Review: Nightwish “HUMAN. :II: NATURE.” [Nuclear Blast Records]

Review: Nightwish “HUMAN. :II: NATURE.” [Nuclear Blast Records]

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For their new album, Nightwish attempt nothing less than to pay tribute to music itself. They have always made songs about things they love, and now, they are coming back to their very first roots: the creation of music as an art form, from the earliest attempts at making noise and instruments (depicted in tracks named Music and Noise), to songs sung in the fields (Harvest) and ritual music (Pan) and more complex music, sung in a procession, or written (Procession).

Of course, an ode to music needs to have the best music possible, and Nightwish more than delivers. This album includes all the elements that create the Nightwish sound we know and love: the beautiful melodies, the wild guitar riffs and equally complex keyboards parts the symphonic elements and the instantly memorable songs, full of complexity and creativity.

A new Nightwish album would not be complete without Floor Jansen’s amazing voice. She delivers a great performance here, that shows all the things she can do with her voice: clear and melodic singing, operatic vocals, power metal high notes, softer singing, grittier heavy metal vocals. Her versatile voice perfectly fits what Nightwish was trying to do on this album.

She’s not the only vocalist that shines on this album. Marco Hietala also gets to sing lead on one song, Endlessness. His voice has gotten a lot deeper than I remembered it, but it keeps this distinctive raspy tone that is also a big part of Nightwish’s special sound. His instantly recognizable screaming can also be heard in the chorus of Tribal. But the best secondary vocalist of the album would have to be Troy Donockley, who also plays Uilleann pipes on various tracks, and sings on Harvest. His smooth and pleasant voice, and the song’s nice melody, make this track sound like a pretty amazing metal version of a folk song. Since I’m talking about vocals, I also have to add that the choir, who sings some of the choruses with Floor, also sounds really good, especially on Pan.

This album brings some new great ideas. The main one is that, since this album is meant to tell the story of the creation of music, it has a definite folk music inspiration, in the broadest sense of the term “folk music”. Over the symphonic metal instrumentation, the melodies have a simple, sing-along feel, like the first songs that humans must have created, making them up on the spot, in the fields during the harvest. The Uilleann pipes, which are often more present than the symphonic elements (but not more than the guitars), add to that atmosphere. This is quite a new sound for Nigthwish.

Another new idea is that the second CD consists mainly of classical music-inspired instrumentals, with a few spoken words. They tend to sound a bit too similar and not hold my attention as much as the first CD’s tracks do, but I suppose they are meant to be Nightwish’s tribute to music and nature. In that context, they fit perfectly well. To quote from the last track on CD1, they prove that music truly is endless.

This is an album I have very much enjoyed listening to, and reviewing. There’s a lot to say about it, and I’m sure that I will find new things to say, after more listens, that I will not be able to fit into my review. This is Nightwish’s most ambitious project, and they prove that they can very much match those ambitions, and that they keep getting better. As I said, this is an album that has everything I love about Nightwish, and yet, it manages to create something new, something that none of their previous albums had. This is going to be remembered as one of their best albums, just as great as Once and Oceanborn, or maybe even better, but awesome in a different way.

Release date: April 10th, 2020

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