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I would like to be clear from the beginning on. I always had one single problem to get an approach to Nightwish and this problem was called Tarja Turunen. From an objective point of view, I am able to admit that she has without a doubt a very powerful and professional voice but I always thought that she was singing way too theatralic, too exagerated and without true emotions or feelings. Don't get me wrong, I listen to operas and symphonies and I adore bands or projects like "Therion", it is not a question of style but a question of convincing joy. Tarja Turunen didn't even know anything about metal when she joined the band, she never spent time with the other band members, she didn't really write some lyrics or something else for the band's purpose. In my opinion, she was always just there because she was a talented singer and while I appreciated the passionate music of Nightwish, I was never able to feel the same passion in the voice of the egocentric ice queen.
That's probably the reason why I saw the departure of Tarja Turunen as a new chance to identify with the music of Nightwish. One of my best friends, an absolute Nightwish fanboy who adored Tarja Turunen and who had almost every single, every vinyl version and special edition of each Nightwish release, had the opposite reaction. He still bought the "Amaranth" single and the "Dark Passion Play" album, listened to it a few times and never touched it again. He felt very disappointed and the band died ultimately for him with the departure of Tarja Turunen. For me, Nightwish really got born with the new singer Anette Olzon.
She is more natural, more human and she seems to enjoy what she does and you can feel it. She has maybe not the grace and the talent of Tarja Turunen, but she has more power and emotion and she does a convincing job on this new album. Finally, there was not everything focused on the singer in this band and this occasion was used by the musicians to improve and do more complex, progressive and diversified compositions than ever before.
You have a big variety of styles and genres on this record. Of course there are symphonical elements throughout the whole album, especially in "The poet and the pendulum". There are many fresh folk influences on this album like on "Last of the wild" and the use of Uilleman Pipes, Kanteles or whistles is quite present on this record. The band's typical power metal influences are also present in most of the songs for example in "The poet and the pendulum". There are also some death or thrash elements as on "Master Passion Greed". "Bye bye beautiul" has some Industrial Metal vibes and sounds very modern. Operatic ghospel influences can be found on "Meadows of heaven". Pop music influences in the key of ABBA that especially influenced the new singer Anette Olzon can be found on "Amaranth". Slightly Gothic influences can be heard on "Cadence of her last breath". Useless to say that the production of this record is brilliant and that the booklet is truly beautiful, artistical and inspiring.
All these styles, influences and ideas are bound together as a whole and well working and diversified album. From the soft, tender and breakable ballad like "Eva" to the most aggressive song ever of this band that is "Master Passion Greed", Nightwish deliver a fresh amount of creativity and nevertheless, the album has its own personal style and flow and Anette Olzon already shows that she has a very special and unqiue voice. Maybe not an outstanding voice like Tarja Turunen, but after a few lines, you can be sure to recognize her and can identify her very own style and different approach to the Nightwish songs. As I have even seen the band live in concert with her, I can only underline that she gives a new, a second life to the old Nightwish tunes. And I must congratulate the band to their hoice to a take a new kind of siner and not a copy of what has been done and seen before. Many fanboys are whining and still shouting Tarja's name during the concets but this was the best choice to be made. Anette Olzon is unique, different and a new chapter has been written.
What about the songs? Well, I think that Nightwish offer some of their best tracks ever on this record. Even the weaker ones like the pop ballad "For the heartI once had" are at least catchy and easy to appreciate, but the true masterpieces are songs like diversified, dramatically and emotionally convulsing opener "The poet and the pendulum", the very calm down to earth acoustic folk song "The islander", the brilliant and magic instrumental "Last of the wilds", the operatic and darkly powerful "Seven days to the wolves" as well as the progressive and symphonical ballad "meadows of heaven" with its brilliant grand fianle with a ghospel choir. Add to that a very catchy "Byebye beautiful" that reminds a little bit too much of "Wish I had an angel", the unforgettable smash hit "Amaranth" that you can't get out of your mind once you have lsitened to it, the haunting and most Gothic song on the album which is "Cadence of her last breath", the brutal and straight "Master Passion Greed", the very calm, dreamy and inspiring ballad "Eva" where Anette Olzon does an outstanding job and the oriental and somewhat exotic "Sahara" which is one of the less convincing songs. every song offers something special and unforgettable and even if there are two weaker songs, there is no single filler but many great killers on this record. My favourite one is the epic, personal and very atmospheric "The poet and the pendulum" that somewhat reunites the diversity of styles and creations on this record in one single outstanding song. This is the kind of song you just write once in a life time.
I didn't expect that much from a band that was rather difficult to approach for me but they delivered an outstanding masterpiece. I bought the album and lsitened to it over and over again and tried out the old stuff again but didn't feel the same passion and magic in it. I decided to see a concert of the band which was probably the best concert of the year 2007 for me. I am really looking forward to the next record they are creating right now. Nightwish has got a brand new and enthousiastic fan. And for the Tarja fans: Even if you may dislike Anette Olzon's voice which I would understand and tolerate (even if she merits a second chance from anyone), you can't deny the class of the compositions, of the music on this record and that's why extremely low rating are completely subjective nonsense. At least, you can listen to the instrumental CD of the special editions that has been especially created for you and then you can imagine the voice of Tarja. And please don't shout "Tarja, Tarja" during teh concert. That woman has got a new band where you might do this and where you might not risk to get knocked out.