The title says it all! Opinions expressed here are those of the authors. Personal tastes may vary, and we are cool with that.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

CD Review: Nightwish's "Dark Passion Play"

After Nightwish's final gig of the "Once" tour on October 21st, 2005, Tarja Turunen was asked to leave the band in an open letter that literally sent shock waves to fans of the band and the symphonic metal world. Not only was this the official dismissal of their singer, who has been with the band for almost nine years at that point in time, but it also created a lot of controversy because of the fact that the letter was made publicly for the world to see which ultimately divided their fan base with mixed feelings and doubt.

On top of all of the drama and issues surrounding Tuomas and crew, people wondered who the next woman was going to be taking Tarja's place for lead vocals. While in the process of recording their next studio album "Dark Passion Play", Nightwish hired ex-Alyson Avenue vocalist Anette Olzon as their new singer in 2007. Now that she is the new singer, can she fill the shoes of someone as important as Tarja Turunen? In reality, this was indeed a tough position to fill because being a vocalist for a symphonic metal band like Nightwish is not easy. Lots of training and plenty of adequate vocal range are required to do well for sure. Personally, I do not think that Anette is a "bad" singer so to speak, but her voice just simply doesn't flow well with the style that Nightwish plays. Plus, she really is not my cup of tea for vocals either necessarily, but I have nothing truely against her personally. Her vocal style is very common and average. Nightwish right now is missing that uniqueness that Tarja provided for the band. So Anette is clearly not the best choice for vocals in Nightwish.

Anette is not the only thing that is hurting Nightwish on "Dark Passion Play". Musically, the style is roughly the same. Pip Williams and his orchestra came back again for another round on this album. His input really provides some depth no doubt, but like "Once", we hear less of the actual band playing again like before. Emppu's input is once again limited, Tuomas is drowned out by Pip and his crew, and Jukka is facing the same issues as before with the mixing of his drum tracks. One boost this album has however is their use of Marco at vocals. His involvement on this release is far more substantial than on the previous two releases. He sings main vocals on two tracks ("The Islander", "Master Passion Greed", and "While Your Lips Are Still Red" if you count that one too) and provides duet and backup vocals on most of the tracks. His presence is greatly felt and the album benefits from him for sure.

I knew that writing this review would prove to be tough since there is so much controversy surrounding the band and this album. So this song-by-song review is going to be as accurate and unbiased as it would be if I had never heard of Nightwish before. "Dark Passion Play" happened to be my first Nightwish album I ever owned and heard anyways. So here we go:

1. "The Poet and the Pendulum": Like majority of the Nightwish discography, there is bound to be a big bombastic 10+ minute epic song, and this is it. The intro to the song has a creepy feel to it with guest vocalist Guy Elliott providing some vocals here. After this, the orchestra kicks in and picks up the pace and the excitement of the song. Of all the songs on the album, Anette seems to fit the best on this track for some reason. The chorus is surprisingly powerful and good as Marco adds his touch here and gives it a lot of depth. The next section is slower and has a more ballady feel to it. Guy Elliott comes back for more vocals and is later joined by Anette once again. After this part, the song picks back up and the song gets intense again. Marco does some harsh vocals here while Emppu plays some Pantera groove metal styled guitar riffs. The chorus repeats again and leads into the next part where we have a breakdown and possibly the cheesiest point in Tuomas' career! He inserted his name in the song! We all know that this song is about your struggles, but you don't have to say your name in your own song! After that silliness, the final section is very sad with not much going on here really. I would usually skip over this part of the song because it is very boring to listen to. Overall, it is a nice effort and it is also Nightwish's longest song to date being clocked in at 13:53. I don't think this song is as powerful as other Nightwish epics, but it does have good moments. 3.5/5

2. "Bye Bye Beautiful": To be honest, this is the first Nightwish song I ever heard. I actually thought this was a pop rock band (LOL XD) at first when I heard this song, and I would have never of guessed that they were power metal at all. This song as many know is about their former singer, Tarja Turunen and how they feel about her. To me, this song has some of Tuomas' worst lyrics to date. They come across very childish and silly to me! And like "Wish I Had An Angel", it has that industrial metal feel to it which makes Jukka's job seem pointless once again. There isn't much to say other than it is a very over the top and silly song. 2/5

3. "Amaranth": This is one of Nightwish's most commerically biggest hits along with "Nemo". I will admit that this song has some catchiness to it and the lyrics aren't half bad, but I just find the execution to be very bland and too simplistic. It doesn't do a lot for me. 2.5/5

