Fri. Nov 27th, 2020

PRELISTENING: Nightwish – Human. :II: Nature. @ Finnvox, Helsinki

I believe I was twelve years old when I first heard “Nemo,” the song that introduced me to the world of NIGHTWISH. A lot of things have changed since then: singers have come and have gone until the band finally found their match in the extremely versatile powerhouse Floor Jansen, multi-instrumentalist Troy Donockley joined the band as a permanent member to spice up the mix with his Celtic folk-inspired magic and long-time drummer Jukka Nevalainen handed over his sticks and drum stool to the legendary Kai Hahto. Check out our interview with the band.

Over the recent years, NIGHTWISH has gained a lot more popularity and nowadays is perhaps the most influential Finnish band, it’s no surprise that they have now reached the level of a stadium band, and sell-out shows with much ease. It shouldn’t be a shock that their tenth studio effort in April is probably not only culturally speaking one of Finland’s highlights of 2020, but also world news.

The first batch of international journalists already had the opportunity to listen to the album in Levi. We, however, as a local media were given the chance to attend a second official prelistening at Finnvox Studios in Helsinki on 28 January 2020.

There’s something about listening to the album, on the place it was basically born, which made me very excited to be a part of this listening journey. I arrived at Finnvox to Tuomas, Marko and Kai casually chatting with a couple of fellow journalists. There was only one thing on everyone’s mind: “Human. :II: Nature.”.

After a warm welcome by NIGHTWISH publicist Liina, producer Mika Jussila pressed play on most likely one of the only laptops in the world that contains the mastered files of the songs, marking the beginning of an immersive experience. In due time, we will publish a more detailed review of the album, but I will share a couple of things that crossed my mind as I was listening to the album.

“Human. :II: Nature.” is something else. It contains the NIGHTWISH identity, it is one hundred percent NIGHTWISH, but at the same time, it’s much more complex. When “Music,” started with a long intro it immediately struck me that it reminded me a lot of the Ouverture which is used primarily in classical music. There was something about the string sections that also vaguely reminded me of Prokofiev. The intro turns into the realization that by listening to this album once, you won’t get the gist of it, it feels hard to digest. I hear impressive vocal melodies, flirting with every position on the scale. Floor Jansen‘s voice goes up and down and takes you places it hasn’t gone before throughout the whole album. There are vocal harmonies that sometimes vaguely remind me of the harmonic utopia of a duo like Simon & Garfunkel, which forms a big part of the sound on “Human. :II: Nature.”. There are moments bringing back monumentally heavy NIGHTWISH riffs à la “Dark Chest Of Wonders,” and moments the more folky side of the band takes over. In some songs, there are subtle hints of Middle Eastern melodies, most likely due to the underlying Mesopotamian motives (such as the cuneiform on the cover art). “Noise,” and “Harvest” (which was sung by Troy) are probably the most catchy ones on the album, the others require a lot more thinking, but often had a lot of surprises… “Pan” was extremely heavy, and the last track of the first part “Endlessness,” with Marko Hietala on vocals, was borderline doom metal. Symphonic, but also progressive in its structures.

Before we knew it the first round of music had concluded. Silence had filled the room but was soon followed by applause. You know that disoriented feeling when you exit a movie in the cinema? That’s what I was feeling. Confused, disoriented, still processing the musical data. It felt like my brain couldn’t process 45 minutes of layered art and was on the verge of melting. A rollercoaster of emotions that had left me somewhat speechless.

But there was more… After a small break, we were served with the classical piece “All The Works Of Nature Which Adorn The World”. A voice-over ignites the composition, from which the most rememberable line “I love not men less, but nature more”. As “Vista” starts, I close my eyes to the music and start imagining all the wonders of nature Planet Earth has given us. I see all the trees, all the creeks, all the valleys, the mountains, the lakes, the oceans, everything flows by as I listen to the soundtrack that has painted these images in my mind. Suddenly it hit me, Tuomas Holopainen is nothing more than a modern-day impressionist conveying the moods and emotions of nature in what must be NIGHTWISH‘s most progressive album up-to-date. The song, however, gains more power when humans get involved in “Anthropocene,” and continues up until the bombastic ending.

A loud round of applause concluded the whole experience, but we were gifted with more surprised: the world premiere of the now officially finished music video, and the first single, “Noise”. Given the fact that it’s most likely the most catchy and accessible song on the album, an excellent choice for the single. The music video exceeded my expectations. As primarily a visual artist, this wasn’t just a music video, it was a piece of art, with a well-thought-out concept that somehow never has been more relevant than now. The music video showcased human archetypes and dealt with themes such as the over-usage of social media, the battle against climate change, weaponing ourselves against diseases with antibiotics, and much more. The whole music video was so detailed and layered that it will surely lead to conversation. If you ever want to see Tuomas as an ecowizard hugging trees, Floor obsessed by her phone, and Marko popping pills, you’ll be in for a ride.

Article by Laureline Tilkin

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