6 June 2013

Nightwish - Dark Passion Play

Tuomas Holopainen, the keyboardist and chief songwriter of Nightwish, has credited this as being the album that saved his life. With the trials and tribulations of songstress Tarja Turunen's dismissal very much in the public domain, Holopainen was on the brink of despair and anxiety with the fans and media finger pointing and blame apportioning until one day in 2006, he rediscovered the strength to start recording again. Without a female vocalist during the initial stages, the band recorded all the music before eventually focusing their attention on who would replace Turunen.

The eventual replacement was whittled down from 2,000 applicants and demos, and there entered an assured and polished singer from Sweden in Anette Olzon which proved to be an inspired choice for The 'Wish. While Tarja Turunen has strong falsetto and operatic traits, Olzon's vocal talents are less heavy but thankfully more straightforward and more adept to the mood of the moment. Dark Passion Play as a whole runs on a similar theme to Nightwish's previous outing Once, where metal riffs and melodic yet sometimes edgy vocals run the show although much more is brought to the party. Where Once had introduced some outside flavours such as the Native American inspired Creek Mary's Blood, DPP has much used Irish instrumentation on several tracks, suggesting that Holopainen is wanting to break away from his symphonic metal base.

Opening the scheme of things for the listener is the 14 minute epic The Poet and The Pendulum. Difficult to describe this as it has five sub-song titles, highlighting the mixture of ethereal voices, metal filler and orchestral energies working at different parts of the song. There's also clear evidence of Holopainen's pent up rage and frustration written in the Marco Hietala-led Master Passion Greed and Bye Bye Beautiful where the lyrics are almost overcome by thrash in the former tune. However, the focus from MPG shifts to a different perspective in the piano led Eva and the whimsical Sahara before Empuu Vuorinen's riff-happy Whoever Brings The Night complements the balance of diversity and power metal. Then the branch out into Irish whistling and drumming acoustics in The Islander and 7 Days To The Wolves before Meadows Of Heaven is the orchestral sign off of the album.

The lack of vocals at the beginning of Dark Passion Play could've made this somewhat disjointed but Tuomas Holopainen had pulled off a remarkable masterstroke and rejuvenated Nightwish. I actually prefer this to their following record Imaginaerum even though it's a bit of a rough diamond in comparison. It's basically an album that encapsulates all the energies of each member and the willingness to break new ground. Certainly it showcases an audio gourmet delight but some reviewers haven't been too favourable here and personally, DPP deserves a lot more credit than it's earned. M. Richardson 06/06/2013.

9 out of ten. Almost perfect........almost.

You can purchase the album here

You can listen to the album here on Spotify

You can follow all of Nightwish's activities here on their official website

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