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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.