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Marko Hietala – Pyre Of The Black Heart Award winner

Marko Hietala
Pyre Of The Black Heart
by Joseth Radiant at 18 March 2020, 6:13 PM

So apparently, I’ve been living under a rock not knowing that Marko Hietala is the bass player, as well as supplying additional vocals, for the almighty Finnish titans of Metal that is NIGHTWISH. His solo debut album has a lot to offer for those that are big NIGHTWISH fans, as it is apparent that Marko is indeed a powerful creative force within our beloved Symphonic Metal champions. We have a saying here in the American South that describes how I approached listening to "Pyre of the Black Heart", which is that I had “no dog in this fight”. That phrase is usually reserved for when someone is watching two sports teams play against each other where you are not a fan of either team. Even though I had and have no dog in the fight when it comes to all things NIGHTWISH related, and I was still able to really enjoy this album.

I’m well aware that there is a narrative out in the Metal community that side projects are seen as “second-class” or “filler until we get the music we really want”. The people that tend to have this opinion have no idea what it’s like to be a creative person at all. It’s very rare that a human being is content simply doing anything over and over again. Our minds tend to wander to other ideas to break up the monotony of the task we are currently doing. That impulse is even stronger for creative people. I personally enjoy side projects and solo records because it’s like in getting to hear a different perspective of an artist that I know. What I find is refreshing about "Pyre of the Black Heart" is that Marko was able to enlist the help of a supporting cast of musicians that really helped give these songs a life of their own. On guitar, we have Tuomas Wäinölä, who has been described as one of the hired freelance guitarists in the length and breadth of Finland. Marko made a really good choice by selecting him as a guitarist. His quality of playing has such subtle elegance that truly compliments whatever is happening in a song. Whether it’s the lilting melodies that can be found on "The Voice Of My Father" to the slamming riffing and soloing with strong Folk elements of "Runner Of The Railways", Tuomas’ playing really shine from start to finish.

On keys, we have Vili Ollila, whose keyboard playing is a Swiss Army knife of talent. He utilizes synth playing and sequencing on songs like "For You" and "The Voice of My Father" that will be familiar to NIGHTWISH fans. But his playing gets even more dynamic as you dig into the album. On songs like "Runner of the Railways", his Jon Lord influence comes through to give the music a delightfully fiery DEEP PURPLE feel. On drums, Anssi Nykänen perfectly rounds out the lineup with an impeccable sense of knowing when to lay back in the pocket and when to pound his drums into oblivion. Marko did a fantastic job of choosing the right musicians to create his own music, and by all accounts, he is aware of that. In his own words, he states enthusiastically that, “Even if "Pyre of the Black Heart" is definitely my solo album, I didn’t compose everything on my own. When the songwriting process was really in full swing, I kept sending all the ideas to my long-time collaborators Tuomas and Vili, and this ingenious two-some came up with great additions and arrangements, one after another. Anssi – who is a wizard behind his set – completed the lineup like no other.” So now that we know about the lineup, let’s dig into the musical content.

Truthfully, I didn’t quite get how powerful of an album "Pyre of the Black Heart" is at first. It took me a few lessons to fully understand it. But I discovered that the more I dug into the album, the more I understood not only what Marko is all about, but also what NIGHTWISH is all about. There are indeed similarities between his full-time gig and his solo album. However, due to the quality of the lineup, these songs have the cohesion and flow of an established band hitting their creative stride. The last time I was excited about a side project was for the Hard Rock supergroup KXM. Once I understood the greatness of this album, I realized that I had a little dilemma on my hands. For all of the categories that we judge albums by here at Metal Temple, I have to somewhat reluctantly admit that on all points, this is a 10 out of 10 album. I don’t hand out 10 out of 10 ratings like candy, but I have to say that this has truly won me over. And yes, as always, BUY THIS ALBUM!!!

Songwriting: 10
Musicianship: 10
Memorability: 10
Production: 10

5 Star Rating

1. Stones
2. The Voice Of My Father
3. Star, Sand, and Shadow
4. Dead God’s Son
5. For You
6. I Am The Way
7. Runner of the Railways
8. Death March for Freedom
9. I Dream
10. Truth Shall Set You Free
Marko Hietala – Bass, Vocals
Tuomas Wäinölä – Guitar
Vili Ollila – Keyboards, synthesizers
Anssi Nykänen – Drums
Record Label: Nuclear Blast Records


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