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  • Review: Nightwish - Dark Passion Play

    Dic 3 2007, 14:56

    Artist: Nightwish
    Album: Dark Passion Play

    I know it's been out a little while now, but I wanted to make sure I got everything in my head before writing this.

    So let's get right in to it. Nightwish is finally back after a two year hiatus and loss of their vocalist, Tarja. So we waited patiently for this, and I'll start off by saying I really enjoyed Nightwish before, though I wouldn't say I was a huge fan. Once was probably my favorite album, and I know it wasn't for many old school Nightwish fans. Nonetheless, the loss of Tarja made me skeptical, but I didn't consider them doomed.

    Now Dark Passion Play is here, with Anette Olzen on vocals, and for me, she does not disappoint one bit. In fact, I find her an improvement over Tarja's vocals which often struck me as a bit over-operatic. The counter argument seems to be that Anette sounds too popish, and while I can understand where people are coming from, I find it a lot easier to listen to, and that it fits the epic sound of the album better.

    The first track is used to reintroduce the band, in case we've forgotten just who they are. This track, The Poet and the Pendulum, does a great job of reminding us that Nightwish was more than just Tarja, and their production could not be more perfect. It also allows for a powerful introduction of Anette without making us feel like they're forcing her on us. This track is a bit hard to describe, but epic would probably be the best way. Fully orchestrated, fast, powerful, almost everything I look for in symphonic power metal. As a side note, the track's title and parts of the lyrics are a reference to the Edgar Allan Poe story, the Pit and the Pendulum. I'd say the only real downside to this track is that it may be the best on the album, and everything after might not live up up to such an amazing opening, though I don't totally agree as the ending track is just as amazing.

    Next is Bye Bye Beautiful, which I believe is another of the recent singles for the album. It begins fairly typical Nightwish with a simple melody, then the heavier guitar work. This is the first track where Anette's vocals are in what could be considered a 'normal' track and she's still as harmonic and beautiful to listen to. This track also allows Marco to show off his own vocal abilities in a solo chorus. It's reminiscent of I Wish I Had an Angel from Once. The track is quite good, though probably one of the more generic of the album.

    Amaranth comes next, which most people heard early being the first single. I did, as well, and when I saw the video I knew that if the rest of the album was like that, I would be very pleased. The first track Anette gets all to herself, and she can handle it easily. It has a radio-friendly feel to it, seeing that it's a single, so it's not particularly long or heavy, and probably where a lot of the pop-music comparisons began, but it's still one of my favorite tracks on the album. The chorus is catchy and has a great melody. The video itself is also rather good. Based on a painting called 'The Wounded Angel' by Hugo Simberg, it begins somewhat dark, despite the tone of the song. Anette also looks gorgeous in it, and everytime she glanced at the camera my heart would skip a beat. Sort of the 'Nemo' of this album. I found the total orchestral version, and it really makes you notice the work that goes into making some of these songs sound bombastic.

    Cadence of Her Last Breath begins in a similar way to Bye Bye Beautiful, with a simple melody then the guitar coming in. Though this one features Anette mostly, with only a little Marco during the chorus. The guitar solo in the song makes it stand out, but otherwise an average track as far as this particular album is concerned. Still good, but I don't think I really dislike any track on this album.

    Master Passion Greed seems to be a throwback to older, darker Nightwish. It's definitely the 'metal' track of the album, and cuts back on orchestral work significantly but not completely. It's also a Marco-only track. I know a few people who also love this album and hate this track, and since I have a wider taste in metal, I still like it, but feel it sort of throws off the feel of the album and doesn't totally fit well. Still a better track than many metal bands out there, and if it were on some other random album, I'd probably find it to be a diamond in the sand.

    Eva is the second single and first ballad of the album. Anette really gets to show off her vocal capability without loud guitars to drown her out some. Nothing very special at first, though I'm particularly fond of the lyrics, the solo (as it's slow and easy for me to play along with) and the last minute or so when they really bring in the other instruments.

    Sahara has that sort of Egyptian sound to it, fitting with the title and lyrics, though not to the extent Symphony X's Egypt did it. Slightly heavier than the previous tracks but keeps a good balance of orchestral moments. A solid, if somewhat generic, track.

