Dark Passion Play by Nightwish – album review

Dark Passion Play is the sixth studio album by Finnish symphonic metal band Nightwish, released on 26 September 2007 in Finland, 28 September in Europe and 2 October 2007 in the United States.  It is the first of only two albums with vocalist Anette Olzon, who was eventually dismissed in 2012 after the release of the band’s subsequent album, “Imaginaerum”. Tuomas Holopainen has referred to it as the “album that saved his life”. Album had four singles, Eva, Amaranth, Bye Bye Beautiful i The Islander. I will not talk about them in this segment, I will save it for later.

Before we get into the review we need to go back to 2005. During “Once Upon A Tour” world tour Tarja Turunen, at the time main Nightwish vocalist was fired. Firing your vocalist can only bring bad things to the band because maybe a lot of fans will not like your new singer and because of that they will stop supporting your music. So what did Nightwish do?

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They released their best album up to that date. Yes, “Dark Passion Play” is better than all of Nightwish albums from Tarja era. We all knew what were biggest flaws of those albums. Tarja’s oversinging. To be fair sometimes her oversinging can be a good thing, like in Phantom Of The Opera cover but most of the time it is just very annoying. We know that she can sing very good(she is even better singer now), but she did not have to over do it.

How do you start album where you need to showcase your new singer? With your best song up to that time(There are some better songs on Imaginareum). “Poet And The Pendulum” was their longest song up to that time. It is 14 minutes long song and it is modern classic. Song is divided in 5 parts:

  • I. “White Lands of Empathica”
  • II. “Home”
  • III. “The Pacific”
  • IV. “Dark Passion Play”
  • V. “Mother and Father

Song opens up with beautiful and haunting keyboard parts which are followed by equally beautiful singing part which is done by unknown kid. After that song transitions in to the full symphonic metal masterpiece. Then we get to the second part of the song “Home”. For most of that part instrumentation of the song is fairly slow, simple and stripped down which goes in Annete’s favour.

And then we get to the chorus. Holy shit, this might be one of the best choruses I have ever heard in my life. Anette’s vocal performance is great, energetic and it matches perfectly with big almost over the top instrumentation that includes great symphony parts. It is very catchy which only adds another level of awesomeness to it. After first chorus we get back on casual and calm part of the song, but that will not last long because second chorus will come very soon and yet again it is amazing.

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If you wanna make good and interesting long song best way to do that is to have a lot of “mood” changes and if it is possible some key and time signature changes which will add a lot to the song. That is exactly what Nightwish did in this song. Every chorus changes overall “mood” of the song.

“The Pacific” again goes back to standard sound of the song, but this time it includes beautiful violin parts and Annete’s equally beautiful operatic parts. Around 6th minute we get Anette using his whispering voice to present lyrics in very good way. That part sets up perfect foundation for what it is about to come. Great symphony driven instrumental part which includes great violins, horns, organ etc. In the middle of that part Marco Hietala delivers very good verse using his shouting voice and then we get back to the amazing chorus which is better than two that were before. Song ends with Anette portraying as Tuomas’s mother. In that part she criticizes him for acting so cold and she wonders when did he become so cold. She tells him how she will always love him and how he needs to save others.

Search for beauty, find your shore
Try to save them all, bleed no more
You have such oceans within
In the end
I will always love you

Lyrics of this song are like puzzle. When you solve the “puzzle” you get the actual meaning of the song. In my opinion this how in order lyrics should go:

  1. Home
  2. The Pacific
  3. Dark Passion Plaz
  4. White Lands Of Empathica
  5. Father And Mother

Lyrics are talking about Tuomas’s life and his “death”. They represente his life during 2005. Remember how he said that this album “saved his life”? This song can confirm us in how bad state his life was before this album was released.

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Lot of Nightwish songs include a lot of religious parts. This song is not excpetion. In the chorus Anette sings how she has two faces, one for the world, one for God and how she needs someone to save her.

