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The dismissal of front woman Tarja Turnen from the storied symphonic metal band Nightwish was and continues to be one of the most controversial events in European metal. For many listeners, dedicated or otherwise, Turunen was Nightwish. While Tuomas Holopainen has always been the true creative force, her once distinct soaring operatic vocals were always the most instantly definable elements of the Nightwish sound. In the now infamous open letter to Turunen, the band proclaimed that they expelled her from the band due to her growing arrogance and lack of dedication to the band, as well as her husband's manipulations in their internal affairs. Indeed, the band tackles the subject of Turunen's departure directly on "Bye Bye Beautiful", lamenting the loss of their good friend while imploring her to realize that they never intended anything but the best for her. While it does sound a bit condescending, they seem to be more regretful of her departure than anything else. This is hardly the case with "Master Passion Greed", in which they drop their typical use of poetic and vague language, and instead opt for an all-out attack on Turunen's husband. The sheer vitriol delivered in the song outclasses even the ripping "Slaying the Dreamer" from Century Child.
But it is when Holopainen goes in depth into how the split and it's very public aftermath affected him personally on "The Poet and the Pendulum" when the band truly shines on all fronts. Transitioning from driving choruses, melancholic and tense transitions, and even a genuinely disturbing bridge, it's quite a ride. Holopainen starts by confronting his dissatisfaction with his life and mood as a whole and wishing to be taken to "dreamer's hideaway", of which the meaning is not clear at first. But after speaking of the horrors of betrayal making him unable to trust anyone around him, and even reveling in the idea of his own death and dishonor, it is clear that he called from a very desperate place. Everything in the song is nearly perfectly thought out, from Anette's melancholic voice telling his tale of regret, to the well-timed build-ups and the final, calming outro, to Marco Hietala's startling, furious screams calling for the celebration of Holopainen's death. "Pendulum" will very likely go down as Nightwish's masterwork.
Most of Dark Passion Play is heavily dependent on the now commonplace elements from the group. Nightwish have always had a very bombastic sound, but Dark Passion Play takes it to a whole new level. Many of the songs have many layers of orchestra lines, such that the full picture of a song's structure can only be truly perceived by close listening. The opening epic "The Poet and the Pendulum" exemplifies this trait more than any other song, driven by the strumming of the violins while allowing Holopainen's keyboard and occasional horn lines to create a very immersive experience. Just as immersive as "Pendulum" is "Sahara", which, combined with the epic orchestra and one of Nightwish's signature choppy riffs, creates a feeling not commonly heard on a metal album: mystique. "Whoever Brings the Night" starts out as a guitar-driven song, but goes for an epic approach during the excellent bridge section, while still maintaining it's eerie mood. When the orchestra is not going full-on, it can be found providing a wonderful, lush atmosphere. "Cadence of Her Last Breath" uses this to great effect, with the exception of it's lackluster chorus, and its driving bridge section.
Unfortunately, the orchestra occasionally ends up being a detriment to the album. Detractors of Nightwish frequently claim that the band uses the orchestra as a crutch, and while it seems to be a rather silly accusation, both "Amaranth" and "For the Heart I Once Had" do end up doing so. Both songs are very high on bombast, but very low on substance, standing out as the least worthy cuts on Dark Passion Play. "Amaranth" is easily the most radio-friendly song on the record, and the only value it has comes come the admittedly catchy chorus. While ballads have always been one of Nightwish's strengths, "For the Heart I Once Had" ranks as the worst ballad they have ever done, by the simple value of lacking any sort of character besides being the obligatory song of its type.
The fact that Emppu Vuorinen takes a backseat role with guitar once again may serve as a disappointment to some, but it works well with what they've developed, and his occasional moments of prominence all prove to be at least moderately enjoyable. His thrashy riffs on "Master Passion Greed" end up making it Nightwish's heaviest song. Combined with Hietala's groovy bass line and his aggressive Dio-esque vocals, it makes one of the standout tracks on the album. "Whoever Brings the Night" is also largely Vuorinen's turn to shine, with a very memorable and atmospheric riff, and a shredding solo. Unfortunately, his solo hardly fits in with the rest of the song, being backed by very sloppy transitions in both the beginning and end.
Besides the typical Nightwish sound of orchestral bombast and choppy riffs, Dark Passion Play showcases a bit more folk influence that had been felt for the first time since Angels Fall First with "Creek Mary's Blood" from Once. "Last of the Wilds" is a loose and unrestrained dance between guitarist Emppu Vuorinen and piper Troy Donockley, and while it may be just a bit disjointed at times, it's a very fun piece. The band even forsakes their trademark sound for the Celtic ballad "The Islander", an ode to a long-forgotten Islander dweller sung by Hietala. Despite being completely different then the entire rest of the album, "The Islander" ends up shining through as one of the finest cuts.
Of course, with all the controversy about Nightwish's vocalist switch, the burning question on many listeners' minds is how well Anette Olzon performs. When compared to her predecessor, it's very clear who is the superior vocalist, but this isn't entirely Olzon's fault. Most of the material was written well before auditions were completed, and Olzon occasionally demonstrates that by singing a bit too high for her own range (One thousand one nights unseen, The philosopher and the queen). There are times where it seems that she doesn't quite have the power in her lungs to raise her voice over the massive orchestra, but, to give her credit, she does do her best. "Eva" provides the best showcase for her vocal ability, and its there and the otherwise dreary "For the Heart I Once Had" where Olzon feels most at home. In essence, she did about as good of a job as she could, and with a little time to adapt, she will likely find her place in the legacy of Nightwish.
Despite going through the major shakeup of losing their most identifiable member, little has changed for Nightwish. Even the presence of the pop-inclined Anette is unlikely to have any significant effect on their direction, as they have found a formula that they can not only rely on, but build upon as they have done with the further integration of Celtic music. While it's hardly a masterpiece, Dark Passion Play is ultimately another solid win for Nightwish.
(Originally written for sputnikmusic.com)
... what to do, why to do, why bother?
That seems to be the device Tuomas Holopainen chose for himself when he started working at Dark Passion Play. The firing of Tarja Turunen was a deep cut into both the band history and the heart of the fanbase. Tuomas knew that many people would not appreciate the decision he and the band made, so he stopped caring too much about it. He did what he thought best for the band.
And so, this album's the crucial test for the new lead singer the band chose, Anette Olzon. She had a pretty big pair of shoes to fill, and in my opinion, she did her job very well, although I had the feeling that she had a few difficulties in hitting the higher notes. Also, you hear that she was very nervous and could not fully fathom her abilities. No wonder, since she knew that she would be compared with Tarja from the first moment on (although I guess she never thought it would be THAT bad as it is, even after what, 7 years?). But however. Anette still shows a good technique, and she really puts her heart into her singing. What she don't owns in vocal quality, she makes up with her passion. For me, that equates a lot.
The instrumental side on Dark Passion Play is the real problem for me. It's not that it would be musically bad - of course not, I mean, it's Nightwish! -, but there are... Let's do it step by step, starting with the guitars. There are only a few riffs on DPP, and most of them are way too short. And for the remaining time, the guitars are drowned out by the omnipresent orchestra. Plus, the playing is kept quite simple, what kinda demands too little of Emppu. That becomes really clear when you see him live. Sometimes he seems like an unemployed, just standing there with his guitar in hands and waiting for his time to come. Marco has a little more to do, but the bass also stands somewhat in the shadow of the orchestra - but unlike Emppu, he has a very important singing role... of which more later.
A similar thing as with the guitars I noticed at the drumming. Sure, Jukka has a lot of work to do, and he never really just sits there waiting, but what he has to play is quite simple. But that's nothing new, I mean, on which of the previous albums was he really challenged? I dare to say seldom enough.
Let's take a look at the aforementioned orchestra. It is really pompous, epic as hell ... but it takes damn too much space. It outdrowns the "classic" Metal instruments and sometimes even Anette (not on the album of course, but live). So I dare to say Tuomas has exaggarated the whole orchestra thing a little bit more than it would've been good for the band. I mean, hey, when does Tuomas have a real keyboard part? He's nearly unemployed on stage! Not to mention that they need to play the orchestra from the tape while playing live, cause taking an orchestra on tour would be a little bit too expensive even for Nightwish.
So, I have forgotten Marco's vocal parts above, so I return to them now. He has to do a lot, since he sings in almost every song of the album. His voice suits the new direction Nightwish are taking with Dark Passion Play pretty fine, although he sounds sometimes not as aggressive as I would have wished. Still, his voice fits perfectly with Anette's, they don't hinder each other, although Marco outdrowns her sometimes live.
Enough of that. Let's sum up the whole thing.
Dark Passion Play is, inspite of the mentioned weaknesses, a real good album, although I sometimes got the feeling it's not Nightwish anymore. I don't care for changes, I think a band has to evolve with the years, but this one came too abrupt for me. With the change of vocalists everything changed... everything except of the beautifully written, albeit sometimes very pretentious lyrics which touch your heart even if you don't want them to. And you won't miss catchy tunes on Dark Passion Play as well. The main things that represent Nightwish are still there, although they are sometimes kinda hidden behind all the orchestra and so on. And Anette is a real achievement for the band; she don't needs to hide behind Tarja. Maybe on DPP that wasn't her best vocal performance, but as I can see now, she has developed a lot since coming to the band, and I believe she will even more with the years.
So yeah, for the Tarja-Fanboys and -girls, DPP will be a slap in the face, but if you are open-minded and accept that Tarja won't return, you'll find that DPP isn't the worst thing Nightwish ever produced. 90 %.
Nightwish, a wonderful, perfect heavy metal musicians, the best, the most influential symphonic metal band, and one of the most influential acts in the entire history of heavy metal music. They achieved that thanks to Marco, not because of his bass guitar skills, but because of his incredible vocals, which gave Nightwish whole new level. They achieved that thanks to Jukka, an amazing drummer, with his incredible talent, skills and creativity. He gave their songs a strange and pleasant feel. They achieved that thanks to Emppu, the guitar god. Guy who made all those mind-blowing, blazing, unique, exotic, extraordinary riffs, with his tasty guitar solos, with lots of emotions and soul, with his amazing lead guitar work. One of the best, unique and original guitarists in the world. They achieved that because of Tarja, the best female singer in entire music world, a woman who put so much emotions in the songs she sung, her amazing vocal color and all of those vocal abilities. They achieved that thanks to the master mind, intelligent lyrics writer, an amazing compositor, Mozart of our time - Tuomas Holopainen, a man who actually IS NIGHTWISH. Everything they did together seemed like a never-ending dream, a magic, something that came from another dimension, a true phenomenon. And then, this supernatural dream turned into a nightmare.
There are different versions of Tarja's departure, but that is not important at all. Money was the main reason, that can be concluded from Tarja's and Tuomas' version of the story. Money, fucking money. That is the only truth. Tarja left, and started her own career, which is not heavy metal at all. What she does now is pure pop music. Nightwish continued without Tarja, yes, they don't need Tarja, Tuomas is the only thing that matters, he is the Nightwish. Tuomas wanted to hit the charts, and to become mainstream. Now, Nightwish is an extremely popular band. But is it heavy metal music anymore? They hired new typical pop music singer, but are they pop music just because of that? It is music in general that counts, not just vocals. Song structures, song tempos, riffs, guitar solos, lead guitar work, symphonic elements in this case... that's what it counts. So, are they still heavy metal band? The answer is - NO, they sold-out. They are not part of heavy metal music anymore. Anyone can listen to this Popwish now. I know lots of Lady Gaga, Katy Perry and Amy Winehouse's fans who like new Nightiwsh. So, are they posers just because of that? Actually, that is the main reason. They now make sweet easier-to-listen-to music.
