With Anette Olzon (formely of Alyson Avenue), they finally found someone suitable for the spot - and released the record Dark Passion Play, an album positively received by professional criticism but hated by hardcore fans.
For me personally, I have some history with Nightwish. They were one of the bands who brought me into metal. Although I wasn't always that much of a fan, they popped up in my playlist over the years again and again, which gave them a steady ranking in my Top 50.
Then there was Once, an album which I thought was absolutely awful, I didn't even dare to listen, because Nightwish was now playing on MTV - for me an absolute no-go.
After a year or so, I finally got in touch with the material and listened to the album a bit more closely. Soon, I found some true gems on it, which still remain to be my all time favourites (best example: Ghost Love Score, a song I got to know as the background for a YTMND clip and since then started to love) - and although most tracks of the album have failed to gain my interest, I still consider it a good and solid album today.
The same can be said for Dark Passion Play, too. When I first heard the new singer's voice - and the new track, Eva, too - I was absolutely shocked. The song lacked any metallic elements and although I'm not much of a metal purist, this wasn't the Nightwish I knew. I still dislike Eva to the day, because I don't think the song got any potential. It doesn't even reflect what Nightwish are, what they were and what they can be.
I knew I was going to dislike the new album a lot and I picked out one song which I was totally going to hate. Amaranth. I thought, a Nightwish song should not sound like that, it shouldn't be presented like that, I disliked the video and on top of it, the song was featured in a German television preview - on prime-time. This weren't the Nightwish I knew, this wasn't the band I listened to so many years ago.
And today, as I write this journal entry, there is this certain song I listen to on repeat, because it's stuck in my head. And - yes, it's Amaranth.
Seriously, I'm not one to say Nightwish is taking a direction which I personally support. To be honest, I find most of the songs of the new album to be bland, mediocre to say the least. Still, they had to make some kind of progress. And that these steps they are taking, given the popularity they enjoyed already for Once, goes in a more mainsteam direction, was clear. You don't turn to extremes when your albums go to platin. With that in mind you also have to rate Anette. She's not a bad singer, we all can agree on that. In fact, she's a very gifted singer, but her vocal style is a completely different from Tarja whatsoever. She's a pop singer, not a classical sopranist, as Tarja was. She never was and she will never be a rock singer, and that's clear. And she doesn't need to be. But the band had a difficult decision to make. They couldn't just take another sopranist, everybody would start to compare her to Tarja, a comparison which she, no matter how good she was going to be, would lose. And they couldn't just employ anyone. They had to search for a female singer with stage experience, some one with charisma - certainly the looks mattered, too - a true frontwoman.
They also had to choose a woman who did not achieve world fame before, simply because if they chose one of their concurring band singers (and there are countless female fronted metal bands in their genre), this would mean that they were drifting completely towards the style of this band. People would have heard the voice before, a voice they connect with another band. They chose an underdog singer who was talented and experienced enough to front the band, but unknown to the audience.
And they made the right decision. When Blaze Bayley joined Iron Maiden, he never could replace Bruce Dickinson. In fact, the band tried to do something different. The music got a different character, evolved. And although I too prefer the Bruce Dickinson Maiden songs, the two Maiden albums with Blaze are good ones. There are many good songs on it, if only people could neglect the fact a little that this is the same band which made songs like 'The Trooper' or 'The Number of the Beast'.
It's the same with Nightwish. I am sure that with a different name, even purist Nightwish fans would perhaps even buy and love the album.
To shorten it up a bit: It may not be the Nightwish you used to know. It may not be their best album. But in order to survive, they had to change. A lot. And it worked for them, Dark Passion Play is selling good, they are playing in front of huge audiences. Your opinion will not result in a return to Tarja. They are not gonna do that. They have changed. Iced Earth did it, so did Iron Maiden (multiple times), even AC/DC successfully replaced a vocalist. All of these bands had to face the same kind of struggle Nightwish has to live through today. And all of these bands are still active today (well, Dickinson returned to Maiden, thankfully if I might say so) and their new singer is now welcomed by fans and critics.
If you don't like the music, the vocals, or anything like it. Fine, it's not everyone's cup of tea. But please stop bitching about how Tarja was better when you don't even take the time to get in touch with new material, like I did before.
I got to listen to the album multiple times. It's not the old Nightwish, it's something different, but I still think a band has a right to evolve, it's necessary to keep the spirit alive. If it's a direction you don't particularly like, much like me, it's okay. If you do, however, find the music extremely good, but your ego or musical taste or some clichés you're living just don't let you appreciate it, please think outside the box.
The old Nightwish will never return. Accept the new, or listen to the old stuff only.