Review: Nightwish – Human. :II: Nature.

I almost don’t know where to begin when talking about the new Nightwish album Human. :II: Nature.. I’ve been waiting for this album a very long time since their first release with Floor Jansen Endless Forms Most Beautiful and my expectations were very high.

The album is divided into two parts. The first disc, which is the Human part contains tracks that are related to humans and their behavior and the effect we have on this world. On the second disc we find one track that consists of eight parts that all have a surname. The piece on this Nature disc is called All the Works of Nature Which Adorn the World.

The Human side begins with the song Music and immediately I am intrigued. The song is about how music came to be and this is expressed by primal sounds and syllables. This immediately makes you wonder how the song is going to develop. Then a warm and full guitar sound enters which is supported by some high choir vocals.
Then, supported by a dreamy keyboard we hear Floor Jansen for the first time. Her vocals are very rhythmic and clear. It immediately sounds like the Nightwish we know. But there seems to be something different this time around. Floor’s voice seems more dynamic and more at ease than ever before. With almost no effort at all she reaches the highest notes and it all sounds very natural. When the song finally reaches its full chorus after almost 5 minutes, it is catchy. It remained in my head for hours and that isn’t a bad thing. It is also not the only song on the album that had this effect on me. Although ironically Music might not be the most complex or interesting track that’s on this album, it’s definitely a good warm up for everything that’s about to come.

Next is Noise the first single of the album. Noise is different from Music because right from the start there are heavy guitars and drums. This song really demonstrates Floor Jansen’s vocal power even further. I understand why this song is chosen as a single. The song has a very distinctive hook to it. A riff that is returning throughout the whole song which makes it immediately recognizable. A riff that’s kind of reminiscent to the Game of Thrones intro if you ask me! When the song is half way in, it changes and besides recognizable also becomes heavier. Floor really shines in this part and reaches insanely high notes. This gives the song a higher-level of complexity which it was maybe lacking in the first part.

Shoemaker starts with some kind of jingle that returns throughout the whole song being supported by heavy guitars and a lot of repetition. However, underneath that lies a complex piece. The vocals are on point and are a refined sort of threatening. The song intensifies instrumentally and builds up to a climax in which it seems like Floor Jansen comes from a different planet. Once again, the high notes she hits are even more extreme in this one. I have never heard this before, not even from her or from other wonderful singers I listen to. To me it’s unapologetic Opera and it fits magnificently in the songs structure. Without a doubt, Shoemaker is one of my favorite tracks on the album and maybe it’s even the most interesting, but it’s hard to say because there is a lot more.

Then there’s the second single of the album. Harvest feels very special. When they released this single I immediately noticed that it was very different. Different from the first single, but also very different from everything on Endless Forms Most Beautiful. Except maybe part of Alpenglow. This time it is not Floor who is responsible for the main vocals, but it’s multi-instrumentalist Troy Donockley who shows that he can sing admirably. This gives a special vibe to the song and a lot of people are saying that therefore it is not a Nightwish song. But it is a Nightwish song in all of its glory. The same as the other tracks on the album this song also has a fantastic build up and works toward a heavier part. But the folk influences and Troy’s unique warm and low voice are what makes this song eccentric. Yes, the song has a catchy chorus with a lot of repetition and a large sing-along degree, the same as the first single Noise, but it never weakens the positive intentions the song has. Countless times already I have been singing the chorus loudly while it remained in my head for the rest of the day! In the second part of the song, the well-known Nightwish guitar sound is back together with Troy’s wonderful bagpipes and flute which give more body to the song. Floor is heard on this track providing the second vocals. Her contribution on this song provides for a harmonic interplay between her and Troy. This is not the only time this will happen because bassist Marko Hietala contributes in the same way later on.

