Nightwish – Imaginaerum

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June 17, 2012 by Beldrac

Nightwish – Imaginaerum

Rating: [9/13]

Country: Finland

Released: 2011

Genre: Symphonic Metal

Website: Official

Maybe I’ve simply outgrown Nightwish. Finally. Or maybe, just maybe, they’ve joined the march of Heroes slowly winding their way to Valhalla, banners flying their colours and their songs reminding us of their legacy. In the world of Symphonic Metal Nightwish is peerless, there can never be another band that will have the impact those five Finns had all those years ago. Sure, some have come close and right now there are bands I’d rather listen to, but no-one will ever forget Marilyn Monroe. (Or Tarja Turunen…)

No disrespect intended for Anette, not in the least. When she joined the band she brought with her a breath of fresh air, a certain lightness and flair, and opened up the stage for Tuomas to showcase his musical talents without that majestic shadow of Tarja to compete with. Dark Passion Play was a fantastic album, in my honest opinion the best they made since Wishmaster (well okay, Once was very good too,) and this was in no small part thanks to the change in musical direction they had to take. Marco Hietala also had to step up to provide more power in the vocal department and it worked very well.

Imaginaerum lacks something though and while listening to “Slow, Love, Slow” I think it might be identity. The album is quite varied in terms of style – here a slow jazz-like atmosphere is painted by the shadowy brush strokes of a trumpet. Imaginaerum is perhaps a collection of scenes from the writer’s imagination, perhaps playing out themes that didn’t make it to other albums. And herein lies its salvation; the ideas are very good and the execution and performance up to the usual Nightwish top standard, but it lacks the character of the older albums. When I hear a song from Wishmaster I know instinctively which album it’s from before I even remember which song it is. The same goes especially for Angels Fall First and Oceanborn, and for the most part the others too. Maybe in five years I’ll look back and recognize the character of this album, which I suspect will develop with time and present me yet with a few pleasant surprises.
The main disappointment must be the lack of the great Nightwish epic track. The likes of “The Poet and the Pendulum,” “Ghost Love Score,” “Beauty of the Beast”… but with this album Nightwish has moved off the grand stage and into theatre. “Scaretale” is one of the stand-out songs on the album and comes closest to filling this void, (but when I’m confronted with images of theme parks I can only think of the Left 4 Dead game and zombies. 🙂 )

There are some good songs on this album, “The Crow, the Owl, and the Dove” featuring a great duet that showcases a softer side of Hietala’s voice, and with a title like that you know Nightwish produce the goods. I especially liked “Taikatalvi” which is sung entirely in Finnish, and according to my sources, means “magic winter.” Still present is the some of the folky elements introduced on the last album, and the somewhat cheesy song titles that reflect the usual emotional honesty.

The magic is gone though; there are too many tracks on this album that don’t pull their weight and from a personal standpoint, in all it is a bit disappointing. The title track, which is a medley of the themes of the album, plays out a musical showpiece which certainly is worthy of its predecessors, but falls short of high expectations.

P.S. As I was wrapping this up I discover that a film called Imaginaerum will be released later this year, based on a story by Tuomas Holopainen. The film will also feature music from the album which might explain some of the themes more thoroughly, and also the musical stage-like production feel that the album has. I’ll definitely be checking this out, trailer below:

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