Marko Hietala is no stranger to the worldwide metal scene as his role of bass player and backing vocals in Nightwish has seen him tour the world several times. He’s also known for his previous work with Sinergy, Tarot, and several apparitions with the Dutch band Delain. Additionally, he participated a couple of times with Ayreon in their live shows in most recent years.
This time around, Marko embarks on the adventure of a solo album, a project differs from what you might have seen him doing before with Nightwish or Tarot. This new offering titled Pyre Of The Black Heart carries more of a hard rock/progressive vibe showcasing the power of Marko’s voice in different environments.
One of the most powerful songs on this record is the opening track “Stones,” which is a catchy hard rock tune reflecting on the freedom Marko had at the time to create this album. “The Voice of My Father” is a beautiful song delivering a fantastic message about father-son relationships, I don’t know how personal this song is for Marko, but definitely hits on a subject that seems to be underrated in rock and metal. “Star, Sand and Shadow” reminded me of an episode of Stranger Things as the synthesizer in the opening part of the song is very 80’s, as the track continues, the sound gets heavy with progressive undertones making it one of the most fun tracks of the record.
“Dead God’s Son” shows the prog side of Marko, which is not the pompous/instrumental or overly done complex tune, but a more natural progressive and could pass as a catchy metal song. One thing is that this song produced on me was an instant reminiscence of the role Hietala played on the Ayreon Universe show in Tilburg, the Netherlands, a few years ago. He performed a duet with Hansi Kürsch (Blind Guardian) for the song “River Of Time,” in which some of the vocal tones were similar to “Dead God’s Son.”
“Runner of The Railways” is a fun track of the album, a song filled with cool riffs, funny back vocals, and a country/western kind of vibe. Definitely one of the songs I hope Marko will add to the setlist of his upcoming solo tour because it would be interesting to see the reaction of the crowd to such a colorful beat. “Death March For Freedom” has a huge bass guitar influence around it, I would say the whole structure of the song is bass guitar-based, which make it very rhythmic and alive. The entire vocals-bass guitar play is amusing and delightful to the ear.
“I Dream” along with “The Truth Shall Set You Free” are the record’s ballads, both are potent reminders of how Marko Hietala’s soft and melancholic voice. I can hear a lot of “The Islander” on those songs. The vocal lines and tones sometimes remind me of that song, but again this album is not a Nightwish symphonic-complex record. This is an open-hearted statement in which Marko Hietala delivers a free to the imagination album grabbing many pieces from his musical career.
I am sure Pyre Of The Black Heart wouldn’t be the last we will see of Marko Hietala’s solo work. It seems he along with Tuomas Wäinölä (guitar), Vili Ollila [keyboards], and Anssi Nykänen (drums) are getting ready to bring this album to life. They will be touring Europe this February and then off to South America as Nightwish supporting act in May.
Tour Of The Black Heart 2020
02/02 D Hamburg @ Markthalle
02/04 D Frankfurt @ Batschkapp
02/06 D Munich @ Backstage
02/07 D Leipzig @ der ANKER
02/08 PL Wroclaw @ Centrum Koncertowe A2
02/09 CZ Prague @ Roxy
02/11 H Budapest @ Barba Negra
02/13 D Stuttgart @ Im Wizemann
02/14 CH Pratteln @ Z7
02/16 D Oberhausen @ Turbinenhalle
02/17 NL Amsterdam @ Melkweg
02/18 F Paris @ La Machine du Moulin Rouge
05/05 RCH Santiago @ Teatro Caupolicán
05/07 RA Buenos Aires @ Luna Park (w/Boudika)
05/09 BR São Paulo @ Espaço das Américas
05/10 BR Rio de Janeiro @ Vivo Rio