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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.