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Hapfairy Reviews: Dark Passion Play

Dark Passion Play

Nuclear Blast, 2007

As the sixth album by Finnish symphonic metal gods Nightwish, Dark Passion Play was certainly a big turning point for the band. Following the departure of previous operatic soprano singer Tarja Turunen, there were many rumours about who would replace the diva. Finally, in a decision that had many people scratching their heads, the band took quite a different direction and hired a much more conventional singer, Swedish Anette Olzon (previously of Alyson Avenue). However, in my opinion Anette more than proved her talent on this truly epic album. Tuomas Holopainen, the keyboard player, main songwriter and composer for the band, proclaimed Dark Passion Play to be the album that saved his life, and with global success, it certainly seems like it saved the band's.
Here is my song-by-song review of the record, complete with video links where available.

1. The Poet and the Pendulum
There could not be a more perfect song to open this album with. A 13 minute long epic, it is a song extremely personal to Tuomas. Lyrically it mixes elements from his life and feelings with references to The Pit and the Pendulum by Edgar Allen Poe. It has sections that are very light and dreamy, and others that are pretty heavy, with Marco Hietala's trademark screamed lyrics. It is so rich and layered that after listening to a song like this, a lot of other music starts to sound pretty bland...

2. Bye Bye Beautiful (Watch Video)
This song is about Tarja's unceremonious departure from the band, reportedly for, well, being a bit of a bitch (you can read the letter here). Despite being seemingly upbeat, the song deals with Tuomas' criticisms of the singer, asking "Did you ever listen to what we played?/Did you ever learn what the words said?" implying that Tarja did not respect their music enough. It implies that their music was the most important thing, and not money or fame. The video sees all the male band members replaced with attractive girls, in a parody of people thinking that they only choose female singers for their looks.

3. Amaranth (Watch Video)
Amaranth is one of my favourite songs on the album. It manages to be a very upbeat and happy song, whilst still maintaining elements of metal and gothic music. It showcases Anette's voice particularly well. I have always interpreted the lyrics as meaning that you should wake up and take notice of the person/people who truly love you rather than chasing pointless things. An Amaranth is a type of plant, the name meaning 'Never Fading': hence the chorus lyrics "Caress the one/The never fading rain in your heart". The keyboard melody always makes me smile. :-)

4. Cadence of Her Last Breath
This song is another where Anette's vocals come across very strong. Tuomas describes this as a 'very personal song' with themes of escapism. However, it could also be interpreted as a tale of murder, hence the lyrics "A loner longing for/The cadence of her last breath" and Marco's refrain of "Run away!". The heavy breathing at the start of the song is a nice touch, even if it does feel a little pornographic. :P

5. Master Passion Greed
The heaviest and angriest song on the album, Master Passion Greed is sung by Marco and deals with Tuomas' feelings towards Marcelo Cabuli, Tarja's husband. The band felt that he had changed and manipulated Tarja, and ultimately led to her being forced to leave the band. The hostility in the song is evident in lines such as "Seek her/Seduce her/Tame her/Blame her/
Feast on it all". Nightwish have previously said that they will never play the song live.

6. Eva
In stark contrast, Eva is a soft, sad ballad with a beautiful melody. It tells the story of a young girl who has had a very tough life, despite her good nature and childish innocence. She runs away from all the pain, dreaming of better things to come. It was strangely the first single from the album (likely to be because it showcases the beauty of Anette's voice) and all the European proceeds of the song were donated to children's charities and orphanages.

7. Sahara
This is another truly fantasy song, rather than an autobiographical one. It has an Egyptian theme, similar to the older Nightwish song The Pharoah Sails to Orion. The song perfectly captures the desert atmosphere, and you can almost feel yourself surrounded by swirling sands as Anette sings the tale of the philosopher and the queen, meeting every night in secret for 1001 nights. Sahara is another of my favourite songs on the album.

8. Whoever Brings the Night
This song is another with heavier, darker undertones. It is a beguiling tale of a prostitute, or perhaps a succubus, seducing a sailor: but he is not as innocent as he seems. I feel that the way Anette sings here displays one of the edges that she has over Tarja: she perfectly conveys a cheeky, sinful darkness in her voice. I often find that, despite its beauty, Tarja's voice lacks a display of emotion, and I think this is probably due to her classical training.

9. For the Heart I Once Had
Although I like this song a lot, I think it is one of the weakest in the context of the album. Again it seems to be personal to Tuomas, mourning the loss of innocence (a theme that runs throughout the whole album). It just seems to fade into the background when placed next to a lot of the songs on the record, which are in my opinion some of the strongest in the band's career.

10. The Islander (Watch Video)
I find this song to be breathtakingly beautiful. The chorus runs; "This is the long forgotten/Light at the end of the world/Horizon crying/The tears he left behind long ago". It is heavily inspired by folk music, both of Celtic/Irish and Finnish influence. I strongly recommend the steampunk-inspired video: originally Nightwish had no plans to make any more videos for the album, but they were offered the chance to film in a remote area of Finnish Lapland and felt that they could not refuse. Unusually, most of the song was written and sung by Marco, with backing vocals from Anette and Tuomas.

11. Last of the Wilds (Erämaan Viimeinen)
On the album, this song is an instrumental. It is very upbeat and again features a lot of folk music elements as well as electric guitar. In Finland, it was released with the title and lyrics in Finnish, and sung by Jonsu from the band Indica as Anette does not speak Finnish fluently (although it should be noted, she has previously sung Kuolema Tekee Taiteilijan [Death Makes An Artist], the song from the band's Once album). The version with lyrics varies slightly from the instrumental.

12. 7 Days to the Wolves
Another fantasy song, Tuomas has revealed that this is based on one of the books from Stephen King's Dark Tower series. The song has some great riffs in it, and is particularly enjoyable in the live shows where it's accompanied with some awesome pyrotechnics at each dramatic section.

13. Meadows of Heaven
This is quite an odd song, and hard to place. It starts as a ballad, very similar to Eva in its themes of childhood. Lyrically, it is about Tuomas reminiscing about growing up in Finland. Because of this, there are elements of sadness, but also of joy at the happy memories. The lyrics are beautiful, but it feels a bit odd when some gospel singers turn up at the end. Nevertheless, it is a nice album closer.

Please note: these are just my personal opinions, feel free to contribute your own. :-) I am planning to review more of my favourite albums in future. Let me know if you have any requests.


Good review Soph. I agree with you. It is a great album. :)


Man, I'm glad they got rid of that woman. Most horrible voice.


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