I want to start by saying that I’m not a huge Tarja fan. She’s talented enough, but for my money there are plenty of other female vocalists out there who are as good if not better than the ousted diva. It’s a shame Nightwish couldn’t have picked one of them to be their new vocalist after their much publicized split with Tarja. When you have what is arguably the biggest female fronted metal band in the world, you should have your pick of great singers. I’m stunned that Annette Olzon is the best they could come up with. I’m sure she’s a perfectly lovely person, and I could care less that she doesn’t do the whole operatic thing (which can get on my nerves after a while), but the sad fact is she’s just not suited for this type of music and is way out of her league here. If Lullacry needs a new singer, I’m sure she’d be a great replacement, but this is Nightwish, people!
What makes this even more of a shame is that musically Dark Passion Play is probably the absolute best album the band has written. I was impressed with Once, but the songwriting and symphonic arrangements on this album are simply awe-inspiring. This is epic metal on par with Therion. With any other vocalist – Tarja, Floor from After Forever, Simone from Epica – this would have been Nightwish’s greatest achievement. Even a male singer would have worked (seriously, imagine this album with Evergrey’s Tom Englund at the mic). Instead, it just seems like a missed opportunity.
Musically, Dark Passion Play rates 5 stars easily. The vocals deserve 2 stars. I tried to give Annette a fair try, but her voice is just not right here. I think I’m going to have to trade this one in for the “collector’s edition” that comes with a bonus disc featuring an instrumental version of the album. That should be a lot easier to tolerate.
One last thing, the songs aimed at Tarja and her husband are just plain petty. I know the split wasn’t amicable, but there are umpteen press releases and interviews that make that plain. Your dirty laundry has no business on the album though.