Nightwish’s “Endless Forms Most Beautiful”

This post feels long overdue and it’s been a while since I’ve written about music. In fact, its been far too long since I’ve written anything on this blog and for that, I do apologise. I’m going to do my best to avoid becoming too emotional as I write, however that’s going to be difficult. Because as someone who adores symphonic metal and finds science and reason an ongoing source of inspiration, this album by my favourite band is truly one of the most perfect things in my world.

Endless Forms Most Beautiful is a drastic departure from Nightwish’s previous work, which has celebrated fantasy, dreams, wishes, mythology and the incredible. Every album they have created has taken us on whirlwind journeys of fantasy, creating imagery that stays with us long after we first hear each song. But with this album, the band takes us on a very different journey and explores a whole new kind of incredible. The incredible of reality.

I could post a detailed analysis of every track, but in my humble opinion, others have done that far better than I have and it would interrupt the flow of what I’d like to say about this album as a whole.

Firstly, a recommendation. Listen to the entire album from start to finish. No shuffling. Even though every single song is a glorious masterpiece in its own right, taking the time to listen to the entire album in the correct order will send you on a spectacular journey through the entire creation of the universe. From the Big Bang itself, to the creation of every living creature, to the flaws of man which will lead us toward our inevitable demise.

There is such beauty in this. It sounds almost tragic in a way. But the commentary within certain tracks from the incomparable Sir Richard Dawkins reminds us of the great fortune we all share, simply in being alive. That the very fact any of even exist in the first place is a miracle. It is a notion that makes one feel so small, yet so big.

It is a notion that reminds us our time on this earth is fleeting and precious, that we are blessed to be here and should make as much use of our time on this planet as we can before we make our final descent back into the abyss from which we emerged.

The music is flawless and powerful, in typical Nightwish fashion, and the perfect poetic medium to carry the divine lyrics. In itself, it tells a story. Which brings me to a second recommendation. After you’ve listened to the full album, then listen to the instrumental version. Close your eyes and be transported to the realm of reality.

In short, I cannot say enough good things about this album and cannot recommend it enough.

“Cursing the Darkness” Nightwish’s “Last Ride of the Day”

Tonight I was reminded of an old saying via a random Instagram post: “It is always better to light a candle, than to curse the darkness.” There seems to be a lot of debate as to where this saying first came from or to what it precisely refers, but the first thing it made me think of was the song “Last Ride of the Day” from Imaginaerum, the seventh studio album from symphonic metal band Nightwish. 

Tuomas Holopainen, main lyricist and keyboard / synthesizer player for Nightwish has explained this song was inspired by his love of roller-coasters and describes it as being the perfect metaphor for life. Listening to the song, you do actually feel like you are riding on a roller coaster, the slow tempo and soft intonations of the opening verse crank upwards slowly but steadily into the almost mad, rapid pace of the rest of the song. It’s a journey you can’t help but want to take, despite the twists and turns and almost uncertainty of where the song is heading next. The very structure of the song is just like life itself; and then come Holopainen’s incredible lyrics…

The reason the above quote made me instantly think of this song was due to the clever twist Holopainen put on it for this song:

“It’s hard to light a candle, easy to curse the dark instead.”

One of the things Holopainen does best, one of the many reasons I absolutely adore his lyrics and the reason he has earned the moniker of the “Ocean Soul Poet,” is his ability to look beyond what everyone else thinks and believes. He goes far deeper than any other writer dares and comes up with these seemingly subtle changes that say far more than they first appear to. He’s not afraid to say that sometimes the notion of “lighting the candle” is not only too hard at times, but it’s not even always necessary to keep going, to push on, to ride hard and get through each day.

“Last Ride of the Day” is filled with such beautiful imagery from the very first verse; you can almost see the “smile of a stranger” and “starry skies,” hear the “sweet music” and the joyous din of the “open theme park gates,” smell the “scent of fresh mown grass in the morning sun.” Holopainen wants us to to focus on the hidden beauty all around us by pointing out that “we live in every moment but this one.” He wants us to stop arguing about our differences because “what’s God, if not the spark that started life?” He wants us all to bravely keep going, candle or not, straight into the chorus where he hits us with:

“Once upon a night, we’ll wake to the carnival of life

The beauty of this ride ahead, such an incredible high

It’s hard to light a candle, easy to curse the dark instead

This moment the dawn of humanity

The last ride of the day.”

Never a lyricist to do things by halves, he continues to persuade us in the second verse, where he transports us into that very “carnival of life” by inviting us to “enter adventureland.” Here we find “tricksters, magicians,” and “careless jugglers, snakecharmers” showing us “all that’s real” as they appear “by your trail.” He reminds us again, to focus on this moment and it’s magic with that simple word, “abracadabra” before he launches us back into the chorus, taking us on that last ride, where we again curse the dark but keep moving forward “finding the way back home.”

With “Last Ride of the Day,” Nightwish have created the perfect roller-coaster ride of beauty, emotion, depth, hope, uncertainty and fear that perfectly represents life. While some people may hold true to that old saying that lighting the candle is better, I for one agree with Holopainen. Sometimes all we can do is curse the dark and keep going. Keep riding towards that glorious carnival of life where a simple candle will finally seem like a quaint notion.