Nightwish - Dark Passion Play

Source: Blistering
By: David E. Gehlke

Time for some simple Blistering math:

The new Nightwish album, "Dark Passion Play" cost a reported $680,000 USD to create. For a cool $21.98, you can purchase "Dark Passion Play" at any national retailer, which yours truly did recently. If our long division skills prove us correct, then roughly 31,000 ‘heads with deep wallets need to shell out the bucks for Nightwish to recoup in the US. Hmmm. (Ed note: Recouping on an album is far from this easy, but we'll stick to the basics)

So, if mega metal label Roadrunner and Nightwish think they're going hit the aforementioned total with a price that high AND with a new singer fronting the band, they're either delusional or very confident. There is simply no way any self-respecting metalhead with a marginal income will shell out the bucks for a product that is unproven. It's no wonder that the industry is going down the tubes, but hey, there are those out there (like myself) who like to throw money at things for no good reason other than curiosity...

Back to the topic at hand, "Dark Passion Play." With new siren Annette Olson replacing the unceremoniously dropped Tarja Turnonen, the pressure is on songwriter/band leader/keyboardist Tuomas Holopainen to prove his band can establish some staying power. Luckily for him, "Dark Passion Play" is every bit as dramatic, overblown, and pompous as the last few Nightwish albums. And it blows away 2004's "Once."

Olson sounds nothing like Turnonen, instead recalling the sultry vocal approach of a Simone Simons (Epica) or even an Amy Lee (Evanescence) if you want to get that commercial. Olson never hits the ceiling-scraping highs like her predecessor, but she does have great command of her mid-range, which is used throughout this 78 minute marathon. While her voice is by no means special, it does come across well during the harmonic portions of "Sahara" and "Cadence of Her Last Breath."

There are some obvious similarities between "Dark Passion Play" and "Once." The most glaring are "Bye Bye Beautiful," this album's version of "Wish I Had An Angel" and "Eva," the dead-on ballad doppelganger of "Nemo." While both tracks have merit, it's disheartening to see the usually forward-thinking Holopainen reside on his past glories for new tunes.

Elsewhere, the 14-minute + opener "The Poet and the Pendulum" is loaded with orchestral movements and Olson's soft, swooning vocals that are flanked by a real choir, while the full-on metal tracks like "Whoever Brings the Night" and "Master Passion Greed" are dependable symphonic metal numbers that are hallmark Nightwish tracks full of the occasional bombast, keyboard pep, and bassist Marco Hielata's always on-target male vox. For a great modern day Jethro Tull tune, check out Hielata's first-ever solo Nightwish track, "The Islander."

If you break it down, "Dark Passion Play" is most likely going to quell any concerns about Olson replacing Turnonen, which in the back of Holopainen's head, has to feel good. Olson never ruins any songs and she carries herself with a sense of emotion and passion that was sometimes lacking in Turnonen's vocals. For that reason and many more, "Dark Passion Play" is worth investigating. Is it worth $21.98? Probably not, but someone's gotta pay those orchestra rental bills, you know?

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