NIGHTWISH In-Studio Exclusive - ”Our Crowd Do Seem To Have An Eclectic Taste, So Surely Some Of Them Will Enjoy What We've Done” Says TUOMAS HOLOPAINEN
February 24, 2020, a year ago
By Carl Begai
On February 19th, Nightwish kicked off the Germany leg of the promo junket for their new album, Human. :II: Nature. in Munich. Unlike the usual alcohol-fueled affairs that listening sessions inevitably turn out to be, it was a sedate early morning affair consisting of coffee, headphones and an iGadget, each journalist in attendance invited to grab a seat in the hotel's comfortable lobby to feast on and ultimately devour 80 minutes of music. Band members Tuomas Holopainen, Troy Donockley and Floor Jansen flew into town while the session was underway, taking a mere 10 minutes to get settled before the interviews began. BraveWords has a long history with the Nightwish camp and was welcomed quite literally with open arms, first up in what was to be a long day of media prodding before the band jetted off that night to Hamburg for Round 2 the next day.
For the record, there is a huge BraveWords feature with Holopainen and Donockley due to be published in a few weeks. This is an overview of Human. :II: Nature. meant to offer some idea of what to expect, hopefully without spoiling the experience when the record is released on April 10th via Nuclear Blast.
Known for their bombastic sound, Nightwish throw the first of many curveballs on Human. :II: Nature. with the very first song, "Music", which is perhaps best described as a "soft open." It is certainly not soft in terms of metal or subject matter, but the track eases the listener into the album rather than bashing you over the head with an orchestral anvil (take note of this). In fact, it is a hint that something is very different this time out as compared to previous album, Endless Forms Most Beautiful, even though first single "Noise" sounds like a slower version of "Shudder Before The Beautiful" from said record. Admittedly, "Noise" is a much stronger track when heard with a quality sound system rather than via some crap-ass streaming platform, and it is certainly not representative of Human. :II: Nature. as a whole. Not at all.
Troy: "The album is full of contrasts, more than any of the previous Nightwish albums."
Tuomas: "We chose 'Noise' as the first single for the subject matter because we knew it would make a brillaint 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 it 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 it made sense."
Troy: "It really works conceptually. The first disc can be seen as the Anthropocene (our current geological age / state), and the second disc is a second world where you can pin your imagery to it."
From the moment the third song up, "Shoemaker", fans are officially welcomed into the world of a new, fresh and hungry Nightwish. As Human. :II: Nature. plays out, several things become readily apparent. For starters, vocalist Floor Jansen has worked her ass off laying these songs down. Not that she has anything to prove at this point, but Jansen displays some amazing range and technique from start to finish, and there are several points where folks who appreciate her talents will be wearing a shit-eating grin (just wait for "Pan"... stunning). Granted, taskmaster Holopainen is the beloved sadist behind the arrangements, but it's Jansen who had to pull them off and she killed it. As enjoyable as it was to hear her first recorded Nightwish work on Endless Forms Most Beautiful, these performances are superior.
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)."
Additionally, the band has all but disposed of the female / male / female / male vocal formula that has been in place since bassist Marko Hietala joined the band for Century Child in 2002. Now the band is making the most of having three vocalists on hand (Jansen, Hietala and Donockley), putting a huge emphasis on harmonies. Donockley is given center stage on "Harvest", Hietala is front-and-center for the closing gorgeousness (yes, that is now a word) of "Endlessness", and the rest of Human. :II: Nature. features Jansen supported by her brothers-in-arms. This newly added element to the Nightwish sound is a breath of fresh air.
Troy: "Doing things the way we have, it makes things colourful for everybody, especially us."
Tuomas: "All of us are huge fans of harmony singing, and on the first nine tracks of the album every chorus from beginning to end is in three harmonies."
Troy: "And I think that was a really splendid decision, even before the songs were written, to go down that road. We have the tools, why not use them? And these tools only became evident over the last couple of tours. We saw the possibilities of what could be done."
Tuomas. "It was actually a revelation during the Decades tour in 2018, when we were doing songs like 'Come Cover Me'. It's still Nightwish, but it has changed the complexion of the Nightwish sound."
Human. :II: Nature. finds Nightwish taking the folk influences heard on their earlier albums to the next level on "Harvest" - hazarding a guess this will become a live favourite - and playing with bold new sounds as heard on the crushing and completely unexpected "Tribal" (the BraveWords fave of the session). Perhaps the biggest strength of the album as a whole is that the orchestral components that have come to define the Nightwish sound have been reduced somewhat, allowing the band members to shine in full glory. It becomes clear as to why this was done, however, when confronted with Disc 2.
Troy: "The orchestra is more decorative on the first disc, but that sets you up for the full orchestral experience on the second disc."
Tuomas: "That was a conscious thing that we did. We still have real strings and real choirs on the first nine tracks, but it also compliments the title of the album. First you have nine songs sung by human voices, with stories about humanity, and after that you take a 30 minute journey into nature."
Subtitled All The Works Of Nature Which Adorn The World, disc 2 of the album features eight orchestral tracks composed / scored by Holopainen and longtime collaborator, Pip Williams. There is no metal to be heard, but it is perfectly in tune with what Nightwish is all about and some - not all - fans will find it a solid listen. More importantly, the diehards won't be surprised. There are soaring vocal and instrumental passages that are most certainly Nightwish, just in a different form, and if you have a head for classical music there are tracks you will return to more than a few times. The 1-2-3 of "Moors" / "Aurorae" / "Quiet As The Snow" is still memorable after a single listen, for example, speaking to the quality of what Holopainen has dreamed up.
Tuomas: "I wrote all the pieces for the second disc, and of course I was involved in the whole arrangement process. Troy is in there, Floor is in there, but the other guys in the band weren't involved in that part of the album."
Troy: "The second disc wasn't designed for anybody else; it was designed to entertain us. If other people get some enrichment from it in whatever way, imaginatively or sonically, that's an added bonus. It could be seen as a really brilliant move for Nightwish but we can't anticipate how people are going to react. It could be seen as adventurous, as a folly, but you really can't consider such things when you're writing music."
Tuomas: "The pieces do sound like Nightwish songs, though."
Troy: "And the Nightwish crowd do seem to have an eclectic taste, so surely some of them will enjoy what we've done."
In about six weeks the Nightwish fanbase will decide if I’m talking through my hat. This is just one of what will soon be a million+ points of view, but it's fair to say that if one goes into Human. :II: Nature. looking for something more than trademark paint-by-numbers Nightwish, you won't be disappointed.
Watch for the complete Nightwish feature coming to BraveWords soon.
Human. :II: Nature. was recorded from August to October 2019 at Röskö campsite, Petrax Studios and Troykington castle, as well as Finnvox Studios, by Tero Kinnunen, Mikko Karmila and Troy Donockley. The mixing was done by Mikko Karmila at Finnvox, with Tuomas Holopainen and Tero Kinnunen. Mastering was done by Mika Jussila at Finnvox.
"How’s The Heart?"
"All The Works Of Nature Which Adorn The World - Vista"
"All The Works Of Nature Which Adorn The World - The Blue"
"All The Works Of Nature Which Adorn The World - The Green"
"All The Works Of Nature Which Adorn The World - Moors"
"All The Works Of Nature Which Adorn The World - Aurorae"
"All The Works Of Nature Which Adorn The World - Quiet As The Snow"
"All The Works Of Nature Which Adorn The World - Anthropocene" (incl. “Hurrian Hymn To Nikkal”)
"All The Works Of Nature Which Adorn The World - Ad Astra"