There are only three songs, the remains of true Nightwish sound, songs that can come close enough to be compared with Nightwish songs from heavy metal era - The Poet And The Pendulum, Last Of The Wilds and The Escapist. However The Escapist falls, 'cause it is barely memorable song. Remains of true Nightwish sound can be noticed in background. Mainly because of heavy riffs, symphonic arrangements, it has Century Child and Once feel, but Anette's annoying vocals ruin the whole song, and Tuomas didn't impress me here with his lyrics. Also song structure is not interesting at all. The Poet And The Pendulum is the absolute highlight of this album. That song and Last Of The Wilds are excellent symphonic metal songs. The Escapist is symphonic metal song too, but not an excellent one. The Poet And Pendulum outstrips all songs from this album with its epic, dark and mystic atmosphere which can be compared with Oceanborn magic. That is the longest song Nightwish ever did, and it is very complex and progressive. Tempo changes constantly, from slow intro into a furious part, then calms down, and then heat rises again, then comes very calm part, and guitar solo, and so on, and so on. Traditional heavy riffs, amazing symphonic arrangements, impressive lyrics, that is truly a perfect song. Tuomas proved once again that he is truly a master, even when he hungers for money and fame.
Last Of The Wilds is not poisoned with Anette's childish vocals, it is an instrumental folk metal song. Emppu did perfect job here with creative and heavy riffs. But this album lacks his amazing guitar solos. Although he never had enough space to show all of his guitar skills and creativity with guitar solos on earlier Nightwish albums because of Tuomas' keyboards, his guitar solo work wasn't important for Tuomas here at all. In fact, Emppu doesn't have any impressive, memorable or even long guitar solo on this album, and that really sucks. Seems like Tuomas was more focused on Anette's pop vocal style, that's why he wanted Tarja out. Emppu here made only riffs, and also he didn't have much job. Most of these song, lack riffs during longer parts of duration. Everything here was made with commercial purpose - to get as many fans as possible. I respect Marco's effort for the song he made - The Islander. But, Tuomas used that one, and decided to make another music video in order to make Nightwish even bigger. Acoustic, melodic, folk ambient, well-written song, without distorted guitars, with amazing Marco's lead and Anette's annoying backing vocals, fits well in Tuomas' greedy project.
The rest of the album, well... If we forget for a while that they are sellouts now, and you wanted to listen to some pop-like softer non-heavy metal songs. In that case songs Amaranth, Bye Bye Beautiful and Eva are excellent songs. But, if you wanted to hear new songs from serious heavy metal band, in that case those songs are very good, but not for metalheads. Songs Amaranth and Bye Bye Beautiful are perfect MTV songs, songs which made Nightwish big now. Electronic sound for pleasant feel which made these songs catchier for non-metalheads, rare use of riffs, just to make keen on mallcore kids who like Within Temptation and Lacuna Coil, typical female pop singer, to make things easier-to-listen-to for all MTV crowd, keyboard melodies to make songs even sweater and very catchy refrains. Eva was kinda decent song with Marco's vocals, but unfortunately it became part of this commercial approach. Demo version of this song could fit in well in previous heavy metal releases this band did. That song is really slow and touching ballad, with amazing lyrics and great piano work, but Anette's vocals kill whole fucking song.
Other songs are not memorable at all. Just an attempt to become like mainstream band. If someone played song Cadence Of Her Last Breath, I'd think it was Evanescence or something like that, because of horrible alternative sound, and Marco's rap backing shouts. Sahara and Master Passion Greed are songs with an attempt to sound like older standard Nightwish songs, but they failed. They sound totally different, they are not sincere songs, like on previous studio albums. The rest of the songs lack heavy riffs, which are actually creative and memorable. No, the rest of the songs barely have riffs, and when they appear, it's like nothing has ever happened. Guitar solos don't exist at all, or they last 5 seconds, so you won't even notice them when they appear. There are few great lyrical sentences Tuomas wrote, but most of the lyrics are bunch of nothing. Symphonic elements attempt to give these songs a dark feel, but they stand no chance comparing to albums Oceanborn and Once.
Good sides of this release:
Ah... no, there's nothing special, or extremely good about this album.
Bad sides of this release:
Everything indeed. They changed music direction from heavy metal music (symphonic metal) into mallcore trendy music for masses. They became very mediocre, generic and non-original mainstream band. They should just rename this band into Popwish, Sweetwish or something, because this release doesn't fit in Nightwish discography. I would not recommend this release to anyone, specially not for fans of true Nightwish. People who want to get into them should start to listen to their previous albums, and avoid this one at any cost.
The Poet And The Pendulum and Last Of The Wilds
Throughout history, many a fall from grace has been bestowed upon our sad, sordid reality, both mythological (Lucifer from Heaven) to impractical (Rob Blagojavich turning Illinois into a further laughing stock than it was prior to his criminal notions), and while such dust-ups were best left as humorous fodder amidst the pages of tabloids worldwide, the musical side of such things always seems to resonate the most with all of us. Never you mind the pop-star meltdowns of Spears and company (after all, that’s not MUSIC…); this is more abhorrent and noticeable in the underground/mainstream metal spectrum, where top-of-the-pops acts who once possessed a glimmer of humanity let it all go astray in the name of replacing every S with a $. We all know who did such displeasing scenarios, and we don’t like it one bit…especially since, you’d think, after all these years certain bands should know better.
And such a fine example is here, the deciding sin of Nightwish…
It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.
It was far, far, FAR worse…
If I thought “Once” was the creative nadir of the group, then “Dark Passion Play” beats that dead horse so deep into the ground it’s halfway to China. What a wreck. What a fucking pitiful, miasmic, ignominious, hollow, tasteless, burnt beyond recognition WRECK! I’m talking both the album and the band, here, by the way. I swear, the whole time I subjected myself to this Abu Ghraib-style musical torment I sat numbly, my eyes barely blinking and mouth agape in utter disbelief and confounded silence. I really gave this excursion into maddening fury an honest, go-for-broke try, but I couldn’t take it. It’s just so horribly lifeless, so self-centered, so short-sighted, so very, very…UGH! There’s pretty much nothing left of the original Nightwish, where instead of the powerful, emotional, simultaneously uplifting and depressing works of art, we instead get the metallic equivalent of something you’d hear on “Now THAT’S What I Call Music!” volume googolplex. What an utter abomination, from first song to last, this album is, and I hated every second of it, every second that was stolen from me so horridly that I may or may not consider filing a lawsuit against the band to get my lost time back. No amount of better symphonic head-bashingness, guitar/bass interludes, or percussive niceties would ever redeem “Dark Passion Play” in ANY walk of life…even the mighty pipes of Marco Hietala, who is still more than on his mark, could even dent the diamond-hard worthlessness this album portrays. And at the helm of it all is poor Anette Olzon, who probably had no idea what she was getting into, or how big those shoes she’d be filling would be. I will say this, at the very least…the woman can sing. That’s fairly obvious. But coupling her Amy Lee-style warblings with a band like The Nightwishers just doesn’t gel in the least. She’s just not a good fit…not as a result of her replacing someone like Tarja, but because her approach is so much different than the band’s in general. It just ain’t workin’. The way I see it, if she were to end up in a style more befitting her particular voice, she’d shine rather brightly (I recall her vocal work on Pain’s latest album sounding pretty nice), but in this walk of life it’s just so diarrheic, and not by any inability on her part. It all falls squarely on the Christ Illusionary shoulders of Mr. Holopainen and his every attempt to sling more dung onto the legacy of what was once a promising and talented symphonic metal act now thrown under the bus in the name of every dollar sign and gawth douche bag the world over, as the likes of “Bye Bye Beautiful”, “Master Passion Greed”, and “Amaranth” are concerned. Oog…I think I need some Valium and two bottles of Listerine to wash out all this bile…
In the end “Dark Passion Play” is, by and large, one of the worst albums I’ve ever had the misfortune of knowing exists. With this single act of stylistic treason, Nightwish is now officially dead in my eyes, and any further recorded works from them will only go ignored, if not demonized, no matter how much all of you would claim that it’s the best thing to hit the metal world since “Number of the Beast”. No fucking THANKS!
I would like to be clear from the beginning on. I always had one single problem to get an approach to Nightwish and this problem was called Tarja Turunen. From an objective point of view, I am able to admit that she has without a doubt a very powerful and professional voice but I always thought that she was singing way too theatralic, too exagerated and without true emotions or feelings. Don't get me wrong, I listen to operas and symphonies and I adore bands or projects like "Therion", it is not a question of style but a question of convincing joy. Tarja Turunen didn't even know anything about metal when she joined the band, she never spent time with the other band members, she didn't really write some lyrics or something else for the band's purpose. In my opinion, she was always just there because she was a talented singer and while I appreciated the passionate music of Nightwish, I was never able to feel the same passion in the voice of the egocentric ice queen.
That's probably the reason why I saw the departure of Tarja Turunen as a new chance to identify with the music of Nightwish. One of my best friends, an absolute Nightwish fanboy who adored Tarja Turunen and who had almost every single, every vinyl version and special edition of each Nightwish release, had the opposite reaction. He still bought the "Amaranth" single and the "Dark Passion Play" album, listened to it a few times and never touched it again. He felt very disappointed and the band died ultimately for him with the departure of Tarja Turunen. For me, Nightwish really got born with the new singer Anette Olzon.
She is more natural, more human and she seems to enjoy what she does and you can feel it. She has maybe not the grace and the talent of Tarja Turunen, but she has more power and emotion and she does a convincing job on this new album. Finally, there was not everything focused on the singer in this band and this occasion was used by the musicians to improve and do more complex, progressive and diversified compositions than ever before.
You have a big variety of styles and genres on this record. Of course there are symphonical elements throughout the whole album, especially in "The poet and the pendulum". There are many fresh folk influences on this album like on "Last of the wild" and the use of Uilleman Pipes, Kanteles or whistles is quite present on this record. The band's typical power metal influences are also present in most of the songs for example in "The poet and the pendulum". There are also some death or thrash elements as on "Master Passion Greed". "Bye bye beautiul" has some Industrial Metal vibes and sounds very modern. Operatic ghospel influences can be found on "Meadows of heaven". Pop music influences in the key of ABBA that especially influenced the new singer Anette Olzon can be found on "Amaranth". Slightly Gothic influences can be heard on "Cadence of her last breath". Useless to say that the production of this record is brilliant and that the booklet is truly beautiful, artistical and inspiring.
All these styles, influences and ideas are bound together as a whole and well working and diversified album. From the soft, tender and breakable ballad like "Eva" to the most aggressive song ever of this band that is "Master Passion Greed", Nightwish deliver a fresh amount of creativity and nevertheless, the album has its own personal style and flow and Anette Olzon already shows that she has a very special and unqiue voice. Maybe not an outstanding voice like Tarja Turunen, but after a few lines, you can be sure to recognize her and can identify her very own style and different approach to the Nightwish songs. As I have even seen the band live in concert with her, I can only underline that she gives a new, a second life to the old Nightwish tunes. And I must congratulate the band to their hoice to a take a new kind of siner and not a copy of what has been done and seen before. Many fanboys are whining and still shouting Tarja's name during the concets but this was the best choice to be made. Anette Olzon is unique, different and a new chapter has been written.
