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NIGHTWISH: Dark Passion Play song by song

BW&BK's Mark Gromen has issued the following overview of NIGHTWISH's anxiously-anticipated forthcoming album, Dark Passion Play:

First off, the woman can sing! Verbose Toumas Holopainen is at it again, with 5 to 6 word titles, to say nothing of the 13:53 opening 'The Poet And The Pendulum' and closing duo topping 7 minutes each. the whole opus lasts 75:45.

No longer just "frilly teeny-bopper metal" (not that they ever were, just some cult elitists' sentiments). Haven't re-invented themselves as much as widened the scope of their repertoire. Should be fun to see how Anette Olzon handles the older material. Don't expect to remain in your seat for much of the show!

What follows is a verbatim transcription of my notes, as I listened to the album for the first time, in the offices of King Foo, surrounded by the numerous gold/platinum awards.

1) 'The Poet And The Pendulum'
Actually five sub-sections in one song, titled 'White Land Of Empathica', 'Home', 'The Pacific', 'Dark Passion Play' and 'Mother & Father'. Whispered voice-over starts, then drifts into high vocals, then out of nowhere, full bore band, with orchestration (no vocals), the settles into mid-tempo structures. First impression, her voice sounds like '70s OLIVIA NEWTON JOHN, clean, sultry, slightly accented English, but the further it proceeds, sounds more like ABBA (none too surprisingly), even without her Swedish heritage. Drops into sleepy symphonic strings mode, punctuated by brass bellows, then gradually builds to aggressive lyrics (Marco Hietala - bass) and swirl of orchestra.

2) 'Bye Bye Beautiful'
Just as easily COULD be about a failed love relationship, but the lyrics, especially the use of the word "we" would seem to indicate otherwise.

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

Music is lively, Anette sings stanza, Marco the solo voice in chorus. Simple rhythms, bombastic break. Violin, seriously bowed, threatening to break in half, ala the cartoons. Marco eventually takes over (prophetic?)

3) 'Amaranth'
Piano begun. Female vocals at the forefront. Heavy backing, staccato underpinning.

4) 'Cadence Of Her Last Breath'
Panting female voice introduces, matched by tinkling of ivories, before full band on mid-tempo. Really different, just a rock song, practically devoid of the orchestrated bombastics inherent in Nightwish music. Panting back mid-song, accompanied by a choir. Marco's in the background, yelling "Run away, run away."

5) 'Master Passion Greed'
By contrast, bass and drums rumble out of the speakers, punctuated by sporadic guitar notes. Keyboards are the last instrument heard. Heavy, speedy, Marco barks lyrics. Very staccatto. No female vocals. Will be interesting to find out where/when, in the writing process this one was done. Quite unlike anything the band has attempted to date.

6) 'Eva'
First e-single. Disney, as Carl Begai calls it. Piano and Anette begun. Marco given this tune off. True ballad, Emppu emotive break.

7) 'Sahara'
Lively keyboard and violin quickly give way to short, upbeat blast, then launches into more labored cadence (trudging through the Sahara, in search of a thirst quenching oasis). Anette vocals above the fray. (Colorful 1001 Arabian Nights inspired drawing, veiled harem et al, in the beautifully illustrated CD booklet). Again, Marco basically missing.

8) 'Whoever Brings The Night'
Guitar scales begin, bouncy melody. Vocals delivered in short bursts, seemingly sung only in chorus. After the second run through, changes into more chaotic.

All your love is a lie
You one night butterfly

9) 'For The Heart I Once Had'

Mid-tempo, almost bluesy guitar and piano. Lilting, childish Anette breaks through. Full band + at chorus. Watch as a possible single, down the line.

10) 'The Islander'
Pipe-flute, comparison to Creek Mary inevitable, even with the diminishing ocean sound effects. Male vocals (at first questions whether it's a guest singer, so un-Marco). Acoustic guitar, GORDON LIGHTFOOT? Eventually, two vocalists, in duet. Ends with tribal drum and violin, eventually only drum and ocean.

11) 'The Last Of The Wilds'
Segues seamlessly into this Celtic inspired pipes (tin/penny whistles). Breaks from Celtic, into the Baroque harpsichord tingling, backed-by flute/recorder, then into reprise of the lively reel/jig tempo. Been a longtime since I've heard a true (non-concept album) instrumental that I'd like to hear repeatedly. Ends with more music box tones. 5:41

12) 'Seven Days To The Wolves'
Drums introduce. Both singers involved. Titular phrase repeated frequently. Mostly mid-tempo, with quick hitting flourishes after each stanza (some fully instrumental), others feature Marco behind the music.

13) 'Meadows Of Heaven'
Low moan of cello, then piano and violin opening. Anette extended "aye." About two minutes before drums/guitar come in, but then refined, not ruining the beauty of the balladry. Think Titanic theme. Builds to include full backing choir, getting louder dynamically, but not faster. Emppu's guitar mimics a Highland theme as it falls back to violin, synth and Anette. Another blast from the choir. Closing swirl of all the aforementioned, including some soul/scat guests.

As previously reported, Dark Passion Play will be released by Nuclear Blast on September 28th, Spinefarm Records/Universal on September 26th and by Roadrunner Records on September 28th.


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