April 10, 2020 Nightwish – HUMAN. :II: NATURE. (Album Review)
When making a list of the most important Symphonic Metal bands ever, it is debatable who’s the leader, but you could make an argument for Nightwish. With their combination of carefully constructed arrangements, epic instrumentation, balanced yet passionate vocals, and compelling lyrical themes, Nightwish is a step ahead of the curve. Now, after a five year wait, they return with a brand new studio album, HUMAN. :II: NATURE., on Friday, April 10th via Nuclear Blast Records.
A story that could be made into a feature film, it all began over two decades ago when Nightwish quickly blazed a path in their homeland of Finland. On their way to even more massive success – first with 2000’s Wishmaster, and furthermore with international mega album, 2004’s Once – Nightwish were at the top of the mountain. Then the band shockingly bid farewell to Lead Vocalist Tarja Turunen shortly after the release of Once, leaving their future in limbo.
To outsiders, it would appear to be a devastating hit, but amazingly Nightwish did not skip a beat. Instead they sailed smoothly into some of their most commercially successful albums with then new Vocalist Anette Olzon. Most would probably think this is where the waters calm, but not so fast, because in 2012, Nightwish opted to move on without Olzon mid-tour. Alright, so this is certainly where things started to unravel, right? Wrong again! Ushering in a new era, Nightwish acquired the talents of former After Forever Vocalist Floor Jansen, first as a touring member before finally anointing her their permanent replacement.
Which leads us to present day where Jansen has fit in quite nicely with Nightwish: pleasing fans in the live setting and wowing them with her performance on 2015’s Endless Forms Most Beautiful. So where will HUMAN. :II: NATURE. lay in the folklore that is the unpredictable story of this band?
For starters, much like previous efforts, Nightwish does not skimp on living up to the word ‘epic’. For those who have been paying attention, they usually give you enough music to consume that would last months to absorb – after all, Endless Forms Most Beautiful ,in its longest format, was over three hours of music! With that in mind, HUMAN. :II: NATURE. is a fitting follow-up; offering nine songs, over fifty plus minutes amidst disc one, and an additional one long track, divided into eight chapters on disc two for thirty plus more minutes.
As a result, it would be utterly boring, uneventful, and redundant to breakdown each track on a collection of songs of this magnitude. Furthermore, this is not really an album you can take apart, withhold the powerful single “Noise” as well as “Shoemaker,” both which harken back to early Nightwish songs heard on the aforementioned Wishmaster and Once albums. Each saturated with signature Nightwish guitars and unmatched keyboards, these songs are without question bold moments on the album. However, this is not to say the opening track “Music” does not lay the foundation for the remainder of songs with an unparalleled, layered tension.
Additionally, “Harvest” is a delightful moment where Troy Donockley’s voice takes the forefront, “How’s the Heart?” is a pleasing excursion into a Celtic wonderland, and “Procession” gives band leader Tuomas Holopainen a real opportunity to shine on keys. Rounding out the main album, “Tribal” is one of the more rhythmically Metal driven songs with tight, heavy guitars by the hands of Emppu Vuorinen, punchy drumming from newest member Kai Hahto, and intense bass lines thank to Marco Hietala. Speaking of Mr. Hietala, unfortunately for those who have grown to love his vocal works throughout the years, for this go-around he is primarily utilized as a backing vocalist. Not to worry, though, he is given the spotlight for a good portion of the closing track “Endlessness,” and does not disappoint.
As the sounds of the first side of HUMAN. :II: NATURE. dissipate, act two comes in as an instrumental masterpiece. As mentioned, divided into eight chapters, it is a soundtrack laced with piano, strings, and enchanting vocals capped by an ever-shifting atmosphere. Changing like winter, spring, summer, and fall, it paints pictures so vivid, bringing you to near tears.
As a whole HUMAN. :II: NATURE. is nothing short of marvelous. It is an album of balance, requiring complete attention to digest in order to fully appreciate its effect. Worth the five year wait, Cryptic Rock gives Nightwish’s latest creation 4.5 out of 5 stars.