What about the songs? Well, I think that Nightwish offer some of their best tracks ever on this record. Even the weaker ones like the pop ballad "For the heartI once had" are at least catchy and easy to appreciate, but the true masterpieces are songs like diversified, dramatically and emotionally convulsing opener "The poet and the pendulum", the very calm down to earth acoustic folk song "The islander", the brilliant and magic instrumental "Last of the wilds", the operatic and darkly powerful "Seven days to the wolves" as well as the progressive and symphonical ballad "meadows of heaven" with its brilliant grand fianle with a ghospel choir. Add to that a very catchy "Byebye beautiful" that reminds a little bit too much of "Wish I had an angel", the unforgettable smash hit "Amaranth" that you can't get out of your mind once you have lsitened to it, the haunting and most Gothic song on the album which is "Cadence of her last breath", the brutal and straight "Master Passion Greed", the very calm, dreamy and inspiring ballad "Eva" where Anette Olzon does an outstanding job and the oriental and somewhat exotic "Sahara" which is one of the less convincing songs. every song offers something special and unforgettable and even if there are two weaker songs, there is no single filler but many great killers on this record. My favourite one is the epic, personal and very atmospheric "The poet and the pendulum" that somewhat reunites the diversity of styles and creations on this record in one single outstanding song. This is the kind of song you just write once in a life time.
I didn't expect that much from a band that was rather difficult to approach for me but they delivered an outstanding masterpiece. I bought the album and lsitened to it over and over again and tried out the old stuff again but didn't feel the same passion and magic in it. I decided to see a concert of the band which was probably the best concert of the year 2007 for me. I am really looking forward to the next record they are creating right now. Nightwish has got a brand new and enthousiastic fan. And for the Tarja fans: Even if you may dislike Anette Olzon's voice which I would understand and tolerate (even if she merits a second chance from anyone), you can't deny the class of the compositions, of the music on this record and that's why extremely low rating are completely subjective nonsense. At least, you can listen to the instrumental CD of the special editions that has been especially created for you and then you can imagine the voice of Tarja. And please don't shout "Tarja, Tarja" during teh concert. That woman has got a new band where you might do this and where you might not risk to get knocked out.
Tarja's firing was a movement that was mired in controversy. Her operatic voice was clearly being used less since Century Child, and although at the time I thought that it was just a consequence of adding Marco to the vocals, their album "Once" made it clear that Tuomas no longer wanted her extremely high notes in at least most of his songs.
Once, however, gave us all reasons to believe that Nightwish was witnessing its twilight. The vocals were somehow influenced by pop music, the songwriting was clearly not as good as on their previous albums, and Tuomas tried to work with London's Philharmonic Orchestra to compensate it. Even the lyrics suffered: although Tuomas wrote some interesting ones (like Creek Mary's Blood), the overall quality was clearly worse than their previous works.
Of course, this is not a review about Once. The point is that when Tarja was fired, most fans thought that Nightwish would never make quality music again. I was one of these fans, and I admit that I bought the album thinking that it would be the last Nightwish album I would buy. Thankfully, I was badly mistaken.
Surprisingly enough, Dark Passion Play is a very solid album. It is not as great as their early masterpieces (Wishmaster and Oceanborn), but it was much more than I expected, and I am sure Nightwish has yet to reach it's peak. The album itself is very diverse: we get to see ballads (Eva, Meadows of Heaven), folk (The Islander, Last of the Wilds), and even pop garbage such as Amaranth and For the Heart I Once Had.
The album starts with the longest song Nightwish has ever recorded. Running for almost 14 minutes, “The Poet And The Pendulum” pretty much shows how good Tuomas can be in terms of harmonizing different timbres and summarizes the kind of album Dark Passion Play is. I would give thumbs up for the album just because of this song, which uses Anette's mezzo-soprano vocals, Marco's harsh, almost thrash metal voice, and Tuomas' creativity at the keyboard perfectly. The only problem about this song is surely the lyrics: Tuomas doesn't seem to feel that he is getting enough credit, and tried to praise himself as much as he could. I mean, come on, he actually inserted his name on the lyrics! I feel sorry for Annete, she shouldn't have had to sing such stupidity.
The second song (Bye Bye Beautiful) is probably the song that I liked the least if we exclude the true garbage (Amaranth and For the Heart I Once Had). Anette's limitations become clear here, and I felt like I just wasn't listening to Nightwish anymore. The third and fourth songs are pure pop garbage, which is bad for metal listeners but good for Nightwish as a whole: they were even praised by mainstream media, which is definitely not common for a metal band. I tend to see them as a resource that Tuomas found in order to increase the income, which is completely valid as long as he continues to please his true fans.
"Sahara", "The Islander", "Seven Days to the Wolves" and "Whoever Brings The Night" are probably the best songs here. "Seven Days to the Wolves" and "The Islander" show that female/male duets still do great in Nightwish, while "Sahara" and "Whoever Brings The Night" show that Empuu and Jukka aren't in the band just for the sake of having guitars and drums, being the latter an outcast in this recording, as it is the only song that focuses on Empuu's exceptional riffs. "The Islander" is also one of the most atmospheric songs that Nightwish has ever recorded: the folk nature of the song, allied with the relaxed vocals and the acoustic instruments easily makes you imagine the isolated old man that the lyrics talk about living alone in his island.
The main problems that exist in this album are Anette's limited vocals (which are actually terrible live, but I am not reviewing a concert), and the limited credit given to Empuu and Jukka, who were almost forgotten in all but two songs. Tuomas should remember that he has more than London's Philharmonic Orchestra to work with. Also, the gospel-like ending that Tuomas gave to Meadows of Heaven ruined a song that could be undeniably great.
This is not a perfect album, but it's definitely good. It is very different from anything that Nightwish has released up to now, and some old fans tend to not like it very much, but it is still very solid. We believed Nightwish would become something unacceptably crappy, but Tuomas proved us wrong.
Let me start by saying this album should have no 'Nightwish' written in it, not because it's bad, it's actually near decent, but because this is definitely not the same band. This release has a completely different feel to it, with more epic pieces than in previous ones, though prevailing a more pop oriented style in most of the songs, mainly to fit the vocals of the new singer.
Don't expect to find ANY resemblance of the Tarja-age, to put it this way, you'll be looking fore needles in the wrong haystack. That is to say this albums is much more varied than the previous ones and overall heavier. Even the more poppish songs such as 'Amaranth' bring a 'denser' and heavier guitar usage. That power metal thing is inexistent, while the symphonic side is more explored here. The orchestra and choirs used throughout the album are great and contribute well to the sound of the album, the aforementioned epic feel. Thumbs up for Tuomas here. Which brings us to the long introducing piece, 'The Poet and the Pendulum'. About 14 minutes long, it's well built and uses both Marco's harsh vocals as well as Anette's clean vocals. No instruments disappoint here. BUT it could perfectly end at 10:00. The last part, though adding to and finalizing the lyrical stuff, is way too slow and sleepy and could be left aside. Still, being the first time we can hear the new singer's voice, the listener is not let down.
Anette shows us her pop side in 'Amaranth' and 'For the Heart I Once Had', mainly. Well, for the traditional heavy metal listener this may be rather unpleasant. The former song brings us back to a bit of power metal sound, which some might find interesting. The latter is just total crap. Another side of the new voice, a much nicer one and way better explored together with the instruments, is shown in 'Sahara'. The desert like ambience matches the singing well and the ending is great.
'The Islander' is a song apart. An accoustic ballad, who could expect this from Nightiwsh? I mean, there are no keyboards here, how could that be the same band? And, more important, who could deny this is an absolutely pleasant song?? Well, needless to say anything else about this, you simply won't be let down. A perfect (non-metal) piece.
Following there are two songs which are nice but not perfect. 'Last of the Wilds' is like a folk metal sequel of 'The Islander', It's actually pretty fine, but not that great. Then there's '7 Days to the Wolves', where Marco makes good presence alongside Anette. The only problme here is the song is a bit overlong. Closing the album is 'Meadows of Heaven'. You'll like it if you enjoy extremely melodic pieces with, and I'm not kidding, gospel choirs...It's not that bad though, it's just long, tiring and gay. Some people happen to be fond of that stuff. If the release ended on the previous it would have been better.
Just to mention, there's an odd song, which certainly doesn't fit the band neither the album. It's like a harder kind of approach, using just Marco's vocals, and, well, not very good. 'Master Passion Greed' is a challenge to sit through, with bad ideas and bad performances, which translates as overall annoyance. And also there is 'Eva', the real ballad here. Melodically, it's good, it has fine lines but is the zenith of what stains this sometimes decent genre: girliness. Put aside the pop feel, the trendy lyrical style, the simplicity of what could be generally a lot more interesting (listen to Ne Obliviscaris for a more experimental and amusing use of a lot of instruments mixed together), what really drags it down is the fact that it's gay and claims to be metal, wearing what's supposedly the metal outfit and imagery (leather pants and the horns) and making that abominable paste of gothic make-up. This song shows that in its lyrics. Who wants to hear about a child whom Santa forgot to visit in his revenge-seeking trip from coca-cola company to the vietnam rainforest? What is amazing is that, apart from that, its a good effort. Just don't pay attention to what she's singing and you wont suffer from dysentery.
This could be a good album after all, but when you look better at it, half the songs are useless crap and trendiness and gayness haunt it. The effort is though valid. Summarizing...this is not Nightwish. It's a different band, and it sounds fresh and varied. By exploring the right directions they can make something truly worthy and original. Just get rid of this pop sound, use more of Anette's nice stuff and please don't let Marco take the microphone without decent ideas. Thinking twice helps. Sells less, weighs more.
Highlight: The Islander
Personal favourite: Sahara
Shitty gay song: For the Heart I Once Had
This whole issue of Tarja leaving the band is not what made me reluctant to buy this album. I heard the new singer, and I'm not going to lie, she has a fairly decent voice. New vocalists are always hard for fans to handle, but it's not exactly the end of the world.
If the new vocalist was not a problem for me, it looked like a pretty enjoyable album to me. "The Poet and The Pendulum", "Bye Bye Beautiful", "Amaranth", and "Cadence of Her Last Breath" were all well-written, if slightly pop-oriented, pieces. Then the album began to sink with "Master Passion Greed". Marco Hietela's screams and harsh singing were not the problem. The problem was that the song was nonsense. What the hell is it about? I was thinking. I did like the fact that it had a harder, more "pure metal" feel. Upon hearing the next four tracks (all mediocre) there was no doubt in my mind that Nightwish had made a huge dent in their name with Dark Passion Play.
The album's last songs were not worthy of much note except "The Islander", the first acoustic ballad I've heard from Nightwish in a while. The rest of the album was basically horrible: the final two tracks were much too long.
Many will enjoy this goth-rock hit, (because, undeniably, it is a popular record) but it is not my cup of tea. Nightwish can't repair the damage it has done here, not with a new album with this same attitude. It is hard to say whether the new singer had any affect on Tuomas' song writing, but I doubt she did. Most bands can take a new singer without the style of music completely changing: Dark Moor did it. Nightwish, perhaps, is suffering from this song writing slump because the members are getting older. However, I would expect someone who is three years older than when he wrote "Once" to be able to write a better tune than those found in "Dark Passion Play".