4. "Cadence of Her Last Breath": Of all the Nightwish songs that I know of, this is probably the closest to sounding like Evanescence. It's very dull, boring, and it really just sounds too stock! Emppu's guitar solo is surprisingly good here, but even that doesn't help the song too much. 2/5

5. "Master Passion Greed": A song about Tarja's husband, Marcello. While I normally like an angry and fast song by Nightwish, this really doesn't cut it for me. This song is seriously an attempt at thrash metal that falls flat on it's face! The song is sung entirely by Marco. This is usually a good thing, but here he sounds too over the top. On top of that, the lyrics come out sounding too immature and childish! Nightwish even had the courage to insert the word "Fuck" in this song. This is definitely a first for them! Overall, this is an attempt at an angry song that doesn't work. 2/5

6. "Eva": The first ballad of the album. This seriously has to be one of Nightwish's worst ballads. Nothing here is memorable at all. It just needs to be skipped over! 2/5

7. "Sahara": I will admit that the intro to this song is fantastic! It is as epic and awesome as what we would want to hear from this band! After that, the song slows way down and goes into a middle-eastern themed song. The rest of the song is okay, but it really becomes dull after the intro in my opinion. A good listen and it is one of the strongest tracks on the album, but the intro is really the highlight here! 3.5/5

8. "Whoever Brings The Night": A song which is apparently about a whore judging by the lyrics. It is worth a listen and has some interesting guitar riffs in this song, but don't expect too much because the lyrics are a little over the top here. 2.5/5

9. "For the Heart I Once Had": This has to be Nightwish's worst song of all time! It is incredibly sappy and corny which features some very poor lyrics by Tuomas as well! That is all I am saying about this one! Listen at your own risk! 1/5

10. "The Islander": Another song where Marco is the lead vocalist. This is a very relaxing folk song. Even for an Irish folk-styled song, this is not even up to par with some other songs in that genre of music. Even so, this is one of the strongest points of this album and it has some great moments without a doubt. 3.5/5

11. "Last of the Wilds": To me, this is the best song on the album. Why you ask? Because there are no lyrics or vocals here! It is a pure mid-tempo folksy instrumental that is very nice to relax and listen to. While not as strong as "Moondance," it does hold it's own. 4/5

12. "7 Days to the Wolves": I believe this to be one of the better songs on the album as well. The chorus is very powerful sounding and really works in the song. Anette, however, sort of ruins it for me at times. Despite that, Marco adds his own flair on this track in the outro and in the chorus. There are very memorable sections here and the orchestra really flows well. Worth a listen for sure! 3.5/5

13. "Meadows of Heaven": Another ballad. It is better than "Eva", but honestly this song is just not that great either. The outro gospel choirs are too over the top toward the end of the song. The song is worth a listen, but it really isn't that memorable. 3/5

14. "The Escapist": This is a bonus track for "Dark Passion Play." Pip Williams and his orchestra really do a nice job on this track and it really gives it a big boost. Anette surprisingly sounds alright here too! Nightwish really should have put this song on their main tracklist instead of "For The Heart I Once Had" for example. 3.5/5

15. "While Your Lips Are Still Red": A track that wasn't originally meant for "Dark Passion Play," but I am going to review it anyways. Sung entirely by Marco, he sounds much more gentle and soft than he normally would. He sounds very nice, but this song however is just very average with nothing that really stands out to me. It was meant for a movie and I suppose that worked for it! 3/5

So that is my review of "Dark Passion Play." Here are my overall thoughts:

-Lots of variety. Not one song sounds the same on this album
-Marco does a good job on vocals when needed
-The orchestra work is solid

-Suffers much of the same flaws as "Once"
-Anette Olzon's voice doesn't really fit
-Lyrics are bad for Nightwish standards
-Too many bad and mediocre songs

Despite a lot of flaws, there are some good moments on this album I will admit. But seriously, something is missing here. Whether it is the lack of Tarja's presence or the lack of inspiration, it doesn't really feel like a true Nightwish album to me like I know they are capable of. Because of the lack of consistency, I am going to have to give this album a horns down! /w\ I really wanted to like this more being a Nightwish fan, but it just has too many flaws and only a few songs stood out. At least "Once" had more epic and memorable songs on it. Here, they are few and far between! It is without a doubt Nightwish's worst album to date for multiple reasons. It seems with all of the drama that is surrounding the band nowadays and the addition of Anette, the quality of Nightwish has greatly lessened. So here I have a list of suggestions for Nightwish if they want to get back some of their former glory:

1. Go back to their roots: Lately, Nightwish has relied too heavily on Pip's orchestra work on their last couple of albums. I seriously think that Nightwish was at their best when it was all Tuomas doing the sounds on keyboard alone! Now the band basically sounds like a backing track to the orchestra which limits them in more ways than one! Going to a more pure power metal sound like they had in the 90s would be a good thing for them!

