Hardcore fans of Charles Darwin and music lovers alike will enjoy the Finnish Symphonic Metal band Nightwish’s latest album, “Endless Forms Most Beautiful,” released in March 2015. The album contrasts as much in its themes as it does in its instrumentation from Nightwish’s previous album, “Imaginaerum,” which is described as an “emotional fantasy-adventure.”
If the album’s title sounds familiar, that’s because it is quoted from Charles Darwin’s book “On the Origin of Species.”
The band intended the album as a “tribute to science and the power of reason,” and thus wrote it with heavy inspiration from the writings of Darwin and of the Oxford evolutionary biologist Dr. Richard Dawkins (who is actually featured on the album itself).
The opening line, for instance, is recited by Dawkins: “The deepest solace lies in understanding – this ancient unseen stream, a shudder before the beautiful.”
Then the album goes on to do just that: marvel at the beauty of the world, complete with powerful orchestral backing tracks, choirs, solid rhythms, guitars, drums, and vocals swinging on the scale between Floor Jansen’s clean operatic phrasing and Marco Hietala’s loud metal growling. Also noteworthy are Troy Donockley’s Uilleann piping and Welsh vocals at the beginning of “My Walden.”
At the start and at the end of the album, Dr. Dawkins quotes Darwin’s writings. As it were, the lyrics themselves make references to now-extinct species that have marked the history of life (Tiktaalik for instance).
And then we get to the last song – “The Greatest Show on Earth” – which, in 23 minutes (Nightwish’s longest to date), tells science’s take on the story of the universe, starting with a rocky exploding Archaean era, moving through gravity’s role in forming the earth, LUCA, Lucy, the start of human thought, human beliefs, weaponry, and then ending with the theoretical rat-kind (thought by some of the scientific community to descend from rats after a possible nuclear extinction of human beings). The song and album very adequately end with a quote by Dawkins, then with one by Darwin.