Nightwish, I will be honest, was never a band on my radar at all. That is until they dropped Tarja. Nothing against her as a musician, I just couldn't stand her voice (kind of like Matt Heafy of Trivium before they changed to thrash,) singing and the opera feel for it all. It just wasn't my cup of tea. Now enter Anette Olxon, a virtual unknown who brings a definite change of pace to this group. Virtually changing their identity from that of a symphonic power metal group to gothic metal yet still retaining some of the qualities prior to.
Usually the longest song on the album is found at the end of the album, but with Dark Passion Play, the almost fourteen minute opus entitled "The Poet and the Pendulum," start off the new era for Nightwish. With it's haunting melody over symphonic and gothic atmospheric sounds which end around a minute and a half in and kick into the juicy part of the song, the album is off and running. Alot can be said about the song itself, as it changes so many directions, incorporates so many instruments and even reciting poetry over the music as well, almost reminding me atleast of something I would hear in a movie such as "The Chronicles of Narnia." Normally one gets tired after around seven or eight minutes of a long song (ala Tool or Type O Negative) but this song keeps you captivated. After the lengthy, yet great opener, "Bye Bye Beautiful" quickens the pace a bit, going only for about a quarter of the length of the opener, but nonetheless is another great song especially with the chorus sung by Marco and is probably the standout track in my eyes. "Amaranth" which is a close second continues the sound, pace and atmosphere. On "Cadence of Her Last Breath" the is an incorporation of more drumming and solos but does not bastardize the sound the band have established on the prior three songs. In a change of pace kind of, "Master Passion Greed" features Marco more than Anette (as she is really only heard during the chorus doing backup) and yet it still works masterfully. The lead single of the album "Eva" is a definitely slower tempoed song than the rest up to this point and kind of makes me wonder why it was the first, as it definitely isn't the best work on the album. With the length of the album I will leave it at this and go straight into my thoughts on it.
I could go on and on about this album, I really could. The fact that it's about double the length of your usual release nowadays is one reason, another is the way that it flows perfectly. Solidarity is one of those hard things to find in an album, it's either a few hits strewn together with a bunch of filler, or the "every songs different" approach, which while it isn't a half bad idea on that part, isn't as rewarding to the listener than that of a solid album that doesn't stray too far away from the sound it has created. Not at one point does this album drag at all and it keeps the listener intrigued which is amazing considering the fact that this is just the first record with their new singer. To reemphasize, I was never a fan of this band before but with this record, my mind has changed. The addition of Anette Olxon was one of the smartest the band could have ever done in my opinion. This album is far and away one of those "few" that you pick up and are blown away by. Again I am also troubled by trying to pick "standout tracks" on this disc, as it just has that ebb and flow about it that just makes it hard to pick one over the other. It to me almost feels like I'm listening to a good book being told through music, something epic and altogether captivating at the same time. This album is by far one of my top albums for the year and was one that I just happened to pick up on a whim.
Dark passion play has been made into the most sensationalist album in modern metal. It seems many metalheads are only capable of saying Anette is terrible because at the end of the day most of us metalheads are conservative creatures in our musical taste and don't like upsets for this reason. It has been the source of much debate but as they say arguing on the internet is like running a three legged race, if you win your still retarded. Perhaps one day many of these metalheads will move out of their parent’s basements and realize mallcore is a word for 16 year old musical fascists. I guess the message trying to be purveyed is listen, don't assume then listen. Although there is nothing wrong with diversity of opinion this album is a clear example of blind condemnation.
That aside Dark passion play is a fantastic album in many ways. First, it is more consistent than its predecessor and many of Nightwish's albums; however this is not a sign of the albums quality. Toumas' love of film scores is apparent here many compositional devices work to emphasize the music and bring the intention of the sings into sharp focus. "The poet and the pendulum" is the token long symphonic song of the album and of all Nightwish's longer pieces it is the finest. It is in 4 distinct sections or movements (like a symphony), creating contrast without making it feel like a musical collage.
The guitar parts for the most part are fitting with occasional moments of flare like the solo in "Cadence of her last breath" or the whole of "Last of the wilds". Emppu's tone is almost unprecedented in its emotive quality and he makes all the notes he plays sound brilliant.
The songwriting in general is of a good standard throughout creating passages like the midsection in "7 days to the wolves" is truly outstanding. The classical writing is also fantastic reminiscent of an epic film score but in places reminiscent of other kinds of composers. For example the brass at the end of "Master passion greed" is similar to Stravinsky's "The firebird" or "The rite of spring". This adds colour to the album, making it not just another female fronted metal band trying to fuse soundtracks with power metal.
And so this review moves to the most debated section of the album, the vocals. Anyone setting out looking for operatic vocals is sure to be disappointed. Even if Anette was an opera singer she would be vastly different from Tarja. Tarja was closer to a Mezzo-Soprano (which sounded beautiful) at times whereas Anette is very much a soprano, with more focus on the melodies themselves than power. Nevertheless they are effective, the use of vocal overdubs more than compensates for the lack of power in her voice. It also enables Nightwish to go for a different kind of song, folk is now opened up as an influence, and Nightwish's career is no longer power ballad after power ballad, album after album. The diversity of this effort was one of its greatest features. Anette fits all of the songs well, and lets face it had she not Nightwish would never have offered her a place in the band.
Controversial yes, but it just works. It is an album with a lot of depth, containing so many small touches that all contribute to the big picture. With every listen the listener finds new things that make each song better. It is an outstanding album that will no doubt stand the test of time.
In listening to this album, there are many things that hit me. The first, and probably most obvious, is the absence of the operatic edge that Tarja brought to the band, that sheer vocal power that would hit you hard and send you flying into another dimension. Contrariwise, this album lacks so much vocal power that listeners can hardly feel a gentle touch. Vocals aside, the second thing that hit me was that the album does not create an absolute 'feel' or 'atmosphere'. You can spend countless hours attempting to define the mood created, but you probably will never get there. So why is this? In layman's terms, it's because each song is completely different to the one that preceded it.
In previous Nightwish albums, every song lacked variation from the others. For some people, this can be a good thing, knowing that the songs on this album are all exactly the way you like them. For others, it can be very monotonous, knowing that once you listen to the first song, you've listened to all of them. This lack of variation all took root in Tarja's vocals. As powerful a singer she was, she demonstrated poor ability to alter her voice. But now we have Anette, who old Nightwish are not taking likely to, because of the absence of power and operatic edge. Despite this, she has proven to be an excellent singer, if not better. She has demonstrated not only her ability to handle the power of former Nightwish songs, but also her ability to adjust her voice to project a certain emotion to the audience.
Following up to the album's release, listeners were very confused as to what to expect in the album. The first single, 'Eva', led listeners to believe that the album would be absent of any power at all. This all changed upon the leakage of 'The Poet And The Pendulum' to P2P sites. I remember listening to 'The Poet And The Pendulum' for the first time, feeling I had just returned from the most epic journey I would ever experience. 'The Poet And The Pendulum' proved to be an excellent combination of a powerful orchestra and Tuomas' ever-brilliant songwriting, and even to this day, remains seated as my all-time favourite Nightwish song.
Returning to the variation of the album, the best way to describe the album is like a rollercoaster. In reference to the title of this review, listeners are taken to both sides of the emotional spectrum, from the pure anger in 'Master Passion Greed' to the deep-seated innocence of 'Eva', to the uplifting 'Amaranth'.
The guitar work on this album has taken on a lot of variation as well. For the first time, Emppu has been given enough space to write his own song for the album, 'Whoever Brings The Night'. It should be needless to say that this has proven to be a 'Guitarist' song, placing heavy emphasis on Emppu's creative riffage, a very welcome change from previous albums. The album has also taken the acoustic guitar on board, with the albums fifth single, 'The Islander'. It is no wonder the song has quickly become a favourite on Nightwish's live tours, giving the concert a very abrupt mood change.
Another element that makes the album very special is the influence incorporated from elsewhere. Perfect examples of this include the Irish / Finnish inspiration of 'Last of the Wilds' and the folk culture of 'The Islander'. Other lesser examples of this include 'The Poet and the Pendulum' and its astonishing similarity to a film score, and the Egyptian feel of 'Sahara'. So it can be said that the key word here is 'experimentation'.
To summarise, it is simply impossible to dislike the entire album. It is not uncommon to dislike one or two songs on the album, but there certainly will be at least one or two songs that really appeal to you. In my opinion, it was good idea for the band to experiment on this album, as it will give a better indication as to which musical direction they want to travel in with Anette as the new vocalist. So feel free to think what you want about the album, but each song is definitely worth a listen.
Making a definate judgement on this album has proved impossible for me, even after the months of listening to [at least some of] it on a daily basis.
To begin with, I'm one of the people who would give their grandmother to have Tarja back. That doesn't mean that Anette is a bad singer, nor does she seem like a bad person. What I don't understand is that out of the thousands of women who auditioned, why in the world would they choose someone so mediocre? They could have gotten one of the best vocalists in the world, had they so chosen. But yet we have Anette; a pop singer with no classical training, a very small range, and so little expression in her voice. She simply does not have the power to bring Tuomas's lyrics to life the way Tarja could, nor does her voice blend with the music with that same perfection. Plus, I can't help being annoyed with the fact that the first quality mentioned when describing what Nightwish wanted for their new singer was good looks. Well, they got that...and if Anette makes a better friend and band member than Tarja, that's all well and good too. But when this is the woman that the one of the most popular bands in Finland chooses to replace the greatest talent in female-fronted metal, you know there's a lot more than producing good music that they're worried about.
That brings me to my main problem with the album: commercialism. I don't consider this a sell-out album, but it's creation was obviously geared toward lining the pockets of the band and the record label. The passion and inspiration found in the previous releases is gone, save for in The Poet and the Pendulum, which was written back in 2005. The other tracks, for the most part, feel so forced. And as for commercialism, playing the worst songs on the album, "Bye Bye Beautiful" and "Amaranth", on Euro MTV every hour shows how hard they're trying to make it more accessible to the alternative rock and popular music scenes. And it's working, if you look around at all the new fans: trendy teenagers in Slipknot shirts. Tuomas once said that without Tarja, there would be no Nightwish. He also makes it clear by the progression of their sound and lyrics, what was happening. Tarja got married with the recording of Century Child, the most angry and emotional album. Once was full of sorrow and beauty, but the passion was already being lost. ["Tired, but unable to give up, since I am responsible for the lives I saved" -Dead Gardens]. Now, with the calculated Dark Passion Play, it seems that the main reason for keeping the band alive is to make money. Despite anything else, that factor alone causes this album to lose a lot of my respect.
Instrumentally, Nightwish is harder and more complex than ever, and, while it's different, what of their albums hasn't been a drastic change on the one before? Still, while I love the symphonic aspect, the orchestra drives this album and overpowers all else. Once pushed the boundaries on the use of orchestra; Dark Passion Play ran right through them. Nevertheless, the music is wonderful in a lot of ways, with the best guitar riffs thus far and even more of a progressive sound. I wish the album didn't carry that same tone all the way through, though...film scores get kind of old, and the songs are not nearly varied enough. This is exactly where I'm torn - this could easily be called both their instrumental best or worst creation.
Lyrically, I'm also undecided. The subject matter is more varied, and it certainly can't be called bad by any means, but the heartfelt poetry of Once would now more accurately just be called 'lyrics'. The album art, too, bothers me...overly computerized images like the front pendulum are a mark of laziness, in my opinion.
