Endless forms most beautiful
Tracks on Endless forms most beautiful
Endless Forms Most Beautiful is the eighth album by Finnish symphonic power metal band Nightwish. It was released on March 27, 2015 in Argentina and most of Europe, March 30 in the UK, and March 31 in the US. The album is the band’s first featuring singer Floor Jansen and the first with Troy Donockley as a full-time member. It was recorded without drummer Jukka Nevalainen, who took a break from the band due to severe insomnia. Drumming was by Kai Hahto of Wintersunand Swallow the Sun. The album includes only five Nightwish members, despite its being their first album release as a sextet.
Unlike its predecessor Imaginaerum, which has themes of imagination and fantasy, Endless Forms Most Beautiful addresses science and reason. Focusing on the evolutionary theories of Charles Darwin and Richard Dawkins, the latter part of the album cites passages from their books. Both authors influenced album tracks; The Ancestor’s Tale inspired “Endless Forms Most Beautiful”, and by The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution inspired “The Greatest Show on Earth”. Some songs, such as “Edema Ruh” (inspired by Patrick Rothfuss’ novel The Name of the Wind), still have fanciful themes.
The album’s first single, “Élan”, was introduced on February 9, 2015 (four days before its planned release date). “Endless Forms Most Beautiful”, announced as the second single on April 17, was released with a lyric video on May 8. The third and final single, “My Walden”, had a limited release on April 16, 2016 as an exclusive for Record Store Day.
After releasing Imaginaerum in late 2011, the band began the Imaginaerum Tour in January 2012 with Anette Olzon as a vocalist and Troy Donockley as an unofficial member. On September 28, before a show in Denver, Olzon became ill and was replaced by Elize Ryd and Alissa White-Gluz (vocalists for Amaranthe and Arch Enemy, respectively). The next day, Olzon gave her final performance with Nightwish in Salt Lake City. A day later, she posted on her blog that she disliked being replaced by Ryd and White-Gluz without being consulted; the day after that, she was dismissed from the band. In the statement announcing Olzon’s departure, Nightwish introduced Floor Jansenas her replacement for the rest of the tour.
In October 2013, after the tour, the band announced that Jansen and Donockley were official members. The album was introduced in May 2014, when Holopainen posted on his website that it would probably be ready at the end of January 2015 and demos would be circulated beginning in July 2014
Endless Forms Most Beautiful was primarily inspired by the work of naturalist Charles Darwin. According to songwriter Tuomas Holopainen, the album’s title is part of a quote from Darwin’s 1859 book On the Origin of Species which included the words “endless forms most beautiful” to describe evolution from one common ancestor to all living organisms:
There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.
— Charles Darwin, On the Origin of Species
Titles such as Élan and The Greatest Show on Earth were considered for the album, but Holopainen considered the latter too “pompous” and the band eventually opted for Endless Forms Most Beautiful.
Tuomas said that he would like fans to listen to the album from beginning to the end (like watching a movie), rather than listening to random songs. According to Tuomas, Endless Forms Most Beautiful has a “very loose” concept: “It’s all about beauty of life, the beauty of existence, nature, science”. He likened it to Imaginaerum: “The previous album was a tribute to the power of imagination. Endless Forms Most Beautiful would be an equal tribute to science and the power of reason”.
“Shudder Before the Beautiful” opens with a quote by Richard Dawkins, and its lyrics include the “beauty of the world and everything it has to offer”. Reminding Holopainen of Once and Oceanborn, it features the first duel between him and guitarist Emppu Vuorinen in about 15 years. “Weak Fantasy”, primarily written by Hietala, is considered the album’s heaviest song by Holopainen. Its lyrics, which criticize how some religions restrict lives, were also co-written by Hietala (who contributed to an originally-instrumental (and acoustic guitar-centered) part of the song which the band felt was too long). On a later interview in 2016, he commented further on the song, stating that it is “a combination of an interesting metal song with a few interesting parts that dabble in Celtic folk with the acoustic guitars.” During live performances, the message “wake up or die” is shown at the screen behind the band. Donockley said the words were taken from the film Religulous, which is a favorite of him and Holopainen.
