Tag Archives: Nightwish

Hour Of The Nightingale

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As we’re rapidly approaching the end of 2016 there’s one more album that I want to talk about before I get around to counting down my personal top ten albums of the year – which is going to be pretty hard to narrow down having listened to nearly six hundred albums this year!

Aleah Stanbridge
Aleah Stanbridge

The last one to get the individual treatment has to be “Hour Of The Nightingale”, the debut album from a melodic doom / gothic metal band called Trees Of Eternity. The genesis of the group was the getting together of singer Aleah Stanbridge and Swallow The Sun guitarist / composer Juha Raivio to work on material for the latter band’s 2009 record “New Moon”.

Juha Raivio
Juha Raivio

Stanbridge contributed vocals to “New Moon” and both subsequent Swallow The Sun albums, including last year’s phenomenal “Songs From The North” triple album. Away from his band Raivio continued to work on separate material with Stanbridge and the pair became partners in life as well as partners within music.

Fredrik Norrman
Fredrik Norrman

Album sessions began, I believe, in 2013, although videos for some of the tracks have been floating around the internet for several years already, presumably in demo form. The resulting record features the couple with guitarist Fredrik Norrman and his bassist brother Mattias Norrman (both of October Tide) as well as current Nightwish drummer Kai Hahto. There are clear similarities with Raivio’s day job but the finished product is, to my ears, a much gentler and soothing piece of work.

Mattias Norrman
Mattias Norrman

Opening track “My Requiem” is closest to Swallow The Sun’s material, I think. This is the track that grew out of Raivio and Stanbridge’s initial session for “New Moon” and immediately it’s the vocals that really make an impression, such is the beautiful and ethereal quality to Stanbridge’s voice.

Kai Hahto
Kai Hahto

Not that the backing is lacking, mind you. There is a heaviness to the musical performances that accompany the voice, that somehow even makes itself felt on the gentler passages.

The whole record is dense with melancholy and the mournful aspect of the music becomes so much more pertinent when you realise that Stanbridge tragically passed away from cancer six months before the album’s eventual release, aged just 39.

Aleah Stanbridge
Aleah Stanbridge

As a result listening to the album is both sad (at the loss of a very talented and a beautiful woman) and yet uplifting at the same time (thanks to the effect of her beautiful voice).

Juha Raivio
Juha Raivio

In a statement shortly after her death, Raivio said “…our Trees Of Eternity album will be released as it has been ready to be released for a while… we both loved it from the first note til the end and I’m so proud we had a chance to share a life and write this album together… been working on Aleah’s solo album for some time and will continue on that (at) some point…”

Nick Holmes
Nick Holmes

There are guest performances from Antimatter vocalist Mick Moss on “Condemned To Silence” and Paradise Lost frontman Nick Holmes on the epic closer “Gallows Bird”, but for the majority of the record it is that haunting voice of the late Stanbridge that grabs the listener’s attention.

Aleah Stanbridge
Aleah Stanbridge

My personal highlights on the record would be “A Million Tears”, “Broken Mirror”, the relatively brief “Sinking Ships” and the aforementioned tracks “Gallows Bird” and “My Requiem”. It’s a great shame that there will presumably be no further Trees Of Eternity records. One can only imagine the pain that Stanbridge’s passing has caused Raivio. This is a fabulous album and highly recommended listening.

Aleah Stanbridge & Juha Raivio
Aleah Stanbridge & Juha Raivio

I’ll leave the last words to Raivio – “…this cruel world needs this angel now more than ever. There will never be another voice like hers… She was pure magic, light and dark…” I hope that this record, and therefore the voice, will get the exposure and recognition that both deserve…maxresdefault-1

“Hour Of The Nightingale” tracklist:

1. My Requiem / 2. Eye Of Night / 3. Condemned To Silence / 4. A Million Tears / 5. Hour Of The Nightingale / 6. The Passage / 7. Broken Mirror / 8. Black Ocean /  9. Sinking Ships / 10. Gallows Bird

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The Shadow Self & The Brightest Void

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Nightwish
Nightwish

I have previously outlined the history of Finnish symphonic metal band Nightwish when discussing their excellent 2015 release “Endless Forms Most Beautiful”. Today I’m looking at the new album by their former vocalist Tarja Turunen, titled “The Shadow Self”.

