Dark Passion Play
When one of the most popular metal bands around drops their lead singer to worldwide drama and takes a noticeable change in style, you can bet that you're going to cause quite a stir. This is exactly what happened with Nightwish in 2007 before their release of “Dark Passion Play.” Band and fan interactions aside, this latest offering from Nightwish was somewhat controversial, and has set the band in a bit of a new direction.
The new singer, Anette Olzon (previously of AOR/hard rock band Alyson Avenue), brings an entirely different style to the table than that of Tarja, and this is clearly the largest audible difference in their new music. Foresaking the enormous operatic vocal sections (excepting “The Poet and the Pendulum”) that have been Nightwish's trademark sound, the band has made a move more towards a more poppy, melodic metal sound, rather than operatic power metal.
Anette's voice is quite pleasant, and she serves the band quite well. Had the band continued in the same style as before, she would have made a poor replacement for Tarja's soprano brilliance. As it is, she fits the band like a glove, and has fallen quickly in sync with the creative talent of Tuomas Holopainen. Tuomas himself is probably the biggest disappointment in this album to me, as there are various tracks like “Bye Bye Beautiful” and the above mentioned first track where he conveys a bit of self-centeredness, though not enough to detract too much from the music.
The other problem with this album is its movement towards the commercial side of metal. I don't know if this is an intentional move for the band, or if it just sort of developed in the writing of material, the departure of Tarja, and the influences that the band have had lately. I'd still label it as metal, but more like melodic American metal in places than what we're used to. Tuomas has reacted rather negatively when asked about this, so he clearly feels that he's still writing metal himself.
“Dark Passion Play” has a very polished production, and a harder sound than ever before, while also being a little more boring on the instrumental side of things (guitars are taking more of a rhythm role this time around). Songs like “Eva”, “For the Heart I Once Had” and “Amaranth” show that the band have undisputedly placed a greater emphasis upon well-defined and accessible vocal melodies. This works both ways. I absolutely adore “Amaranth”, though I don't think of it as the same Nightwish as I once knew.
That's really the big factor on this album. If you expect this to hit you the same way that “Once” and “Century Child” do, you'll be pretty darn disappointed. If you step into it expecting something new, you'll be pleasantly surprised. I can firmly say I don't care for “Dark Passion Play” as much as I do older Nightwish, but it's not a poor album by any stretch of the imagination. It just fits into a style of music that I don't enjoy as much. I find the music a bit more redundant and unexciting, and while still carrying a measure of novelty, it's not the trademark Nightwish sound that so many have come to love.
Nightwish are still creative, just in a different way. Probably, this new style is going to continue onto the next album. I can't say I'm too disappointed, as every band ultimately evolves (or devolves) and dies. “Dark Passion Play” crosses genre lines, but is quite accessible and will still appeal to many older fans of the band. I'm looking forward to the next album, where perhaps they've worked things out and will mature this new sound.
- - -
The Protagonist's Rating: 7.25 out of 10