Nightwish bassist/vocalist Marko Hietala gives us the English version of his 2019 Finnish release, Mustan Sydamen Rovio, and it's an interesting mix of classic hard rock sounds and the more folky and symphonic side of his main band.
What's Hot?We already know that Hietala is an incredible songwriter, and that's on full display on Pyre of the Black Heart, both in composition and lyrics. Most of the songs here delve for lyrical depth, but I also enjoy that he's not afraid to have a little juvenile fun in his songwriting, as evidenced by the line in "Stones" where he sings "am I the butt of their constant crack?" There are also some interesting choices here and there on the album, like the synth-heavy sound of "Star, Sand and Shadow" which probably ends up closer to Nightwish than just about anything else here. But I really like when he just goes for the straight-up rock. "Death March for Freedom" is one of my most-played songs of the young year, mixing old-school, Deep Purple-style hard rock with some folky melodies. Hietala's vocals remain just as incredible, dark and powerful as fans of Nightwish and the many other bands that he's worked with would expect.
What's Not?The album is a little ballad-heavy for my tastes, but to be fair, most of those ballads do sound fantastic in the original Finnish. "The Voice of My Father," in particular, haunts in the original language as "Isani Aani," which flows far better than the English lyric.
The VerdictPyre of the Black Heart features a fantastic collection of songs that showcase Hietala as a vocalist, composer and songwriter. He mixes rock, folk and pop very well to deliver an early contender. Most of the songs, however, are a bit stronger in the original Finnish. They just sound more natural and magical in Hietala's native language.
Check out: "Stones," "Star, Sand and Shadow," "Dead God's Son," "Death March for Freedom," "I Dream"
Consider: "The Voice of My Father" (but definitely check out "Isani Aani"), "I am the Way," "Runner of the Railways," "Truth Shall Set You Free"
Skip: "For You"