German titans of heavy metal Accept are back, with album number sixteen Too Mean To …
Finnish symphonic metal export Nightwish have been working up to becoming a fully fledged “metal orchestra” – the last two albums laid the foundations; HUMAN. :II: NATURE. (which I’ll call Human from now on) feels like a decade in the making and cements their place as something greater than the sum of their supremely talented parts.
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The third in their informal concept trilogy (Imagination, Reason, and this time, Humanity and its relation to Nature, duh) Holopainen pops off the fireworks, releases the doves, appears in puffs of smoke. Music is their overture: a non-stop spectacle featuring Nightwish’s signature marching riffs accompanied by blasts of orchestra, that tumble, soar, dive, and streak across our ears. However it’s not all tried-and-true Nightwish formula; Holopainen would never forgive himself. There’s a real experimental side here. Songs like Shoemaker are like free-form opera, crunching guitar in one place, classical instruments dancing on air as a dialogue happens between stars.
HUMAN. :II: NATURE. truly elevates them to a status rare in metal: peerless.
Harvest focuses on percussion and acoustic guitars and flutes, creating a folky dance number that wouldn’t be out of place in an Irish pub around the turn of the century. Floor Jansen (ex-After Forever) proves again she’s the perfect voice for this vehicle of fancy, nailing the drama and tension heard in tracks like How’s The Heart and the piano driven Procession. Those who want the metal won’t be left out: Tribal is down and dirty, even more than Master Passion Greed, the last time the band was this abrasive. Darkness falls in the creeping rocker Endlessness, where the gruff throat of Marko Hietala steps up to the mic, bringing down the heavens around him with thunderous riffs.
The second disc (well, you wouldn’t really know these days) is the All the Works of Nature Which Adorn the World suite. Though it features lush and bright voices, baroque passages, and wondrous aural paintings of oceans, forests, and the stars, it’s more of an orchestral bonus disc more than part of the album proper. Those who love the classical more than the metal side of Nightwish will dig it; though it pales compared to the album proper.
Nightwish have reached an apotheosis in metaldom; though they were great in their early years with albums like Oceanborn (1998) and Wishmaster (2000), ringmaster and impresario Tuomas Holopainen never wanted to be a songwriter in a band; he wanted to be a composer in a grand metal symphony. Though the second disc seems a bit redundant, on the whole Human truly elevates them to a status rare in metal: peerless.
STANDOUT TRACKS: Music, Shoemaker, Endlessness
STICK THIS NEXT TO: Within Temptation, Epica, Delain