LOUDER REVIEWS: 'Human :II: Nature' - Nightwish
Of all the bands to have graced us with their music over the last decade, the story of Finnish symphonic metal titans Nightwish is one of the most interesting and varied in the whole genre. Beginning the 2010’s with the commercially successful yet divisive record Imaginaerium, Nightwish then entered into a period of turmoil following the departure of singer Anette Olzon, only to emerge from it a few years later with a new single Floor Jansen (previously of After Forever and ReVamp) and a new permanent band member Troy Donockley (who had previously toured with the band providing their folk instruments). With the new sextet line-up, Nightwish released Endless Forms Most Beautiful in 2015 which was a departure from the band’s previous focus on themes of fantasy and storytelling, but managed to reconnect their fanbase and proved to be one of the best acclaimed albums what was coming up to a twenty-year history.
The next five years saw extensive touring, along with the band’s biggest shows to date (including two sold-out shows at Wembley Arena and a headline slot at Bloodstock Festival in 2018). It also saw periods of hiatus and side-projects from various members while keyboardist and the band’s songwriter Tuomas Holopainen reported struggled for creativity and inspiration. With Human :II: Nature however, it seems as though Holopainen has once again found his spark and in following on from themes of science and nature that made up so much of what made Endless Forms Most Beautiful a special piece of work, has constructed Nightwish’s most ambitious project to date. The record is split into two with the first part consisting of nine standard Nightwish songs spread over 50 minutes and the second entitled All the Works of Nature which Adorn the World consisting of a 30 minute-long orchestral score over eight tracks which has been described as the band’s “love letter to planet earth”.
The album starts with the seven-and-a-half-minute epic Music, which charts the history of human musical endeavour. Following a lengthy orchestral intro, the main bulk of the song itself is relatively gentle with Jansen and backing vocals provided by Hietala and Donockley exercising a lot more restraint than is commonly heard by them. Certainly, this is not a trend that contuse as the album’s first single Noise soon follows and brings back all the elements that make up vintage Nightwish with operatic vocals that make you want to scream to the heavens and some wonderfully inventive keyboard sections from Holopainen. The next track Shoemaker follows along in a similar vein, with more grand vocals and keys, solidly backed up by the hard-hitting guitar work by Emppu Vuorinen and new drummer Kai Hahto. The album’s second single Harvest then follows, which takes a turn for the more folky and really showcases Donockley’s talents both in terms of his instrumentation and his vocal work.
The rest of Part I of Human :II: Nature continues to demonstrate the broad range of music that Nightwish are capable of producing, all of which with the characteristic epicness that made Nightwish the biggest symphonic metal act around. The fantastical elements return for songs like Pan and Procession during which the vocal performances both of Jansen when singing solo and the band when coming together for the choruses. Meanwhile, How’s the Heart provides a wonderful hook-laden return to the more folky elements of Nightwish’s music and Tribal is an altogether much darker affair providing some of the heaviest music the band has engaged in for quite some time. Part I ends with another seven-minute epic in the form of Endlessness, which allows the band to flex its more progressive muscles and for Hietala to give the biggest demonstration of his vocal abilities.
Despite there always having been a heavy orchestral element to the band’s sound, never before have Nightwish delved so thoroughly into this as they have in Part II of Human :II: Nature, which is entirely instrumental except for a voiceover on Vista and Ad Astra which is provided by British actress Geraldine James. Although it is split into eight movements, it really should be considered as one piece and, in that respect, most closely resembles The Greatest Show on Earth – the twenty-four-minute epic featuring Richard Dawkins from Endless Forms Most Beautiful. As highly accomplished as the musicianship undoubtedly is in this section, it does feel a little bit like too much of a departure from Nightwish’s core sound for many; particularly for those coming to them from a purely metal background who have no other experience with classical or symphonic music otherwise.
Human :II: Nature is Nightwish at their most experimental, and like most things which present a departure from the tried and tested, some aspects work a lot better than others and opinion will inevitably be divided on the extent to which this more spontaneous and expansive version of Nightwish makes for a refreshing change from the usual or something that does not live up to the promise. Personally, I did not feel as though I needed the orchestral piece of Part II, but I am happy to appreciate the incredible endeavour needed for a metal band to compose and record something like that on their album. As much as I am happier in the more familiar territory of Part I though, there is still something a little lacking in the overall end product of the record. As admirable as the desire to experiment is, particularly in this stage of their career, Human :II: Nature lacks the discipline that makes Nightwish’s best albums such masterful works. Having said that, there is a lot to enjoy in the album and a lot to be gained by going back over the album numerous times, as there are so many wonderful little nuggets of musical innovation to tease out.
'Human :II: Nature' is out now via Nuclear Blast Records.
Check out the video for the ingeniously titled 'Music' below:
Nightwish will be touring across Europe this winter, with two dates in the UK- full dates can be found below and tickets are available here:
NIGHTWISHEUROPEAN TOUR 2020
w/AMORPHIS, TURMION KÄTILÖT
16.11. N - Oslo - Spektrum
20.11. D - Leipzig - Arena
21.11. D - Dusseldorf - ISS Dome
23.11. NL - Amsterdam - Ziggo Dome (sold out)
24.11. NL - Amsterdam - Ziggo Dome (sold out)
25.11. F - Paris - AccorHotels Arena
26.11. B - Antwerp - Lotto Arena
28.11. D - Stuttgart - Hanns-Martin-Schleyer-Halle
29.11. LUX - Luxembourg - Rockhal
03.12. I - Milan - Lorenzini District
04.12. D - Munich - Olympiahalle
07.12. HU – Budapest - Arena
09.12. D - Bamberg - Brose Arena
10.12. D - Frankfurt - Festhalle
12.12. A - Vienna - Stadthalle
14.12. D - Berlin - Max-Schmeling-Halle
16.12. UK - Cardiff - Motorpoint Arena
18.12. UK - London - SSE Arena Wembley