At the onset of 2020, symphonic/melodic metal fans had something to look forward to: the release of NIGHTWISH‘s ninth studio album, “Human. :||: Nature.“ We were invited to Finnvox Studios on January 28th, to meet with Tuomas Holopainen, Marko Hietala, and Kai Hahto, have a seat, relax, and listen to the new album, as well as its first music video for “Noise”!
“Human. :||: Nature.” was extremely interesting to say the least. There weren’t as many immediately catchy, radio-friendly songs, but rather, the album took a more progressive turn than they are used to, while still maintaining the movie score soundscape. Here is a song-by-song breakdown:
1. “Music“: when this song starts, it feels very primitive with tribal-like sounds, which are exciting and new for NIGHTWISH; there’s an almost shamanistic feel to it. There was a good dynamic build-up as the song progresses and some really unusual instruments. The orchestrations are full-bodied but surprisingly harsher than traditional NIGHTWISH music thanks to the primal sound. The song officially kicks off after a minute or two into a more familiar melodic sound, with Floor Jansen coming in, almost as if in a musical. There is a melancholic sound to this track that felt almost reminiscent, which which was evident more or less throughout the whole album.
2. “Noise”: the first upcoming single, with a much punchier lift-off. Compositionally, it feels a bit like it could be from “Imaginaerum,” with a darker and gloomier feel. There is a heavy wall of sound from the guitar with strong distortion and more ups and downs. These songs already seem more complicated and less purely catchy than you might expect from NIGHTWISH.
3. “Shoemaker”: glimmering keyboards start this track and once again there is a yearning to the song. There is a soft vocal duet in this track with male vocals that I think were done by Marko Hietala (but may have been Troy Donockley). The melodies are strong with more heavy guitar riffs. There is a spoken part eventually and it includes a church choir in some parts, during which Jansen reaches her higher register.
4. “Harvest”: this was a personal favorite, starting as a slow song with a really interesting vocal part done by Donockley, with accompanying tribal drums. The song then rapidly kicks out of ballad territory into a rock song with keyboard solos and Uilleann pipes, which play a very central role this time. “Harvest” is a much more cheerful, positive song than many of the others, having a feeling as though it is paying tribute or is in honor of something.
5. “Pan”: this song cranks the power, emotion, and overall epicness up to full blast. As fast as it starts, it mellows out with soothing vocals from Jansen. It then returns to the grand epicness and then drops back down, riding a rollercoaster of energy and feels very progressive for a NIGHTWISH song. There is also a sinister-sounding choir towards the end. “Pan” feels more like a classical composition with metal influences, as opposed to the other way around.
6. “How’s the Heart?”: I liked it! “How’s the Heart?” has cheerful piping in the beginning (and throughout) and a surprisingly catchy chorus. It is compositionally more simple, a likely candidate for a single, and so catchy it hurts. It will be a great singalong for live shows. The ever-present yearning is here, but it also has a feeling of freedom and contentment.
7. “Procession”: bright-sounding with beautiful piano and flutes, and a clear and distinct piano delivery which guides the direction of the song. This song definitely requires further impressions made by more listens.
8. “Tribal”: my personal favorite! This was a strange and badass song, with deep and heavy drums by Kai Hahto. Hietala gets to sing with his lower, grittier range, sometimes sounding like a caveman – you have to hear it to appreciate it’s primitive, raw power. Unlike the intro to “Music,” this is much more heavy metal, more ominous. There is also an almost “wall of noise” effect as well. It was a surprising change of pace thus far.
9. “Endlessness”: the song begins with a melodic, deep, and wistful tune, almost like doom metal. The song is deep, glistening, and hearty, like a thick soup, with the background melody keeping it beautiful. One or more of the gents get to sing as well. It’s certainly a different song.
Disc II: “All the Works of Nature Which Adorn the World“
Can we all agree that this name maybe took things too far? Just getting it out there. Okay, moving on.
The song is, of course, a full disc long at 30:58 minutes, with parts named after different natural wonders. The song is like a piece of classical music without any metal elements, though there are drums and pipes, etc. It starts with a familiar-sounding spoken-word text about nature. The music was very visual, painting the scenes wonderfully. It feels like nature waking up from sleep all around the listener. There is a general grand and imposing sound, with Egyptian vibes at one point, giving the feel of an ancient civilization. There is a beautiful cello that carries on throughout a lot of the song, guiding a lot of the progression. Grandeur is balanced with soft, mellow parts in a nice dynamic ebb and flow. Many parts are repeated, with some consistency throughout the song’s composition, helping familiar parts to be heard and appreciated more than they may have been earlier on in the song. Then the seagull screeches appear! In the stead of the whale sounds of “The Greatest Show on Earth,” there are seagulls, but it was fortunately only once. The song reaches a ballad point, which was strangely reminiscent of “My Immortal” by EVANESCENCE… though maybe I was imagining things. There are ominous horns, mystical harp melodies, and plenty of tense moments that make the listener apprehensive for what comes next. Towards the end, the narrator appears to talk about a life philosophy, or something of the sort. The song ends with an epic, emotional, atmospheric bombardment from the orchestra, finishing on a great note!
“All the Works of Nature…” wasn’t too complicated or hard to understand, neither was it overly wrapped in mystique, nor too compositionally complex for the average person. It could even work as a nice gateway into classical music. The song does a great job exploring the vividness of nature through a lot of beautiful, glimmering sounds that capture the subject nicely. While it didn’t quite blow us out of the water, we have only heard it the once and it likely needs a few listens to reveal itself to us properly.
“Noise” (music video):
The last thing we got to see was the music video for the first single, “Noise.” The version we saw wasn’t quite the final edit, but was not notably different to us first-time viewers from what the finished product looks like. The video is great – vivid and intense, no holds barred, no expense spared to make it look as best it could. There is a lot of activity, never letting up, very in your face. It seems to be a critique on our obsession with our screens, numbing us and obstructing our view of the things both beautiful and tragic in the world around us. It’s not remotely subtle, but is executed in a fun way. There are a lot of actors alongside the band and it seems as though they had a lot of fun making it, with all the costumes and whatnot. Donockley‘s character, some sort of social media king taking selfies, was definitely a lot of fun and gave him a surprisingly big role.
This is definitely an album that you can’t fully grasp on the first listen. It’s certainly something different for NIGHTWISH, more demanding and interesting, and even the dreaded 30+ minute classical piece did not disappoint. The vocals are treated more like another instrument this time around, as opposed to a “focal point” of the songs. The orchestrations are rougher and more tribal than on other NIGHTWISH albums, which was interesting and unusual. It is impossible to say after only one listen, but it felt like something that will definitely grow on us with familiarity and has the potential to dethrone its predecessor on our list of favorites!
6. How’s the Heart?
1. All the Works of Nature Which Adorn the World
Report by Simo Kuusterä