Sometimes an album drops into your review inbox and you pause and think “hold, on yer man’s name seems familiar!” Such was the case when Marko Hietala’s release ‘Pyre Of The Black Heart’.
A quick confirmatory check on the PR blurb accompanying it, and yes, it is yer man from Nightwish, just with a ‘k’ instead of a ‘c’ (why?).
We’ve always had a soft spot for a bit of symphonic stuff – don’t hate us – so we fired up the 10 tracks, wanting to see what Mr Hietal had to offer on this solo release. And, first impressions were, ‘wish he hadn’t bothered’. Thus it lay undisturbed in the dark recesses of the computer memory for a week or so.
But we are nothing if not masochistic musically, so a few more spins were at least worth a go before consigning it to ‘Deleted Items’. We’re glad we did. True we don’t find it a great album, but Pyre Of The Black Heart has some great tracks.
We know Marko has a superb voice, we know his contribution and performing with Nightwish, and we know his diversions with Tarot, but, now as he admitted, he has no financial constraints he can merrily record an album without any need for it t succeed.
Where we had an initial issue with this was the relaxed tempo of the initial tracks – but that is where expectation can clash with reality. Sure, ‘Stones’ has a bit of meat as it progresses, but ‘The Voice of My Father’ meanders in some acoustic melodrama.
From there the release picks up (yes, after we listened again to it), with ‘Dead God’s Son’, stumbles a little with the sincere sounding if a little indulgent and slooooow. Followed by ‘I Am The Way’ we were beginning to despair until the keyboard picked it up from the horizontal for a while, before finally some guitar lines that rescued it from mediocrity.
Then comes the deliciously daft ‘Runner Of The Railways’. Stupid, hard rock with a knowing nod from Marko that he is having a laugh, including a trade off between keys and guitar that is reminiscent of when Blackmore and Lord clicked off each others licks. With Tuomas Wäinölä (guitar) and Vili Ollila (keyboards) and Anssi Nykänen (drummer) and Marko are having a lot of fun.
The remaining three songs (Death March For Freedom, I Dream, and Truth Shall Set You Free) together with ‘Runner’ probably represent the strongest of the set.
To see Pyre Of The Black Heart as a musician having the time and space to indulge in a personal wankfest would be close to what we initially felt, but it is a lot more. This represents Mark Hietala working through ideas and musical thoughts that wouldn’t fit within Nightwish but are deserving of an airing.
He describes it as ‘hard prog’. We’re not sure what exactly that means, but it is close enough to what Hietala has achieved. Not an album packed with surefire hits, but an album with enough to earn a listen.
And, no it will not be heading to the Deleted Files folder.
Pyre Of The Black Heart is out now on Nuclear Blast