Dark Passion Play is the sixth studio album by Finnish symphonic metal band Nightwish, released on 26 September 2007 in Finland, 28 September in Europe and 2 October 2007 in the United States. It is the first album without original vocalist Tarja Turunen, who was dismissed in 2005, as well as the first album involving future member Troy Donockley on uilleann pipes and tin whistle. It is the first of only two albums with vocalist Anette Olzon, who was eventually dismissed in 2012 after the release of the band's subsequent album, Imaginaerum. Tuomas Holopainen has referred to it as the "album that saved his life".
The first single, "Eva", was leaked on the Internet six days before its official release, prompting the band to release the single earlier to boost downloads. Several other versions of the song were posted on YouTube and torrent sites a month later; the entire album with record label voiceovers had been leaked on the Internet by 2 August. The full album (without voiceovers) was leaked on 21 September 2007, as a result of several stores in Mexico selling the retail album much prior to the worldwide release date.
Pre-orders for Dark Passion Play had it certified gold in Finland before it had even been released. The album debuted at number one in 6 European countries, selling over 100,000 copies in Finland (triple platinum) alone. In February 2008, the album was certified quadruple-platinum in Finland, after having sold over 120,000 copies, which makes it one of the 40 best-selling albums of all time in the country. It has also sold 134,000 copies in the United States. Worldwide, Dark Passion Play has sold over 2 million copies since its release, being Nightwish's most successful album to date.
On 21 October 2005, after the Once Upon a Tour, the band's lead singer Tarja Turunen was dismissed via an open letter. In search of a replacement, the band conducted auditions from 17 March 2006 to 15 January 2007, receiving over 2000 demo tapes in the process. Amidst much speculation the new singer was officially announced on 24 May 2007 to be Anette Olzon, previously the singer for the Swedish AOR band Alyson Avenue. In an interview, Holopainen said they had made the decision in January 2007 based on the impression she made while performing the song "Ever Dream" from the album Century Child.
The recording process started in the spring 2006 in different studios across Europe; the drums were recorded by Nevalainen in Hollola, Finland, at the Petrax Studios, Emppu Vuorinen recorded the guitars in Kerava, Finland, were also record the keyboards by Holopainen and the bass parts by Marco Hietala. Hietala is also the band's male singer, and in 2006 Hietala sung some of the new songs to record the demo versions as a base for the final recordings, with definitive vocals being recorded by Olzon at the Petrax in March 2007, immediately after being chosen to replace Tarja Turunen, and nearly two months before her name was given to the media and the fans.
When the drummer Jukka Nevalainen was asked about the overall cost of the new album, he was quoted as saying "Roughly half a million... We don't know the exact sum down to the euros and cents as yet." Half of this cost was incurred in London, over an expensive eight days at the Abbey Road Studios in London, UK, during which time the London Session Orchestra, the Metro Voices Choir, a gospel choir and two Irish musicians recorded their parts at the studio. In an interview with Kerrang! on 16 August 2008 Tuomas Holopainen recalled:
After the split with Tarja, we started writing without a singer, and it was quite a liberating feeling. We knew the right girl was out there somewhere, so we could just concentrate on the music. It took 10 months in the studio to make, but the atmosphere was so good and liberating there was a lot of bittersweet relief in the air. It was an extremely inspirational time.
"When I think back to it, it was such a crucial point to so many people, we didn't even realise back then but it showed us what we would be doing for the next year of our lives. We were never nervous about Anette, or the album being good, but we just couldn't tell how people would take it. Would they like Anette? Would they like the music? That was in the back of our minds all the time. And there was such a huge amount of money involved, over 800.000 euros, that we needed to sell at least a few albums to get going," Tuomas Holopainen was recalling in 2008.
The orchestral line-up featured 66 members from the London Philharmonic Orchestra, 32 singers from The Metro Voices and twelve gospel singers. The final mixing process spent more than 75 days at the Finnvox Studios in Kitee, Finland, the same place where Nightwish recorded all their previous albums.
