NIGHTWISH - Come On Feel The Noise...
April 9, 2020, 6 months ago
Nightwish keyboardist / founder Tuomas Holopainen would have you believe that Human. :II: Nature. is the band's biggest and best album to date. In terms of scope the new record is most certainly the biggest, as it's divided into two parts: nine songs on what amounts to an old schooler's Disc 1, and a classical piece, "All the Works of Nature Which Adorn the World" divided into eight parts, composed and constructed by Holopainen with longtime collaborator Pip Williams on Disc 2, envisioned and assembled as something meant to be listened to as a complete experience. As for the "best", that comes down to a matter of personal taste, but it's easy to understand why Holopainen believes it. Human. :II: Nature. is the band's most diverse offering ever - sometimes shockingly so - taking them into musical territories they have perhaps only touched on in the past and, in so doing, creating a much more exciting Nightwish sound. This flies in the face of first single, "Noise", which was as trademark symphonic metal Nightwish (read: predictable) as you can get. Second single "Harvest", on the other hand, turned the tables completely by putting uilleann pipes player / backing vocalist Troy Donockley up front and keeping singer Floor Jansen in the background for a song that is 100% folk-oriented. And this is only the beginning, as fans will discover as they navigate Human. :II: Nature.'s bold environment.
BraveWords: Choosing "Noise" as the first single... given how diverse the album is, was that done to ease fans into the record by giving them what they want?
Tuomas: "We chose 'Noise' as the first single for the subject matter - addiction to technology - because we knew it would make a brilliant video. I usually don't like to put out singles because I don't want to take out one song and put it on a pedestal, and make it somehow special, but these days that's just how the story goes. The only reason that Human. :II: Nature. ended up being a double album is that it doesn't fit on one CD. There was never actually a plan to do a double album. And then, when the idea of separating the two sections came up, it made sense."
BraveWords: I find that "Noise" makes a much bigger impact on a real sound system as opposed to watching the YouTube video, which is actually where the vast majority of people experienced the track for the first time. I was much more invested in the song after hearing it large and loud.
Tuomas: "Definitely. I've got this constant anticipated disappointment that people are going to listen to this album on YouTube or on their phones. It's tragic that people don't listen to music the way they used to. People don't listen to albums anymore, and you really want to listen to this album from beginning to end, right from the diaphanous beginning to the end of the second disc. People should take that journey more often because it might help them in everyday life."
BraveWords: Vocally, this is Floor's crowning glory, but overall there are amazing performances from all three singers. Everybody shines, but it sounds like you really made them work, Floor in particular, especially on the song "Pan".
Tuomas: "We wanted to focus on the vocal performances. It's the Human part of the album; you need to hear the human voice. There are a lot of lyrics, there is a lot going on, but that was a deliberate decision: let's get everything that we have out of these vocalists. Like you said, make them work (laughs). All of us are huge fans of harmony singing, so in the nine songs every single chorus from beginning to end is three harmonies."
Troy: "And I think that was a really splendid decision - which was made before the songs were even written - to go down that road."
BraveWords: Call it a case of, if you have the tools why not use them?
Troy: "Exactly. These tools have only become evident over the last couple tours, where we saw the possibilities of what could be done. It's still pure Nightwish but it has changed the complexion of the band's sound, and it's gotten a really great response from people. I think that's because we've got very different voices. My voice is a dimension away from Marko's and Floor is stratospheric, so when you get us three together it's quite a sound."
Tuomas: "It was actually a revelation during the Decades tour in 2018, when we were doing songs like 'Come Cover Me'. When they (Floor, Troy and bassist / vocalist Marko Hietala) re-arranged some of the older songs to suit three harmonies, I was like 'Wow, haven't we harnessed this before?' It just sounded so good, so it would have been a huge mistake not to use these voices in this new way."
Troy: "Tuomas dove right in there, and there's a purity in what he does. It's a challenge for Floor, it's a challenge for everybody. This had to be done because this is the direction things have been floating towards for quite some time now. Now it's starting to be realized. Hearing those three voices gave us the serious hairs-standing-up-on-the-back-of-your-neck feeling every now and again, so we decided we needed to exploit that for our own good. It really works. Take a song like 'Endlessness'; the harmonies on it are just so beautiful the way they work."
Tuomas. "I'm always trying to follow the story of the song. The song 'Pan' - with those vocal lines you mentioned - is about the human imagination, so of course you want to have imaginative vocal lines as well. The vocals compliment the story using the music and the melodies. Everything is there for a reason."
