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Bad Music (TM). - 37%

Empyreal, March 1st, 2012

Okay, let me get something out of the way first: in recent months I have had something of a re-evaluation of Nightwish, and while I never used to like them, these days my taste accommodates their older, and I must stress BETTER records quite well. Oceanborn and Century Child are absolutely wonderful slabs of pop-sensible metal that transcends the boundaries of either genre for quite a riveting experience. However…this album is complete donkey testicles from beginning to end.

There seems to be a recurring trend in power metal albums lately, such as the magnificent latest Edguy album and the polarizing Days of Grays from Sonata Arctica, in which bands just take every idea they have and cram it into an hour-long variety show experience of sorts. Nightwish did that on here, as every song is different from the last and the album showcases quite a lot of variety and eclecticism, but that alone isn’t enough. If you’re going to make different music…at least make it GOOD. I shouldn’t even have to say that; that should be frigging obvious to anyone. But I guess I shouldn’t ever assume that again, based on the ass-numbingly long list of things wrong with Imaginaerum.

It’s hard to pin down what the worst thing about this is, because the band has crafted so many different and unique ways of annoying the ever-loving shit out of me that I can’t decide what to even mention first. Tuomas’s ego finally seems to have devoured the entire band this time around, as the songs have no flow or cohesion from one to the next. Instead of crafting memorable moments, his songwriting decision seems to have been based around the question “what can I cram in next to show how eclectic and different I can be?” This kind of flip-flopping comes off as incredibly silly and immature, almost like a musical version of a really bad fanfiction for a popular TV show or cartoon – a downright caricature of a once respectable band. The band spreads themselves in so many different directions on this album that they seem to have forgotten what made them good to begin with.

There are moments of grandeur on here, but the band never builds them into entire songs of might and majesty, never seems to connect the dots to create something memorable or truly powerful. On old albums Nightwish effortlessly fused classical symphonic work with jagged metal riffing and pop-sensible choruses – where is that seamlessness here? Here, we just get “Ghost River,” which is an asinine song full of awful yapping from the usually sublime Marco Hietala – what kind of direction was he given on here? In fact I don’t even want to know…and some truly over-wrought dramatic moments that come off as really embarrassing in how over the top they are. I know this band was never the most subtle in the world, but they at least had some kind of restraint in the past. Here it’s just like OOOOOH, LOOK AT HOW THEATRICAL WE ARE! WE ARE THESPIAN GODS! Pff, no you’re not, you’re hack metal musicians from a country that spawned Children of Bodom. Don’t make yourself out to be anything you’re not.

Annette’s vocals are plain and unexciting. I liked her well enough on the last one, but here she sounds cold and flat, and most of her vocal lines are just dull. Marco, as I mentioned, is just weak on here and doesn’t have any really great moments like on previous albums. The rest of the band is dialed down and subdued so that Tuomas’s keyboards and the orchestrations can take the front and center! Yay for ego!

There are three passable songs on here – “Storytime,” “I Want My Tears Back” and “Last Ride of the Day.” Now, all of these songs are pretty weak themselves, being really pro-tooled and plastic power metal without any real energy or drive, but at least they are somewhat memorable and have actually catchy hooks.

Can’t say that for much else on here. The rest of this album is full of boring crap like “Slow, Love, Slow,” which is a lounge-jazz experiment that could have been great if it was two minutes rather than six, the pointless “Turn Loose the Mermaids,” the directionless “Rest Calm,” which literally drags on forever, and the worst song Tim Burton never put in his movies “Scaretale.” This song is seven minutes of ridiculously silly theatrics that try to play off like they’re supposed to be taken seriously, with really irritating vocals and virtually nothing good about it. Just listening to this hyperactive ADD-infested garbage makes my eyes glaze over. What’s up with those goofy male vocals halfway through? He sounds like an inbred circus clown. His vocals are worthlessly over-emoted and too silly to be anything but downright shameful. They do sound like they belong in the song, but then, that’s the entirety of the problem.

Oh, and I haven’t even mentioned the title track yet, probably because on most of the times I played this album I got so bored and annoyed with the rest of the ridiculous shit on here that I couldn’t even muster the stamina to listen to it! It’s 13 minutes long, but only six or seven are actual music (albeit really dull and unremarkable music) – the other half is six or seven more minutes of pissing on Walt Whitman’s grave as Tuomas has a bunch of sections of “Song of Myself,” his famous poem, read aloud in stupid voices and garbled up so bad you can barely even make it out unless you turn up the volume all the way. I literally don’t know how this could be any worse. You can’t fuck up an album this bad by accident – this kind of monumental heinousness takes actual effort.

So if you like awful attempts at being dramatic and theatrical and silly ‘atmospheric’ ballads that do nothing but lie there and wither, and if you hate Walt Whitman, then this is the album for you. If you like Nightwish, skip it.