Finnish symphonic metal band Nightwish has released a video for ‘Noise’, the first track from their ninth studio album, ‘Human :II: Nature’ which is set to drop on 10th April.
The 24-year old band has transcended its original metal fan base during the last two years in particular, courtesy of literally hundreds of ‘reaction’ videos on YouTube, posted by professional voice coaches or aficionados of other genres, and mainly in favour of third female lead vocalist, Floor Jansen. The scope of that growing fan base can be gauged by the fact the video was watched over 1.2 million times in three days and that figure increased by 20,000 while I was writing this. It has become one of the most anticipated albums of 2020.
The direction they were likely to take has been a talking point amongst fans, as some, including me, do not consider them to be a metal band per se, with elements as diverse as folk and prog in their makeup. Chief songwriter Tuomas Holopainen had indicated that the orchestral arrangements they are noted for would be “different” this time out and the album will come in the form of a dual CD package with eight tracks on the first and a concept piece, also in eight parts, on the second.
Whether or not they will try to get to the bottom of what human nature is all about on this album, as they attempted to tell the story of evolution in 22 minutes on their previous one, remains to be seen. It is their propensity to write about challenging subjects that perhaps separates them from most other metal bands. Apart from the ‘evolution’ track (‘The Greatest Show on Earth’) they previously touched on subjects like the Columbine school shootings (‘The Kinslayer’).
The subject matter of ‘Noise’ isn’t entirely new. Many artists in recent years have had a pot at the digital society and particularly the influence of the internet and social media. The object of Nightwish’s ire is the smartphone. I suppose it carries on where Stephen King’s novel ‘Cell’ left off (although that was surely his worst piece of work, ever; did the 19-year old creator of ‘Carrie’ actually write that?)
If Nightwish has a weakness (and I’m struggling to think of any other) it is that some of their lyrics are both bombastic and nonsensical. Even their epic signature song, ‘Ghost Love Score’, a contender for the Song of the Century to date contains the puzzling “Redeem me into childhood/Show me myself without the shell/Like the advent of May/I’ll be there when you say/Time to never hold our love.”
So I went through this one with a fine-tooth comb and I’m impressed. It’s wordy for sure but it contains some lyrical gems:
“Now you’re a star/Vain avatar/Feeding the beast/In your loud Egoland”
“Noise/ From a sunless world/Your mirror is black, only a copy stares back/At a slave of brave new world”.
As for the musical style, well the fundamental metal riffs are there and possibly more of those, and a little less of the orchestration, than one might have expected given recent form, together with some spoken passages. And Holopainen has opted to avoid his traditional big ending, preferring to let the story play itself out.
The surreal video, chock full of imagery and the exterior scenes of which I suspect were shot at the founding members’ home town of Kitee near the Finnish/Russian border, has elements of ‘Monty Python’, ‘Alien’, ‘2001 – A Space Odyssey’, ‘Alice through the Looking Glass’ and any number of Dan Brown novels. The entire band has an opportunity to act with the main roles going to Holopainen and bassist/vocalist Marco Hietala although “newly-promoted” drummer Kai Hahto, who had been standing in for the original one, Jukka Nevalainen until the latter formally retired from front line action last summer gets a look-in, and Cumbrian pipes player Troy Donockley quite a big one.
Meanwhile, poor old guitarist Emppu Vuorinen gets knifed and booted for his trouble.
Also playing her part is the Amazonian Floor Jansen, who looks more impressive than ever. I’m not sure who the partially dressed petite blonde actress is; I thought it might be Holopainen’s wife, Johanna Kurkela but YouTube comments are suggesting an actress/bikini model by the name of Jessica Edström.
While this song hasn’t completely grabbed me yet after a couple of views I just have a feeling that Holopainen has shifted in the direction of a full rock opera with what he seems to be doing on this latest work. He has talked of writing one in the past.
Fasten your seat belts, this album is going to be one hell of a ride.