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So here it is...finally! Some have been waiting since Anette's 2007 debut in the world of Nightwish, some even earlier, seeing as how a rather big number of fans considered the 2004 Once a big, BIG downfall for the band, including myself. "maginaerum is, I guess, supposed to be an album written with Anette's vocals in mind, considering her style, energy, passion, and capabilities of live performance, right?
Well, isn't that just too bad? Imaginaerum sounds like nothing more than a continuation of the mediocre Dark Passion Play pattern with that bitter taste of the worst moments of "Once" left in your mouth ("Dead Gardens" and that kind of bullshit). By the sheer eavesdropping at the sound of this album, you'll recognize the over-shredding guitars that cannot possibly fit into the overall (olden) sound of Nightwish. Marco's humiliating vocal performance just don't suit him ("Taikatalvi", "Ghost River") compared to some gems like "High Hopes" from the End of an Era live album and "The Phantom of the Opera" from Century Child. Then there's overall cheesy lyrics and just plain bad crossovers right in the middle of the song. There is just so many things wrong with this album.
I already noticed people praising the "folk" influences in this album, saying it's even greater than on the previous major release. Now that I've listened to this album in full, I feel like someone just Rick Rolled me! There is absolutely 0 folk influence on this album. There is not even a hint of folk metal music in the atmosphere of this far-too-long album (except a few faint seconds of a barely audible flute pattern typical in Irish folk somewhere in the background). Just having a bunch of folk-ish instruments in a song is not even close to being far-fetched in labeling it as folk. "Last of the Wilds", boring as it is (after the first two minutes), is more folk metal than this whole album together.
Imaginaerum, on a drawing board, was supposed to be an amazing idea. My first fear was that this album could perhaps end up being a bit too childish. Now I laugh at my own stupid self for even thinking that Tuomas could create something so powerful yet so emotional and still make it work when most of his time and effort is clearly wasted on the choirs and the orchestra. Well, okay, it wasn't wasted, these performances are actually pretty awesome, though are neither genius or groundbreaking, mind-blowing etc.
Cheese is the only word that keeps popping up in my mind as I listen to this disaster that dares call itself a metal album. Now that the orchestral scores are better than ever, the rest of the songwriting has been nothing but a colossal disaster, ever since "Once", actually, from the bad lyrics to the weird mash up of vocals and unimaginative guitar passages (drums, too). There's not a single song on this album that hasn't been made overly complicated and I dare not even imagine (not that I'm interested anyway) which of the songs will end up being performed live; personally, singing any song from Imaginaerum after any old song is pure blasphemy and denial of the previous amazing work this band has made.
But just as Once ("Planet Earth") and Dark Passion Play (the main orchestral theme of "The Poet and the Pendulum" as well as "Meadows of Heaven") had bright sides, so does this album that will at least not make you completely regret buying it (if you really, really want a shiny new CD in your collection you probably never will listen to, or because you actually may think this is as good as any pre-Once album), this being "Slow, Love, Slow". Maybe it's just because I've been listening to too much jazz in the last few months, but I dare say that this song is the only one that really grew on me quite quickly and easily. A bit too dark of an atmosphere for a jazzy tune is something that I definitely never could expect from this band, and this is the only genuine originality this band has displayed in their music for the past 7 years! The song is just very well written and performed and is definitely a song that should be heard even by those who may not be fans of the band at all. This is something that can rarely be heard in metal music. Anette's vocal performance in this son, as unfitting as it may be for some (not just because of Tarja's permanent mark in the band, but also the weary and unsettling dark atmosphere of the song), is still quite good; it's neither overpowered, nor is it trying-too-hard to impress and win the hearts of fans. "Slow, Love, Slow" is just a very, very good and very original song!
The title track, "Imaginaerum", is placed as the closing track on the album and is a medley of some of the orchestral passages written for this album, and as good as it is, it leaves you wondering how in the world everything else ended up sounding so catastrophic. If this is the song that you end up liking the most, maybe it's time you stop searching for entertainment, emotion, and impressive scores in Nightwish (and metal overall) and focus more on VGM (video game music) and/or movie soundtracks. If nothing else, we'll always have professionals such as Hans Zimmer instead of Tuomas.