Review Summary: With the addition of new singer Annette Olzon, Nightwish release their worst album. It's not all Annette's fault either.
The departure of Tarja Turunen from Nightwish in 2005 was one of the most upsetting things to happen to the gothic metal world. Many people associated Nightwish with Tarja’s unique voice, and were adamant against Tuomas hiring a new singer.
Tarja’s replacement, Annette Olzon, was found in 2006, and the band set about recording a new album, entitled Dark Passion Play. The metal scene waited with baited breath for this new album and snatched up every piece of the album that was handed to them. The first single, Eva, was released in May; the second, Amaranth, in September.
Finally, the release of the album is upon us, and everyone is anxious to hear how Annette sounds with the music. Will she usher in a new era of Nightwish" Or will she crash and burn"
One thing’s for certain: this is not a new era of Nightwish. This is one of the low points. And it’s not entirely Annette’s fault.
Since their 2000 album Wishmaster, keyboardist and composer Tuomas has slowly been moving away from power metal to symphonic metal, and Dark Passion Play further pushes that envelope. Their previous album, Once, featured the orchestra that played all of the Lord Of The Rings soundtrack, and if I’m not mistaken they show up again on here. The orchestra is used much more now, with more songs featuring a wide range of instruments, from the ever present strings to brass to various woodwinds.
Tuomas is no slouch with the orchestral arrangements. On tracks like The Poet And The Pendulum
, the orchestra is used to its fullest, adding an incredible amount of depth to the music. It’s tracks like this where Nightwish lay their claim to fame and display why they get the respect they do. It’s just a much higher quality track than what many of their contemporaries are doing.
Sadly, the album goes downhill after this 14 minute epic (which happens to open the album), and it never gets back up to the top again. One of the factors of this is new singer Annette. Yes, Tarja was one of those dime a dozen singers and wasn’t anything special, but her classically trained voice fit perfectly with the grandiose arrangements of the music. Annette does not have that training, leading to her voice sounding much more poppy. Which would normally be fine, but her voice just isn’t that good either. It tends to get extremely screechy and nasally, especially in the higher registers. Her voice doesn’t convey power very well either.
Traditionally, the more powerful aspect was handed off to Marco Hietala, the bassist and male vocalist for the group. Marco’s performance on this album isn’t up to par with what he can usually put out, which was a major disappointment. One could always count on Marco to turn in an absolutely kickass performance. On tracks like Cadence Of Her Last Breath
, his vocals sound forced and lackluster, like he’s bored with what he’s singing. On the opposite end, parts of Master Passion Greed
are completely over the top, sounding terribly cheesy instead of aggressive. Thankfully, the rest of his vocal parts are excellent, but its these parts that play a hand in bringing the album down.
Not all of the tracks are duds, thank goodness. The aforementioned The Poet And The Pendulum
is the best track the album has to offer, and is one of the better tracks (at least in my book) that they’ve done. It goes through all of the motions, from crushing to beautiful, and Annette’s voice is very tolerable, even enjoyable, here. Of particular note to me is the last 4 or so minutes with the strings, where they go up to a second above the root note before coming back down. For nonmusicians, it just sounds much more interesting and it’s not that hard to do. Sometimes, its the easy things that work out well.
Apart from Marco’s poor verse parts, Master Passion Greed
is also quite good, evoking a feel touched on but never fully developed in former tracks like Slaying The Dreamer and Romanticide. It almost reminds me of a Tarot track (Marco’s other band) in some parts. It’s extremely aggressive, and although it starts to drag a little bit before the outro (where the orchestra goes a bit crazy) and the main riff, it’s a great way to get energized.
Whoever Brings The Night
is an attempt at a darker atmosphere than what usually makes its way into Nightwish, and it succeeds quite well. Kicking off with a great guitar riff, the orchestration takes over in the chorus, backed up very well by chugging guitars and pounding drums.
For The Heart I Once Had
is a bit of an anomaly. At the core, it’s a pop song, albeit a very well written one. It follows a very simple formula and is not like any other song Nightwish has done, save a couple of b-sides. And yet, it’s one of the better tracks. This is the type of music Annette was born to sing for...her voice fits in perfectly with the poppy nature of the song and creates something entirely enjoyable.
delves way, way back into Nightwish’s history, even before Angels Fall First, to pull out some folk influence. It’s an absolutely outstanding track, with Marco’s vocals taking the helm. He reminds me of a traveling bard in this track, spreading his story throughout the land. And yes, it sounds cheesy, but Marco’s voice does not. It fits suprisingly well with the music.
Finally, 7 Days To The Wolves
makes the list only because of Marco. All the parts without Marco sound like a Within Temptation ripoff, with one chugged chord and lame vocal parts. However, Marco makes the chorus ***ing huge, and the outro with him and the orchestra trading off is one of the best points of the album.
The rest of the tracks all contain some good points at one point or another, but run straight into the ground at other points. Such as Sahara
, which starts off with a fantastic riff followed by 5 minutes of boring, heavy riffing. Cadence Of Her Last Breath
starts with another good riff, but ends up sounding exactly like a very bad Evanescence song.
The singles are...well...singles. Singles usually end up being some of the weaker tracks (in my eyes) on metal albums, and the two here are no different. Eva
is a ballad, with mainly orchestra parts that don’t actually sound too terrible, but it doesn’t have enough substance. Amaranth
is the heavier of the two, and seems to be generally better accepted. I just couldn’t get into the track. Something about the stop-start chord patterns just turned me off of it. Oh well, at least it was better than Wish I Had An Angel.
Finally, some of the songs suffer from stuff that just shouldn’t be in there. Last Of The Wilds
would be a very cool song if it was just the orchestra, synth, piano, and acoustic guitar parts. Combining Celtic folk music with heavy guitars and rock drums just DOES NOT WORK. Instead of being good, it sounds terribly awkward. Meadows Of Heaven
, the closer, is fine up until the very end, where Tuomas, for whatever reason, decided to put in some gospel singers. It completely kills the flow of the track and ruins it. Which is sad, too, because I love the end of the song, save the gospel part.
Nightwish’s latest album just isn’t up to par with what they can usually put out. Sure, Annette’s voice plays some part of it, but the biggest reasons the album doesn’t work stems from Tuomas’s doing. His compositions are just losing steam. Granted, there are still some astounding moments to be had listening to this album. The poor tracks just end up hurting it more than they should.
The Poet And The Pendulum
Whoever Brings The Night
For The Heart I Once Had