Since Tarja Turunen was kicked out of the band, Nightwish released two more or less great albums: Dark Passion Play in 2007 was the most bombastic and advanced album of the band yet. It shines with a lot of variety, without losing too much of its focus, and sounds, therefore, quite homogenous. In 2011, the band released Imaginaerum, which was definitely not bad but contained, in my opinion, too many experiments, making it too unfocused.
These days, the Finns release their 8th studio album, the first one with new vocalist Floor Jansen (who is from the Netherlands, by the way). Similarly to Dark Passion Play, the music is much more focused than on its predecessor, Imaginearum. Every song´s back bone is a rocking and riffing band (except for the instrumental The Eyes of Sharbat Gula). The band is often supported by orchestral parts, making the sound bombastic, almost cinematic. This puts the album much closer to Dark Passion Play than to its direct predecessor. The songs themselves have a wide range of dynamics: loud/silent, fast/slow and wild/calm, contributing to the album´s versatility and appeal. This definitely argues for this album. But, as usual, there are downsides: The choruses are the weakest on a Nightwish album for years (the title track and Alpenglow excluded).
New vocalist, Floor Jansen, does a solid job, as you would expect. And she also shows in Alpenglow and Weak Fantasy what she´s actually capable of. Great! All her intonation and interpretation are much closer to her direct predecessor, Annette Olzon, than to Tarja. And, by the way, session member Troy Donockley, who plays all sorts of wind instruments, has meanwhile become a full member. This did, however, not lead to any changes in the songwriting process: The whistles are still used in only a few parts but in these parts, they create nice accents.
Finally, I would like to talk about the final, 24-minute long “The Greatest Show on Earth”. It is certainly pure art to compose such a long song without repeating any parts and without boring the listeners. And the band spent quite some time on details, so it will take dozens of times until the listeners can appreciate all details. After five runs, I would like to give a short statement: Although the song has a thematic frame, the musical frame seems to be missing. It´s not really one song but four different ones, stitched together. Plus, I couldn´t identify any catchy hookline and thus, the epic did not leave a lasting impression. In 2007, Nightwish proved they know how to write an epic, asskicking song. Just listen to The Poet and the Pendulum but this time it´s something of a disappointment.
Qualitywise, Endless Forms Most Beautiful is actually somewhere between the masterpiece Dark Passion Play and the weaker Imginaerum. Those who liked these albums (and Anette) can buy this one without hesitation.
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