Tarja Turunen
Tarja Turunen

Actually, there are two new albums from Turunen, as some weeks before “The Shadow Self” surfaced there was a prequel album titled “The Brightest Void” issued.

I feel that Turunen’s output has been of somewhat variable quality since her departure from her former band whilst their subsequent work has gone from strength to strength. Her first solo album “Henkäys Ikuisuudesta” (2006) was a purely classical Christmas-themed affair, and “My Winter Storm” (2007) and “What Lies Beneath” (2010) were as much classical as rock, though certainly listenable, with the possible exception of a dreadful cover of Whitesnake’s “Still If The Night” on the latter.

Mike Terrana & Tarja Turunen
Mike Terrana & Tarja Turunen

So it was only really with her fourth solo album “Colours In The Dark” (2013) that I think some more modern heavy rock sounds began to come to the fore. That good work was undone with 2014’s live album “Beauty And The Beat”. This was a classical collaboration between Turunen and American journeyman drummer Mike Terrana which sounds rather like Turunen performing with a symphony orchestra and some guy deciding to provide accompaniment by banging away on a drum kit. I get that it was an attempt to draw younger listeners into the world of classical music but is definitely one of those records that only gets listened to once or twice before being filed away for posterity!

Tarja Turunen
Tarja Turunen

That was followed in 2015 by “Ave Maria – En Plein Air”, a purely classical recording comprising of thirteen different compositions all titled “Ave Maria”. An interesting, but not essential, listen.

Of the new full album Turunen says “I am very excited to finally be able to share the first details of my new heavy rock album with all of you, ‘The Shadow Self’ is full of songs that are very dear to me. I cannot wait for you to hear the record that I believe is one of my heaviest albums to date.”

Tarja Turunen & Band
Tarja Turunen & Band

Well, following a delicate piano introduction to opener “Innocence” it’s not long before the drums kick in and are almost immediately joined by heavy detuned guitars providing a musical accompaniment with far more muscle than has been the case since the singer’s Nightwish days.

Alissa White-Gluz
Alissa White-Gluz

“Demons In You” features Alissa White-Gluz from Arch Enemy with her trademark harsh vocal delivery and is a great number – although the funky guitar intro to the tune and the funky bass guitar break around half way through is best ignored!

Track three “No Bitter End” is one of two songs which feature on both of these albums. An edited version starts “The Brightest Void” and “Eagle Eye” has its longer version on the same release. Both decent songs but the duplication is really rather unnecessary.

Tarja Turunen
Tarja Turunen

“Supremacy” is a cover of the Muse track and is a definite improvement on the aforementioned Whitesnake cover! Other highpoints on “The Shadow Self” are “Undertaker” and “The Living End”. Quite what the idea with the hidden track tacked on to closer “Too Many” (following three minutes of silence) which goes from punk metal to techno and back again is frankly beyond me!

Overall, though, I would say that there are some very good musical performances, catchy choruses and, of course, impressive vocals from Turunen even if the arrangements themselves seem a little too contrived.

Tarja_TBV_Front_CD_webOnto “The Brightest Void” then. Maybe I should have tackled this one first? No matter. Turunen says “Surprise, surprise! I genuinely hope that ‘The Brightest Void is a pleasant surprise to each and every one of you. During the long process of recording the songs for my new studio album ‘The Shadow Self’, I realised that there were so many tracks, too many too dear to me, for just one album. So this time I decided to keep nothing for myself and to share all my favourite new songs with you, the fans, who have shown such passionate and constant support. ‘The Brightest Void’ gives more than a first taste of ‘The Shadow Self’; it is a full album filled with 9 songs! I am sure that everyone will immediately discover how much ‘The Brightest Void’ and ‘The Shadow Self’ are entwined with each other but, at the same time, are two independent records which stand on their own.”

Tarja Turunen & Within Temptation's Sharon Den Adel
Tarja Turunen & Within Temptation’s Sharon Den Adel

Given that we have already established that two of these nine tracks are on “The Shadow Self” and that the final track “Paradise (What About Us?)” is simply a new mix of a song originally on Within Temptation’s 2014 album “Hydra” that featured Turunen’s vocals and that only leaves six new songs.

Tarja Turunen & Michael Monroe
Tarja Turunen & Michael Monroe

“Your Heaven And Your Hell” features Michael Monroe, formerly of Hanoi Rocks and co-judge, with Turunen, on Finland’s version of TV show “The Voice”. Not sure about this one as the two voices are not particularly well suited to each other. Elsewhere, “House Of Wax” cover of Paul McCartney song and “Goldfinger” is a very good rendition of the famous James Bond theme song.

