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Four long years later, after the release of Dark Passion Play and years of doing who knows what, Nightwish's seventh full length release hits the stores. For several months prior to its release, we've heard the band talking up the release, telling of us of how evolved and confident Anette has become and how diverse and complex it will be compared to Dark Passion Play (ya, I laughed at that one, too). And then, of course, the announcement that this was to be a movie and that the album was meant to be the 'soundtrack' of the movie. Ah, there it is folks; there is the reason you waited four years. It's the reason you were given a bland, anti-climactic, wandering, and aimless release; it's because we've only been given half of the band's finished product. Their attention is elsewhere, in places that, in all honesty, a musician's should not be.
Of course, seeing as it's their success from the earlier days that they are milking, it's not my business to decide what they should and should not be doing. But let's be serious here; I wrote a review for Dark Passion Play when it was first released four years ago and one of the things I remember touching on was how Tuomas abused the 'tortured poet yearning for his childhood' theme in his lyrics. It was everywhere, dating back to Wishmaster, or even earlier. It hit it's peak in Century Child, but everything after that has been so forced and unwelcome, it's laughable. But wait, here's an idea, let's make a movie about it! Let's see how far we can stretch that theme before there is nothing left! And then, let's do it some more!
Again, like on the last album they released, Pip Williams is the star of this album; the 'metal' portions are a disgusting mess and are only tolerable when hidden under layers and layers of orchestral music. Marco ruins almost every song he sings on, again delving into that peculiar raspy-rap type thing that reminds me of Slipknot, only worse. Anette has changed on this album; they were right in saying she has become more confident with her place in the band, though I imagine more fans would see that as a bad thing instead of a good one. Notes that don't anywhere in the music are liberally tossed around in her 'flimsy-if-too-high, bland-if-too-low, but whiny-all-the-time' voice.
The songs themselves are a very small step up from those of DPP, however. Songs are a bit longer and have a tiny bit more substance, instead of repeating the same boring formula song after song. Yet, although the songs are less haphazardly lain out, they aren't as interesting or memorable as ANY preceding Nightwish release. They are predictable and "safe", unimaginative (ironic, considering the name of the album) and watered-downed versions of songs we have all heard before [Yup, Tuomas, I've been to Disneyland, I know where 'Scaretale' came from]. After having listened to the album several times now, I can safely say the only parts I would have any interest in listening to again are the last quarter of Ghost River and the last half of Rest Calm, both of which I could play back in my head WITHOUT Marco's pseudo-growls and Anette's matronly deliverance (Oh, come on... I can't be the only one with a mother just like Anette: melodramatic mannerisms, tacky over-exaggerations, embarrassingly oblivious fashion sense, all in an attempt to be "hip"). Almost everything in between, and even parts of the aforementioned sections, is pure filler, laden with ill-contrived gimmicks and sad attempts at commercializing the fusion of different genres into metal (they might be interesting if they weren't so forced or poorly implemented).
In conclusion, what I received on the 30th of November, 2011, proved to be a slight step up from the incredibly low expectations I had. But, still, Imaginaerum exists only as an ominous monument for the lost band we used to love. I would suggest saving yourself the time and just listening to the final track on the album, Imaginaerum, for it provides you all the highlights of the album, without the embarrassing cacophony that the other tracks have lain over them. While writing this review, it will probably be the last time I ever listen to this album, a week after release, even while I continue to listen to the more creative, diverse, and thought-provoking releases of Nightwish (namely, Oceanborn) over ten years after their release. Or maybe I'll see the movie, hoping it will right a few of the wrongs in this facepalm-worthy mess (unlikely, though).