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Don't be fanatics: not their worse, nor their best - 80%

Hiryu, November 8th, 2007

Nightwish - Dark Passion Play

Arguably one the most influential Metal bands of recent times, spawning offsprings that quickly crowded this sub-genre, the soap opera around the replacing of a charismatic singer was bound to generate perfectly stupid extremisms around “Dark Passion Play”.

Neither the best album ever, nor the most utter garbage as some will say, “Dark Passion Play” starts with one of the best songs of the year and the Finns’ career, “The Poet And The Pendulum”, 14 minutes of sumptuous symphonic passages of the most grandiose the band ever did, in a varied, strong and memorable tune that will grab you from beginning to end. Unfortunately when you’re expecting Tarja Turunnen you get a very talented Annette Olzon, very different, more Pop and with a sweet but thin voice that frequently gets drowned by the more pompous orchestrations to the point where it’s hardly possible to understand what she’s saying, even though she shows a lot of talent with melody and emotion in her delivery.

Unfortunately “The Poet And The Pendulum” is not how the album flows, and quickly gives place to “Eva” and “Amaranth”, the later a beautiful track with an infectious chorus line, but with simple and unsurprising riffing and drumming and the usual verse/chorus structure which, without a singer like Tarja, will loose some distinction and identity. Count to hear these in the radios.

Strong and memorable songs abound, like “Bye Bye Beautiful”, “Master Passion Gred” or the dark “Sahara” where Emppu’s aggressive riffing is a highlight. With “The Islander”, an unexpected and welcome acoustic song, the band goes down a folkier side that proceeds through the instrumental “Last Of The Wilds” where guitars and violins intertwine perfectly. Closing, “Meadows Of Heaven”, mellow but grand, with some more welcomed surprises like the soul vocals close to the ending. Production here is excellent and the talented and intelligent use of the orchestra elevate this album to new levels, making it sound like the band’s best ever.

So what can be wrong with the album that its most fanatic defenders are missing?

To start with, some lyrics sound shockingly spineless: “For The Heart I Once Had” can cause serious testosterone loss and is a magnet to pseudo-goth chicks with existential problems. “Cadence Of Her last Breath” not only has some duet parts that painfully remind you of a certain American band that many consider “metal” to the unhappiness of many more, and lacks the album’s symphonic pomp.

Then, vocally, to hear Annette frequently muffled by the instrumentals is not the best of omens and for many, she simply won’t be good enough to have them forget Tarja who even turns up in the lyrics, as if the band doesn’t yet know how to overcome the soap opera they have gotten themselves into. The way Marco also gets muffled by too many layers, we knowing what he’s worth, is even less pleasing.

No matter what we can say, “Dark Passion Play” will sell like hot cakes, which is not underserved, for we still have many of the elements we can find of interest in Nightwish. Sometimes Annette makes you look at the credits to make sure Sharon Den Adel is not a guest, while other times she even sounds like ABBA, which for many will a sign of alarm, but even so the virtues of “Dark Passion Play” make it worthy of appreciation, even more so with the special editions in store. But you’ll have to forget the past and what the band gave you, you may have to look for it elsewhere.

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