“Élan” is about “the meaning of life, which can be something different for all of us. It’s important to surrender yourself to the occasional ‘free fall’ and not to fear the path less travelled by.” Not intended for the album’s track list, Holopainen liked the song more after the band began working on it. Following a suggestion by Donockley and Hietala, he replaced “Edema Ruh” with “Élan” as the album’s first single. Although he was initially uncertain about recording “Yours Is an Empty Hope” (co-written by Hietala and also called one of the album’s heaviest songs), Holopainen found its subject matter “inspirational”. He refrained from explicating its lyrics because he did not want to “ruin” listener interpretations. According to Hietala, the song explores “living the ‘here and now’, not ‘then’.”
“Our Decades in the Sun” is a ballad for the band’s parents. Holopainen said that it was “maybe the most difficult song to put together” because of its delicacy and intimacy, and band members wept while rehearsing and recording it. “My Walden”, a Celtic song with a prominent contribution from Donockley, was considered by Holopainen a continuation of “I Want My Tears Back” from Imaginaerum. It’s inspired by the book “Walden” written by Henry David Thoreau. “Endless Forms Most Beautiful” is inspired by Dawkins’ book, The Ancestor’s Tale, and “Edema Ruh” refers to the group of traveling musicians and actors in Patrick Rothfuss’s The Name of the Wind; it was one of the first songs written for the album.
“Alpenglow” has been called the “ultimate Nightwish song” by Holopainen, who said that it was “a nice little interlude” with “a catchy chorus and toxic guitar riff.” “The Eyes of Sharbat Gula”, an instrumental planned with lyrics, was written by Holopainen after he bought an issue of National Geographic with a reproduction of the iconic photo of Sharbat Gula. He said that the photograph “just made a huge impact on me. Those eyes, those wild, untamed and at the same time fearless and fearful eyes. I want to capture the essence of that photo in one of the songs”. The song was intended to be about children in war, but he struggled with its lyrics. After a suggestion by Donockley, Holopainen decided to add only distant voices and a children’s choir and said that it works as an intermission between the first part of the album and the final track.
“The Greatest Show on Earth”, the longest Nightwish song to date, refers to “life and evolution by natural selection”. Its title is from a book by Richard Dawkins. Holopainen said that the band is unlikely to play the full song live, but may perform a “band section” in the middle. During live performances, photographs of people are shown in the screen behind the band; most are stock pictures, but some depict members’ relatives. Calling it “the most ambitious thing we ever did”, he said the song was originally over 30 minutes long. According to Holopainen, the album is “nine great support acts … one intermission and then the main act” (“The Greatest Show on Earth”). Hietala also said the “is probably the culmination of everything that we’ve done together”.
Release and reception
Endless Forms Most Beautiful was released in late March 2015. It was first released in Japan on the 25th, in continental Europe and Argentina on the 27th, in the UK on the 30th, and in the United States on the 31st. In addition to a regular edition with 11 tracks, released on CD and as a digital download, the album was released as a double LP in different colors, a digibook edition with an instrumental CD, and two earbook editions. One earbook version included a CDs with instrumental and orchestral versions of the tracks, and a deluxe earbook included a vinyl LP.
The album received positive reviews. According to Don Lawson of The Guardian, Nightwish’s use of a less-fanciful theme introduced elements which “result in their most ambitious and assured record yet” and he praised Holopainen’s songwriting. Lawson wrote that Jansen “strikes a fine balance between operatic acrobatics and straightforward, soulful restraint, most notably on twinkling earworm Élan.”Metal Storm called Endless Forms Most Beautiful “a sweet album of awesome songs” which “doesn’t try to be some over the top attempt to grandly announce a new era for the band” and “a smart move.” The online magazine praised Jansen’s vocals and how they challenged her voice compared to her previous work with ReVamp; she uses “the soft and sweet side, the lows, the hushed serenade, as well as an even harsher side.”
Solomon Encina called the album the band’s most accomplished effort in Metal Injection, although he found “Élan”, “Alpenglow” and “Endless Forms Most Beautiful” repetitive and stale. Craig Hartranft, founder of Dangerdog Music Reviews, called Endless Forms Most Beautiful “pretty darn terrific.” He described it as “the Nightwish you know and love: breathtaking arrangements paired with massive orchestration and beautiful vocals.” MusicReviewRadar wrote “in Endless Forms Most Beautiful [Nightwish] evolved to their own personal and original style” leaving him “craving for their next album.” According to the review team at Ultimate Guitar, the album needs several hearings to be fully understood but is “probably the most complete, well-written album in Nightwish’s catalog.” They considered “The Greatest Show on Earth” a pretentious title, but “closer to the truth than Nightwish has ever been before.”