Hey, fans and friends. Dark Passion Play is an amazing record! I absolutely love it.
I am not sure if this was the first record I ever listened to from Nightwish. But it definitely beats everything out of the sky that the band produced so far. And yes, that specifically means the Tarja records that came before it. Even if Once really upped the ante.
It is of course not only the frontwoman who makes the difference. But here Anette Olzon really delivers. And this, in spite of the hate that fans directed at her for the simple reason that the band chose her to replace Tarja Turunen. This undercurrent really came to the forefront when Imaginaerum saw the light of day with all its dire consequences.
In addition, one can really feel the passion and energy behind the making of the album. And that goes with the name, doesn’t it? Or the feeling of liberation after all that former tribulation, how Tuomas Holopainen explained it in one of the interviews I had the pleasure to read. A remarkable Marko Hietala again contributed strongly to the record, later to be followed by his excellent work supporting Delain for their 2009 album April Rain.
You get a sense that the whole band was pulling in the same direction for this record, no contest. And this is not an impression we got from later productions, notably Endless Forms Most Beautiful. The band remains pretty tight-lipped about its inner workings, true. But the strained remarks of Floor Jansen told us a lot nonetheless.
So, how to describe Dark Passion Play?
Fast and furious in places true to Nightwish‘s past of Power and Symphonic Metal, guitar work reminiscent of what was displayed Once or Oceanborn for that matter. Other parts again come across as soft and silky. I truly marveled at the orchestral inclusions that always fully match the metal.
The songwriting skills advanced in leaps and bounds. The over-compression we felt on their last album is almost gone. Mixing and mastering now sail mainly on the high-quality side. The song structure and arrangement of the tracks are sometimes almost sublime, much clearer than on other Nightwish records.
Dark Passion Play starts with an epic, very long, and very varied The Poet and the Pendulum1). The journey takes you over a rocky Bye Bye Beautiful to the remarkable and very soft ballad Eva.
A few songs later, The Islander will take you on board and on a great journey. The album reaches its apex with 7 Days to the Wolves and ends in a very quiet Meadows in Heaven. And you need this one to come down from the high this record induces.
I listened to Dark Passion Play dozens of times, and never tired of it. This is a top-notch production with real great tracks to do Nightwish credit. Some critics state that this album is only notable because of The Islander or – worse – that the record is just a piece of bloatware. But this is by far too simplistic, of course. Albeit that the massive choice of some 13 songs brought a few fillers to sit awkwardly athwartship the record. There’s a reason why most records won’t go beyond 10 tracks.
However, this album is a clear step up from Once, technically much improved and generally very enjoyable to listen to. And I would buy it again, but – alas – I already have a copy.
Ed’s note: The review made it onto the first ever Intermittent Best Of. This new edition replaces the review from September 2014.
|1.||They like to do those lengthy pieces @ Nightwish. -Ed.|