It's hard to truly endorse this release unless you haven't already purchased a physical version of 'Endless Forms Most Beautiful'.
In all there were sixteen (yes...sixteen!) versions of the 2011 Nightwish album 'Imaginaerum'. The Standard Edition, 2CD Digi, mail order 2CD, Roadrunner Edition, Tour Edition and a whole array of coloured vinyl options. Oh, and 'The Score' album of course, so make that seventeen! Hence that its follow-up, 'Endless Forms Most Beautiful', should already be touching twenty different variations comes as no shock. The latest in that (long) list unfurls in a tasty four-panel digi-pack with beautiful artwork and stunning visuals, its contents a CD containing the full 'Endless...' album (no bonus tracks) and a separate DVD with an assortment of live clips and behind the scenes footage.
'Endless...' was expertly lauded by Carl Buxton (issue #69) so I won't go into great detail here about the main album itself. However, unlike my colleague, I'm still not completely convinced by an album so keen to expand its outlook through long narration and animal noises, that the songs themselves felt a little like Nightwish by numbers. Although to be fair, those numbers – 'Elan', 'Endless Forms Most Beautiful' and 'Shudder Before The Beautiful' – are mightier than many a band could hope to achieve, even if the criminal under use of new singer Floor Jansen verges on unforgivable!
However, most Nightwish fans will have already invested in at least one version of 'Endless...', hence the focus needs to move to the DVD. Here you'll find two full live videos, five live "special clips", two official videos (it's still fun, if surprising, to see how self-conscious the band look in the studio clip for 'Endless Forms Most Beautiful' – 'Elan' being the other), an extensive photo gallery and an in-depth, twenty-part documentary. On its own that list sounds impressive, however when you take into account that all bar the two full live cuts ('Yours Is An Empty Hope' and 'Stargazers') are available on YouTube, then it's not so clear cut. That said, if you want a hard copy of the other live performances, then the likes of 'Planet Hell', 'Arabesque' and 'Storytime' undoubtedly display what a live force this band are, Jansen utterly immense and pipes man Troy Donockley indispensable in a way his studio touches don't always illustrate.
Where the real value – and consternation – arrives is in the twenty part 'Making Of...' documentary, the clips revealing the inner workings of the band from song-writing and arranging, through recording, listening parties, album art and tour rehearsals. It's an interesting, exhaustive journey (the DVD runs to one hundred and fifty-one minutes), but with the clips lifted straight from YouTube with no editing, each episode carries the same introduction, and each a snippet of what's in the next instalment. Which when you consider this is just the touch of a button away, it becomes more than a little tiresome. Would it really have been such a stretch to edit these clips together into one continuous story? Hence if there's one real complaint, it's that with the excellent and lengthy source material available, it feels like there's been very little thought, time or care put into what could have been – and nearly is – a superb add-on to the original album.
As it is, it's hard to truly endorse this release unless you haven't already purchased a physical version of 'Endless Forms Most Beautiful'. If that's the case, this is the one you need. If you have, it's open to debate as to whether the DVD truly adds enough "watch it again and again" value to reinvest.