In stark contrast to their reputation as masters of bombastic fantasy metal, Nightwish are plunging deep into the world of scientific reality on new album Endless Forms Most Beautiful. While the Finnish heavyweights’ sound remains firmly in the realms of the grandiose, the new album marks a thematic quantum leap away from the darkly playful storytelling of 2011’s Imaginaerum.
Its title comes from Charles Darwin’s revolutionary 1859 tome The Origin Of Species, and focuses on the notion of all life hailing from a common ancestor, something that Nightwish songwriter and keyboard maestro Tuomas Holopainen describes to Hammer as “a beautiful fact”. Long a fan of the likes of Darwin, Carl Sagan and renowned but controversial academic and evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, it was only natural that Tuomas would make an album inspired by their works./o:p
“You just want to write about stuff that inspires you, and that’s what happened with this album,” he says. “I have no idea what the next album is going to be like, but for the past years I’ve been immersed in these worlds. I’ve discovered the beauty of science all over again.”/o:p
But while an album about evolution may seem like a huge thematic shift for a band like Nightwish, Tuomas suggests that Endless Forms has more in common with its predecessors than you might think.
“I don’t think the contrast is that big,” he offers. “I would say that, whereas Imaginaerum was a tribute to the power of imagination, Endless Forms Most Beautiful is a tribute to the beauty of the real world – to the magic of reality.”
So to what extent does the album actually deal with the subject? Tuomas doesn’t consider Endless Forms to be a concept album; however, he does concede that, out of 11 songs on the album, five of them deal with the subjects of science, astronomy and evolutionary biology. Two of these songs even feature narration from Dawkins himself, reading from both his own texts and Tuomas’s verses.
Although Nightwish are no strangers to controversy, the inclusion of Dawkins has already resulted in some extreme fan reactions. However, while he laments the fact that Dawkins is “deliberately misunderstood” by many, Tuomas admits he has no problem with his new friend being a controversial and somewhat polarising figure.
“We can’t really worry about stuff like that,” he says. “And if we’ve given people some food for thought, then that’s a good thing, because that’s the very essence of art. Although hearing about people burning our CDs came as a surprise! We had a gospel choir on Dark Passion Play, and I don’t think a single atheist decided to burn our CDs because of that…”
Given the nature of their music, it makes sense that a band like Nightwish would make an album with such ambitious subject matter. “The themes of this album are as ‘epic’ as it can possibly get,” agrees Tuomas. “Evolution, the origin of man, the cosmos… It doesn’t get any bigger than that!”
What’s more, Tuomas promises that musically, Endless Forms will be every bit as grand as its subject matter, but perhaps with more of a human touch than before. “Even though the orchestra and choir are still very much present, it feels more like a band album,” he says. “It’s a bit more organic, a bit heavier. That has to do with the fact that the six of us spent a lot of time as a band in the rehearsal room for the first time ever.”
Continuing the trend for including at least one long ‘epic’ song in the vein of Ghost Love Score, The Poet And The Pendulum and Song Of Myself, the new album’s 24-minute closer, The Greatest Show On Earth, promises to be Nightwish’s most ambitious song to date. Tuomas describes it as “the ultimate piece of music I have ever done and will ever be able to do.”
The band plan to spend 2015 touring extensively and release at least two music videos from the album, the first of which will be for lead single Élan. Despite the scientific themes of the album, fans need not worry that Tuomas has left the world of fantasy behind for good.
He describes his feelings towards the importance of storytelling by quoting his hero Sagan: “’Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were, but without it we go nowhere.’ I think that pretty much sums it up.”
ENDLESS FORMS MOST BEAUTIFUL IS RELEASED ON MARCH 30 VIA NUCLEAR BLAST/o:p
Nightwish & Prof Dawkins aren’t the only bizarre team-up in Metal History…
Michael Palin & Motörhead
The Monty Python star and BBC travel doc legend might seem a bit posh to be knocking about with Lemmy, but in 1987 he popped into the studio to contribute a chuckle-worthy vicar’s sermon that wound up at the end of Stone Deaf In The USA on Motörhead’s Rock’N’ Roll album.
Elton John & Saxon
Recorded during a somewhat lean creative period for Biff and the boys, Saxon’s 1986 album Rock The Nations is mainly notable for a surprise appearance by the world’s favourite bespectacled piano-whacker on the charmingly titled Party ’Til You Puke. Oh, and a rubbish ballad called Northern Lady.
Brian Blessed & Manowar
Brian Blessed is madder than a wolverine with an itchy arse, but his assimilation into the metal world has been a joy. Who better to recite Manowar’s The Warrior’s Prayer on Kings Of Metal? No one.
Peter Fonda & Liturgy
When the Brooklyn-based hipster black metallers appeared in US TV drama The Blacklist in October last year, performing top tune Harmonia, observant viewers may have spotted that drummer Greg Fox has been replaced by none other than Easy Rider star Peter Fonda. We still don’t know why./o:p