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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