1000x1000“Witch Hunt” and “An Empty Dream” are much more restrained and quite dark in sound actually, but give the whole project a little more variation than it would otherwise have had.

Ultimately, then, these are good records. Worth a listen even though one could argue that dispensing with the duplications and new mix of older material would have enabled a single album release. I’m afraid that for all her bombast Turunen is still some way behind her former colleagues in terms of musical quality and progression…

tumblr_static_ca6e8aywl0ggcoosogc40wkgs_640_v2“The Shadow Self” tracklist:

1. Innocence / 2. Demons In You / 3. No Bitter End / 4. Love To Hate / 5. Supremacy / 6. The Living End / 7. Diva / 8. Eagle Eye / 9. Undertaker / 10. Calling From The Wild / 11. Too Many

“The Brightest Void” tracklist:

1. No Bitter End / 2. Your Heaven And Your Hell” / 3. Eagle Eye / 4. An Empty Dream / 5. Witch Hunt / 6. Shameless / 7. House Of Wax / 8. Goldfinger / 9. Paradise (What About Us?)

King Of Kings

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Liv Kristine
Liv Kristine

In 2003 the Norwegian gothic metal band Theatre Of Tragedy fired their female vocalist Liv Kristine as a result of “musical differences which could not be bridged”. Kristine was apparently either emailed the news or discovered it when it was announced on the band’s website.

Alexander Krull
Alexander Krull

She then formed a new band, symphonic metal act Leaves’ Eyes, with the then-members of her German husband Alexander Krull’s gothic metal band Atrocity backing her.

In the years since Leaves’ Eyes released five studio albums beginning with 2004’s “Lovelorn” up to 2013’s “Symphonies Of The Night” as their profile gradually increased.

Thorsten Bauer
Thorsten Bauer

Last September saw the release of the band’s sixth studio release, that I have just caught up with, titled “King Of Kings”. Joining Kristine and keyboardist / vocalist Krull are co-founding member bassist / guitarist Thorsten Bauer, drummer Joris Nijenhuis (since 2013) and new guitarist Pete Streit. All three make up the current line-up of Atrocity with Krull too.

Joris Nijenhuis
Joris Nijenhuis

The record is a concept piece about the first King of Norway, Harald Fairhair, who reigned in the late ninth and early tenth centuries and is regarded as having been responsible for uniting Norway into one kingdom. It kicks off with a short but very atmospheric folky / Viking metal number “Sweven” (meaning, I believe, dream) which segues straight into the title track. Operatic vocals from Kristine, harsh vocals from Krull, heavy guitars, solid drums, orchestration and masses choral backing vocals. It’s all very Epica / Nightwish-like.

Pete Streit
Pete Streit

First single “Halvdan The Black” is a song about Harald’s father, and is again very Epica-like, but with a folky edge not unlike a mixture of Epica with bits of Eluveitie thrown in. Next up is the second single “The Waking Eye” which is all about dreams and prophecies and is very catchy and somehow distinctively European too.

Harald Fairhair
Harald Fairhair

A folky (think whistles, violins, Celtic drums etc.) instrumental interlude “Feast On The Year” then leads into “Vengeance Venom”, a Viking drinking song in essence, then “Sacred Vow”. This latter song relates to the tale the Harald, then King of the Norwegian region of Vestfold, wanted to marry Gyda Eiriksdottir, the daughter of Eirik, who was King of the region of Hordaland. She refused until such time as Harald was King of the whole country.

Simone Simons
Simone Simons

Simone Simons, lead vocalist with the aforementioned Epica, appears on “Edge Of Steel” and demonstrates to me that, despite the very high quality of the band, Kristine’s voice – very good as it is – just isn’t quite as special as that of Simons, though I’m sure many will beg to differ. The pair do blend really well on this song though.

Lindy-Fay Hella
Lindy-Fay Hella

“Haraldskvæði” refers to a ninth century poem of a conversation between a raven and a valkrie discussing the life of Harald, and is a gentle folky number with insistent percussion and lots of chanting, giving it a real Viking vibe. This feeling carries on into “Blazing Waters”, a battle song, but this soon gives way to heavy guitar riffing and harsh vocals and a catchy chorus. This is the longest track and features a guest vocal appearance from Lindy-Fay Hella of Norwegian band Wardruna.

