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Tuomas Holopainen is a genius. That means he produces masterpieces, and four years have passed since his previous masterpiece, ‘Dark Passion Play’. The question, of course, is what would his next masterpiece be like? And in case you’re wondering, did I ever wonder if the next album would even be a masterpiece? Yes.
Did I doubt? The answer is no. So is the new album a masterpiece. Sadly, the answer is still no.
Yep, I expected jizzworthy, and although many a tissue was used and discarded, I did in fact expect a little more from this talented bunch of musicians. I have always felt their weakest album (as enjoyable as it was) is Angels Falls First, and this would have to be my least favourite next to it purely for the sole reason that the other body of work was by far stronger in the songwriting department.
So I’ve wrestled long and hard with how to approach this review and after a few months of its release, I feel that I can finally comment on it. This album cost around one million euro to make and by the production, it is more than obvious where the money has gone. The orchestral parts of the album are supremely sensational. It sounds like an album that cost over ten million euro to make.
Initially, I felt that the album was just plan weak because most of the songs had brilliant moments, but as a whole didn't quite work. But it isn’t weak at all. Slowly I began to realize that this was an album that was what can only be considered a companion piece to the upcoming movie. But to look upon this on its own merits, it doesn't quite deliver the emotional right hook that, for me, the other albums in this band's skyrocketing career have managed to deliver.
There are many aspects of the album that I can sing praises to such as the songs “Storytime”, “Turn Loose the Mermaids”, “Last Ride of the Day”, and “I Want My Tears Back”. But the rest of the album – as an actual album – falls short of my expectations. In fact, all it succeeded in doing was making me long for the straightforward songwriting greatness of ‘Oceanborn’ and ‘Wishmaster’.
But have I managed to fall in love with what the amazing, crusading Tuomas has created? Good people, indeed I have. ‘Imaginaerum’ is, in fact, a work of art, but not in a metal sense. My argument can be summed up by highlighting one song. The case in point is a track entitled “The Song of Myself”. Check this out.
The track opens with an amazing and beautiful orchestral intro that the verses imbue with a quality that few bands can compete with. However, approximately seven minutes into the song (roughly about halfway), it goes into a narrative passage that continues until the end of this powerful piece of music. But the following seven minutes of the song are narration. Granted, it's narration that is powerful and inspiring, but not as jaw dropping as “Beauty of the Beast”, “Ghost Love Score”, or “The Poet and the Pendulum”.
This brings us back to where we started. This is a great soundtrack to a life or a film, but as an album (metal or otherwise) it does not deliver what it should. The truly heartbreaking part is that the elements are there - moments of supreme riffing and choruses that other bands would sell their souls to write, but for this reviewer, out of the seven albums the band has released, this comes in at number two out of seven.
Although Nightwish tend to take their time between albums, I yearn for the next one in that I imagine it will be less conceptual and focus more on writing the songs that I can (albeit badly) sing along to.
One final comment. For the longest time, most associated their previous vocalist as the reason for their success. As great a singer as she may have been, she was only a conduit for the musical expression written by a master songwriter, with lyrics many would be envious of writing. The success that was garnered went to her head until it seemed to many (and herself) that she felt she was greater than the sum of the parts that make up the band. So the band suggested she go off and start a family. A nice happy ending for all involved, but more importantly her replacement can now be said to have done well and truly arrived. Annette has shown that though she may not be able to break glass with her voice, she can convey emotion and confidently be centre stage as the new voice of Nightwish.