The new singer Annette has a pleasant voice, but it feels too pop-like and average for the intensity of the songs. Annette's vocals are at times just plain unsuited to the dark lyrics and themes...what you are left with is an oddly jarring experience, like a Disney princess has wandered into a metal concert by mistake! Her soft vocals suit songs like Meadows of Heaven but she does not have enough power behind her voice for heavy songs like Amaranth or Poet And the Pendulum. She sounds like she is competing with the music. Annette simply doesn't match up and is the weakness in the chain of new Nightwish. On the positive side, Annette has much better English diction than Tarja.
The music and lyrics are, as always, on good form. My only criticism is that it often feels 'over the top' - as if the band members are conscious of needing to up the drama and intensity to make up for the lack of a powerful singer. An important point to make about this album is the bitterness that comes through a lot of the songs...Master Passion Greed, Bye Bye Beautiful and the lyrics of a few other songs are a blatant dig at ex-singer Tarja and her husband Marcelo...it's clear that the band are 'airing their dirty laundry'. To be honest, I'd rather the band left their catfights out of their music.
To summarise- this is a good solid album with some moments of sheer brilliance, but fails to reach the heights of previous Nightwish albums. An average singer, evident bitterness towards Tarja and a more commercially-focused mindset in the band are the key issues that need to be resolved before Nightwish are back on top form.