Sverd I Fjell
Sverd I Fjell

There is a monument in Hafrsfjord, where the Battle of Hafrsfjord took place in the late ninth century and lead to Harald becoming King of a unified Norway. The monument is named Sverd I Fjell, which translates as “Swords In Rock”, the title of the final track of the regular album. Hafrsfjord is also, apparently, the place where Kristine was born, which gives the whole thing a real connection between the stories and the voice that’s singing them. I do think it’s great when the music you listen to then inspires you to find out about things like history too!

Leaves' Eyes
Leaves’ Eyes

The deluxe edition contains two bonus tracks, the lovely acoustic ballad “Spellbound” and “Trail Of Blood”, another Viking folk metal track.

In a nutshell this is classic symphonic metal with added Nordic folk, making it something that I feel is quite distinctive from the many symphonic metal and folk metal bands around. It would go well with any film or TV epic set in the Viking era too, I suspect. Well worth a listen…leaves eyes btm

“King Of Kings” tracklist:

1. Sweven / 2. King Of Kings / 3. Halvdan The Black / 4. The Waking Eye / 5. Feast Of The Year / 6. Vengeance Venom / 7. Sacred Vow / 8. Edge Of Steel / 9. Haraldskvæði / 10. Blazing Waters / 11. Swords In Rock / 12. Spellbound / 13. Trail Of Blood

2015 – My Top Ten Albums Of The Year

At the end of the year time to break the current sequence of “top ten albums of the year” posts and review my favourite releases of the past twelve months. There have been a lot of quality albums issued this year, and it’s proven difficult to narrow my list down to just ten, but here (alphabetically, as per usual) we go…

1. Europe “War Of Kings”

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Europe – War Of Kings

“…front man Joey Tempest’s vocals are as powerful and soaring now as they ever were and guitarist John Norum delivers some seriously tasty lead guitar solos. The highlights of this record, for me, are “War Of Kings”, “Nothin’ To Ya”, “California 405”, “Rainbow Bridge” and “Light Me Up”, but in truth this is a very good album from the opening sound effects through to the reprise of the title track at the end of closing instrumental number “Vasastan”…”

2. Grace Potter “Midnight”

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Grace Potter – Midnight

“…ultimately, whether you like this or not I think it’s good when an artist follows their heart musically rather than churning out similar sounding albums for fear of upsetting fans and losing sales.

Granted that approach doesn’t always make for consistently good music (see Metallica’s “St. Anger” and their collaboration with Lou Reed on “Lulu” for evidence of that!) but in the case of Potter she is, to my ears, managing to make the transition and still remain as entertaining and appealing as ever…”

3. Halestorm “Into The Wild Life”

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Halestorm – Into The Wild Life

“…I do feel that it’s easily the band’s best to date. That said, at this point in time I am really enjoying “I Am The Fire”, the delicate ballad “Dear Daughter”, the crushing “Mayhem”, “Sick Individual”, “Gonna Get Mine”, “What Sober Couldn’t Say” (with it’s lovely Procol Harum style organ work), the rock ‘n’ roll of “Jump The Gun” and “I Like It Heavy”. In truth, though, there isn’t a duff track to be found. Sure, there are different genres on display here – rock, metal, country, rock ‘n’ roll, etc. – but all put together and moulded into the unique sound of Halestorm…”

4. Iron Maiden “The Book Of Souls”

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Iron Maiden – The Book Of Souls

“…this is not only the best record that this line-up of Maiden have made, and all six members are bang on the money, but is right up there with the best of their entire output.

For a band now in their 40th year, and 15 years for this configuration, this is a staggering achievement. A 92 minute double album of consistent top quality…”

5. Luciferian Light Orchestra “Luciferian Light Orchestra”

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Luciferian Light Orchestra – Luciferian Light Orchestra

“…the album is steeped in a Seventies style vibe and is far more classic hard rock than one might expect given Johnsson’s background in death and symphonic metal. Opening track “Dr. Faust On Capri” sets out the project’s stall straight away. Catchy guitar riffs, Hammond organs, choral backing vocals in places, some fairly deep but perfectly understandable male vocals and all topped off with the a beautifully sweet female vocal.