As I and almost every other reviewer here has mentioned, the 14-minute opener, The Poet and the Pendulum, is undoubtedly the best song on the album and an immediate Nightwish classic. It encompasses perhaps the greatest fury and sweetest sorrow of all Tuomas has written in just one song. The orchestra, chior, harsh vocals, boy sopranos, and the band itself are all put to great use here. I know this is a worthwhile Nightwish song because, like my other favorites, it made me cry upon first hearing it. This song is a masterpiece of symphonic metal.
Everything after that...not so much. "Bye Bye Beautiful" is reminiscent of the ever-annoying "Wish I Had An Angel", and, like "Master Passion Greed", is lacking in class and modesty by its blatant insults toward Tarja and Marcello. "Amaranth" is something of a dance tune and would have been much better as a bonus track rather than the first single, and "Eva", while relaxing and pretty, gets boring very quickly. "Whoever Brings the Night" is an interesting song, at the very least, and this, along with the powerful, churning rockers "Sahara" and "7 Days to the Wolves", make the album worth the purchase. "Meadows of Heaven" bores me, but I do appreciate it for the unexpected gospel chior and gorgeous piano.
Overall, I'm disappointed in my favorite band. And yet, I'm glad that they did make this album and do enjoy listening to it, if not to the same extent as their older work. For serious Nightwish fans, even those who despise Anette, I recommend that you buy this album. Nightwish's trademarks are still present, and it will grow on you if you give it the chance. Buy it, too, if you're a symphonic rock/metal fan who hasn't really gotten into old Nightwish yet. Be prepared to hear what Tuomas Holopainen can really do when you do get around to listening to Oceanborn and Wishmaster, though. You'll find that so much of what once filled those notes is now gone.
Well, it's happened: after years of in-the-closet fighting, creative differences, and sloppily-handled romantic antics, Nightwish-founder Tuomas Holopainen got the rest of the band to oust their acclaimed leading lady, Tarja Turunen - a move most drastic, seeing as Mrs. Turunen not only has been the band's frontal image since its conception, but possesses probably the most celebrated voice in all of gothic metal.
All personal resentments aside, this seemingly catastrophic ejection is the direct result of a calculated mainstream appeal: the majority of the fans that have flocked around the band in recent times did so because they considered their previous album, "Once", to be the best thing in the world: pandering to western alternative rock standards, the album was a collection of pop melodies disguised by Tarja's (less-)operatic(-than-usual) vocals and an orchestral score.
Seeing as his fanbase now largely included fans of Evanesence and bands of the sort, Tuomas figured it was time to display his directive clout, and fired Tarja in exchange for the less-talented Swedish songstress Anette Olzon: classically-tuned vocals were no longer essential to the band, and what better way to appeal to the American market than to recruit a singer who actually sounds American? - after all, now Nightwish can forget about the defining aspects of their previous ventures and focus on the lovely bones that are turning them into millionaires: pop orchestra and a sexy frontwoman, who rocks and grinds in their music videos like a Playboy model!
Somewhere along the way, however, somebody in the band had the idea that in order to prove to older fans that despite turning into media sellouts, they were still the Nightwish that they still knew and loved, "Dark Passion Play" would have to be more diverse and incorporating of old musical touches that got the band initial fame.
Though this collected variety saves the album in the end, it's a sordid attempt: entice newer and incoming fans with super-catchy chart-toppers ("Amaranth", "Bye Bye Beautiful"), and keep ahold of older veterans with recycled material from their earlier albums ("The Islander" is very reminicent of "The Carpenter").
All that being written, it's still difficult to view the album as empty: sure, it's melodramatic, overhyped, and still inferior to Nightwish's better works (namely, "Oceanborn" - which the majority of new fans will not have the patience to sit through)...but goshdarnnit - it's an entertaining bit of fluff. Listening to Anette gayly trill such meant-to-be-sad lyrics like "The never-fading rain in/Your heart that chooses snow white sorrow" is the equivalent of a cheap high, as you can hardly help but sing along to a band that's supposed to be composed of head-banging rockers. You can ignore the lyrical undertones of "Bye Bye Beautiful" and "Master Passion Greed" (which attack Turunen and her Argentinian husband, respectively) for their consistencies as replacement-metal. The rest of the songs are fun, chuckle-inducing filler, with the exception of "The Poet And The Pendulum", which is easily the best song on the entire album: great composition, orchestra, and movement and diversity; if only the rest of the album had been like it...
Yes, Nightwish is quickly turning into a modern-day Poison: flashy, overhyped, catchy, and completely undermining their abilities; Tuomas Holopainen's musical ingenuity has gone out the window, guitarist Emppu is distracted enough to get involved in two other bands, and bassist Marco exists to belt lyrics in duets and to snarl at the camera during music videos (drummer Jukka remains as distant and unseeable as ever). Great stuff if you're interested in european metal for its catchiness (-insert sarcastic chuckle-), but it's hardly your older brother's Nightwish. "Dark Passion Play" is definitely worth listening to, and maybe even buying - decide for yourself on the grounds of whether or not you want to hear Britney Spears perform with Metallica.
When I knew that Alyson Avenue's former vocalist, Anette Olzon, was chosen to be Nightwish's new female vocalist, I immediately thought "Tuomas Holopainen wants to do something different and better than 'Once', he's been asking for freedom for years and now he finally has it". The change from a soprano voice to an experimented rock-style voice always brings something else with it. And in this particular case, it brought the best album of its year.
I must admit that the first single, "Eva", wasn't good enough to announce a CD like this one. The song was too slow and too "soft". The only good thing about "Eva" was that it was perfect to show Anette's voice as a member of the band.
But the greatness of the album was first presented with the release of the second single, "Amaranth". This song brought a clear proof of Nightwish's new age: the sound is clearly different, the atmosphere is more symphonic, and the combination music-vocals-choir is something only seen a few times in the past of the band. Still doubting? Well, "Amaranth" became Gold in Finland just two days after its release, and reached #1 in Finland, Spain and Hungary.
I bought "Dark Passion Play" (Spinefarm Version) two days after the European release. I heard it completely the first day, and I was completely amazed. In fact, "amazed" is almost nothing compared to what I felt then. The album includes a lot of musical influences: symphonic, gothic, Irish, Finnish, rock, gospel, etc. The music goes from a new sound to the early days of the band, from a stabilized style to an experimental one. The dreams of any symphonic-metal lover come true with this album.
The album starts with a 14-minute epic melody, maybe the greatest song in Nightwish's history: "The Poet and The Pendulum". A song dear to Tuomas and divided in 5 parts, "The Poet and The Pendulum" is a song that seemingly required a lot of inspiration, depression and musical freedom to be created with that kind of perfection.
One of the things that have turned "Dark Passion Play" into an extraordinary album is the new sound that is shown in more than the half of the tracks. "The Poet and The Pendulum", "Amaranth" (maybe the most representative song of the new sound, a pure symphonic metal song), "Cadence of Her Last Breath" (an aggressive song that includes gothic metal and alternative rock influences), "Sahara" (a strange 1001 Nights-like song that forces Anette's vocal skills like never before) and "Whoever Brings The Night" (an experimental song that has alternative rock influences and that is one of the most complex songs of the album) are songs that couldn't be expected from the band when Tarja Turunen was the female vocalist. It seems that Tarja's dismissal has released Nightwish from the chains that tied them for years, and led the band to experiment with a new symphonic-metal style.
"Meadows of Heaven" is also a very surprising song. The idea to include a gospel choir in this song (and it's the only one of the entire album that includes that kind of choir) gives it a very particular context, taking us to the place that the lyrics describe in a form that is rarely seen in music.
Another surprising point is that the other band members also participated during the composing, arrangement and mastering of the album. Marco Hietala, for example, finally had the chance to write a song by himself ("The Islander", a very beautiful acoustic Irish-like ballad where he also performs leading vocals and acoustic guitars) and to entirely sing another one ("Master Passion Greed", an aggressive trash-metal like song that is the heaviest of the album and the heaviest of the band's history).
Also, there are two more songs that must be mentioned with all these "shockers": "Last of The Wilds" and "7 Days to The Wolves". The first one, "Last of The Wilds", is the only instrumental song of the album and one of the few instrumental songs the band has ever released. Although it's a little long for an instrumental track's regular length (it's over five and a half minutes long), it's one of the best song of the album. Its Irish atmosphere, combined with the Finnish instruments, gives an awesome imaginary story that can be heard more than once without becoming boring.
And the second one, "7 Days to The Wolves", is the result of the excellent vocal arrangements made by Holopainen. A 50-50 song between Marco and Anette, with both of them being lead vocalists, with a slow beginning and a speedy end... what else can anyone ask?
Even the Japanese bonus track, "The Escapist", is interesting. As a song completely sung by Anette with great lyrics, it's not weird that it had been one of the tracks that received mostly positive reviews. Only because there wasn't enough space for it in the album the song didn't appear, otherwise it could have been seen on the regular editions of the album doubtlessly.
Of course, nothing is 100% perfect, and with this I refer to the songs that have nothing spectacular or different to show: "Bye Bye Beautiful" (a song with Marco Hietala performing lead vocals and that can be compared to "Wish I Had an Angel"), "Eva" (a soft song that is not well situated in the tracklist, because it's between the heaviest song of the album and the aggressive "Sahara" intro) and "For The Heart I Once Had" (an Anette-led song that has some rock/pop influences and that is the sweetest song of the album, it could have been a great idea to replace it with "The Escapist").
From this album, it's impossible to select the worst song, because all of them are a vital part of it, and if one or more are put apart, "Dark Passion Play" loses it delicate harmony.
I will try to make these lines as relevant to the most important purpose that they should serve, i.e. pointing out whether this is a good effort or not. In writing this I haven’t taken into account any moral issues that would have diminished the appreciation that the record actually deserves. I only judge the music, not the people behind it.
First of all, I have to say that Anette Olzon’s vocal performance is better than I would have expected her to sound. Her voice is very good and is one of the strong points of the album. So there’s no truth in flaming it for this particular reason. There is only one problem with the vocals: the parts where Marco uses some very untalented screams (or whatever that abysmal effort of his should be named) that can become very annoying at times (see Master Passion Greed). If he would have kept quiet it would have been better.
Alas, that is not the only flaw of this recording. Lyrically, it’s very fragile. If one listens very carefully, it becomes obvious that the whole subject is blaming Tarja and showing her inferiority. And if that wasn’t enough, some fragments are oriented towards a self-praising ode, written by Tuomas to contemplate… well, himself! In short, it’s a very disturbing way to conceive an album. The saying goes that music can be born out of virtually anything. But I seriously doubt that the path the band has chosen can sustain their career any longer, and if they don’t start forging some real music soon, they’re practically dead. Long gone are the abysmal (in the literary sense of the word) lyrics of Oceanborn, only to be replaced by this shallow, pitiful try.
Finally, in terms of musicianship, Nightwish remains consistent. There are some very interesting riffs and the keyboards aren’t at all out of place, as some fragments really flow together very well. The instrumental part is at least at the same standard, if not better, as their earlier work.
To sum it all up, I think that Tarja is an irreparable loss for what Nightwish was, and although Anette is very good, it shouldn’t even be inferred that she’s a ‘replacement’, as I actually think she doesn’t even want to be and that will mean making her a great injustice. Lyrically, it’s a very weak effort, and if Tuomas doesn’t overcome his frustration (as I think that’s the proper name for it), they’re fading fast. All in all, if you’re not familiar with Nightwish, by all means, buy this album! It’s worth the money. But if you liked the Oceanborn and Wishmaster days, avoid this one, as you’ll be disappointed.
