Dark Passion Play – full album review

On September 28th this year, Finnish symphonic power metal group Nightwish produced their sixth and latest studio album, featuring their brand new vocalist Anette Olzon, Dark Passion Play. An album which in my opinion is their greatest ever, even though some songs would have been much better with Tarja Turunen (Nightwish’s last vocalist from 1996 to 2005). Anette does her part really well, though, singing parts much better than Tarja ever would have. Though, one thing I miss on the songs is guitar. Ofcourse we have this fully acoustic song, The Islander, that features quite a lot guitar (all the time) but there are several songs that barely have any guitar at all, or at least real boring riffs, such as For the Heart I Once Had and Amaranth.

Okay, that’s enough talking. Over to the review.

1. The Poet and the Pendulum (13:53)

Clearly the best track on the album. Lovely lyrics throughout the song, truly lovely. ”The Poet and the Pendulum” (the name derives from a classic Edgar Allan Poe novella, ”The Pit and the Pendulum”) is the epic song that’s the centre of the whole album – for a long time the album was supposed to be called this instead of Dark Passion Play. The length ofcourse makes it stick out from the other songs, but exactly like even longer songs by Dream Theatre, it feels like rather about five minutes. It holds several chapters, just like another long Nightwish song, ”Beauty of the Beast” from their Century Child album. In this case, the chapters are:

  • White Lands of Empathica
  • Home
  • The Pacific
  • Dark Passion Play
  • Mother and Father

As noticed, one of the parts are called ”Dark Passion Play”, another sign for this song being the center of the album. I love the entire song, but the last half – especially ”Dark Passion Play” – is the best. ”Mother and Father” is probably the saddest piece of music that Tuomas Holopainen – keyboardist and songwriter – has written for a long time. ”White Lands of Empathica” and ”Home” truly are boring, but God, that chorus is mind-blowing.

2. Bye Bye Beautiful (4:16)

This song is really simple, and so is the chorus. Perhaps that’s why it got to be the third (and at the moment next, after ”Eva” on May 30 and ”Amaranth” on August 22) single of the album. I like the lyrics, they’re really progressive, and I like some lines very much, such as ”it’s not the tree that forsakes the flower, it’s the flower that forsakes the tree”. ”Bye Bye Beautiful” is written about Tarja Turunen, the last vocalist, who was kicked out of the band in an open letter in October 2005.

3. Amaranth (3:59)

The second single, after ”Eva”. Even though I like the intro and the verses, I hate the chorus. Sounds like anything but metal to me. Truly poor music video as well. I liked the song when it was released, though.

4. Cadence of Her Last Breath (4:17)

Beautiful music, beautiful lyrics, but really nothing special about it that catches me. Don’t know why. I like the heavy breathing throughout the song, though.

5. Master Passion Greed (6:04)

At first I hated it, but I like it more and more every time I listen to it. Like the choir voices singing ”Master passion greed” in the chorus, as well as the fact that Holopainen didn’t let Anette sing it; it is one thing doing a personal offence through a song like this (the song is about Tarja Turunen’s husband, Marcelo, who according to Holopainen was the one who forced them to drop Tarja), but it is another one to make someone who’s not involved sing it. I don´t like the intro, it’s too much alike the intro to both ”Whoever Brings the Night” and ”The Kinslayer”. It is nice to hear Nightwish trying something heavier and more progressive once in a while, such as this song, ”The Kinslayer” (from the Wishmaster album) and ”Slaying the Dreamer” (from Century Child).

6. Eva (4:26)

The first single. I wrote a quite long review on this song when it was released, go there instead.

7. Sahara (5:49)

As Holopainen said himself, such a cliche with a heavy metal band making a song about ancient Egypt. The lyrics are real boring, but the music is really good, especially the intro (before 1:16 in length). The choir’s real good as well.

8. Whoever Brings the Night (4:19)

One of my favorite tracks on the album, together with ”The Poet and the Pendulum” and ”7 Days to the Wolves”. I didn’t like it at all (just like ”Master Passion Greed”). Though, after my brother Tim told me that it was one of his favorites, I gave it another try. And I liked it. Just like ”Master Passion Greed”, it is very agressive, and I love Anette’s style of singing. I like the lyrics as well, but I think it’s a bit short with to much chorus and too few verses.

9. For the Heart I Once Had (3:58)

This track used to be one of my favorites of the album, but now I think the music is too simple, too boring, with not enough change in the verses. I love the lyrics, and I love the power in the first chorus, but compared with several other songs, it’s quite poor. But God, I’m close to crying when I hear that intro.

10. The Islander (5:08)

Dark Passion Play truly is an album on which Nightwish varies a lot. It has their most epic and longest song so far (”The Poet and the Pendulum”), they have the most agressive song (”Master Passion Greed”), they have a brand new singer for the first time in ten years, and they have this. An acoustic ballad about an old lonely lighthouse keeper with their bass player on second guitar. It’s really beautiful, and at last Marco Hietala (bass and male vocalist) can show off his singing skills in other ways then screaming, as he rather did earlier. This was as well shown on ”While Your Lips Are Still Red”, that’s featured on the ”Amaranth” single. I love it.

11. Last of the Wilds (5:42)

Nightwish haven’t done an instrumental song since ”Moondance” on their 1998 album Oceanborn, but here it is, ”Last of the Wilds”. And I really like it. It reminds a lot of ”Moondance” indeed, and is a very joyful melody that really cheers you up. It has real cool instruments as well, such as the banjo.

12. 7 Days to the Wolves (7:05)

This song is so awesome. Especially the last few minutes are probably the greatest minutes of the whole history of Nightwish (excepting ”The Poet and the Pendulum”, heh). Great lyrics as well, and I like the way Anette and Marco shares the singing, and the whispers that are mixed in. It sounds real cool.

13. Meadows of Heaven (7:10)

Even though it’s not one of my favorites, ”Meadows of Heaven” is great to finish the whole album (there is one more track, but it’s only a Japanese bonus track so it barely counts). It’s really beautiful, and got a perfect length to get you in a great mode. Good for relaxing. I hate the ending with the choir voices though. The last minute or so. HATE IT. Skip it from there every time I play it…

14. The Escapist (4:57)

As I heard someone else say, this is the song that’s most like the ”old Nightwish”, i.e. how Nightwish sounded before Tarja quit. That’s probably why it wasn’t decided to be on the album, but only as a Japanese bonus track. I really wish it was on the album, since it’s great. I love especially the chorus, even though it sounds a bit like pop (just like ”Amaranth”). I love the text as well, feels like it’s covering Nightwish’s whole discography. For example it begins with ”Who’s there knocking at my window? The Owl and the Dead Boy”, the Owl referring to the owl on the cover of Oceanborn and the Dead Boy referring to a character mentioned in several songs, such as ”Dead Boy’s Poem” (Wishmaster) and ”For the Heart I Once Had” (Dark Passion Play). The song is about Holopainen’s wish to escape from the dull reality, and face the adventorous fantasy world, exactly as ”Wanderlust” (from Wishmaster) is.

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