Spoiler alert: This post includes the final track of a double album which will be released on 10th April. Some readers may prefer to wait for the full album release rather than view the video.
In advance of the release of ‘Human :II: Nature’ their ninth studio album, on 10th April, Nightwish have released a third track from it, and as part of an environmental campaign with the international conservation charity organisation 'World Land Trust', with which they have entered into a partnership.
The track, ‘Ad Astra’ (‘to the stars’) is in fact the final one on the entire album, which will be on two discs. The first contains nine tracks, and the second eight of them in a concept format and all prefixed with ‘All the Works of Nature Which Adorn the World’.
Nightwish’s chief writer/composer Tuomas Holopainen has a deep interest in science. The 22-minute long track ‘The Greatest Show on Earth’on their last album ‘Endless forms most beautiful’ (2015), which described the story of evolution, was inspired by the work of Charles Darwin. In one 15-second stretch it even managed to include snippets of musical evolution from across the centuries, such as the 13thcentury ‘Dies Irae’, the first known piece of recorded music; a snatch of EDM; and, at the other end of the scale the main riff to Metallica’s seminal ‘Enter Sandman’.
On this track, and possibly across the album, the inspiration appears to be astronomer Carl Sagan.
As is often the case with Nightwish latterly, and as they continue to transition away from their metal roots, Holopainen has created a powerful piece of orchestrated work, all of which is typically replicated live by way of midi tapes. What you see is what you get, whether recorded or on stage.
Interestingly, what appears to be missing is Emppu Vuorinen’s guitar, which is usually very evident. I can’t hear a guitar at all. Could he be playing something else? Floor Jansen on the other hand has the opportunity to exercise her formidable larynx virtually from beginning to end.
This is the first album on which drummer Kai Hahto has been able to influence proceedings uniquely, as he was in the process of taking over from founding member Jukka Nevalainen during the previous one. With all respect to the flamboyant Jukka, a firm fan favourite even while he has since stood down for medical reasons, the power and precision of Hahto shines through here.
It’s difficult for a fan of a band to regard anything new objectively. I rate Nightwish along with 1970s prog bands such as Yes, ELP and Genesis, and with Arcade Fire in their late noughties’ heyday, as the best I ever seen, live and the one with possibly the greatest inclination of them all to generate emotion at an extraordinary level.
Hopefully, the album will live up to the hype that has surrounded it for over a year because Nightwish has now entered that territory, 24 years on from their beginnings in remote rural Finland performing acoustic songs written by Holopainen while he was doing national service, and expectations are very high.
The band’s tour, which starts in May in Chile, could be affected, as everyone else’s, by the current pandemic. The Chinese part has already been cancelled and will be rescheduled. Fortunately, the European section is not until the latter part of the year.