Everyone who knows anything about Nightwish knows that Nightwish's lead singer was replaced by a more poppish one, and it shows on this CD. Annete just doesn't have what Tarja had, but the band was mostly(key word mostly) able to compensate for the lack of female vocals.
The album starts with a dark, Poet and the Pendulum, which is nearly fourteen minutes of good music. This song highlights the entirety of Nightwishes range with soft parts, loud parts, slow music, fast music, male vocals, and female vocals. This song shows that Nightwish may be a changed band, but is still very very good.
Next comes Bye Bye Beautiful, which is thoroughly enjoyable. Marco provides the chorus and Annette provides the main part. I began to see the adaptation this band had to go through. After this comes Amaranth, which people(mostly Tarja fans) say is too poppy. It's not. It's a very solid song which, yet again, shows that Nightwish has had to change, and that the change isn't for the worst.
It is here the album begins to slip, showing Annette isn't nearly as strong as Tarja was. The Cadence of Her Last Breath is a boring song and Annettes vocals don't give the song the depth that Tarja would have given it. This song is made up for by Master Passion Greed, a song entirely sung by Marco. It has attitude and brings the life back into the album, that was lacking in Cadence.
The next group of songs are not bad, but not memorable either. Eva goes by slowly, with very little guitar. Sahara drones on with a boring eastern tone. Whoever Brings the Night has awful lyrics and a whiny Annette. For the Heart I Once Had is just boring.
Then the new Nightwish comes in strong, with Marco doing a folklike the Islander with a normal voice. It's an amazing song, even without the guitars. Then comes an instrumental Last of the Wilds, in which the fiddle and guitar intertwine perfectly. This is the best song on the album.
Seven Days to the Wolves shows that Marco can still do duets with Annette like he did with Tarja. This is also a great song which I wish the album would end on...it doesn't. The album has to have the worst, most torturing Meadows of Heaven last. The gospel in it might, just might, have worked with Tarja but it overpowers and crushes the song.
So now, you might be wondering why this album isn't lower graded. The potential in half of the songs leaves me not able to wait to see their next album and hoping the pick to follow the Annette path and not still try to do the Tarja style, which didn't work on this album.
Wow. I must admit I approached this album with some hesitation and apprehension. I was a fan of Tarja Turunens vocals, as I felt they worked, and I thought that a new singer would completely change the sound of the band.
How right I was, the sound is different, but not in the way I thought it was going to be! Dark Passion Play is a fantastic album from a band that must have been most worried about the reaction they were going to get from some of their more die-hard fans. Not only does Anette Olzon adequately fill the shoes of the great Ms Turunen, she seems to lead the band on a journey that progresses from good to better!
Don't get me wrong, I'm not dismissing what Tarja did for the band, as I think she got them to a great place, and the album "Once" is an incredible album that always manages to bring delight to me as I listen to it. I just think that now Nightwish have a fantastic opportunity to move themselves onwards and upwards, and this album certainly does that!
DARK: While Nightwish have previously produced darker, heavier material, I feel that with Olzon's vocals taking on a more "metal" feel (as opposed to Turunens operatic soprano) this adds to the overall heavy feel of the album. Songs such as the fantastic 14-minute epic starting track "The Poet and the Pendulum" are fairly dark, firstly in the sense that they are a chaotic ride, going from heavy and fast, to slow and relaxed with violins playing mournfully behind. Secondly, with lyrics such as "”I'm afraid. I'm so afraid. Being raped again, and again, and again. I know I will die alone. But loved." lead the listener to shiver. This is Nightwish growing up and turning more metal!
PASSIONATE: Something that Tarja Turunen brought to the band was a sense of passion. Passion for the music, passion for what she was singing about and of course, a few of their songs are almsot passionate love ballads! Anette Olzon continues in this theme, with anthems such as "Eva" and "For the Heart I Once Had" bringing the softer side of Nightwish back into play. These songs truly complement the rest of the album, making it a diverse and interesting album.
PLAYFUL: Throughout the whole album, you really get the feeling that they are having fun making it. The only instrumental on the album, Last of the Wilds" proves Nightwishes musical ability, as well as their enjoyment of making music. It is a fantastic pseudo-folk metal track, with a gaelic/Braveheart feel to the whole thing. The first time I heard it, I just had to re-listen to it over and over again, not knowing whether to head bang or get up and do the highland fling!
In conclusion, Nightwish have returned with a powerful new sound, and I expect more great things from them in the future! I know they aren't officially a progressive metal band, but they have certainly progressed from a good place (with "Once", their best album before this one) and moved to a fantastic new place.
I really should’ve stopped at the title. Really. I should have stopped, looked at unimaginative and pathetic title reading “Dark Passion Play,” and turned around. For this title describes all that this album really is: a lack of imagination, ingenuity, and creativity altogether.
Now, changing the subject -- I assume most of the internet-goers reading this know about Tarja getting the boot, and the Annette chick getting swung into the band. So let’s just get this topic out of the way. Tarja’s gone; get over it, children; move on to worshipping some other generic female metal icon. Tarja was never a very great metal vocalist. I don’t care about all the painfully operatic notes that could be hit in one power metal album. So please no more of this “Annette’ll never be as good as Tarja!” bullshit. Annette is actually a very talented, versatile, and enjoyable singer, and I feel she fits into Nightwish and their new direction with their sound very well. Call me a slave to pop vocals and generic taste, but I personally would rather listen to someone whose vibrato doesn’t make my ears bleed.
And so, what are the ingredients to Nightwish’s new direction? A base pop rock, a sprinkle of power metal, and a hellluva lot of cheesy crud that seem more appealing to fans of High School Musical and Aladdin rather than After Forever or Areyon. Ultimately, the general tone of the album is “Um, we’re really trying hard we promise but need to remember we’ve run out of ideas and we have an ever-growing fan-base of 12-year-olds to please!,” if you catch my drift.
Seeing as I really don’t care about instrumentation, because this band seems they’ve been playing at the same level since Century Child when they went all “woo hoo orchestra!” on the world, let’s skip straight to the songwriting. [For this part, let’s just assume that any song I don’t mention is utterly useless.]
Doing song-by-song reviews are bad; I know. But let’s take into account the first track on the album, at an “epic” fourteen minutes, “Poet and the Pendulum.” When I first looked, I noticed something: the lyrics are pathetic. Extremely pathetic. Tuomas actually mentions himself, by name. Ego, anyone? Ahm, anyways. This is what set my high hopes for this album, and it seems to have as many mood swings as a female college student. It starts with a, granted, cheesy-sounding and light background ambience and some cute vocalization, and then POW! [yes, really, POW!]. All of a sudden this symphonic metal riff just kicks my ass and sends me into an absolutely enlightened and quixotic state. And then it goes back into some bland Nightwish-esque verse, blah, blah, blah. “ Then it goes back into this amazing greatness with the chorus! But, sadly, I become disappointed by Nightwish once more as this repeats itself and repeats itself and repeats itself, until there’s nothing more than a few more amazing riffs and a shell of every other song they’ve written longer than 10 minutes.
The singles of an album are normally the first things to get picked on by me when dealing with an album. On this one, however, the three singles they’ve released as of yet are three entirely different cases. “Amaranth,” while being a song stuck on my mp3 player for months at a time due to it’s catchy nature, offers not really much. I’d consider it a good piece of songwriting because of the chorus’s creatively alluring hook, but nothing much else sticks out. Then there’s “Bye Bye Beautiful,” which I think is kind of the “Nemo” of this album. It’s wonderfully written, but all in all, a drab and short pop song. These along with “Cadence of Her Last Breath” offer a pretty boring and just slightly enjoyable time.
And then we have “Eva,” a musical pile of feces. This song is, when it was the first sound byte released of the new vocalist and new album, what made me assume that Annette was a horrible singer and that Tuomas was starting to write Disney songs [hey, I wasn’t entirely wrong]. This song, along with “For the Heart I Once Had” and “Meadows of Heaven” are some of the worst ballads I have ever heard in my existence, sounding straight out of the REJECTED bin of Disney songs. But if we want to talk about bad songs, there’s always “Master Passion Greed” – it’s to Dark Passion Play what “Slaying the Dreamer” was to Century Child, save for the fact that this song is possibly a hundred times worse. The riffs are KoRn-inspired, and Marco’s harsh vocals make me want to laugh out loud.
But wait, there’s more! And a positive more, at that. In the few moments that this album decides to shine, it shines brilliantly. One of the last tracks on the album, “7 Days to the Wolves,” is actually a very powerful and well-written piece [even though the titles still makes no sense, as with many Nightwish titles]. Then we have the one song that Tuomas had no part in writing the music for, “The Islander,” with music written completely by M. Hietala [bass, vocals]. And very eerily, it reminds me way too much of Kamelot’s “The Sailorman’s hymn” in the way that it is presented. It’s basically the one place in which Marco’s vocals shine.
But, conclusively, this album is a horrible buy. You could easily spend a few bucks on iTunes for the few songs I’ve mentioned that actually matter, and get the same thing out of Nightwish’s newest work.
The greatest lie ever told in Nightwish’s career is that this album would mark the first time that the band would have to re-invent itself. To the astute observer of all things surrounding this group, it is obvious that they’ve done this several times. Their debut was a mishmash of folk, power and gothic influences that made the band difficult to truly define. “Oceanborn” and “Wishmaster” emphasized the power metal side of the band the greatest, while “Century Child” pushed them into the symphonic realm and “Once” married that same symphonic tendency with some modern sounds.
Throughout this rather unique evolution only two things really remained constant, Tuomas’ lyrics and melodies, and Tarja’s unique operatic voice. With the latter of the two gone, there is obviously going to be yet another drastic switch in the band’s sound paradigm. Would they try to revamp their sound completely in order to compensate for a new singer, who would likely have a completely different voice? Or would they stick to their guns and continue the evolution as it would have likely occurred if Tarja was still in the Nightwish fold?
At first listen, “Dark Passion Play” sounds quite similar to “Once”. This is mostly due to the still heavily present live symphony orchestra, the low reverb mixed drum sound, and Marco’s dark and raunchy bass timbre. However, once you get past the pomp and circumstance symphonic sounds mixed with modernist guitar and drum production, hints of the grand old days of “Oceanborn” start to peak through in the song writing. To the band’s credit, this album is a step back towards the metal edge that some claim they never exhibited.
The opening epic “The Poet and the Pendulum” marries the narration approach of “Dead Boy’s Poem” from the “Wishmaster” LP with the orchestral flair and fast paced aggression of “Dark Chest of Wonders”. The chorus on here is unforgettable, brilliantly layering Marco’s and Anette’s voices with a backing chorus that takes me back to the splendor of “End of all Hope”. Second album single “Amarath” comes off as a somewhat less melancholy and more triumphant version of “Nemo”. “Master Passion Greed” is a more modernly produced version of “Devil and the Deep Dark Ocean”, pure speed and fury with riffs galore and Marco pulling off a decent thrash vocal performance.
Several songs on here stick closer to the newer Nightwish sound and actually improve upon it. “Bye, Bye Beautiful” is basically “Wish I had an Angel” without the goofy sounding techno drums and a good deal more guitar presence. “Sahara” has similar middle-eastern tendencies as several songs found on the previous LP, but we are once again treated to some quality lead work by Emppu. The beginning of the song in particular showcases his unique approach to balancing memorable melodic ideas with technical flair. In fact, there is almost as much lead work on this album as what was heard back in the “Wishmaster” days, a definite improvement from the last album that had almost no lead work at all. “7 Days to the Wolves” is almost a hybrid of “Ghost Love Score” and “Higher than Hope”, and is my personal favorite on here.