Forgive me, I have but two faces
One for the world,
One for God save me

If there are any lyrics written by Tuomas Holopainen that I actively despise then those are lyrics from “Bye Bye Beautiful”. Lyrics of that song are so childish because that song is supposed to be diss track towards their ex singer Tarja Turunen.

Did you ever hear what I told you?
Did you ever read what I wrote you?
Did you ever listen to what we played?
Did you ever let in what the world said?
Did we get this far just to feel your hate?
Did we play to become only pawns in the game?
How blind can you be, don’t you see?
You chose the long road, but we’ll be waiting

Framing can save bad lyrics, but this time that is not a case. Song is framed as one big “fuck you” to Tarja which as I already said is very childish and it almost destroys amazing song.

At least song sounds very good and that is only reason why this song is not total debacle. I mean it should be if you look at those lyrics. Both Anette and Marco have very good performance. Marco is yet again using his shouting voice which kinda fits those bad lyrics because it represents the anger that they had towards Tarja.

Afer “Bye Bye Beautiful” we get to the next single of this album “Amaranth”. This song has more “radio” sound. It is fairly simple with very catchy and kinda generic but that does not hurt the song that much. It is overall very good song and it showes that Nightwish is more than big, almost over the top type of a band.

Some of the songs from this album have the heaviest guitars in whole Nightwish discography. Next two songs are just like that. First one is Cadence Of Her Last Breath. Although this song has some “soft” guitar parts opening guitar riff is very heavy and it is backed by equally heavy symphonic orchestra.

Another great thing about this album is that it showcased how talented singer Marco Hietala actually is. You can hear that especially in “Master Passion Greed” and in one another song that will come later. His vocals are what makes this song awesome. His fast vocal delivery which suddenly slows during the one small chorus is amazing. Most of the time one line choruses will sound extremely lazy and bad, but that is not a case with this song. His evil sounding vocals are probably biggest reason why chorus does not come off as lazy. Best part of the song is where Marco sings:

Some day you shall flee,
Panting and weak.

His vocal melody in that part is absolutely amazing. This is other very heavy song from this album. Guitar work is probably heaviest in whole Nightwish discography(Maybe only few songs on Endless Forms Most Beautiful have slightly heavier guitar work).

marco-interview-banner Anette might not technically be as good as Tarja, but she is much more versatile singer and she is much better in one type of songs than Tarja ever could dream of being. Ballads. That can easily be proven by the next and some other songs from this album. That next song is “Eva” and in that song Anette shows sensitive side of her voice . Orchestration of this song perfectly matches with Anette’s voice which makes this song to sound much better. Guitar solo is very simple yet it fits the song is an amazing way. Very complex guitar solo would just ruin natural mood of the song which is built by symphonic orchestra and Anette’s vocals.

I think that this song has something to do with Tarja. Let me explain. This song speaks about a girl that was bullied and that will maybe die because of it

Eva flies away
Dreams the world far away
In this cruel children’s game
There’s no friend to call her name
Eva sails away
Dreams the world far away
The Good in her will be my sunflower field

Tarja experienced bullying during her school days from other girls because she always had great grades and she was always singing on the school parties. Tuomas was her classmate and he saw what happened to her, and he felt sorry for her and that probably inspired this amazing song.

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Next song of the album is Sahara and yet again this song is absolutely fantastic. Opening guitar riff is one of the best guitar riffs on the whole album. It is very groovy and it perfectly fits with the other elements of the song. As for the lyrics I think this song is inspired by One Thousand and One Nights and story about Scheherazade

1001 nights unseen
The philosopher and the queen

Most of the lyrics on this album and in general in Nightwish are written by Tuomas Holopainen but “Whoever Brings The Night” is partially  written by Nightwish’s guitar player Emppu Vuorinen. If you have the booklet from the original Dark Passion Play CD you know that there is a picture which shows us sluts in a Harem, so this song is about this “brides for one night”, about the dark, seductive way of their unreal love, and about how they kill her “bashful” victims/punters after seducing them. I think the narrator wants to appeal to one’s conscience, he writes the most about the unreal love, about the pain and how the people’s beauty gets rotten after a time. I think this song is very good  and can be related to not only to Harems, but to the global society or to many countries.

