At long last the new Nightwish studio album 'Dark Passion Play' has arrived with their new lead singer, Anette Olzon. Highly anticipated, if only for this change, 'Dark Passion Play' is everything I hoped for. Ms. Olzon is an incredibly gifted singer and her performance is brilliant. The songs are epic in scope, diverse in style, and symphonic in the nearly perfect orhestration. The boys in the band play with a new found strength and passion. Nightwish remains the standard bearer of symphonic/gothic metal.
You get a taste of what to expect on the whole album when you listen to the first track, 'The Poet and the Pendulum.' The song moves through musical style changes effortlessly. Ms. Olzon's vocals are given full expression throughout. The band is tight. In the end, you are left breathless, yet wanting more. But again this is only the beginning. There are some very cool songs on this album not the least of which we have heard before, the singles 'Eva' and 'Amaranth.
'Master Passion Greed' features the raspy vocals of bassist Marco Hietala, but it's the shear power of the song that grabs you and doesn't let go: it's dark, hard, and thunders along at a heart-pounding pace. 'Bye Bye Beautiful' brings both Hietala and Olzon together on some extreme tag-team vocals: she sings verse, then Hietala comes in on a great catchy chorus. This is Nightwish in fine form. On 'Whoever Brings The Night,' Nightwish shifts to a more melodic metal side offering us more simple vocals, a catchy chorus, and, finally, some ripping guitar work. Then, 'For The Heart I Once Had,'things change again. This time it's to a more subtle and sweeping metal ballad, and again Ms. Olzon shines.
As you approach the end of the album, Nightwish introduces some Celtic flavor with flute and fiddle in the songs 'Islander,' which reminds you a bit of Jethro Tull, and 'Last Of The Wilds.'The last song, 'Meadows Of Heaven,' is similar to the opening track in it's anthemic qualities, but gifted with some truly amazing vocals. It's a fitting finish to a fine work.
If I have any qualms about 'Dark Passion Play,' it's the fact the guitarist Emppu Vuorinen almost seems absent throughout. I know this is not entirely true. He's found on the aforementioned 'Whoever Brings The Night' and 'Meadows Of Heaven.' Maybe the desire of Nightwish was to put Anette Olzon forward in the whole Nightwish context. And that's fine, but I do miss Mr. Vuorinen's exceptional guitar skills. The may not be as trademark as the female lead, but they were always a vital component.
With 'Dark Passion Play,' Nightwish enters a new era. And there is no need to look back. This work delivers and proves once again that Nightwish is a force to be reckoned with.