Tepid, over-dramatic, over-hyped and thoroughly uninteresting album

There’s something fitting about using the word ‘endless’ in the title of an album as interminable as this.

Endless Forms Most Beautiful is a tepid, over-dramatic, over-hyped and thoroughly uninteresting album that drags on for 78 minutes of soul-crushing tedium. While it’s admirable of them to have created something that stands for all intents and purposes as a musical companion to Dawkins’ The Greatest Show on Earth it becomes apparent very quickly that Nightwish – or Tuomas Holopainen specifically – have really driven themselves out of fresh ideas. All of the usual Nightwish ingredients are right there in the mix: the lush orchestration, sweeping arrangements, folkish elements, bell-like vocals, but they all seem to have been pasted together without any spark of inspiration.

Much of the hype around Endless Forms has been due to the Nightwish recording debut of Floor Jansen. While perhaps technically a superior vocalist than the woman she replaced, Anette Olzen, Olzen’s rock-flavoured, less cultured style lent the albums she sang on some character. But the overall blandness of Endless Forms Most Beautiful isn’t Jansen’s fault. The material she has to work with is lukewarm, repetitive and often self-referential, with several themes and melodies rehashed from previous albums. ‘Edema Ruh’ steps out of the box a little with an upbeat vibe and the instrumental track ‘The Eyes of Sharbat Gula’ is another of the more intriguing pieces, albeit a few minutes too long. A few minutes too long is an apt description of the overblown 24-minute closing saga ‘The Greatest Show on Earth’. By far the longest song Nightwish has ever attempted, it is strangely unremarkable for a band that specialises in this kind of musical melodrama and really features none of the light and shade that a track of this magnitude requires to be successful.

In attempting to outdo themselves, Nightwish have instead over-reached – the majestic is instead the monotonous, the beauty is the banal. Any album this long is going to be a struggle to keep interesting and vital. For Nightwish, the stuggle was too much.

1. Shudder Before the Beautiful
2. Weak Fantasy
3. Élan
4. Yours is an Empty Hope
5. Our Decades in the Sun
6. My Walden
7. Endless Forms Most Beautiful
8. Edema Ruh
9. Alpenglow
10. The Eyes of Shabat Gula
11. The Greatest Show on Earth