Nightwish - Dark Passion Play
Nuclear Blast
Epic, Orchestrated Metal
13 songs (75'39)
Release year: 2007
Nightwish, Nuclear Blast
Reviewed by Marty
Album of the year
In one of the most unexpected and melodramatic events in recent music history, Nightwish fired singer Tarja Turunen in an open letter, immediately after the final show in Helsinki on their 2005 tour for the million selling Once album. Apparently, the actions of Tarja and her manager were becoming destructive to the band and things finally came to a head. Tarja was a huge asset to the band because of her distinctive soprano voice with Nightwish being one of the pioneers of the whole female fronted metal band phenomenon. However, she had very little involvement in the writing process for the band's music; making the decision to let her go and bring in a new singer a little bit easier to handle. In a very respected and admirable fashion, both camps chose not to air their dirty laundry in the press. Tarja has since embarked on a new solo career and Nightwish, after an exhaustive search for a new vocalist, have brought Sweden-born Anette Olzon in as their new vocalist. Her identity was kept secret for as long as possible and was finally revealed with the release of the first single, Eva back in the summer.

Dark Passion Play is mainly the brainchild of keyboardist/principle composer Tuomos Holopainen. In attempting to produce the most grandiose and ambitious Nightwish album to date, a full symphony orchestra and choir was used throughout this album with the actual recordings being done at Abbey Road studios in London, England. This new album has been a long time in the making and with a reported budget of over a million dollars, there has been a huge buzz about this album for most of the year. Well, the release date is now upon us with many fans chomping at the bit to see if Nightwish still sounds like the Tarja era Nightwish. No matter how good Anette Olzon may sound, many are ready to pounce using unfair and unfounded criticism based solely on the fact that Tarja isn't singing for them anymore. I had mixed feelings about Eva when it was released and chose to wait until I heard the full album before passing judgement. Now that I have had this thing locked into my CD player for the last week, I can honestly say that any uneasiness I may have had about this new album has disappeared. Dark Passion Play is an amazing album and one that may (in given time) prove to be one of the best Nightwish albums ever.

The opening epic tour-de-force Tuomos Holopainen penned The Poet And The Pendulum absolutely floored me upon the first listen. This song is so amazing that I listened to it three or four times before getting into the rest of the album. Much like Helloween did with King Of A Thousand Years on their Keeper Of The Seven Keys - The Legacy album, opening an album with a track of such magnitude really sets the tone for the rest of the listening experience. Epic and intense beyond description, beautifully orchestrated with heavy driving sections, the emotion in both the angelic vocals of Anette Olzon and the harshness of Marco Hietala's scowl colour this track with perfection. Anette provides both a straight-up vocal style as well as some hauntingly beautiful soprano voices with choruses and vocal refrains that are nothing short of amazing. This song could eventually be a candidate for the best Nightwish song ever...it's that good! Bye Bye Beautiful is basically a continuation of the Wish I Had An Angel style from the Once album with a very solid vocal duet by Anette and Marco with Marco easily stealing the spotlight here. If you listen closely enough to the lyrics, it's a final send off to their former vocalist. Besides the lighter sounding and pop-edged Eva, the second single to be released is the track Amaranth. This one too has more of a "pop" flavor but Anette's passionate vocal and amazing soaring chorus are made even stronger by extensive vocal layering. Other tracks that have much more of a catchier "pop" sound include Cadence Of Her Last Breath and For The Heart I Once Had with the latter having a rather Thin Lizzy like thematic guitar riff over more angelic vocals. A couple of tracks including Master Passion Greed, Sahara, Whoever Brings The Night and 7 Days To The Wolves take the listener back to the Wishmaster/Century Child/Once era of Nightwish with more prominent guitar riffs and thundering heaviness. Once again, the use of orchestration and vocal duets by Anette and Marco produce amazing results. With The Islander, Marco delivers a solo celtic-influenced acoustic piece that is spiced up with orchestrations, violins and flutes. With his singing style and overall feel of the track, it's a classic Ian Anderson/Jethro Tull style track that could fool even the most discerning JT fans. This one's followed up by an amazing celtic-flavored heavy guitar based instrumental, Last Of The Wilds that also makes good use of strings and flutes with a heavy backing track. The one-two punch of The Islander and Last Of The Wilds makes for a great change of pace and atmosphere from the rest of the album. Meadows Of Heaven finishes off the album and it's a richly orchestrated piano ballad with very strong vocals by Anette. Slowly building in intensity, heavier guitar accents augment the haunting voice of Anette Olzon to finish off this truly wonderful listening experience.

With a voice that enables more emotion and passion to be infused into Nightwish's music, Anette Olzon is certainly not a Tarja clone in any way. She adds a whole new dimension to the band's sound and she interacts with Marco in the vocal duets even better than Tarja did. I see many new doors opening for Nightwish with her in the band. With the style and wonderful melodic sense of Anette's vocals on this entire album, Dark Passion Play just might be the big crossover album for Nightwish. I can easily see some of this album getting extensive airplay and attracting new listeners, especially those who may not even be metal fans; much in the same way that the Trans-Siberian Orchestra has. Even though several tracks have more of a "pop" feel, the unmistakeable Nightwish stamp is still ever-present. There are still lots of guitar heavy tracks, speedy double bass filled sections and lots of thundering heaviness to satisfy the metal fans. With an album that clocks in at over 75 minutes, there are absolutely no filler tracks. The hype has been huge for this album over the last year or so and as far as I'm concerned, Nightwish has delivered an album that has exceeded my expectations. Whatever reservations I may have had about life after Tarja have evaporated. It's hard to compare with past releases as this album will be "new" to the ears of the fans for a while now but given time, this may yet be the best thing this band has ever done......firmly perched atop my favorites of the year list, I suspect it will stay there through to year's end (although I expect the new Helloween to put up a good fight!!).

Killing Songs :
The Poet And The Pendulum, Bye, Bye Beautiful, Amaranth, The Islander, Last Of The Wilds and 7 Days To The Wolves
Marty quoted 92 / 100
Crims quoted 88 / 100
Other albums by Nightwish that we have reviewed:
Nightwish - Endless Forms Most Beautiful reviewed by Goat and quoted 75 / 100
Nightwish - Oceanborn reviewed by Cory and quoted 91 / 100
Nightwish - Imaginaerum reviewed by Cory and quoted 84 / 100
Nightwish - Wish I Had an Angel reviewed by Ben and quoted no quote
Nightwish - Once reviewed by Aleksie and quoted 98 / 100
To see all 16 reviews click here
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