Nightwish – Endless Forms Most Beautiful ALBUM REVIEW

I’m typically adverse to the whole symphonic metal business. Not because I innately dislike symphonic sounds (I study classical music in college and very much enjoy it), but because it’s usually done very poorly with bad synths and extremely campy and generic “epic” sounds that are supposed to mimic what a classical piece sounds like, but never actually sounds like anything resembling classical music. Fortunately for Nightwish, they’re famous and have money, so they don’t need to worry about crappy synths and can actually hire an orchestra to do their bidding. So props to them for that (I never said I graded fairly). So they avoided the first pitfall of symphonic metal. But what about the generic “epic” sound? Unfortunately, they did not avoid that, though if you’re going to cheese, you could at least do it in style, which there certainly is plenty of in this album. Lush symphonic timbres are abound in this lp, which combines aspects of power metal, symphonic metal, and elements of celtic folk music, and it does it in a way that doesn’t seem like they’re trying too hard, which is a major trap that a lot of symphonic/power metal bands fall into. Part of that is I think, again, that they have money, and can actually create what they are trying to achieve without taking any cheap shortcuts. I also felt the rather subdued, but not exactly bored female vocals added a nice touch, which to me made the celtic influences more authentic (I’ve actually only ever heard celtic style singing preformed by a male once, and that was at a live concert at a church in front of about 20 people. It was great stuff though, they combined celtic, american, and indian folk music into an amazing performance, I really wish I’d remembered the name of the band and I’d link their site). The highlight of the album is easily the 24 minutes track aptly labeled “The Greatest Show on Earth”. And it is a great show. A spoken word tale told with the massive help of a variety of instrumentations, from the obvious (metal and symphonic orchestra) to the less obvious (dark ambient and some electronic tracks), to even quoting a Bach prelude, which I thought was a nice touch.

So then why “only” (as if it’s a bad grade) a 7/10? Well for one, I’ve always had a hard time rating symphonic metal high because I’ve always heard it as a cheap imitation of classical music. That’s not really the genre’s fault, that’s my own interest in classical music’s fault. But above anything else, if there’s one thing that brings down this album, it’s its length. That 24 minute track? That comes after already hearing about 55 minutes worth of music. This is a 79 minute album in all. Usually when an album is that long, it’s a double album, or it has a massive amount of progression and different styles to where it’s almost like you’re listening to multiple short albums. This doesn’t have that. While it’s nice hearing properly implemented symphonic and celtic sounds in metal, and I wouldn’t say that all the tracks “sound the same”, the entire album really only has one atmosphere throughout. That isn’t a bad thing, it’s typically expected, but it’s hard to do that for so long and keep the listener interested. Had they gotten rid of the 4 tracks previous to the last track (or really any 4 tracks previous to that, none of them are indispensable, which is part of the problem), this would’ve been a much easier album to digest. But alas, as it is it’s very difficult to listen to this lp without at least some sort of a break. I didn’t however, and maybe that’s why I didn’t enjoy it as much as I could’ve.


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