BraveWords: With that in mind, the lead-off track 'Music' is like a soft open to the album. It's definitely not the bombastic first song that people are used to getting from a new Nightwish record.
Troy: "The interesting thing about 'Music' is that you can segue from 'The Greatest Show On Earth' - the last song from the previous album - almost seamlessly into 'Music', so that work could be seen as one huge extended piece. I'd like to say it was deliberate, but it really wasn't."
Tuomas: "I see this album as a sequel to Endless Forms Most Beautiful, but the way those songs blend together, that was not deliberate. Human. :II: Nature. is a clear sequel, though, because when we finished the Endless Forms album we were all really happy with it, but all of us were still a bit hungry."
Troy: "Endless Forms Most Beautiful wasn't broad enough for us. We had to take it further, which is why Human. :II: Nature. sounds the way it does, I think."
BraveWords: There are a lot of unexpected moments on the new album. The diversity of Human. :II: Nature. will scare the shit out of some fans.
Tuomas: "That's good to hear (laughs). But, all these elements have been part of Nightwish since the beginning. We even did a jazz song on one of the albums, so what do people expect?"
Troy: "It's going to be interesting to see what happens after the release. The second and third singles that we released couldn't be further away from 'Noise'. People who are speculating on what the album will sound like based on the first single will be completely turned upside down by the rest of the album. 'Endlessness' sounds nothing like 'Noise', 'Harvest' sounds nothing like 'Music'... it's wonderful."
BraveWords: It's a cliché question, but how much of an impact did the assorted solo ventures from the band members have on Nightwish going in to do Human. :II: Nature.? The two of you worked on Auri, Floor revisited Northward, Emppu (Vuorinen / guitars) has Brother Firetribe, Marko put out his Pyre Of The Black Heart...
Tuomas: "The solo projects compliment what we do as a group in Nightwish. Everybody has their own thing, which is good."
Troy: "It's pretty vital because there's quite a dynamic in this band. We do spend a lot of time with each other when we're out on the road, but all the solo projects and the combined things have helped. After the Auri album, Tuomas' passages were unblocked (laughs) so he could really get into working on this album. Before that he wasn't doing much with it."
Tuomas: "The great thing about Nightwish is that we get really excited conceptually, and that was very true of this album. We would talk about the various ideas and just get excited by the prospects, and that inspires you to work. I love the way the band has evolved and I think this is the best Nightwish album ever. There's something about the sound of it. I don't know what it is."
BraveWords: Doing a production this big - a double album with these ambitious songs and then scoring the classical piece - was it a subconscious middle finger to the society we live in? That technology addicted society you're referencing in the "Noise" video?
Troy: "I suppose you could look at it that way, yeah, although we didn't think in those terms. Rather than spending three hours watching reaction videos, why not listen to the actual album on headphones in the dark like in the old days?"
Tuomas: "Maybe not a middle finger, but definitely a wake-up call. Some food for thought."
BraveWords: Tuomas, there is an obvious chemistry between you and Troy, and it's been apparent since he joined the band (officially in 2013). What is it like having him as a right-hand man? Sometimes letting people in can be difficult, particularly when it comes to creating art when you have a definite vision, but the partnership seems to have broadened what you do.
Tuomas: "That is absolutely true. Troy is the glue of the band; that's what we all say. His musicianship, his personality, and the light he brings into the room has a profound effect on this band."
BraveWords: It's good that his ego doesn't get the best of him, then...
Troy: "(Laughs) Yeah, that's the only problem with me; massive ego. No... we have a really easy connection."
BraveWords: It's been almost 20 years since you toyed with the idea of stopping Nightwish and calling it quits. With that in mind, are you at all surprised Nightwish is not only as successful as it is, but this close as a unit?
Tuomas: "Yeah. It's amazing, but I generally don't think back on stuff like that. This truly is a band with a capital 'B' these days. The way we did this album, the way we rehearsed it. We were together for a month at a campsite not only to rehearse, but to talk about the themes. In the evening we would sit around the campfire with acoustic guitars and go through the harmonies. It was full immersion, just being friends to each other, talking about superficial stuff, deep stuff... and there is silent understanding between most of us (laughs)."
Troy: "It's a good question, though, because bands aren't easy things to be in. You're always going to have conflict of interest, conflict of personality, and '’T'was ever thus,' as they say. Luckily for us we are pretty open with each other to a degree, and we do try to look at things from all sides."
(Photos by: Tim Tronckoe)