Although quite an improvement, this album is obviously not without some flaws. “Meadows of Heaven” would be a pretty solid closing ballad for the album if it didn’t have all that ridiculous R&B vocal wankery going on around Anette’s voice. I’m not partial to the overbearing, melisma steeped vocal ad libs of Mariah Carey and Christina Aguilera, and I suspect that 90% of Nightwish’s audience isn’t either so I am at a loss on this one. “For the Heart I Once Had” is also a bit too popish for its own good, underscored by the depressing lyrics sung over a comical major chord progression. Other little odd quirks in the vocal delivery can also occasionally be heard in “Cadence of her last breath”, which is otherwise a solid groove riff driven rocker.
In short, this is an improvement from the last album on many levels, but it probably won’t be enough for Nightwish’s core fans who got into their late 90s and early 2000s material. Anette’s voice is radically different from Tarja’s, almost like a slightly lighter and smoother version of Sharon Den Adel actually. Anyone coming to this album expecting to hear “Oceanborn” is not being realistic, although I do sympathize in their desire to see the band get back to a more traditionally symphonic power metal approach rather than all the Industrial/Pop stuff they’ve been mixing in of late. If you liked “Century Child”, this listens a bit similar, but if you absolutely hated “Once” then you’ll probably want to skip this as there are many remnants to be found here.
Nightwish - Dark Passion Play
Arguably one the most influential Metal bands of recent times, spawning offsprings that quickly crowded this sub-genre, the soap opera around the replacing of a charismatic singer was bound to generate perfectly stupid extremisms around “Dark Passion Play”.
Neither the best album ever, nor the most utter garbage as some will say, “Dark Passion Play” starts with one of the best songs of the year and the Finns’ career, “The Poet And The Pendulum”, 14 minutes of sumptuous symphonic passages of the most grandiose the band ever did, in a varied, strong and memorable tune that will grab you from beginning to end. Unfortunately when you’re expecting Tarja Turunnen you get a very talented Annette Olzon, very different, more Pop and with a sweet but thin voice that frequently gets drowned by the more pompous orchestrations to the point where it’s hardly possible to understand what she’s saying, even though she shows a lot of talent with melody and emotion in her delivery.
Unfortunately “The Poet And The Pendulum” is not how the album flows, and quickly gives place to “Eva” and “Amaranth”, the later a beautiful track with an infectious chorus line, but with simple and unsurprising riffing and drumming and the usual verse/chorus structure which, without a singer like Tarja, will loose some distinction and identity. Count to hear these in the radios.
Strong and memorable songs abound, like “Bye Bye Beautiful”, “Master Passion Gred” or the dark “Sahara” where Emppu’s aggressive riffing is a highlight. With “The Islander”, an unexpected and welcome acoustic song, the band goes down a folkier side that proceeds through the instrumental “Last Of The Wilds” where guitars and violins intertwine perfectly. Closing, “Meadows Of Heaven”, mellow but grand, with some more welcomed surprises like the soul vocals close to the ending. Production here is excellent and the talented and intelligent use of the orchestra elevate this album to new levels, making it sound like the band’s best ever.
So what can be wrong with the album that its most fanatic defenders are missing?
To start with, some lyrics sound shockingly spineless: “For The Heart I Once Had” can cause serious testosterone loss and is a magnet to pseudo-goth chicks with existential problems. “Cadence Of Her last Breath” not only has some duet parts that painfully remind you of a certain American band that many consider “metal” to the unhappiness of many more, and lacks the album’s symphonic pomp.
Then, vocally, to hear Annette frequently muffled by the instrumentals is not the best of omens and for many, she simply won’t be good enough to have them forget Tarja who even turns up in the lyrics, as if the band doesn’t yet know how to overcome the soap opera they have gotten themselves into. The way Marco also gets muffled by too many layers, we knowing what he’s worth, is even less pleasing.
No matter what we can say, “Dark Passion Play” will sell like hot cakes, which is not underserved, for we still have many of the elements we can find of interest in Nightwish. Sometimes Annette makes you look at the credits to make sure Sharon Den Adel is not a guest, while other times she even sounds like ABBA, which for many will a sign of alarm, but even so the virtues of “Dark Passion Play” make it worthy of appreciation, even more so with the special editions in store. But you’ll have to forget the past and what the band gave you, you may have to look for it elsewhere.
Originaly for www.rockheavyloud.com
I have been a big Nightwish fan for quite a while now. I have loved all their albums including "Once" which was hated by many people. Going into this album, lets just say I wasn't disappointed, as I knew the vocalist wouldn't be as good as Tarja. I was disappointed that she got fired from the band, but I knew not to expect much from the album, which is why I was a bit surprised when I listened to it out of curiosity, and found some parts which I actually liked. I'll get to that later.
First, I have to get the vocals out of the way. Anette, while very good looking doesn't have the best vocals, especially compared to her predecessor Tarja. She is in tune and her voice is generally pleasant, but Anette just doesn't have the emotion or power that Tarja had. It seems whenever she sings alone, the music becomes very light, but when the music becomes more symphonic, lots of effects are put into her voice, and Marco's vocals are added as well, so much that you can barely hear Anette anymore. The vocals can also be rather annoying sometimes, most notably for me in "Amaranth", as the song starts off with a very nice melody and power and gets watered to a choppy and shitty guitar riff when Anette comes in. In addition, I find her vocals way too happy when she sings verses like this:
"War between him and the day
Need someone to blame
In the end, little he can do alone"
That said, there are a few moments, and I mean few, when I actually like Anette's vocals, and that is mainly in "Poet and the Pendulum" which is by far the best song on this album. I still think the song would be better with Tarja, but whatever. I like her vocals in Part 1 of the song, when at first she whispers, and later has that soft but high-pitched cry. Sounds very sad but peaceful at the same time.
Now getting to the music, as I said "Poet and the Pendulum" is the best song here. It is very long, it is also very varied, it has its soft and mellow sections, it has its more aggressive and symphonic/operatic sections, and it has sections that are in between. The song also has a little bit of an almost folkish influence at times, with the gentle piano mixing with flute and violin at times. The lyrics in this song are pretty good too, except this verse, which I found very strange...
”I'm afraid. I'm so afraid.
Being raped again, and again, and again.
I know I will die alone.
Some other decent songs are "Cadence of Her Last Breath" which has an almost creepy feeling, because the song is rather heavy, but it has high-pitched keyboards at times. I also don't mind Anette's vocals too much here, as she sings in a high-pitched voice, and this mixes well with the song, and she sounds better singing in a higher pitch.
"Master Passion Greed" is another nice song, with a very heavy beginning, I don't know if I've ever heard Nightwish sound heavier. Also, Marco sings in this song, and I actually like his vocals, which was a nice break from Anette and added a little variety. The song also has a very powerful operatic ending, with some pretty nice mysterious and borderline creepy melodies.
"Eva" is mostly a boring waste that doesn't do anything to show of Anette's vocals, but I like the song a bit more towards the end when it builds up and we even get a little guitar solo.
So to basically sum up the album, the music is pretty much the same, with more of an operatic/folkish influence at times, and shitty borderline slam your iPod against a wall annoying vocals. Is it a bad album? No. But do the vocals affect the quality of music? Hell yea, and not in a good way.
As everyone knows by now Nightwish kicked out their iconic and much adored vocalist at the height of their fame, plummeting them into mire of cynicism, childish dismissal from Tarja fans and abandonment from the press who had clamoured to interview and promote them in the Once days. Rather than disband to rest on their past laurels or try to resurrect their old glory by imitating it, they have resurfaced with an album so very different yet full of the melody, passion, creativity and emotion that has long made Nightwish so adored. The new singer Annette Olzon is certainly not Tarja Mark 2. Whilst Tarja’s voice was heartbreakingly sad, coldly distant and overwhelmingly majestic, Annette’s is warm, open and full of happiness and enthusiasm; even the ballads are never sad, instead full of hope and love. Of course not everyone will like this change, but Annette’s talent in undeniable and her range and power is unquestionable.
The most striking thing about this new album is the level of creativity and difference between the songs, in many ways it is reminiscent of the melodic side of avant-garde metal such as Arcturus and Diablo Swing Orchestra. The vast majority of metal bands with outside influences either use them so little that they’re insignificant or milk them as their only gimmick. This album does neither, taking vast amounts of very diverse influence, making excellent use of each but relying on none.
Power metal – though Nightwish’s power metal side has been in decline since Wishmaster there’s somewhat of a return to form with DPP. First of all the vocals are enthusiastic, bright, high pitched and expressive. It sounds nothing like Tarja, but a lot like a female equivalent to most male power metal singers. As well as Emppu’s perfectly composed and passionately played solos there are some wonderful power metal riffs in here, more so than any other ‘femme metal’ band around. For one example listen to 7:37 in the massive Poet and the Pendulum; I almost cried with joy. And that’s only one part of Nightwish’s longest and most sophisticated song.
Thrash metal – Marco’s impassioned old-style thrash yelps and screeches make the ‘beauty and the beast’ pseudo-death metal growlers of most bands sound pathetic. Master Passion Greed is an excellent thrash power song reminiscent of a more complex Morgana Lefay, entirely sung by Marco. The thrash influence is also evident in some excellent riffs throughout the album.
Symphony – There’s no classical and no opera: the ‘symphonic’ side of Nightwish clearly draws almost entirely on film scores, which is no bad thing, the more immediately dramatic and overwhelming sound fits with the bombast and speed of power metal perfectly. No other band blends metal with symphony so clearly, neither side ever compete with the other for space as is the case with most similar bands, the guitars and drums know when to silence to allow the orchestra to shine and there’s more than enough room for awesome riffs and solos. The utterly flawless orchestration and production is a large part of this as well as the composition. This is present throughout the album but best displayed in the vast epics Poet and the Pendulum and Seven Days to Wolves.
Folk Music – The Islander is based around a Native American sounding melody with acoustic guitar and Marco’s newly found beautiful clean voice. It creates a unique feel that I can only describe as being somewhere between serene and ‘piratey’. The instrumental Last of the Wilds is a straight up cheery Celtic piece, thankfully given a decent length unlike the paltry instrumental intros to most metal albums.
Eastern Music –Every metal album seems to have an obligatory ‘eastern sounding song’ and Sahara so obviously fitted this bracket I almost laughed when I heard it. Though the instrumental influence is present but not massive, just listen to the crazy Arabic sounding singing towards the end and tell me you don’t love Annette.
Pop music – Yep, Annette used to be in an ABBA tribute band and it’s blatantly obvious in the infectiously catchy very straightforward Amaranth. The album is full of the wonderful vocal melodies that have always been a Nightwish signature.
Musicals – The very soft ballad Eva which made a rather uninspiring single works so much better between the bombast and drama of the other songs around it. It is a song about love and devotion, not tragedy, hence makes a very different sort of song to most metal ballads. The line ‘the good in her will be my sunflower field’ is one of the most touching lines I have ever heard.
Gospel – The very end of the album, towards the close of the lengthy ballad ‘Meadows of Heaven’ explodes with a Gospel Choir in duet with Annette. Yes. It sounds like those crazy African American ladies in churches wailing their hearts out with their love for Jesus. Sounds stupid doesn’t it? Surprisingly not, it’s the most original and inspiring way to end a metal album I have ever heard.
