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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