Pan seems to be the heaviest song on the album. After the recognizable Tuomas keyboard sound there are drums that sound like cannonballs accompanied by heavy guitars. An almost angel-like Floor sings the verses effortlessly waiting for Marko to join her in the chorus. The song intensifies instrumentally and it’s difficult to describe what I’m hearing. So much is going on. The fast choir like vocals are threatening and make the song even more menacing than it already was.

How’s the Heart? is maybe the most straightforward song of them all, but that doesn’t make it any less interesting. How’s the Heart? may be seen as the ballad of Human. :II: Nature.. It really underlines how vocal the Human side of this album actually is. The harmonies in this song are unbelievable and Floor Jansen isn’t the only one responsible for that. The warm voice of Troy returns. Floor’s high notes again excel, but it’s the overall warmth in this song that makes it really special. In this song Floor really has a chance to tell a story and the warm supporting vocals of Troy makes it all sound so beautiful that I discovered that there is more to this song than I initially thought. Let’s just say I needed to listen to the song a couple of times to appreciate its beauty.

True beauty however, is in the next track Procession. Floor continues to tell a story and it feels like there is a lot of vocal freedom here. At first glance it all seems a little bit on the safe side and maybe even uninteresting. There is no build up to a climax like there is in almost all of the previous songs, however, the beauty is in the little nuances. Floor literally moves her voice from one moment to the next taking her time in a very subtle way. She does this so incredibly well that it is hard to even comprehend the enormous amount of vocal control and technique that is needed to pull this off. If you take the time to listen, then you can see what immense vocal power and precision is needed to carry a song vocal wise the way she does. It’s the power of being subtle which makes it almost magical! In the second part of the song the drums and guitars return again, but not before we hear Troy’s magnificent flute.

Tribal is as the name suggests. It’s raw, aggressive and heavy and even contains some primal sounds, which are more present now than on the song Music. Although Marko’s voice to me didn’t have a very prominent role in the album yet, we hear his characteristic voice very clearly on this one and boy, does it sound beautiful! He and Floor sing the hell out of it and almost make this song sound like a battle cry.

The closing song on the Human side is the beautiful Endlessnes. Finally, Marko can show all his arts and crafts in all of his glory. The verses are threatening and the choruses sometimes almost sound sad. But when halfway the song Floor joins in, it almost becomes a forgotten masterpiece amongst all the other great songs. Elements that came before seem to come together in this last song. You can almost call it the Swan Song of the Human side. Which rather effortlessly flows over to the Nature side.

The Nature side is very different compared to the hard and heavy tracks on the Human side. It immediately made me calm. From beginning to end, All the Works of Nature Which Adorn the World, as the piece is called in its entirety, is a true and utter masterpiece. It feels like you’re literally out in nature. What makes this piece so incredibly powerful is that the music, with the absence of vocals, totally speaks for itself. You can listen to one track separately, but that really doesn’t give you the full experience. The very serene sounds of All the Works of Nature Which Adorn the World sometimes become a bit heavier at precisely the right moment. Making it a bit more threatening and menacing. But that’s very understandable. Not everything in nature is serene and calm, is it? Troy’s wonderful bagpipes are also heard again and fit perfectly in this nature themed epos. All the Works of Nature Which Adorn the World is a beautiful piece of art that everyone should go and listen to. If I would compare it to something, then it made me think of the music from the beautiful video game Ori and the Blind Forest and its successor. When I think of it now, it would be awesome if Nightwish would ever do music for a video game.

Nightwish really delivered a masterpiece with Human. :II: Nature. and the album seems a real team effort, perhaps more than ever before. Floor Jansen really feels at ease and her extraordinary vocal abilities are used to its full extent. Something I used to doubt sometimes on its predecessor Endless Forms Most Beautiful. This band has a true gift of continuously reinventing itself and to me Floor Jansen was the missing puzzle piece they needed for that. I hope Nightwish can release more of this beautiful music in the future for years to come. For me personally it helped me through a lot of difficulties these days. Maybe it can do the same for you?

You can also read two live reviews we wrote about Nightwish here and here.

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