    Whoever Brings the Night is even heavier than the last, simpler guitar work and lyrics. Not really a challenge on Anette's vocals, and none of the song stands out to me very much. Another sort of filler track that probably could have been dropped for the people claiming the album is too long. Still, not bad, as no song on the album is, but one of the weaker.

    For the Heart I Once Had takes the tempo of the album back to Amaranth and Cadence, balancing metal and orchestra. I think this song flows a bit better than Cadence, and has a catchier chorus. Not much to say about this one otherwise.

    The Islander takes the album in a totally different direction with a folk melody and acoustic guitars. On top of this, the vocals are not only written by Marco, but are performed by him as well, a departure from his usual role of the 'metal' singer in the band. It does still feature Anette, but only for backup during the latter part. I'd consider it a standout track, despite the lack of powerful orchestra or metal guitars. It heads right into Last of the Wilds which continues the folk tone, but returns to metal as well. This one is totally instrumental, allowing Nightwish to show off their abilities once again.

    7 Days to the Wolves is another similar to Bye Bye Beautiful, featuring both Anette and Marco, though the chorus is performed by both. I'd say it surpasses that one as it simply sounds better musically. Describing how is difficult, but I suppose the harmony of both Anette and Marco is more impressive than Marco alone on Bye Bye.

    Meadows of Heaven is the closing track, and essentially another ballad at first. The tempo starts off slow and quiet, with a beautiful melody to accompany Anette's vocals. As the song goes, it only gets better and more epic. It definitely has the feel of a solid final track. The feel of many vocalists singing in harmony at the end makes it seem like it should come right before the credits in an epic fantasy movie. Songs like this make me wish I was one to choose music for such, as bands like this would get much more recognition. Anette really shines here, and this is easily one of, if not my favorite, tracks.

    So overall, I feel this album is one of the finest compilations of symphonic power metal to date. It embodies the sort of epic, and I know I've overused that word by now, sound that I look for. Anette is an amazing vocalist with a beautiful voice and gorgeous look. I think the band will continue to be strong with her aboard.

    The downside is simply a few average tracks that aren't even that average, just compared to some of the other tracks on the album, meaning you'd be hard pressed to find another album with such high production values, strength, passion and power that this one carries.

    A number rating system is pointless, because I'd rate it perfectly, but at the same time I'd have to score it slightly lower only because I'd wonder if they can shock me and do even better next time. In which case, what really would deserve a perfect rating?

    So, simply, If you're a fan of symphonic metal and haven't got it yet, then go right now. Don't even finish reading this. You've waited too long already. If you're a Nightwish fan, then you've obviously already heard at least some of it to make your own opinion, but in case you were living on Mars for a year, I suggest you give it a listen, even if you're a hardcore Tarja/Old Nightwish fan. If you're a fan of other bands on my profile and for some reason Nightwish has evaded you, then listen to it immediately. I don't think you'll be disappointed.
  • Review: Kamelot - Ghost Opera

    Mag 4 2007, 15:15

    Well i'm just a random power metal addict, but figured i'd start reviewing things out of boredom. I was mainly inspired to give a more detailed opinion on Ghost Opera, so it will be my first.

    Review-
    Artist:Kamelot
    Album:Ghost Opera

    So it's that time again for the kings of Power Metal to release another work of art. After the masterpieces that were Epica and The Black Halo, it seemed difficult to believe this amazing group of musicians could top themselves. Well, sadly that suspicion turned out to be true this time around. But don't let that fool you, this is hardly a bad collection of tracks, and if this were any band beside Kamelot, it would probably be said band's best release.

    The album begins off that sets the atmosphere pretty well with an opening track called 'Solitaire'. The violin work is a great lead in to the first actual track.

    Typically, Kamelot's opening tracks have been some of my favorites. The Fourth Legacy, Forever, Center of the Universe and then March of Mephisto. 'Rule The World' has a great energy and the dark sound definately feels like Kamelot after they established a similar style in The Black Halo. One of the better tracks on the album with solid riffs and a nice background with the symphonic elements. The part about this track that bothers me is the chorus seems more like a lead-in, rather than an actual chorus. A pre-chorus to be more specific. I feel like this track should resemble The Black Halo or such in which after what is considered the chrous comes a more harmonic and epic actual chorus.

