Nightwish – “Human. :II: Nature.” 2 CD (Nuclear Blast)
Battle Helm Rating
I guess this couldn’t have come at a better time with the crisis facing all humanity right now. However, in 2016, facing some anguish of his own in surpassing ‘..the band’s best so far..’ album in “Endless Forms Most Beautiful”, a drained Tuomas Holopainen, Nightwish’s founder composer keyboardist, sought recharge in Auri, a band formed with his violinist wife Johanna Kurkela and Nightwish multi-instrumentalist and pipe player Troy Donockley in 2017 to play a mix of ‘..folk music, Celtic music and soundtracks..’. Following their self titled debut, Holopainen’s mind block was released, paving the way for this opus although not without influence from Auri itself. Originally intended as a single album, the sheer amount of material has made “Human. :II: Nature.” Nightwish’s first double release, with 9 songs on the main CD and one long track, divided into 8 instrumental chapters on CD 2. As might have gathered from the title, and the fact that each of the songs contains the word ‘human’ tells you that the first part of this release is all about humans, be it in their imagination, empathy etc whilst the instrumental portion, as can also be deduced from the chapter titles, is about Earth in the form of nature. Driven by three powerful forces in Holopainen, Donockley and lead vocalist Floor Jansen, “Human. :II: Nature.” goes well beyond the stratospheric symphonic heights attained by this internationally acclaimed Finnish band into a new chapter – indeed evolution – in cinematic and orchestral majesty! To say this is deep is something of an understatement, although it is not a concept album. However, the sheer abundance and actually force of emotion conveyed throughout the album’s 83 minutes is nothing short of breathtaking. If you ever wanted to know the heart in music, then it’s here and beautifully played through a wide array of natural and modern instruments, all executed with class and grace making every track a top notch performance in itself. Raining in the symphonic bombast on ‘Noise’, it’s the collusion of dark classical keys and powerful string orchestrations over which Jansen exudes her silky voice that brings all the drama here, offset by quieter piano touched moments before getting heavier when the powering drums and guitars join together for the fiery culmination – truly spectacular. Flowing delicately through Holopainen’s piano, ‘Pan’ soon takes on a powerfully epic tone reminiscent of Sabaton with chundering guitars and heavy drums, although different as contrasted superbly by the delicate soprano highs of Jansen and culminating in a massively stirring chorus backed by orchestrals that is not just red blooded, but hugely heartfelt – it’s simply too much! With Donockley unleashing his Celtic pipes on ‘How’s The Heart’, the melodies are instantly catching and captivate throughout thanks to their depth, allowing this song that has the potential to be mainstream to go a whole lot deeper and resonate throughout your soul – just write ‘Hit’ for this one. With a jaw dropping variety of different musical styles presented on ‘Tribal’, prepare for a suave mix of dark wave, symphony, tribal chants and wailing soprano opera all offset by some shredding guitars and explosive percussion – truly impressive!!! Of the instrumentals, ‘Moors’ with its flowing strings and touching piano graced by the some truly moving uilleann pipes from Donockley definitely broke my heart, while its crashing symphonic bombast of heavy keys and eerie strings made for an equally dramatic contrast, together bringing to life, quite brilliantly this amazing collusion of cinematic orchestration. Following on serenely if somewhat gloomily, ‘Aurorae’ suddenly blossomed with uplift, showcasing a wide vocal collaboration of choral harmonies and operatic highs in collusion with prog keyboards, whistles, strings and pomp splendor that was as impressive as it sounded. And as the fading ambiance of ‘Ad Astra’ brought this incredible experience to an end, Jansen’s poignant words left you feeling, that whoever you are, you were indeed part of something truly special called humanity.