In between this 2015 album and the previous studio release, 2011’s ‘Imaginaerum’ it is safe to say the band had been through some struggles (seek out the excellent tour documentary on YouTube detailing what happened). Due to singer Anette Olzon being hospitalized immediately before a show in Denver, the band went ahead with Alissa White-Gluz and Elize Ryd (who were part of support band Kamelot) taking on the role, using printed lyrics and a revised setlist. This in turn led to Floor Jansen being invited in for the rest of the tour. Late in 2013 it was announced that Jansen would be the full-time replacement for Olzen, and the band also made Troy Donockley a permanent member (he had already been touring with the band for five years at this point). However, before they went into the studio to record the new album it was announced that founding member and drummer Jukka Nevalainen would not be involved due serious insomnia (he has since left the band as a musical member although to this day he is still heavily involved in taking care of band-related business), and he would be replaced by Kai Hahto (Wintersun).
So there had been a lot going on in the band, but they had weathered issues prior to this, particularly with the loss of original singer Tarja Turunen, so like many I was intrigued to hear this album. I happened to see Nightwish on the tour with Floor (who I had always admired with After Forever) and thought the band had connected really well together, so was looking forward to this. Jansen is a good replacement for Olzon, as while she can sing that material well, her voice is also suited to the earlier material of Turunen, and I expected to see something of a return to the sort of material with which Nightwish made their name. When Marco Hietala joined the band in 2001, he made a massive impact as it gave the band a second really strong songwriter and someone who could also take centre stage as lead singer, so I had very expectations indeed.
However, apart from a few standouts, what we have here to my ears is a band who are really going through the motions. It has everything that one expects from Nightwish, but somehow muted. It is bombastic and over the top, yet without the soul and passion I expect. Delicate numbers such as “Our Decades In the Sun” stand out as they are a delight, an oasis of light in a fairly dark and parched atmosphere. But, it’s not a bad album, it is still much better than many bands will ever hope to release, it is just I expected more from a band who had been through so much, and I firmly expected them to take a step up from ‘Imaginaerum’, which I loved, yet somehow they have not managed that.
Anyone who enjoys symphonic metal is going to love this, but for me while it is an excellent album, and one which I am sure I will return to, it doesn’t deliver as I expected.