2. Find a new singer: No offense to Anette, once again, but she just doesn't work with this band's chemistry at all! Nightwish really needs to find a singer that is more classically trained for the songs! Believe me, there are plenty of women that are more qualified too! Plus during live shows, Anette struggles with the old and even some of the current songs! No doubt that Tarja is hard to replace, but they still need to find someone who is more capable of singing for this band!

3. Tuomas lyrics and themes need improving: I understand that Tuomas may have gone through some tough times and has a lot of issues in his life, but I think that he needs to get rid of the "poor Tuomas" lyrics and themes. "Dark Passion Play" has some very ill advised and unusually poor lyrics! I really think that Tuomas needs to go back and look at "Oceanborn" or "Wishmaster" for inspiration again and see how poetic he used to be as opposed to now. Not saying he isn't capable, but he has slipped over the years. He is still a great songwriter, but this is an area which needs to be improved, no question!

This was a very difficult review to write! This is indeed my most detailed review to date and I hope you enjoyed it! I am very curious at what happens with Nightwish and their next album. It seems that right now they are only a shadow of their former self and seem to be going toward a more commercial direction. Of course, a lot of bands go through this trial and error phase no question! However, I am not about to give up on them just yet really because I simply don't do that with my favorite bands. Yes, this is a big disappointment and I understand people's frustrations with what has happened, but that was the past and this is now. When I discovered this band, I knew nothing about Tarja or anything until much later. When I found out, I really did question a lot of what the band did and I know that we all do not know what really happened! Only the band truly knows that. But yes, Nightwish remains a very important band to me. They have influenced my life in more ways than one! These reviews are basically a tribute to them and everything they have done! I am more than likely going to be reviewing their newest album when it comes out so stay tuned! Until then, ROCK ON and thanks for reading!

Overall rating: 2.5/5


Allyson said...

I am staying out of this one!

Eric James said...

oh ok! :p No comment at all?

Anonymous said...

i agree with everything you wrote.
DPP is very,very bad copy of Once. I personally can't see/hear any depth in the album. I'm really wondering what the hell tuomas is doing on stage coz there isn't many piano or keyboard parts.
I guess my fav part one the whole album is buckup vocal when she sings " all you need is to feel my love". that's it:)

Eric James said...

@ Anonymous

Yeah, it is very true that DPP lacks that depth the other albums had. And Tuomas is basically non-existant in the mix now except in a few parts here and there. Thanks for you comment! :D

Anonymous said...

you're welcome. As to Anette i hope that they will not renew a contract with her so it all end without drama and they won't have to explain why they fired her:)

Sorcha said...

I agree with mostly everything you wrote down on this one.

Maybe not on while your lips are still red. I can't help but to love that song a lot. But maybe that's just because of personal experience.
Master Passion Greed is indeed one of the worst songs Marco participated in. While listening to it, I even recognize Avril Lavigne in it. (the part where he sings all for her and more for me.. and the Avril song girlfriend..)
and for the Anette parts.. well, there are some good moments. For example in Poet And the Pendulumn (not the end, I couldn't agree more to it that mentioning his own name really is stupid and screws up the lyrics.. Although I don't think leaving it out could have saved the boring end..)and The Escapist. And I even can stand Eva every know and then. But further then that, no.

Same go's for the music. At some points it misses something big that the other NW albums did have. Maybe not Once, but then Once had something new and unique to the music. DPP is just a copy, but then with crappy lyrics and vocals.

and what about Erämaan viimeinen? Since you did review the other non-album tracks, why not that one?

Anyway: again a very nice review :D

Allyson said...

OK, I will say one thing here:

"While Your Lips Are Still Red" is one of Tuomases best songs in fucking years and I love it to death! I also think it's one of my favourite vocal performances by Marco.

Eric James said...

