Nightwish - Dark passion play 4/5

Reviewed: 8-10-07


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. 7 days to the wolves
13. Meadows of heaven

Probably the most anticipated release of 2007 is Nightwish's 6th full-length CD 'Dark passion play'. Not only are they one of the most popular bands in metal, but the firing of vocalist Tarja Turunen and the long search for a replacement has left many metal fans sitting at the edge of their seat. Along with Kamelot and a few others, Nightwish has always been one of my favorite bands and Tarja (along with Roy Khan from Kamelot/Conception) is definitely one of the top vocalists in my mind. So I've been one of those fans with a growing amount of anticipation, and finally, the wait is over...

Musically, Nightwish has stayed fairly close to the sound of their previous CD 'Once' (a masterpiece in my opinion), so fans of that CD should be pleased with the CD's base style; the guitars are just as heavy, the orchestral/symphonic parts are still powerful and bombastic, the choirs are still massive, and the pace of the CD is mixed up nicely. 'Dark passion play' is their least speedy CD thus far however, and I'd now label the band pure symphonic metal, as opposed to symphonic power metal. In fact, much of the CD can be lumped in the standard style of Within Temptation, Sengir, Xandria, Delain, and so on. I've found that there's more of a folk influence on 'Dark passion play' too, as there are a number of violin parts and it's an aspect I welcome.

Vocally though, things have changed quite a bit in the Nightwish camp; gone is the operatic style of Tarja, replaced by Anette Blyckert (after the large "search"), who's much more of a generic female vocalist. She's got a great voice however, sounding like a blend of Sharon Den Adel from Within Temptation and Andrea Datwyler from Lunatica. There's no question she's a high quality vocalist, but I can't help but feel Nightwish is going to lose some uniqueness now. Along with an amazing and beautiful voice, Tarja always had such a commanding presence and her vocals could carry the band through the average songs (musically), though very few of those exist. I'll be one of the first to admit I miss Tarja already, but this may come down to personal preference and many of you will be quite pleased with what Anette has to offer.

Just like with 'Once', bassist Marco Hietala (who's also in the band Tarot) offers up a good amount of somewhat rough vocals, and he actually sings a lot more than I was expecting. This has me wondering if the band is gearing towards an equal male/female vocal department in the future. I'm not sure, but 'Dark passion play' almost has that feeling. Regardless, the combination works quite well and is certainly competitive with other bands that have both female and male vocalists.

The CD starts out with a massive epic "The poet and the pendulum", a 14-minute journey through tremendous symphonic parts, powerful guitars and a variety of tempos, including some slower parts to give us a taste of the softer side of new vocalist Anette. The many changes in tempo is typical of the entire CD too, as it's probably the most involved Nightwish CD to date; from the pounding track 5 "Master passion greed" and track 8 "Whoever brings the night", to the slow track 6 "Eva" (which features a superb guitar solo, the highlight of the song), track 10 "The islander" (a song that reminds me of "Creek Mary's blood" from 'Once', as it contains the use of a flute) and closer "Meadows of heaven", to the folkish instrumental track 11 "Last of the wilds" (that has a dominating violin and sounds like a Dalriada, Cruachan or Almora song), to the smooth track 3 "Amaranth" and track 9 "For the heart I once had" (which are both similar to Within Temptation and Xandria material).

As for the quality of 'Dark passion play', most of the songs are excellent and the CD as a whole is superior to most other metal CDs of this brand, but I'm not left with the feeling of being blown away like I have been so many times before with Nightwish. This is due mostly to the fact that besides the aforementioned opener "The poet and the pendulum" (which recalls "Beauty of the beast" from 'Century child' and "Ghost love score" from 'Once'), there aren't any magnificent highlights on the CD like there are on other Nightwish CDs; there's no "Sacrament of wilderness" or "Sleeping sun" ('Oceanborn'), no "She is my sin" or "Wishmaster" ('Wishmaster'), no "Bless the child" ('Century child') and no "Planet hell" ('Once'). A few of the songs come extremely close (track 12 "7 days to the wolves" for example), but unless you hate operatic vocals and are looking forward to the band's new vocal direction, this probably won't be your favorite Nightwish CD. In fact, even though this is an excellent CD, it's probably my least favorite from the band thus far.




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