Influences that are thankfully definitely NOT present in Dark Passion Play:
Gothic music – I doubt I was alone in fearing Nightwish would jump on a faggoth bandwagon of some sort in their future direction. This album is almost never depressive or tragic and not a moment of goth rock or even gothic metal sound is to be heard.
Industrial – This album has no ‘Wish I Had an Angel’ sound-alikes, everything is very flowing and natural with no electronic beats whatsoever.
Nu Metal – Nightwish’s huge popularity with many alt-rockers has led to accusations of being ‘mallcore’, but these are as entirely unfounded as ever, there’s not a trace of it here. Yes there are power chords, but there are power chords in every metal band. There are more 'metal' riffs here than on a ManOwaR album for example.
The lyrics sadly are not as poetic or emotional as before. Usualy they're uninteresting, occasionaly too much more of Tuomas's self-pitying silliness and twos ongs dedicated to slating Tarja and her husband. The artwork is simple but perfect, with the sense of wonder and excitement that fills the music. The digipack comes with the whole album as orchestral intrumentals. Enjoyable and worth having but not as engaging as the real thing as the gaps where the vocals are meant to fill are too obvious.
Many Tarja fans will not be won over because Annette is so different and of course people who hate bombastic, melodic, sensitive or feminine metal will still hate Nightwish. For most fans of female fronted symphonic metal, the importance of any Nightwish album is given but the absence of semi-operatic warbling, which was the ultimate in love-hate vocals, will open Nightwish up for people who didn’t enjoy Tarja’s style. The new areas this album covers; its immense diversity and increased complexity will hold a lot of appeal to people who find most symphonic and power metal too repetitive, predictable and straight forward.
After endless waiting and bullshit, the new Nightwish album is here. The amount of drama that preceded this album was just unreal. For anybody who has been under a rock and doesn't know, this is the first release since the much-publicized firing of longtime singer Tarja Turunen and the addition of new frontwoman Annette Olzon. There are already fanboys who are slamming this just because Tarja is gone, but honestly Olzon's vocals are not a problem here.
The only real thing wrong with this album is the first song, which is a 14 minute bore-a-thon which proves that Tarja was not the only one getting an ego problem, as the lyrics are basically Tuomas Holopainen giving himself a blowjob. I'm embarrassed that poor Annette had to sing this nonsense, and I have found that if you skip this tune, the album is miles better.
Afterwards, things pick up with a lot of really enjoyable songs: "Bye Bye Beautiful", "Amaranth:, "Sahara", and the great "7 Days To The Wolves". My favorite song on here is probably the Marco Heitala-penned ballad "The Islander", which is just a beautiful song. Marco is much more present on this album, even -as noted- writing some songs entirely himself. I think this is a fine thing, as in many ways Marco Heitala is the best thing that ever happened to this band. There are some not-as-good tracks as well, like the rather dull "Master Passion Greed", the tedious "Eva"or "Whoever Brings The Night", which has an excessively poppy verse melody. Overall I think that this is a more consistent album than Once, with less filler and more solid tunes. There is just no track on here quite as amazing as "Ghost Love Score", instead we get the giant steaming load of self-indulgent crap called "The Poet and the Pendulum". The album as a whole is more varied and less commercial than Once, sounding a lot more like Oceanborn than any of the albums since. That said, it does lack a bit of coherence, not sounding as unified as the last two albums. I don't know, I like this album a lot, but it just doesn't satisfy like Century Child did.
Which brings me to Annette Olzon, who is sure to have a lot of totally unfounded not-nice things said about her in the months to come. Some people are just not going to be willing to accept a new voice in Nightwish, and that's the end of it. If they had replaced her with another operatic singer, it might not rankle some people as much, but who knows? I myself favored Epica frontwoman Simone Simon as the best person to step in, but I don't know if she was even considered. The major division is that Olzon is not an operatic vocalist, having a more traditional pop/rock style. I will point out the obvious that this is Tuomas' band, and he wouldn't have picked her if this wasn't the way he wanted to go with it. I will also point out that Ms. Olzon is a fine vocalist with pro style and a cool tone, and I actually like her a lot. I think if there is anything against her to be said it is that she is not extraordinary. After all the hype, we were convinced Nightwish would settle for nothing less than amazing, and I don't think anyone could have lived up to the expectations. So for the record, Annette is not off-key, she is not weak, and she is not just propped up by studio effects; she is a perfectly good singer who I think fits the new music very well. Her only crime in some eyes is that she is not Tarja.
I detest writing long reviews, but with all the run-up hype and the brouhaha over this album, I had a lot I wanted to say. Nightwish fans can buy this without worry, as even with a new singer, this is still definitively Nightwish. If you can't live without Tarja Turunen, well, good luck to you.
Originally written for www.metalcrypt.com
Let me preface my review with this: I hate Once and the way that Nightwish sold-out. (Sure Century Child was a sign of things to come, but it wasn't actively bad.) I hate the fact that when I watched the End of an Era DVD, I saw lots of mallgoth 15-yr-old girls crying when a ballad started. I hate mallcore and I hate mallcore+orchestra too, and that is what this album is, just like Once. But even worse.
Of course the biggest change here is the singer. And while Olzon is a capable singer, she is just that. The woman can handle her melodies with ease and has an extremely sweet voice (too poppish for me), just like the girls from Epicrap, After Forever and many others. But the problem is that she sounds too standard, you cannot tell the difference between her and other singers. Of course this is a letdown when comparing her to Tarja (and you cannot avoid the comparison) if you consider Tarja's unique voice.
As for the rest of the band... this could almost be called Once II. Vuorinen again pumps out the same shitty, down-tuned and repetitive "riffs" which is nothing else than background noise ala Rammstein, and uses the same guitar tone that many think is "heavy" or "aggresive" but in reality it is harmless and designed for mallgoths. For instance, the intro to Master Passion Greed... sorry kids, but this is pure mallcore.
Early Nightwish didn't have an aggresive tone, but it was not down-tuned and very melodic, it didn't want to be aggresive.
The keyboards are again kind of there, in a gothic way that sucks, not used wonderfully like 7 years ago. If you took out the keyboards, you would have an Evanescence album.
You may notice that I don't go very deep into some aspects, and that is because they are just there, being complete filler.
Highlights? Forget, none of them. I can give you a low point instead: They sure had some slightly poppish songs before, but none of them sounded like Amaranth. This is the epitome of mallgoth pop. Chugga chugga guitars, a heavy dose of sugar and whiny vocals, what a mix.
The worse part is that this is so fucking long! At least Once had the decency to stop, this one does not. It goes on and on and on and fucking on.
Recommended to mallgoths. Metalheads avoid, stick to anything pre-Century Child.
PS: I couldn't even write funny comparisons in this review, in fact it is quite sad. Sad just like the path Nightwish took.
Dark Passion Play marked the beginning of an era that would drastically change the world of female-fronted metal forever; the most well known band of its kind spontaneously decided to dismiss their face, their voice, their frontwoman, Tarja. One would imagine that, since Nightwish decided to make a move that could potentially alienate the majority of their fanbase, they would put considerable effort, thought, and soul into this new album. Well, I hate to break it to you, but there is none. Without a doubt in my mind, I can say this is the dullest, most generic album in my collection.
"But how is that possible!?" you might say, "It has a full choir, features the London Philharmonic Orchestra (who did the amazing Lord of the Rings soundtrack!) and the highest production cost of any album ever to come out of Finland! The first song is just under 14 minutes, making it the longest song in Nightwish history! Amazing!"
Unfortunately, there is more to music than the amount of money you spend on it. Dark Passion Play is the perfect example of that. There is no point in arguing that the symphonic elements of the album sound great on their own; however, most of the time, they are either caked over some of the most repulsively boring 'background noise' guitars and disco-beat drums or competiting with Anette's screeching voice in the overly pompous choruses. But even though Nightwish can afford squander close to a million dollars on ostentatious 'fluff', all the money in the world can not buy passion or creativity. They worked with something that should have been magnificent and turned it into something lack-luster. There is nothing the album provides that we haven't seen done better a million times before, either by Nightwish themselves or one of their many clones, aside from the superfluous production value.
The music itself is not something entirely unfamiliar to a long time Nightwish fan, but it is a great step down from where they were. I tend to picture it as a staircase they began to descend after their third album, Wishmaster; only, it's as if they tripped and fell when they got to Dark Passion Play. Everything fans complained about on Once has been magnified for this release, only this time the magnificent voice of Tarja isn't there to hide their mistakes. Songs follow the same patterns, clean, bouncy verses that lead into huge, sonorous choruses, and then of course a rinse and repeat. On Once, we had this repeated on 4 or 5 of the songs and many fans weren't happy. Here, we get 10 or more of these filler tracks. Some of these songs try so hard to be catchy, it's actually quite comical.
I think everyone can appreciate the fact that Anette is no Tarja. She doesn't have the strength, the originality, or the "exotic-ness" that Tarja had. She definitely doesn't have the voice Tarja had. Now, everyone can also appreciate the fact that Anette is a decent singer, however, so are the thousands of other women that front similar bands. Where Nightwish was once a band with a noticeable, attention-grabbing front-woman, they have become something quite bland. DPP heralds a new era in which Nightwish must perform, and live up to the name they created for themselves, without their most valuable asset.
Some may be disappointed to hear that Marco sings much more than he has on any of the previous albums. He takes the lead vocals on 3 of the 12 songs and has a big chunk to himself in most of the other songs. He performs well enough in most areas, though in 'Master Passion Greed' especially, he develops a sort of raspy Slipknot/Cradle of Filth sound that may throw a lot of people off. In my opinion, he does a decent job on 'The Islander', outshining any other vocal-work I've ever heard him do (although the song itself is honestly a bore...).
The album does dabble in areas that Nightwish has never gone before, namely the folk influence that pokes through here and there on the album. It's short, watered-down, and never the focus of a real song (just the instrumental), but still present. That's not the only thing new, though. Every previous Nightwish release had a highlight or a moment where you would just flat out say "WOW!", but Dark Passion Play was the first where I found none. There are no 'Gethsemane's, 'Ghost Love Score's, or 'Ever Dream's here.
The song 'Poet and the Pendulum' merits a peculiar mention. This track is both the best and the worst on the album, strangely enough. It exhibits the only traces of creativity on the album, but also some of the most horrendous 'poetry' I've ever encountered, especially from someone (Tuomas) who makes a special point to inform the world whenever possible that he is a 'poet'. (Actual lyric: "Tuomas was called from the cares of the Earth..."). If you can bear to actually read through this songs' lyrics, you'll find some of the most pretentious and self-praising lines ever to be released to the public from any group, ever. And this is coming right after the band kicked their singer, stating that she was too arrogant and egotisitcal. Well, anyway, that's just the first song and I can assure you, it's all downhill from there.
And then we come to the lyrical section of this review, which is the part I find to be the most offensive. Having been a long time Nightwish fan before this album, I've read and watched many of their interviews and heard all of their songs hundreds of times and again, so I'm aware of their knowledge with the English language. Trust me, they are not as bad as this album would lead you to believe they are. I've learned that Tuomas chooses to omit words from sentences in order to make them fit with the melody instead of writing words that fit in the first place. And then, when you look past the terrible English, you'll find that most of it seems rather uninspired (see 'Sahara', the token Eastern track). The lyrics are, for the most part, cheesy and pointless. They seem forced and false. Honestly, Tuomas, we really don't care any more, you've done it to death...
In conclusion, it was this years huge disappointment, if not the disappointment of an entire genre. I sat through the whole thing a good six times (brave, I