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