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Many heads questioned the sanity of Nightwish when Tarja was fired from it. Even more heads dismissed the new record, as there was a new vocalist in it, whose voice wasn't as operatic as that from Tarja. Neither will I say that they're wrong, nor will I side with them. New Nightwish is going strong, delivering a decent album, not up to par with Wishmaster or Oceanborn, but more in the lines of Once and Century Child. The low point of the new album wasn't the voice of Anette. She wasn't as good and operatic as Tarja, but she had a sweet lovely voice. The downfall was the lack of power metal influence that was evident in their earlier records. Too much emphasis is laid on the orchestra's and basic guitar power chords. There aren't enough leads, few melodies and doesn't strive far from a generic hard rock CD with some strings.
Amaranth is one of the few songs that stand out on the CD. It's very radio friendly, but also one of the few more power metal oriented songs. The guitar is still very basic, relying too much on power chords and the rhythm. This makes the drum, bass and guitar clash into one thing, which is sad. Luckily there is Tuomas to save everything. The infectious chorus features several melodies intertwining into each other. Anette's voice is layered a few times, and battles with the orchestra for the frontpage of the song.
The layout is just like a normal radio hit. 2 verses, 3 choruses and a bridge. Of course there is also the last chorus which is extended to reach a climax. Nightwish do it very well. The bombastic choruses and the laid back verses are nothing new, but they go very well with each other. The bridge is basically the chorus riff played by a piano. Nothing spectacular, but features more as the calmth before the storm. The last chorus is the greatest achievement of the whole record, other than the chorus of The Poet and the Pendulum. This extended version features a encore situation between two layered vocal lines. Anette's voice is used optimally here by reaching the highest notes of the album, ending with a heavy pounding bang.
This is one of the more radio-friendly songs of the album. Most of the other songs aren't as short and formulatic as this song. Still, this song is the best of the album; Nightwish couldn't think of a beter song of the album to release as a single. It baffles me a bit that there is also a "radio-friendly" version on this single, as if the original wasn't basic enough. There is nothing wrong with that version, though at the end I find myself listening rather to the original song.
Musically Nightwish dodged a bullet with the release of “Dark Passion Play”, which I had expected to be a second rate clone of “Once”, which was a somewhat confused sounding release, even though it featured a good deal of strength in the instrumental department. There is a bit more cohesion now, despite the fact that Anette Blyckert is not nearly up to the level that Tarja was when she was at the top of her game on the “Oceanborn” album.
“Amaranth” is musically similar to “Nemo” on many levels; it features a simple main piano melody, it’s loaded with symphonic majesty, and it’s probably a bit too groove oriented to sit well with traditional power metal fans who took a liking to this band in the late 90s. It’s a charming song and Anette puts on one of her best performances from the album, but it just doesn’t grab me the same way that similar sounding songs like “Bless the Child” or “Come Cover Me” did.
The demo version of this song features a completely different chorus and Marco Hietala on the vocals. Let’s just say that the man can get pretty high into the female register with a fair share of ease, almost as if he literally reached back into Tarot’s glam days to get this voice. It’s pretty well produced for what it is, but ultimately suffers from the same flatness as the finalized studio version. The instrumental version of “Eva” and the song “While your lips are still read” are charming ballads, but also lack that general something that made their ballads with Tarja so special.
Nightwish has a long road ahead of them if they plan to win over the core fans that joined up with them before 2003, and this song isn’t the one to do it. They may have a bright future ahead of them writing mature music, but I’d prefer it if they got back to their roots and concentrated on the power metal side of things, leaving the symphonic stuff as an occasional device rather than a mainstay of their sound.