Nightwish - Human. :II: Nature. review


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Band: Nightwish
Album: Human. :II: Nature.
Release date: April 2020

Disc I
01. Music
02. Noise
03. Shoemaker
04. Harvest
05. Pan
06. How's The Heart?
07. Procession
08. Tribal
09. Endlessness

Disc II
01. All The Works Of Nature Which Adorn The World - Vista
02. All The Works Of Nature Which Adorn The World - The Blue
03. All The Works Of Nature Which Adorn The World - The Green
04. All The Works Of Nature Which Adorn The World - Moors
05. All The Works Of Nature Which Adorn The World - Aurorae
06. All The Works Of Nature Which Adorn The World - Quiet As The Snow
07. All The Works Of Nature Which Adorn The World - Anthropocene (incl. "Hurrian Hymn To Nikkal")
08. All The Works Of Nature Which Adorn The World - Ad Astra

With Human. :II: Nature., Nightwish aim to explore life, the universe and everything, but spend too much time staring at the bigger picture to notice the smaller necessities they've overlooked.

Nightwish have had a slightly bumpy couple of decades. Some might argue that signs of a decline were there before original singer Tarja Turunen departed, but it was this event, and her replacement with Anette Olzon, which really split the fanbase. After two divisive and (in my opinion) inconsistent releases with Olzon, singer number three arrived in the form of Floor Jansen, something of a coup given her outstanding versatility and power. Her first studio outing with the group, Endless Forms Most Beautiful, was possibly a stronger release than either of Olzon's records, but after the adventurous nature of Imaginaerum, it felt like quite a safe record, returning heavily to the sound of Once in particular. But hey, they had a stellar singer that they wanted to give some of her own songs to sing live, and it made sense to stick to what they knew worked. Five years later, and Human. :II: Nature. is the opportunity to truly see what Nightwish can do with Floor on board. Sadly, what they can do simply isn't up to snuff.

Human. :II: Nature. is more "experimental" than Endless Forms Most Beautiful, and none of these experiments are egregious backfires (except perhaps the chanting towards the end of "Tribal"), but nor are they particularly rewarding. According to Jansen, the song "Shoemaker" lacks a typical structure. I would argue that Nightwish aren't the kind of band that can really pull off such a venture, as the flow of this track is rather lacking. Additionally, the convoluted ascending vocal lines earlier on in the song aren't really delivered with the power one would expect from Floor. After "Shoemaker" comes "Harvest", another notable departure for the group. "Disney music" has long been a label used in certain circles to describe more modern Nightwish, and it's not been one I really saw as valid before "Harvest" dropped as a single. A vehicle for Troy Donockley to shine as a lead vocalist, it really does feel taken from a musical animated movie, particularly with its acapella harmonies; however, I doubt it would be the highlight of whatever soundtrack it was featured in, and is only partially rescued by the instrumental midsection, a pleasant throwback to the folk of "I Want My Tears Back" from Imaginaerum.

Some have maligned Donockley's permanent membership and subsequent increased role in the group as a major contributing factor to the issues Human. :II: Nature. has. In and of itself, I don't find it to be a problem; I've enjoyed folky elements in Nightwish songs, especially "I Want My Tears Back" (probably my favourite post-Tarja Nightwish song), and whilst I don't like "Harvest" (nor am I particularly enthused by "How's The Heart?"), I haven't got any major issue with him as a vocalist in principle. However, the fact that he gets a whole song to take centre stage on only makes the minimal presence of Marco Hietala's vocals more glaring. He is the lead singer with an uncharacteristically docile performance on "Endlessness" and gets a small backing bit in "Tribal", but otherwise is largely absent on the vocal front, despite having a far more captivating voice than Donockley, which is frankly bewildering to me. On the topic of vocals, much has been said regarding Floor Jansen on this record. Personally, I've found the songs in general to have been a bigger issue than anything she's done specifically, but as someone who's seen her smash the likes of "Ghost Love Score", "The Poet And The Pendulum" and more live, I really can't say anything on Human. :II: Nature. impressed me to a remotely similar degree.

I don't completely dislike this album, not by any means. I enjoyed "Noise" when it dropped as the first single, and I continue to enjoy it within the context of the record. It's very much in the vein of their post-2000 material, relatively simplistic but with a memorable chorus hook and a suitably exciting dramatic bridge during which Floor moves into more operatic territory. "Pan", another heavier cut, brings the bombast in its electric chorus and allows Jansen a chance to dig into some more twisted vocal melodies during the verses. Nevertheless, even these tracks stand out within the context of the rest of Human. :II: Nature., rather than the Nightwish discography as a whole.

In relation to the lyrics explored on Human. :II: Nature., Nightwish have mentioned some pretty huge themes in the press building up to this release, including the history of music, planetary science, love and the meaning of life. The ambition is clearly there thematically and in terms of musical experimentation, but the songs just don't back it up. For a start, a song that allegedly describes the entire evolution of music should have a lot more going for it than "Music", a track that, like "Procession", came and went on each playthrough without leaving much of an impression of any kind, good or bad.

All the music discussed so far only covers disc 1 of Human. :II: Nature.; disc 2 of this release is the furthest exploration of the 'symphonic' aspect of Nightwish yet, a 30-minute purely orchestral venture. I think all of us on this website can agree it's harder to compare this music against the vast expanse of orchestral music that exists, even if we restrict ourselves to modern compositions, than it is to discuss the metal songs. I will say, fair play to Holopainen, this was a bold step for him and it wasn't a disaster; "All The Works Of Nature Which Adorn The World" doesn't massively drag at any point, with a decent ebb and flow, and well-paced introduction of unique elements, such as the focus on pipes in part 4, "Moors", which has a touch of Rohan's music from The Lord Of The Rings. At the same time, the most natural comparison for disc 2 is the music to films such as The Lord Of The Rings, and compared against the great scores, even of the 21st century, it is a somewhat rudimentary effort. Additionally, the rehash of "The Greatest Show On Earth" with a lengthy spoken word diatribe regarding the place of man within the world slightly tarnishes the final movement, "Ad Astra".

Nightwish reached for greatness on Human. :II: Nature., but in doing lost a lot of what made them great in the first place, at least for me. I've found every Nightwish release from Once onwards to have notable ups and downs, but I've always found at least something worth returning for. I may revisit "Noise" and "Pan" on occasion, but otherwise I cannot see Human. :II: Nature. offering any lasting appeal.

Rating breakdown
Performance: 7
Songwriting: 5
Originality: 6
Production: 7


Written on 13.04.2020 by Hey chief let's talk why not

Comments page 5 / 5

Comments: 121   Visited by: 425 users
19.07.2020 - 14:46
I love how people write these looooong reviews trying to convince everyone that this is a decent album. If it is so good, why would you have to explain why it is so good?

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