I’ve long had a love/hate relationship with Nightwish, mainly because they’ve always come so close to the album they really want to make and never seem to quite pull it off.
With this latest opus breaking some new ground for them, this may be the one they’ve worked so long for. Imaginaerum is essentially the musical companion to a film project and has allowed the band to really stretch their creative wings. This is without doubt the most diverse album the Finnish superstars have ever released and is probably the definitive statement of the genius of Tuomas Holopainen. At turns lyrical, haunting, moody, bombastic, emotive and progressive, this is the ultimate realisation of what they were trying to achieve with Dark Passion Play. It is an album that sweeps the listener along with the majesty of its creation.
Following the intro featuring Marco Hietala’s dark, sonorous spoken word, Imaginarum explodes into the positively huge “Storytime” like symphonic power metal and rock opera crossed with the melodic acumen of ABBA. On paper it sounds like the lamest thing ever, but somehow it’s extraordinary. “Ghost River” is more dramatic opera metal with a stunning marching riff and Hietala’s harsh growl battling the soaring harmonies of Anette Olzen who stamps herself indeliably into the role of Nightwish’s vocalist on this album.
Not everything is stellar: the folky “I Want My Tears Back” (seriously?) is laughable hokum with a chorus that sounds like a bad Meatloaf song, probably the album’s nadir and a shame coming as it does after the deeply heartfelt “Slow, Love, Slow”. Then the epic “Scaretale” goes completely over the top as it shifts between Empuu Vourinen’s surprisingly savage guitar tone and what sounds like a truly demented, rollicking show tune.
Imaginaerum climaxes with the imperial “Song of Myself”. A three-part, thirteen minute saga this track takes Nightwish into the realms of the progressive metal to which they’ve always aspired, with the multi-voiced spoken word poetry in the second half rather reminiscent of Pain of Salvation’s more lucid explorations.
It has to be said that it may well have not been possible for this album to have been so successful had Tarja Turunen still been with Nightwish. Anette Olzen brings a warmth of delivery to the project, a sense of substance to the flamboyant musical style that would have been simply overbearing if Turunen’s grandiloquent tones had been part of it. The melodramatic nature of Imaginaerum won’t be to everyone’s taste, but for fans of this opulent type of metal storytelling it would be hard to go past this.
3. Ghost River
4. Slow, Love, Slow
5. I Want My Tears Back
8. Turn Loose the Mermaids
9. Rest Calm
10. The Crow, the Owl and the Dove
11. Last Ride Home
12. Song of Myself