@ Sorcha

Thank you for your comment! I never thought about Avril's "Girlfriend" when I heard MPG.. Man, I really hate that song too!! :p

@ CanuckFan

I think WYLASR is an okay song, but it doesn't come off as anything that is truely memorable to me.

Allyson said...

Well, that is understandable because you are not a big ballad guy to begin with! I, however, adore a beautiful, well-constructed, heart-felt ballad and I love this one!

Almagest said...

Interesting review. How about submitting it (and the others) to Metal Archives?

Granted, I've heard While Your Lips Are Still Red (or rather, watched the video) only once, but it didn't strike me as memorable, either. The piano "trill" - the only detail I still remember - I even found rather annoying.

James, have you thought about reviewing the instrumental disc? It might be an interesting approach. No (lead) vocals, no lyrics (and even - apparently - additional instruments, which removes some of the key weak points from the album and allows you to focus on what DPP fans call "the music" (as if vocal lines and interpretations didn't belong to it ...), as written by Tuomas Holopainen (with a little help by his friends).

Eric James said...

@ Winterstorm

Thanks for your comment!

Yeah, I guess I could submit these reviews to Metal Archives. I would probably alter them but keep them virtually the same but with a different format (instead of the song by song review).

Well, I haven't decided whether or not to review the instrumental disc simply because it is virtually the same thing only without vocal tracks. The music itself isn't too bad in the orchestra department as I pointed out, but the band is lacking inspiration overall though.

I will be reviewing the Nightwish DVD's next, starting with From Wishes to Eternity all the way to their newest one which is Made in Hong Kong. I own From Wishes to Eternity and it is truely fantastic! I honestly think it is better than End of An Era! It is so underrated and not talked about much like the others are. I will try to review End of Innocence too, but that one I have never seen and I will probably have to purchase it before I review it.

@ Sorcha

I did not review "Erämaan viimeinen" because it is like "Last of the Wilds" only with words and lyrics. But to make a quick review about it, I think it is an okay interpretation of that song, but I also think that it is better without lyrics and just an instrumental because I don't think the lyrics and the melody flow very well in that version.

Once again, thank you for all of your comments everyone! Stay tuned for my reviews of the DVD's of Nightwish next! Rock on! \m/

Sorcha said...

Erämaan Viimeinen isnt completely the same as Last Of The Wilds. If you buy the single, you'll get the instrumetal version of Erämaan Viimeinen. It doesn't differs very much, but it's different at a lot of points.. :p
But it doesn't matter.

Nice to hear that you're also doing the DVD's!

Almagest said...

Weird, I submitted a comment to this but it hasn't turned up. I said (roughly):

Too bad you're going to cut the song-by-song review. But it might even be necessary if there is a length restriction on reviews submitted to Metal Archives, and while I'm not sure if there is such a restriction, I'm under the impression that there is one.

By the way, rather predictably, I'm also a fan of From Wishes to Eternity and prefer it to End of an Era. I really like the concert material on End of Innocence, too. :)

Allyson said...

@ Winterstorm: I'm not sure what the problem is with commenting; I've had some problems, too, lately, but I'm sure it has nothing to do with swearing. Blogger doesn't care about that shit. :P

Comments on posts over 14 days old are automatically held for moderation, but I have published all the comments that have come in for moderation, so it's not that, either.

Very curious indeed.

Anonymous said...

Wow... I have to say I strongly disagree with this review. Along with Century Child, DPP is my favorite NW album!!!

T-WAC said...

I have to say, I did enjoy Dark Passion Play quite a bit. I think it's my favorite Nightwish albums so far. And I like the more orchestral sound.

But I have to say, I do miss Tarja's vocals.

Laura said...

I mostly disagree with this review.

THIS IS JUST THE IMPRESSION I GET FROM YOUR TONE: It sounds like you're saying that Anette totally ruined Nightwish. Yes, it is true that she has an average sort of voice. BUT. Nightwish decided that they wanted a different style, so they chose Anette. It's extremely difficult to find another singer with Tarja's talent. She was the BEST opera style singer I have ever heard..

Yes, Nightwish isn't the same without her. But hey, stuff happens.

I admit, I haven't heard EVERY song on DPP, but the ones I have heard, with the exception of 'Bye Bye Beautiful', were amazing, and Anette did an excellent job with what Tuomas gave her.

All in all, I cannot WAIT for Imaginaerum. Nightwish always has, and forever will be my favorite band, whether the singer be Anette or Tarja.