Before the album's release, band leader Tuomas Holopainen said in an interview that the album would have a lot in common with the previous album Once. For example, the band have kept the new kind of heavier songs, such as "Master Passion Greed", "Whoever Brings the Night", "7 Days to the Wolves", and "Bye Bye Beautiful", but additionally there are softer ballads, such as "Meadows of Heaven", "Eva", and "The Islander". This album includes lots of guest musicians and orchestral parts, just like Once, but with a bigger level.
Just like the album Once, Nightwish included many new influences and experimentations in several tracks. On Once, much inspiration came from Native American music, especially "Creek Mary's Blood", which featured Lakota Indian musician John Two-Hawks. However, on Dark Passion Play, much inspiration comes from Finnish and Irish culture and music, which can be clearly heard on "Last of the Wilds". Songs like "Master Passion Greed" and "Cadence of Her Last Breath" included thrash metal and alternative metal elements as well, displaying the newer, more modern sound of the band. In a later interview, Hietela said the band "didn't get as far with it [the song] as we wanted to when we recorded the song in the studio – we wanted it to be a little bit more impressive".
Holopainen also said that there are darker pieces reminiscent of the album Century Child, such as "The Poet and the Pendulum", and some others. It will be a dark album, both musically and lyrically. Even though the album is much more upbeat than Century Child. Songs that reflect this mood are for example the second single "Amaranth" and "Bye Bye Beautiful"'s B-side "Escapist."
The album has sold more than 130,000 copies in Finland to date, placing 26th on the list of best-selling Finnish albums ever released, which has granted it a platinum certification four times. "Dark Passion Play" has sold over 2 million copies worldwide. It has been certified as 2x platinum in Switzerland, Platinum in Hungary, Germany, and Gold in Sweden, Austria and Poland; Dark Passion Play is also the most successful Nightwish album in UK and USA.
As of January 2008, the album has topped the album charts in six countries; the singles, "Amaranth" and "Erämaan Viimeinen" have both reached the first position on Finnish charts. According to Last.fm, "Dark Passion Play" is their most played album, and its successful single "Amaranth" has as of February 2009 been holding the position of most played song since its release.
The album was also critically acclaimed in most reviews. Allmusic called the album a "sort of opera aria" and praised "Bye Bye Beautiful", on a track pic and "Eva", that they say it focus on the new vocalist vocal abilities.
The album was also given a positive review by Blabbermouth's Keith Bergman, who gave the album a 7.5 out of 10 and stated that it "may not be a masterpiece throughout, but it's got enough moments of symphonic metal bliss to warrant a high recommendation. About.com writer, Chad Bowar, gave the album a score of 4 out of 5 stars, calling Dark Passion Play "an excellent album that's right up there with the best the band has done."
In 2016, an article by Teamrock considers Dark Passion Play as one of the "best albums of this century", ranking it at number 60 on their countdown of the "21st century's greatest albums".
To promote the release of the album, Nightwish played the Dark Passion Play World Tour, that took place from 2007 to 2009.
On 22 September 2007, the band hosted a secret concert at Rock Café in Tallinn, Estonia, disguising itself as a Nightwish cover band called "Nachtwasser". Their first official concert with the new singer was in Tel Aviv, Israel on 6 October 2007. The Dark Passion Play tour thus started, visiting the United States, Canada, most of Europe, Asia, and Australia. In 2008, the band played over 100 shows, with dates in Oceania, Europe and Asia. In November, the band played in South America, and before this leg they took a three-month break; Nightwish began the third leg in 2009, with dates in North America and Europe, and also playing in several summer metal festivals, including Graspop Metal Meeting and Masters of Rock. The last show was played in Helsinki, Finland, in front of 10,000 fans.
The support bands were changing throughout the tour. The frequent acts were the Finnish pop rock female group Indica, Swedish metal band Sonic Syndicate and the Swedish industrial metal band Pain. The USA tour was supported by Gothic metal band Paradise Lost. In the last concert, the opening band was the Finnish act Apocalyptica. On 11 March 2009, was released an EP/DVD, Made in Hong Kong, with 8 live tracks recorded during the tour in various concerts; the DVD contains three music videos as well as a documentary featuring material from Israel to South America, directed by Ville Lipiäinen.
All lyrics written by Tuomas Holopainen; all music composed by Holopainen except where noted.
Credits for Dark Passion Play adapted from liner notes.