…if all occult and / or satanic music was as melodic, catchy and, frankly, seductive as this then there would be a lot more people investigating that path!…”

6. Nightwish “Endless Forms Most Beautiful”

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Nightwish – Endless Forms Most Beautiful

“…designed to be listened to from start to end, as albums used to be, the record starts with a spoken piece from Professor Richard Dawkins introducing first track “Shudder Before The Beautiful”. Orchestration leads into some heavy guitar riffing before Jansen’s vocals kick in. Her voice is pure and clear, and the track’s melodies catchy. This is classic Nightwish but also the group sounding more accessible than ever…”

7. Steven Wilson “Hand. Cannot. Erase”

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Steven Wilson – Hand. Cannot. Erase

“…anyone familiar with Wilson’s past work with Porcupine Tree, or his subsequent solo work will have an idea of what to expect with this record. This is not background music. It’s not easy listening. This is an album that challenges you. It needs and deserves to have your full attention. And with that attention you will discover what a rich and engaging album it is…”

8. Swallow The Sun “Songs From The North”

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Swallow The Sun – Songs From The North I, II & III

“…a truly great doom metal band that have incorporated a wide palette within their core sound. Now that winter is settling in and we are treated to rain, mist and dark skies I feel that it is the perfect time for something like “Songs From The North”. The fact that the project is on such a huge scale just makes it even better in my view. An ideal, and oddly uplifting, soundtrack to the melancholy and darkness of winter…”

9. Thunder “Wonder Days”

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Thunder – Wonder Days

“…to my ears nothing quite matches the magic created when you mix his songs with Bowes’ voice in the band, underpinned by the rock solid James’ drumming, Matthews’ guitar and keyboard parts and Chris Childs’ bass playing and the magic is complete. Thunder are a fantastic band, whether on record or on stage, and it’s great to have them back with new songs!…”

10. The Unthanks “Mount The Air”

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The Unthanks – Mount The Air

“…the group have gradually moved from their more traditional folk sounds to more experimental waters. Taking folk as their starting point, they now often utilise strings and brass instruments, resulting in a unique and quite haunting sound. The sisters’ voices really do compliment each other beautifully.

As a whole, listening to the record from start to finish is to be taken on a wonderful musical journey. It’s hard to convey in words what The Unthanks sound like – so it’s probably best to listen and quite literally let the music do the talking…”

So there you have it – my favourite ten albums of this year. Back on course with the Seventies and 1976 soon…

Songs From The North

Swallow-The-Sun

Juha Raivio
Juha Raivio

Although there is a perception that music has become very disposable with some many people cherry picking songs and having random playlists etc., it’s clear that there are those that still believe in the album format. I personally suspect that this applies more to fans of what could be termed niche genres – heavy metal, jazz, folk etc. – than to those who listen to pop. In any event 2015 has been quite a year for the album as a complete piece of work, including some superb double album releases from Iron Maiden and IO Earth.

Pasi Pasanen
Pasi Pasanen

Now the bar has been raised once more with the latest offering from Finnish melodic doom metal band Swallow The Sun. Formed in 2000 by Juha Raivio (guitars) and Pasi Pasanen (drums), the pair were joined in 2001 by Mikko Kotamäki (vocals), Markus Jämsen (guitars), Matti Honkonen (bass) and Aleksi Munter (keyboards).

Mikko Kotamäki
Mikko Kotamäki

This line-up released debut album “The Morning Never Came” in 2003, and followed this up with three further studio albums – the more gothic tinged “Ghosts Of Loss” (2005), and “Hope” (2007) – with the vast majority of the material being penned by Raivio.

Kai Hahto
Kai Hahto

Pasanen departed before the recording of “New Moon” (2009) and was replaced by Kai Hahto, who is also a member of the band Wintersun. Swallow The Sun’s fifth studio album, titled “Emerald Forest And The Blackbird” was released in 2012.

Markus Jämsen
Markus Jämsen

With Hahto working with Nightwish on their excellent 2015 album “Endless Forms Most Beautiful” and the following world tour whilst that band’s regular drummer dealt with health issues, the band had to find a replacement for the follow-up to their “Emerald Forest And The Blackbird” album.