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Instrumentally this song is again amazing. Great opening groovy guitar riff sets up the foundation for Anette to show why is she such a good singer. Her vocal performance is simply amazing on this song. Production of this song is easily best on the whole album. Vocal effects are beautiful too.

During this review I praised Anette’s vocal performances a lot, but her best vocal performance only needs to come and that is now. “For The Heart I Once Had” is the song where Anette puts whole her into the song. “For The Heart I Once Had” is the song where you can clearly hear emotions in Anette’s voice.

There is one theme that tends to be part of a lot of Nightwish songs. Childlike innocence and Tuomas’s wish to have that innocence back. Their next album is almost build around that subject.  In this song Tuomas is trying to tell how much he would like to have that innocence of a child back.

For the heart I’ll never have
For the child forever gone
The music flows because it longs
For the heart I once had

Lyrics are very emotional which fits with the instrumentation and Anette’s vocals. Final chorus is simply mesmerizing.

Remember how earlier in this review I mentioned how another great thing about this album is that Marco Hietala got a lot of “space”? “The Islander” is the song where he shows that in the best way possible. Song opens up with beautiful acoustic guitar which sets up equally beautiful mood of the song. Marco knows how to use that type of instrumentation which he shows in this song. His vocal performance on “The Islander” is the best on whole album and maybe in whole Nightwish discography. Anette and Marco create great vocal harmonies during the last verse in second chorus which adds another level of awesomeness to already great song. During the final chorus everything becomes bigger thanks to key change and everything sounds much better.

Lyrics of this song deal with very explicit subject. They are talking about seashore man who is about to attempt the suicide. He is forgotten by everyone, he is dreaming of past times and how he had everything,kids, family.

The albatross is flying
Making him daydream
The time before he became
One of the world`s unseen
Princess in the tower
Children in the fields
Life gave him it all:
An island of the universe

On “Dark Passion Play” Nightwish got new member. His name is Troy Donockley. With his arrival Nightwish sound got a lot of celtic influences which can be heard in songs such as “Last Of The Wild” and “The Islander”. We already discussed “The Islander” so it is time for “Last Of The Wild”.

“Last Of The Wild” is only instrumental song on the album and it is absolutely fantastic. “Last Of The Wild” has beauitiful atmosphere, something every instrumental song desperatately must have. After all in instrumental songs you do not have vocals or lyrics to compensate for lack of great atmosphere. Best parts of the songs are opening pipes riff and guitar repraise of that same riff on the end of the song.

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Philosophy is not that rare subject of Tuomas’s lyrics and that can be proven with next song “7 Days To The Wolves”. In this song Tuomas is trying to tell that we should live our lives as best as we can because “wolves are always 7 days behind us”.

Howl! Seven days to the wolves
Where will we be when they come?
Seven days to the poison
And a place in heaven
Time drawing near us
They come to take us

Just like on “The Islander” Marco and Anette sound amazing together. Vocal harmonies along the instrumentation is what makes this song. Orchestration is done amazingly (It is Nightwish after all. It is supposed to be amazing).

Album is closed by “Meadows Of Heaven” and just like “For The Heart I Once Had” this song carries same lyrical subject.  It is about childhood and remembering all great thing that happened during the childhood.

I close my eyes, the lantern dies
The scent of awakening, wild honey and dew
Childhood games, woods and lakes
Streams of silver, toys of olden days

If there is any criticism I can give this song that would be Troy’s whistles. They just do not fit the song, but that would be me nit picking and this song does not deserve it. Chorus consists of one line repetead four times and yet it does not feel repetitive which is very strange. Gospel singing perfectly rounds up the song.They could not pick better song to close this amazing album.

This album is one of the best albums of this century and only second best album Nightwish has ever made. This album gets perfect score 10/10 and definite recommendation. Even if you are not fan of Symphonic metal you will enjoy this album a lot.

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