“Dark Passion Play” by Nightwish

Artist: Nightwish
Title: “Dark Passion Play”
Label: Roadrunner Records
Release Date: 9/28/2007
Genre: Symphonic Operatic Metal
Rating: 4.5/5

If you have missed the story so far here is where we stand; Tarja Turunen is no longer singing for Nightwish, the band held a world wide audition and presses on with a new member and new music – let the new Era begin. Attention Metal legions for it is my pleasure to introduce you to the beautiful Annette Olzon, who truly had some big shoes to fill and scores of fans to impress with her talents based on their loyalty to the former singer. “Dark Passion Play” is the long awaited return of Nightwish and what a return it is. Musically there has been no dramatic shift in the way of things because when it came to the composing end, it was always the task of bandleader/keyboardist Tuomas Holopainen. While Tuomas penned the music and lyrics for a good 85% of the release there are a couple of songs that have the talents of bassist Marco and guitarist Emppu as the creative force. Yet even with the added contributions from them the core sound is very simply the Nightwish that you had missed and longed for the return of. It opens with an epic number called “The Poet And The Pendulum” and I was surprised to find such a song as the introduction of Olzon. Broken into three distinct movements, the song demonstrates that Annette can handle all the varied aspects of Symphonic Metal that Nightwish delivers on a regular basis.

It begins with a soft siren piece, becomes a thundering Melodic Metal tune and then slows down to almost a ballad which even finds the singer doing some spoken word passages. She is quite talented and thankfully is not a clone of Tarja for if she was the band would have started up even more internet gossip. Her voice is very melodic and she is more of a conventional singer as opposed to singing everything with the operatic style. I found her closer to Sharon den Adel than Tarja when I tried to draw a comparison. The album continues along with “Bye, Bye Beautiful”, and when you read the words you realize this song is directed at the former singer. Annette and Marco handle this one as a duet, but it is Marco who delivers the songs most powerful lyrical content which cites “did you ever hear what I told you, did you ever read what I wrote you, did you ever listen to what we played, did you ever let in what the world said, did we get this far just to feed your hate, did we play to become only pawns in the game” and it continues along those lines. Sadly, the both sides haven’t spoken since the termination but now it’s all about looking and moving forward. My Father always taught me that no one was irreplaceable in any situation and it’s clear to me that this is true most specifically in music.

“Dark Passion Play” holds a lot of magic for the longtime Nightwish fans who could accept that they chose to move on from TT and find someone else. There are songs that beg for radio rotation on either terrestrial or satellite mediums presented with “Eva” and “For The Heart I Once Had”, for each serves well as the “Nemo” for the new album. “Eva” is perhaps the nicest song on the album, but I think “FTHIOH” will serve as a better single when it comes down to it. Fans will be excited about Marco stepping a little more into the limelight on the release with “7 Days To The Wolves” as well as his contributions on “The Islander” and “Bye Bye Beautiful”. “The Islander” serves as the bands Celtic track and might draw some comparison to some older Nightwish material but I feel as though many will find themselves as surprised as I was at how different Marco sings the lead on this one. Showing that they have not lost their heaviness they blast through “Master Passion Greed” which is perhaps one of the most crunching tunes in the bands entire catalog and then it’s onto “Sahara”, which offers up a slightly Middle Eastern theme and sound. Annette gets to take a breather during “Last Of The Wilds”, an instrumental which many will find quite appealing. It’s borderline Folk Metal, and works well if you are familiar with some of that kind of stuff. If not, it’s still an enjoyable tune. The release closes with the powerful “Meadows Of Heaven”, and I found myself a complete fan of Annette by the time the whole thing had finished playing in my stereo. Overall the music presented here should appease even those who are most hesitant about the bands change in singer. The guitar work of Emppu is smooth and intricate as ever and Jukka pounds away on the drums as we always expect him to do. Lyrics and images are included in the booklet which made this easier to enjoy. As a longtime Nightwish fan myself, I can honestly say that the group made this album very worth the wait and have etched yet another chapter in their rich musical history. As the band that is very much responsible for the ever-blossoming scene in the Symphonic Gothic Metal realm, with “Dark Passion Play” they show that they have returned to claim their throne once again. Welcome back Nightwish – you have been missed.

Notes: A Special Collectors Edition is also available and this includes the full CD you find reviewed here with one bonus track – the demo for “Amaranth” which was called “Reach” when it was in it’s infancy. The band also includes a second CD of music and it’s the orchestrations only with no vocals present. This CD is especially perfect for all those who aspire to be Symphonic Operatic Metal singers in their own right for it gives them the full music of Nightwish, and allows them to offer up their own take on the lyrics.

Track Listing:
1. The Poet And The Pendulum
2. Bye Bye Beautiful
3. Amaranth
4. Cadence Of Her Last Breath
5. Master Passion Greed
6. Eva
7. Sahara
8. Whoever Brings The Night
9. For The Heart I Once Had
10. The Islander
11. Last Of The Wilds
12. Seven Days To The Wolves
13. Meadows Of Heaven
14. Reach (Amaranth demo version) – special edition only

Official Website: www.nightwish.com

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