dropped jaws, and are very much in evidence. “Procession” offering one of many examples. A predominantly stripped back lullaby sees Jansen deliver a crisp, emotive and vocally versatile performance on a song that is unmistakably her own. As is “Tribal,” with Jansen bringing fierce aggression to her delivery that is seldom heard outside of her band, Northward. Sounding as if Nightwish had enlisted Sepultura to help develop the piece, “Tribal” is more than just a little memorable.
‘Human :II: Nature’ could have ended there, and some will argue it should. If not a groundbreaking masterpiece, it certainly delivers an above solid addition to the Nightwish catalog. Yet Disc 2 has more in store. To be specific: a thirty-minute orchestral work opened and closed with spoken word, provided by actress, Geraldine James. Which finds James reciting Carl Sagan in its final moments. If unlikely to send every metalhead into an immediate frenzy for sounding like a different band at times, it’s a piece that warrants deep listening, echoing the concept album format. A “love letter to mother earth,” the music is poetic, romantic, even celebratory, with a new-age vibe in places not everyone will like. Even if the whole contains some beautiful sections. “The Moors” is as enchanting as it is haunting, while “Quiet As Snow,” with its echoed whispers and conversing violin and piano, delivers some heart swooning moments, which suggest at times Secret Garden. If it feels a little indulgent, it’s a striking contrast with the rollercoaster ride that is Disc 1. And whatever side you come down on, it’s still exceptionally well performed with some entrancing moments.
Bandleader, keyboardist and primary songwriter, Tuomas Holopainen, once said that whenever he creates a new record, he has the intention of capturing something rare and unique, a monument and a true album experience. When it comes to ‘Human :II: Nature,’ Holopainen and his band-mates honor that ambition, even if the finished product doesn’t always live up to it. Still, ’Human :II: Nature’ sees the Finnish sextet challenging themselves yet again, and sounding as big as they ever have. Delivering a collection of songs that like, Nightwish, hit you like a force of nature.