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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.