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It’s been four long years since Finnish symphonic power metal band Nightwish released the solid ‘Dark Passion Play’, an album that took the genre to new heights. Those fond of the band knew where Nightwish were going in the metal world, in particular, founder and chief song-writer Tuomas Holopainen, the need to create an extravagant piece of musical art. To write a wondrous and spectacular production that would rival and even crush most movie scores of today. So it’s to no surprise that Nightwish’s latest album, ‘Imaginaerum’ has gone beyond, musically, where ‘Dark Passion Play’ ended.
Fans are still getting used to current vocalist Anette Olzon, who filled the large shoes left by Tarja Turunen back in 2007. Two very different vocalists, Anette can lack in passion and power at times, however she shines bright like the sun during moving ballads and other songs where the music is not quite as bellowing and heavy. But after one album and four years with Anette, we do expect that she has improved and is able to step out of Tarja’s shadow.
‘Imaginaerum’ overall has gone above and beyond your typical symphonic power metal sound; to the extent that one would beckon Tuomas may have taken his creative ideas possibly just that little bit too far. Extravagant choirs (both adults and children) and orchestras used on the album may sound larger than life and impressive at the same time, but I feel that Tuomas is spending more time creating enormous theatricals to accompany the written songs rather than concentrating on what made Nightwish so cool in the first place. It almost seems like he’s actually trying to out-do himself with every album, like the previous one wasn’t good enough. So it begs the question, where does it all end?
I’ve really enjoyed the addition of bassist/vocalist Marco Hietala, ever since he joined the band in 2001. His raspy and aggressive vocals added another dimension to the band’s sound and were a nice yang to Tarja’s and now Anette’s yin. His vocals on tracks like “Slaying the Dreamer”, “Planet Hell” and “Master Passion Greed” was fantastic, but on the track “Ghost River” it just feels out of place. Marco’s raspy vocals just don’t work on this track and kind of ruins the song in the process, as well as drowning out Anette at the same time. Musically, the constant tempo changes disrupt the flow of the track and in the end it’s just downright frustrating to listen to.
Another track on the album that feels out of place is the peculiar “Slow, Love, Slow”. Now, despite being very original, intriguing and unique (with kudos to Tuomas’ creativity), this track is a slow jazzy number that just seems out of sorts on a symphonic power metal disc. It disrupts the musical flow of ‘Imaginaerum’, and would feel more at home if Tuomas were to produce a solo album that contained this and other non-metal tracks, so he is able to keep his creative juices flowing.
My final gripe or frustration (whatever you wanna call it) of ‘Imaginaerum’, is the 13 minute “Song of Myself”. Seeing it in the track-listing before hearing the album, I was quietly excited, hoping for another epic track in the same vein as “The Poet and the Pendulum” from ‘DPP’. The first six minutes of the song is bombastic and brilliant, but then the final 7 minutes of the long track is just spoken word with the orchestra playing softly in the background for audio affect. I understand the purpose of the spoken word in relation to the meaning of the song, but seriously, do you expect fans to sit through seven minutes of this and not get bored or annoyed? If anyone can, then you are far more patient than I am.
Don’t worry; there are plenty of positives to come from this album, such as the upcoming film of the same name (written by Tuomas) that is to be released in 2012. This album is supposed to be the “soundtrack” to the film and once released should give the fans more incite to the inner-workings of this CD. So that is something definitely to look forward to.
As for the better songs on ‘Imaginaerum’, we have to start with the opening track (after the intro) and first single, “Storytime”. An energetic and upbeat track “Storytime” is quite bombastic and epic in sound and feel. With swift guitar riffs from Emppu Vuorinen and the orchestra making a big impact, Anette’s voice is actually very good here and adds another element to the song. “I Want My Tears Back” is also a very good and catchy song, with folkish elements that will make you dance like Michael Flatley. Reminiscent of “Amaranth” and “Bye Bye Beautiful” from the previous album, the track features both Anette and Marco sharing the vocal duties which does work well on this occasion.
The shining jewel on this album is the quirky, abstract and unusual “Scaretale”. Again quite bombastic and epic thanks to the orchestral arrangements, it’s also heavy with thundering drums and bass, and plenty of hooks and power chords from Emppu. It’s in the middle though where the track becomes quirky, when the music changes to a traditional tune of an old-fashioned gypsy travelling circus; decked out with the ringmaster and all the bells and whistles. The song being different alone is enough to make it a standout track on the album.
Other songs that will appeal to the fans include the excellent ballad “The Crow, The Owl and the Dove”, which is very catchy and memorable, with beautiful singing from both Anette and Marco; and also the powerful “Last Ride of the Day”. With a speedy melody and catchy tunes, “Last Ride of the Day” has soaring vocals, heavy riffs and atmospheric orchestras and choirs; in my opinion the next best track after “Scaretale”.
When you sum it all up, ‘Imaginaerum’ is still a good Nightwish album, however a tad inconsistent and about a notch below ‘Dark Passion Play’. There are a few songs on the disc that could annoy and/or frustrate fans and listeners alike, but overall the majority of the tracks should keep the avid Nightwish fan and symphonic/gothic metal fans happy. It may take a few extra spins to warm to it than with previous albums, but if you enjoyed ‘DPP’, then ‘Imaginaerum’ is along similar lines; albeit with one or two less killer tracks.
Originally written for www.themetalforge.com