Juuso Raatikainen
Juuso Raatikainen

In December 2014 they posted via their Facebook page that “…Kai won’t be playing drums on the next Swallow the Sun release, or on upcoming tours. Kai’s job with Nightwish will take so much of his time, at least for the next couple of years, that we all have agreed that from now on it is better for the amazing Juuso Raatikainen to take on the drums officially. Kai is our brother, and will always be a member of Swallow the Sun, so he has not been kicked out, nor has he resigned, but now we have Juuso on board as well…”. Unusual, certainly, but a refreshing change to see such a harmonious statement rather than the often seen vitriol when band line-ups change.

Matti Honkonen
Matti Honkonen

The resulting release is “Songs From The North”, a huge triple album of new material lasting two and a half hours! Split into three distinct albums, the group announced them with the description “Songs from the North I continues in the vein of the albums before it – first-rate death-doom. Songs from the North II is a beautiful acoustic foray, unplugged revel in the darkness. Songs from the North III is the most extreme album, a complete ride into most horrific abyss of finely crafted, conscience-crushing funeral doom.”

Aleksi Munter
Aleksi Munter

Epic is a word that’s bandied around a fair bit. Indeed that is something that I’m sometimes guilty of myself when describing a longer track on an album. However in the case of “Songs From The North” it seems to be a wholly appropriate term to use.

1“Songs… I” begins with the acoustic guitar introduction to the nine minute “With You Came The Whole Of The World’s Tears”. As if the title isn’t clue enough, the first (and last) line of the song is “Saint Peter save me and send me down to Hell”. Then a densely heavy yet beautifully melodic guitar riff comes crushing in.  Going back and forth between the delicate acoustic sections and the heavy, a happy happy joy joy song this is not.

Aleah Stanbridge
Aleah Stanbridge

“Rooms And Shadows”, another belter with fabulous growled vocals mixed in with the melodic harmony vocals underpinned by some more seriously heavy instrumentation is also found on “Songs… I”. Possibly the most gorgeous song on this record, though, is “Heartstrings Shattering” which features a wonderful guest vocal from Trees Of Eternity singer Aleah Stanbridge, although the track “Silhouettes” is yet another highlight of the first volume.

2“Songs… II” is a gentler affair, but still carries the same sense of melancholy and sadness in its songs. Instrumental piano-led opener “The Womb Of Winter” leads into the acoustic guitar and tubular bells of “The Heart Of A Cold White Land” which in a way sums up the whole experience with the lyric “…this heart of a cold white land in the dark of the endless nights and the light of summer that never dies in these songs from the North…”. My favourite tracks on this record are “Autumn Fire”, “Pray For The Winds To Come” and the second instrumental track “66°50’N, 28°40’E” (which, according to Google maps, is in Salla near Finland’s eastern border with Russia).

3The third disc, “Songs… III”, begins with the longest track here, the thirteen minute hymn of despair and pain that is “The Gathering Of Black Moths”. The deathly slow “7 Hours Late” follows, feeling akin to the end of time itself, and it’s fair to say that the pace has not picked up by the time we get to the highlight of the third record, the glacial “Abandoned By The Light”, in which Saint Peter makes a return to the lyrics and Kotamäki’s deathly growl intones about suffering “…the purest form of pain, my heart pulled apart by ebony horses unaware of their powers, gentle in their calmness until their eyes lit up like the fires of Hell, or was it just a reflection of mine…”.

swallow-the-sun (1)Swallow The Sun are a truly great doom metal band that have incorporated a wide palette within their core sound. Now that winter is settling in and we are treated to rain, mist and dark skies I feel that it is the perfect time for something like “Songs From The North”. The fact that the project is on such a huge scale just makes it even better in my view. An ideal, and oddly uplifting, soundtrack to the melancholy and darkness of winter. Very impressive…

SWALLOW_THE_SUN_tour_2015

“Songs From The North I” tracklist:

1. With You Came The Whole Of The World’s Tears / 2. 10 Silver Bullets / 3. Rooms & Shadows / 4. Heartstrings Shattering / 5. Silhouettes / 6. Memory Of Light / 7. Lost & Catatonic / 8. From Happiness To Dust

“Songs From The North II” tracklist:

1. The Womb Of Winter / 2. The Heart Of A Cold White Land / 3. Away / 4. Pray For The Winds To Come / 5. Songs From The North / 6. 66°50’N, 28°40’E / 7. Autumn Fire / 8. Before The Summer Dies

“Songs From The North III” tracklist:

1. The Gathering Of Black Moths / 2. 7 Hours Late / 3. Empires Of Loneliness / 4. Abandoned By The Light / 5. The Clouds Prepare For Battle

Endless Forms Most Beautiful

47945“Endless Forms Most Beautiful” is the eighth studio album by Finnish symphonic metal band Nightwish.

