1. Endless Forms Most Beautiful (2015)
The top dog and first choice in any Nightwish virgin’s shopping list has to be their most recent album. Not because it features as many accepted classics as Once – it doesn’t, at least not yet – but because this is the release that transformed a big metal band into an arena-filling phenomenon. It’s the only album so far to feature the band’s current and definitive line-up, completed by peerless vocalist Floor Jansen and English multi-instrumentalist Troy Donockley. It’s every bit as epic and emotional as any previous opus, but this time the maestro behind it all, Tuomas Holopainen, has clearly overcome the demons that once almost destroyed him. It’s less personal, more celebratory, and the songs – from Élan’s folk lilt to Alpenglow’s landslide hooks – stand as tall as a mountain range. While opener Shudder Before The Beautiful could easily have soundtracked a Lord Of The Rings battle sequence, it’s actually a joy-filled hymn about our planet, about how amazing it is that any of us are here at all. Similarly, the multi-part, 24-minute Greatest Show On Earth pays off the patient – this vehicle of spirit is nothing less than a love letter to life itself.