Nightwish - _Dark Passion Play_
(Nuclear Blast, 2007)
by: Kostas Sarampalis (9 out of 10)
After _Once_, Nightwish had the difficult task of replacing Tarja Turunen, the soprano singer that was an integral part of their trademark sound. _Dark Passion Play_ introduces Anette Olzon as the new singer, and the band prove that talent lies in their collective, rather than the individual. This is probably their most bombastic and full album to date, one more step to their wider recognition.

Bravely opening the album with the almost fifteen minute epic "The Poet and the Pendulum", they hit the ground running with an impressive array of slow melodic passages and crushing metal riffs. A truly great track, most likely chosen as the leading one for the album in order to immediately prove that they have lost none of their momentum with Tarja's departure. Elsewhere, take "For the Heart I Once Had" as a demonstration of the ample vocal abilities and range of emotion that Anette is capable of. She effortlessly carries a relatively simple themed song musically into something that gets stuck in your head with her vocal lines.

This is a long album, with thirteen songs that very clearly all have their own identity. Their first single "Amaranth" is a very pleasantly accessible, almost pop-ish song. "Bye Bye Beautiful" showcases the improved vocals from Marco and some very aggressive riffing. Marco contributes a lot more vocals than before, and he does a very good job at it as well. "The Islander" is sang almost solely by him and is the only folk ballad in here. It is a very competent song and shows great maturity in his voice.

There are many more examples of this diversity evident in the album. "Sahara", with its violins and slightly Arabic feel; "Master Passion Greed", with its fast and angry double bass drums; "Cadence of Her Last Breath", another example of Anette's great vocal abilities. The great thing about _Dark Passion Play_ is that you can listen to it either as a full album, or choose to play any track individually and lose almost none of the magic. There is no filler, the performances are even better than what the band has already gotten us used to, expertly produced, with tons of imagination and inspiration exhibited in almost every song.

If you do not expect Anette to be Tarja, then the transition is almost seamless; but Anette is more of a rock singer and offers a different tone and value to Nightwish. Still, she has a beautiful voice and perhaps a greater (or simply different) range of emotions. Her vocal lines are often multi-layered, whereas the choir that is used sparingly complements her efforts. Regardless, Nightwish manage to up the ante once more, in spite of their difficult predicament. This is a mature album that builds on the band's past, does not regurgitate, but rather further delves into the talent and imagination of its creators.


(article published 11/10/2007)

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