Nightwish In 2000
Nightwish In 2000

The band was formed in 1996 by vocalist Tarja Turunen, guitarist Emppu Vuorinen and keyboardist / principle songwriter Tuomas Holopainen. Adding drummer Jukka Nevalainen and then bassist Sami Vänskä, Nightwish gradually gained increasing success in Europe with their first three albums, but tensions within the band meant that Holopainen seriously considered splitting the band in 2001. Vänskä was asked to leave, and the band then continued, under new management, with new bassist Marco Hietala, who also performs male vocal parts.

Tarja Turunen
Tarja Turunen

Despite further success with the next two albums, 2004’s “Once” being the most successful at that point, reaching the Top 20 in ten European countries, there was more drama in late 2005 when Turunen was presented with an open letter following a concert in which she was informed of her dismissal from the group. That night’s concert had been recorded and was later released as the DVD/CD “End Of An Era”.

Nightwish In 2007
Nightwish In 2007

In 2007 the band announced Anette Olzon was their new lead vocalist. With Anette, a less operatic singer than Turunen, on board they released “Dark Passion Play”, which was their most commercially successful album to date.

The next album, “Imaginaerum” was something of an extravaganza, released in multiple versions, including the regular album, orchestral and instrumental versions. The album was also tied in with a movie of the same name – in which all band members had roles – and there was a score recording released.

Floor Jansen On The Imaginaerum World Tour
Floor Jansen On The Imaginaerum World Tour

During the following world tour Olzon found herself dismissed a few days after being unable to perform due to illness, with the band stating that “the needs of the band were in conflict, and this has led to a division from which we cannot recover”. Floor Jansen, vocalist with Re-Vamp, was drafted in to complete the tour and later became a permanent band member, together with multi-instrumentalist Troy Donockley who had performed on previous studio works with the group. Hotwever, due to a sleep disorder Nevalainen was unable to participate in the recording of the latest album, the drum parts being handled by Kai Hahto.

So, after yet more upheaval in the group since the last studio album, how does “Endless Forms Most Beautiful” stack up against their back catalogue?

Charles Darwin
Charles Darwin “On The Origin Of Species”

Named after a quote from Charles Darwin’s 1859 book “On The Origin Of Species” in which he wrote “from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved” this album, loosely based on the concept of “the beauty of life, the beauty of existence, nature, science” is, to my ears, the best album that the band have yet produced.

Nightwish In 2015
Nightwish In 2015

Designed to be listened to from start to end, as albums used to be, the record starts with a spoken piece from Professor Richard Dawkins introducing first track “Shudder Before The Beautiful”. Orchestration leads into some heavy guitar riffing before Jansen’s vocals kick in. Her voice is pure and clear, and the track’s melodies catchy. This is classic Nightwish but also the group sounding more accessible than ever.

Lead single “Élan” sees the pace drop slightly, before the bombast returns in “Yours Is An Empty Hope” which features some superb orchestration in the middle section.

Sharbat Gula On National Geographic Magazine Cover
Sharbat Gula On National Geographic Magazine Cover

There is a ballad in “Our Decades In The Sun”, and the title track is another really catchy masterpiece.

“Edema Ruh” are travellers and entertainers in the fantasy trilogy “Kingkiller Chronicle” by Patrick Rothfuss, and the instrumental track “The Eyes Of Sharbat Gula” was inspired by the photgraph of an Afghan girl that was featured on the cover of National Geographic magazine way back in 1985.

Throughout the album the quality is absolutely top notch. Each member of the band puts in an excellent performance, the material some of Holopainen’s best ever, and his production is crystal clear.

To close the record we have the epic five-part “The Greatest Show On Earth”, a twenty four minute track about “life and evolution by natural selection”. Featuring, as does the album as a whole, the London Philharmonic Orchestra and the Metro Voices choir, and a further contribution from Professor Dawkins, this is an epic track in the truest sense, and the perfect way to end such a brilliant album. Simply breathtaking.

150209_wembley“Endless Forms Most Beautiful” tracklist:

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 Sharbat Gula / 11. The Greatest Show On Earth (I Four Point Six / II Life / III The Toolmaker / IV The Understanding / V Sea-Worn Driftwood)