After recruiting Floor Jansen, the best vocalist the band had ever attracted to the fold, Nightwish released decent to good-ish Endless Forms Most Beautiful in 2015. And while that album had its ups and downs, its strengths and flaws, the Finnish symphonic metal six piece break new grounds in self indulgence with their ninth full length Hvman. :||: Natvre. which for some reason needed to be a double album. Let’s say to begin that like this album too has its good sides and decent moments, but nowhere is this redeeming for the album as a whole. Opener Music that seems to take off at the X minute mark but then goes absolutely nowhere, leading into single Noise, a pseudo intellectual stomper with a singular message to hammer into your mindless heads: “phone bad”. You’re really supposed to be able to expect more of this kind of stalwarts of the genre.
Hvman. :||: Natvre. is basically 80 minutes of the exact same pseudo intellectual slap to the face that made up The Greatest Show on Earth (which no one liked) from the previous album. But at least that song had the courtesy of being “only” 24 minutes long. Ok, so the main portion of the album - the first disc - is vapid. I get it, but it’s vapid. That accounts for the first fifty minutes. The second part is a thirty minute of yeah, more of the same, but mostly instrumental, with only a few narrated passages to add the Nightwish class of depth; “nature good”. Stylistically the album is about what was expected; high flair symphonics from Tuomas Holopainen’s brain with the big sounding keyboards leading the charge alongside Jansen’s undoubtedly near flawless performance. It never ventures into the operatic blasts of the past, but instead continues on the band’s latter day style. Marco Hietala has been pushed to a background supporting role, vocals wise, instead of getting those moments directly alongside Jansen. The bass itself is thick and looming alongside Emppu Vuorinen’s guitars that only come out to play when Holopainen lets them.
The riffing is delegated to a few moments here and there, the music mostly lead by rhythm play and the sometimes over the top keyboards. In this and many other respects, Pan is the rulebreaker; being the sole song on the album getting more than a passing grade, it carries some weight in the riffing, sweet hooks and subtle use of Holopainen’s keyboards as well as choirs to give it a building epic feel much lost (though not for lack of trying) on the rest of the album. It’s not up to par with the massive greats the band has been known for, but it’s a good one definitely. Troy Donockley’s pipes come more to play on folksier tunes, notably How’s the Heart?, and it makes for a bit of difference to stick out, but never really taking off even though the melodies are pretty sweet. None of the good sides are enough to weigh out the bloated, jumbled, self indulgent mess that is the entirety of Hvman. :||: Natvre. however. I’m sure massive fans will swallow it, but… there’s just something lacking. Maybe it’s passion, or maybe it’s some sweet ass riffing.
Standout tracks: Pan, How’s the Heart?