It is rarely an easy moment for a band when a member either leaves or is asked to leave – at least for those bands for whom that exiting member is an original vocalist and the voice that people associate with the said band. Times have certainly been interesting for Nightwish ever since the exit of Tarja Turunen. After Tarja was let go, the band replaced her with Anette Olson and forged on with a vocalist that bore little to no resemblance to her predecessor - a daring move considering how integral Tarja's operatic vocals had become to Nightwish's sound. Regardless, the band continued to have enormous success with the two albums they released with Anette, before she too was suddenly and abruptly let go. In came Floor Jansen, for whom Nightwish's latest album Endless Forms Most Beautiful (the first album to feature frequent collaborator Troy Donockley as an official member as well as Kai Hahto on drums filling in for Jukka Nevalainen) is a trial by fire. While Anette before her despite a large amount of support had also suffered a lot of vicious comments from people who wouldn't accept her in place of Tarja, the reaction received by Floor performing live with the band in turn was largely positive. But how would she fare with new material, and how would her inclusion change the band's sound, if at all? Could she pull it off?
Markus: While Nightwish have had a sort of a revolving door going in terms of their vocalists in recent years, I've always been of the opinion that each vocalist they've managed to snatch has been better than the last. With no disrespect to Tarja who is a great singer, I prefered Anette and the albums the band did with her were in my opinion the best the band had ever done. And now with Floor they have an even better vocalist since she encompasses the best sides of both Tarja and Anette and can do all eras of Nightwish justice. Her rendition of Ghost Love Score without fail makes my eyes well up with tears.
Miss-Elodia: I've never had a preference for one of Nightwish's vocalists. Of course going from the lyric soprano vocals of Tarja to the clear vocals of Anette was a big change in Nightwish's music, a change not that well welcomed by a lot of fans who had seen Tarja's departure as a true loss. When you listen to Dark Passion Play and Imaginaerum, it is clear that the arrival of Anette in the band did not mean the end of Nightwish. It has allowed the band to explore new sounds and melodies to go with this new voice that is so different from Tarja's. Imaginaerum I think shows best these new possibilities and compositions, as well as Anette's impressive vocals. Then came the day Floor joined Nightwish to replace Anette. This satisfied a lot of fans, myself included. Her past in After Forever and ReVamp made her one of the best choices for Nightwish's new vocalist. She does indeed emcompass the best of Anette and Tarja, and thus allowed Nightwish to explore further in their potential of creation.
Markus: Floor is easily the best vocalist Nightwish has ever had and the possibilities with her are endless. That's why I was disappointed to find she is sadly underused on Endless Forms Most Beautiful. She does fine and I have no complaints with her talents or voice, but she never really gets to shine in the way she has live. There's no moment on the album where I felt my jaw drop the way it did when I first heard her sing for Nightwish. The closest she gets is, ironically, not in one of the big epic tracks where she could really let go, but on the ballad Our Decades In The Sun where at the end she puts in a wonderful amount of emotion. I will say though that her operatic vocals during the beginning of The Greatest Show On Earth are beautiful, absolutely beautiful.
Miss-Elodia: After her incredible vocals and achievements in her previous band, After Forever, I was expecting to find these in Endless Forms Most Beautiful as well. Floor's vocals are amazing and go greatly with Nightwish's style, but I think her great vocal range could've been a little more exploited. Weak Fantasy and Yours Is An Empty Hope are great examples: Floor's vocals could've been more powerful and varied. It sounds like she was "shy" to sing, and this makes a contrast with the epic, dark instrumental. Then again, it is the first album she does with Nightwish, an album in which the fans had placed high expectations on. Despite this pressure, Floor managed just fine and her vocals brought a new energy to Nightwish's music.
Markus: Floor has definitely benefitted the band in terms of sound. It is a bit disappointing then that the material she is handed isn't better, because so much of Endless Forms Most Beautiful sounds like previous Nightwish songs I've already heard before. I've always considered Tuomas one of the greatest composers in music today, so to see him repeat himself to this extent is kind of disappointing. Why Sagan was reduced to a mere B-side on the Élan single I don't know since it's better than the majority of the tracks on the actual album.
Miss-Elodia: Indeed, a lot of the previous albums' sonorities can be found in Endless Forms Most Beautiful. When I first listened to the album, the melodies, the instruments, the atmosphere of many songs reminded me of Imaginaerum. The most blatant example is the title track Endless Forms Most Beautiful that sounds just like Storytime. The keyboards are so similar in both songs, just like their structures and pace. It was kinda disturbing. In every song of the album, I got reminded of another song from a previous album.
Markus: Funny, the title track wasn't actually one of the songs that reminded me of other Nightwish songs. Storytime is my favorite Nightwish song though, so no wonder Endless Forms Most Beautiful is easily my favorite track on the album. It's catchy as hell and the lyrics that celebrate the beauty of life bring tears to my eyes every time. Plus it has some amazing heavy riffs worth headbanging to and some awesome piano from Tuomas at one point. For me the repetitive stuff is tracks like Shudder Before The Beautiful, although that track does have what just might be the best solos in any Nightwish song ever.
Miss-Elodia: Speaking of awesome piano from Tuomas, my favorite songs from the album, Alpenglow and Élan, come to my mind. The melodies of piano and flute mixed together are just amazing. Add to this the beautiful voice of Floor and you get a really great song, not that heavy compared to other songs, but still catchy. The sombre atmosphere and twisted vocals and shouts of Yours Is An Empty Hope I also like a lot.
Markus: After the title track, my personal favorite on the album is Edema Ruh. Why that wasn't released as the first single as it was originally planned I don't know because while I do like Élan, it didn't leave the best first impression on me. Still, Élan is a good representation of my overall feeling on the album. Most of the tracks don't wow me like the masterpieces on the previous three albums, but most of them still have good things in them. For example The Greatest Show On Earth doesn't manage to become the definitive Nightwish epic since it doesn't manage to captivate and wow for the entirety of its 24-minute run time, but when it's on point, it's on point. As said, Floor's operatic vocals in the beginning are beautiful, as is the opening few minutes of piano that Floor's vocals accompany. The first few minutes of said track are some of the most beautiful music Nightwish have ever committed to tape, and the song reaches its peak at the words "We were here" which sung send intense shivers down my spine, encompassing so much emotion and grandeur into just a few simple words, and one repeated melody.
Miss-Elodia: Overall, Endless Forms Most Beautiful is a really good album, with great and interesting tracks as well as good songs that sadly sound too similar to Nightwish's previous works. Floor has become the new voice of Nightwish, I'm sure for the best. I hope the future works of Nightwish with her will focus more on her amazing vocals.
Markus: Indeed Endless Forms Most Beautiful is nowhere near the masterpiece that the band's three previous albums were, but despite its unimaginative overuse of Nightwish cliches and lack of new ideas it's still an enjoyable album with two or three genuinely great tracks worth getting ecstatic over. Still I do hope Floor will get a chance to shine on a future album in more ways than she does on Endless Forms Most Beautiful since she is one of the best things to ever happen to the band.
Twitter : @NightwishBand
(Review done by Elodie (Miss-Elodia) & Markus)