To quote Wikipedia, a phoenix is a “mythical bird that dies in flames and is reborn from the ashes”. When it was announced that Tarja has been asked to leave the band, the end of NIGHTWISH was rumored to be upon us. A big search for a new vocalist began and was ended when Anette Olzon was welcomed unto the stage. NIGHTWISH then really went all out with this album, recording it at Abbey Road Studios and recruiting the London Session Orchestra to be the wind beneath its impressive wings.
The album starts with quite a bang, "The Poet And The Pendulum" is the longest track NIGHTWISH has made so far in their career and clocking in at 13 minutes it deserves special mention. In my experience, only a few bands have been able to create a song of this length and make it so interesting, intriguing and astonishing all the way through. A lot of anger is apparent on this album and it is the voice of Marko Hietala leading the charge. He really impresses here, freed from the reigns he had on previous releases; "TPATP" is an orchestral stampede with some of the heaviest NIGHTWISH we have ever heard. The violent charge is quickly reigned in towards the end, with the superb voice of Anette lulling things back towards calm.
"Bye Bye Beautiful" follows, the alliteration mingling 80s-esque keyboards and poppy bass lines. The poppy ness of the song is notable and perhaps significant, not to jump to any assumptions, but I think we all know who the main inspiration of this song was. I must admit, the first time I heard the second single of the album, "Amaranth," I was watching the video through an online stream, and the first words to jump to mind were “god” and “ABBA”. Yes, spell it, A-B-B-A. (I’m not confessing to being an ABBA fan, where I grew up, it was kind of hard to avoid.) Now this is not a bad thing, Anette’s vocal style brings a completely new dimension to NIGHTWISH, and as a fan that stopped the streaming video within a minute and reached for the vodka, I am now happy to jump into that dimension. With all the previous NIGHTWISH albums, there was always a sense of sadness to the music, pushed forward by Tarja’s powerful and moving vocals. With Anette onboard, that has somehow changed, it seems happier now, sadness partly replaced by anger. Her voice bring a sense of relief that shines forth a lighter side to NIGHTWISH’s music, yet it is as moving as ever; there is a lot of emotion to be found on this album, which at times mix spectacularly with a wide range of sites and sounds.
This is a well-crafted, well-balanced album and after sitting transfixed, listening to "The Islander" (the album takes a quick Celtic kink towards the end), I am hoping that this is the NIGHTWISH we are graced with in the coming years. Building on what was first introduced on “Once”, DPP is a heavy, epic, symphonic feast for the ears and imagination, immediately recognizable as NIGHTWISH, even without Tarja’s (up to now) trademark voice. “I need to die to feel alive”, the phoenix has risen from the ashes and it seems stronger now than ever. The 8/10 I give this album, doesn’t quite justify it, the last 2 points are kept in reserve to add if I still listen to this in 5 years time, but for now it’ll be soaring near the top of my playlist.
(Online December 26, 2007)