    Afterwards, we're not given much chance to rest as we're engulfed by the title track which most had heard early on. 'Ghost Opera'. This track had to grow on me at first, but it has become one of my favorite Kamelot tracks period. It has a fierce energy of songs like The Black Halo, with a haunting ambiance. Definately a Ghost Opera. I love the symphonic backdrop in this song especially, and it really meshes with the whole song well, particularly the chorus. The only problem I have is the small break between the two parts of the chorus seems odd at first, but soon works in your mind.

    'The Human Stain' is another one of my favorites on this album. The beginning is a bit of a throw off, with an almost industrial, harsh sound to it. For some reason, Rammstein comes to mind, but not quite. After this comes the light keyboard work in which the tune really defines the song, in my opinion. The chorus here is the sort of melodic arrangement I was hoping for on Rule The World. I wish it repeated once more at the end to really give it the extra kick it needed, but still great nonetheless. Probably my second favorite track after Ghost Opera. From here, it seems like Kamelot might have another masterpiece on their hands Sadly, these tracks are probably the height of the album.

    'Blücher' resembles the previous track in tempo, but with a more mysterious refrain. I really don't have a whole lot to say about it. It's not one that has grown on me terribly well. Average by Kamelot standards. 'Love You To Death' is the first ballad. Great vocal performance by Khan as always. Another good one overall, and one of the better ballads by Kamelot, though not their best. I like the solos that are slower, because it makes them easier to play along with, in my case at least, heh.

    'Up Through The Ashes' ranks above Blücher, mainly for the nice chorus it has to it, but the rest is sort of bland. 'Mourning Star' has a nice sound to it, and probably my favorite solo on the album. This is where the album drops off a bit, in my opinion. None of the songs past this point impressed me in any particular way. 'Silence In The Darkness' is a nice change of pace after a relatively 'mellow' string of songs. I'd say it resembles When The Lights Are Down from The Black Halo. Short length, quick tempo, catchy chorus. Not quite as good as that one, in my opinion, however.

    'Anthem' is the second ballad. Quieter than Love You To Death, resembling tracks like Don't You Cry and Abandoned. Sort of generic though. The closing track 'Edenecho' is a rather suitable finish like Serenade was previously, it's not quite as gothic sounding as most of the other tracks, which is also a nice change of pace. For some, it may be too late though.

    Overall, the production of the album is outstanding as always. Kamelot does not dissapoint in making it sound like they are an army of epic musicians with a goal of giving you the best power/symphonic metal possible. Khan sounds as great as always, Youngblood's guitar work is solid still and so is the rest of the arrangements. The feel of the album stays consistant in a good way, and it definately feels like Kamelot.

    The main problem is, it feels more like a grouping of 'average' Kamelot songs, rather than amazing ones. There are a few good tracks, but they fail to meet the standards set by even some of the lesser Epica and Black Halo pieces. I just never got that sense of awe from listening to it. So in the end, I am dissapointed, but I recognize the quality nontheless. I suppose it is difficult to continue to top work that is considered nearly perfect each time, and I honestly did not expect it to be better than The Black Halo, but I was hoping it would at least be better than The Fourth Legacy, Karma and possibly even Epica. Sadly, it does not top any of them.

    Like I said before, if this were any other band, i'd be impressed, but Kamelot has been my clear favorite for some time now, so my expectations of them are understandably higher.

    Determining a rating system is difficult, since so many ratings are arbitrary. Therefore i'm going with a 5 star system, which i'll try to explain.

    1 Star - Awful. Don't even bother listening to this so-called 'music'.
    2 Star - Average. Either overall boring/average or a few decent tracks surrounded by poor ones. Probably not worth looking into unless you're a big fan of the band or genre.
    3 Star - Good. A solid work with minor flaws and if you like the band, probably worth your time and possibly your money.
    4 Star - Great. The album is some of the best out there. Probably has a tiny flaw or two that keeps it out of that 5 range.
    5 Star - Perfect, or Almost Perfect. Is there such thing as the perfect album? The problem with scoring is there's always the possibility that something will come out that is better. Nonetheless, 5 stars should be in your collection without a doubt if you're a fan of the genre and even possibly if you aren't.


    Kamelot's Ghost Opera recieves a 3.5/5.

    I think half stars are usually crap, but it was too difficult to choose between a 3 and a 4. By Kamelot standards, it's probably a 3, but by general standards probably a 4. The production is perfect, but the songs, while many good, lack a 'wow' feeling that the previous few had.