Marko Hietala – Pyre Of The Black Heart (Album Review)

While being best known for his work as bassist and vocalist of Nightwish, there is much more to Marko Hietala than meets the eye. A multi-talented musician and songwriter, at long last he is set to to deliver his debut solo album, Pyre Of The Black Heart, on Friday, January 24th via Nuclear Blast.

Looking back at the compelling musician’s story, his love for music is abundantly obvious as he began singing at age 11, and playing his father’s acoustic guitar by 12, before attending high school to study guitar, vocals, and musical theory.

Prior to joining the Symphonic Metal masters Nightwish in 2001, Hietala formed Metal band Tarot with his brother Zachary in the early ’80s, along with later additions Pecu Cinnari, Janne Tolsa, and Tommy Salmela. Their first album Spell of Iron was released in 1986, and they continued on with many albums thereafter including 1993’s To Live Forever and 2003’s Shining Black Compilation. Hietala also offered his talents Delain, playing bass on 2006’s Lucidity, leading his vocals to songs for 2009’s April Rain, as well as 2014’s The Human Contradiction, was a member of the supergroup Northern Kings, plus portrayed a main character in Ayreon’s 2013 album The Theory of Everything.

A résumé unique and diverse, now longtime fans can rejoice with his 10 track solo effort beginning with the lead single “Stones.” Revealed as an ear-inspiring acoustic guitar array in its introduction, the instrumentation that follows grows in intensity with layers of Hietala’s broad vocals, symphonic strings, and wickedly divine guitars. Its follow up is the steady-paced “The Voice of My Father,” which implements echoing murmurs of synth, sedate, purposeful drums, and gorgeously uplifting lyrics such as “The voice of my father, sing my son and I’ll be with you.” There exists serenity and hope throughout every word sung and every note played.

Moving forward “Star, Sand, and Shadow” refreshes the ears with a dance of pulsing, effervescent synth as the guitar soars to the forefront with a full-bodied tone. Then “For You” unleashes the burning intensity of Hietala’s voice against a simplistic backdrop of echoes, whirrs, and reverb-laden guitar. This is before the latest single “Runner of the Railways” kicks the pacing up a notch with speeding, folksy guitar licks. The drums crash and pop all throughout as Heitala’s voice carries beyond the song. Meanwhile, in the background of “I Dream,” baritone notes dance quietly as a bright synth slowly awakens. The patient tempo builds up with drums and the breath of Hietala as he weaves a verbal tapestry of prose.

Pyre Of The Black Heart demonstrates itself as a truly cohesive vision but also maintains an eclectic variety of sounds and depth. The acoustic guitar work is crisp and breathtaking, and allows further exploration into Folk-laden music. In fact, each piece of instrumentation is beautifully crafted, given the room to breathe, and works perfectly with the others. All this as Hietala’s lyrics paint pictures and stir emotion with intensity and stunning authenticity, and tracks like “Dead God’s Son” truly are the majestic masterpieces that can be expected on Pyre Of The Black Heart.

Full of exuberant Rock tracks that utilize electric guitar with excitement and apt melodies, Cryptic Rock give Marko Hietala’s Pyre Of The Black Heart 4 of 5 stars.

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