You know that old cliche “Expect the worst and hope for the best”? Well that was a pretty accurate assessment of my feelings leading up to listening to the follow up to Nightwish’s transitional Dark Passion Play. It’s hard to believe it’s been 5 years since Nightwish took a chance on vocalist Annette Olzon and released that album with a grueling world tour and spawned a civil war between long time Tarja Turnunen fans and the upstart Annette fans. Having only discovered Nightwish during the Once tour cycle I was also in the Tarja camp. I still believe Annette was not the right vocalist for the music that Tuomas Holopainen composed before going on a vocalist search. So now we fast forward to present day where Imaginaerum is crafted with Annette fully included in the creation of the album and the movie that tied into it. That’s right, a movie directed by Stobe Harju, the same gentleman that directed Nightwish’s Islander video is set to be released in 2012 and is a visual representation of the concept that Tuomas created for the album. For informational purposes here is the concept plot.
“Imaginaerum tells the story of an elderly composer, Tom, who suffers from severe dementia. As he has had the disease for years and has regressed into childhood, he remembers practically nothing from his adult life. His music, friends, all his past including the memory of his daughter are a blur in his fragile mind. All he has left is the imagination of a ten-year-old boy. As he drifts away into coma, it seems impossible to get back what he has lost. Tom travels through his imaginary world seeking answers and finding memories, while his daughter, Gem, tries to recover the bond she had once shared with her father in the real world. As they have become more and more distant from each other over the years, and as there’s even greater obstacles separating them now — Tom’s coma and his imminent death — Gem’s project feels doomed to failure. However, through Tom’s darkest secrets, Gem discovers the path she must follow in order to find her father again.”
So now that’s out of the way it’s time to focus on the album itself. The biggest question being how would these songs sound and in what style would they be in this relatively new era of Nightwish? Here is a brief track by track rundown.
Taikatalvi: The album starts with a folk ballad sung by bassist Marco Hietala all in Finnish. Odd way to reintroduce yourself after 5 years but ok.
Storytime: The first single that was released and I like this song better when I’m not watching the video. I still say this sounds like a metalized version of Abba. That’s not a knock really, just an observation.
Ghost River: This song definitely brings back reminders of old Nightwish tunes. Full of keyboards and bombast with Marco and Annette trading vocals. Marco is trying to really metal this song up.
Slow,Love,Slow: Probably the most interesting and unique track on the album. This song is done in the vein of a jazz song sung in a smoky bar by chanteuse, Annette, in the 1940’s.
I Want My Tears Back: This song is another familiar Nightwish style song with fiddles in the mix. Another duet with Marco and Annette. This might be my favorite track on the album.
Scaretale: This song is full of pretty much everything. Children’s choirs, adult choirs, symphonies, and metal. This song is really over the top like a mini stage show in of it’s self. Musically it’s awesome but I think the vocals are a bit much.
Arabesque: A symphonic instrumental and very drum heavy.
Turn Loose the Mermaids: Folkish ballad. Very pretty song.
Rest Calm: Marco and Annette dueting again that trades between heavy and ballady. Great song. Actually this might be my favorite track.
The Crow, The Owl, and The Dove:Another ballad featuring both Marco and Annette.
Last Ride of the Day: Choirs and flirts with power metal.
Song of Myself: Longest song on the album clocking in at over 13 minutes. Once again with these long epics it’s like 3 songs in one but I enjoyed this one much more then Poet and the Pendulum.
Imaginareum: Title track obviously and another instrumental. It includes the melody portion of Rest Calm but is mostly just a full on symphonic assult with brief spots of folk in it. Fun listen.
So overall I enjoyed this album quite a bit from it’s predecessor. One thing needs to be made clear is that the Tarja era of Nightwish is gone. Nightwish adapted to Annette for this release as she with them. No real weaknesses were exposed except for when Marco tries to go above his range but that is only in one track. There was much more dueting going on here and it’s a nice blend of various types of music styles. And none of it would have worked as well with an operatic singer. So if you are a solid Tarja supporter then you’ll have to settle for her solo stuff because it’s clear and plain with Imaginaerum that those days will not return anytime soon.
Musically once again Tuomas is a genius with his compositions. When the band decides to employ heavy metal, Emppu Vuorinen lays down some great riffs though I’ve noticed he’s never really displayed any soloing ability especially here. Jukka Nevalainen once again delivers some meaty drum lines on this album and as a collective unit Nightwish does not disappoint. It defintely helps to have the world famous London Philharmonic Orchestra backing you up. Personally I’m glad the band is able to succeed with this album and I actually do like being proven wrong in my misgivings. I recommend Imaginaerum and be sure to get your copy on January 10th here in the U.S. since the rest of the world already got their copy two months ago. (Labels, you really need to stop doing that if you want to fight piracy). Here again is the video for Storytime if you have not seen it yet.