Released: 2007, Spinefarm Records
Reviewer: Luxi Lahtinen
Let´s be a bit sarcastic, but still very truthful about one hard fact for starters. Nightwish has never been about Tarja, but Tuomas instead. Yes, I know it´s even silly to state something like this, but at least with this somewhat unnecessary statement, one point is made pretty clear. All the speculation about whether Nightwish should even have considered to continue or not when they kicked Tarja out of the band around the end of October 2005, have been answered on the Nightwish´s newest opus, titled DARK PASSION PLAY, which for obvious reasons, is the band´s most ambitious work to this date. The band´s new Swedish front lady, Anette Olzon, is undoubtedly the biggest question mark for many Nightwish fans who wonder whether her vocals fit into the symphonic metal style Nightwish represents on this new album of theirs.
They do fit, believe me. As most of you also are aware, Anette´s no operatic singer, but her voice still fits into Nightwish even better than I first could have even hoped for. Surely some Nightwish fans will be scared of her very different vocal delivery in these new Nightwish songs at first - especially the ones who liked Tarja´s voice, but I guess even the most skeptical people can learn to like Anette´s voice when given enough time for adjusting the songs to her voice.
But that´s about all the speculations. As for DARK PASSION PLAY, which is opened by a huge, nearly 14-minute over-the-top orchestrated monument (which is also the album's longest track), "The Poet and the Pendulum", tells in clear language Nightwish is back, stronger than ever. The song has everything that makes Nightwish such a leading pioneer in the symphonic metal genre. The song is just so massive that you cannot possibly catch every single detail in it in one or two listens only. It´s of course a brave move from the band to begin the album with such a monumental piece of work. But then again, having it placed as the first song on DARK PASSION PLAY, doesn´t it also somehow reflect the strong confidence that the band has in itself? Undoubtedly they happen to know they sail on secure and steady waters - so much so that they take any course they want with their Nightwish ship. “The Poet and the Pendulum" is honestly an absolutely great piece of work from Tuomas´ sharp pencil that he can be considered Heavy Metal´s own Mozart if we are allowed to exaggerate this only very slightly.
“Bye Bye Beautiful”, with its straight lyrics referring to the band´s ex-singer, is a catchy yet kinda simple number by Nightwish´s own standards - relying quite strongly on Marco´s angry vocal delivery, while Anette shows a harmonious contrast to Marco´s vocal output. Not that ´big´ as a song, but still good and enjoyable nonetheless.
"Amaranth" is the known 2nd single song off DARK PASSION PLAY, a strong choir part kicking off the song with heavy guitars and giving overall a good impression to a listener. The whole song was sung by Anette, and she does a fine job in the song. Again, the same words could go this song as to "Bye Bye Beautiful". The song is nothing special, but obviously strong enough to be one of the singles of the album. Is this their label´s choice or band´s choice, I have no idea.
With "Cadence of Her Last Breath" the band let their ship sail again towards heavier waters, in which Anette proves clearly that she has got a very good voice, no matter what the fans of Tarja may say about this. Some cool and well-done orchestration is present in this tune, too, but somewhat surprisingly it´s Emppu´s aggressive and limb-heavy guitar parts that seem to steal the show more than anything else in this song.
And then, "Master Passion Greed" that is said to be Nightwish´s heaviest song that they have written during the band´s successful existence. Well, it´s indeed heavy, it´s dark, it´s angry to-the-bone, sung start to finish by Marco - and yes, its lyrical content cannot completely be ignored either. I guess it´s fair to even say one so-called ´Judas´ probably isn´t that happy with the song´s lyrical content. Especially the masterfully orchestrated ending of the song has a strong tendency to send some cold shivers down a listener´s spine due to the song´s pretty damn twisted sounding atmosphere.
One of the album´s two ballad songs, "Eva", offers less excitement compared to the rest of the songs on DARK PASSION PLAY. It´s a beautiful song all in all, but it just doesn´t cause that many strong emotions in listeners. When "Eva" was brought out for active radio rotation some months ago, its purpose became clear pretty quick: It was basically meant to introduce Anette to the whole world. Well, that´s what it did. A mission accomplished successfully.
"Sahara" continues Nightwish´s trip on a heavier side of their pompous symphonic metal. Both Emppu´s guitar and Marco´s bass parts, added with both brilliant orchestrated and choir sections, create an immensely powerful wholeness altogether, not to forget Anette´s well-done contribution to this track either. "Sahara" is undoubtedly one of those songs on DARK PASSION PLAY that makes you scream for more similar type of stuff from them. All the elements for a greatly executed symphonic metal song have nicely found their right places in the song.
"Whoever Brings the Night" is yet again, kinda pompous and pleasingly orchestrated tune from Nightwish, basically offering a bunch of the same elements that was heard in "Sahara". There´s nothing in the song that I would change personally myself. Obviously a very catchy chorus part is what makes a listener to go back to this song over and over again.
Want to have a little break? You get what you ask for. The next song, "For the Heart I Once Had", puts Nightwish into a more melancholic mood, letting Anette to show her true potentiality for singing. Her voice in this particular tune sounds strangely fragile when she switchs her voice almost to some sort of whispering in the tamer parts of the tune. However, "For the Heart I Once Had" was the type of song that goes in from one ear and comes out from the other ear, without leaving that many traces in your mind.
"The Islander" is the second (and the better) out of the 2 ballad songs on DARK PASSION PLAY; an acoustic ballad that has a beautiful duet, sung by both Marco and Anette. The song is a very peaceful song, full of melancholy, and simply serves its purpose as a ballad very well. Marco has always been very good at ballads, and this song is no exception to that rule.
A folk-ish "Last of the Wilds" is an instrumental cut, leading the Nightwish ship to calmer seas again in which all kinds of ingredients for longing and melancholy come to the surface in a strong way. The song also gives some welcomed balance to the dark, massive and heavy songs in the first half of the album, so it´s good to see this side coming from their direction as well. This is the type of song you could see a band like Korpiklaani to perform on their albums.
In "7 Days to the Wolves" we hug the safe shoreline with the Nightwish ship again that is pretty much full of the same ingredients that we actually expect a band like Nightwish offering to us. Lots of melancholy, a powerful orchestration, catchy choruses, truly outstanding vocal performances, etc. - i.e. a big sound, the Nightwish way.
“Meadows of Heaven” is kind of a ´after-the-storm-comes-calmness´ song, and there´s actually only word to describe the song´s nature: Beautiful. It´s full of beauty, and it´s full of Anette´s sonorous vocals and to end the album with this particular song in question, is well reasoned. But honestly, what on earth are those r&b type vocal parts doing at the end of the tune? Not that they wouldn´t fit in there, but they did sound a bit weird though.
So, how is DARK PASSION PLAY as whole then? Without comparing it too much to the band´s previous works due to some very obvious reasons, I honestly expected a bit less, but got more than I could have ever expected or hoped to get in the first place. Sure thing, it took some time to accept Anette´s voice in the Nightwish songs, but right after I started, I stopped being too critical toward her voice (she´s a great vocalist, no matter what), and the quicker I understood that Nightwish has merely stopped being bound to one singer too much, and has instead started revolving more around Tuomas´ inherent creativity, the more enjoyable this journey became with DARK PASSION PLAY.
DARK PASSION PLAY is a great record… and welcome Anette to Nightwish one more time.