Almost a year ago, Nightwish announced their latest endeavor. Tuomas Holopainen, being known for his adoration for soundtracks, decided to create a concept album, whose music would be playing in a movie. Quite an ambitious project that is. The movie will be out in about a year, but the album is already in our hands, so let's see what the pirate boy, as they call Holopainen, has come up with this time.
The story goes like this and I quote; “The protagonist of the film is a songwriter with an otherworldly imagination. He is an old man who still thinks he is a young boy. While asleep, he travels into his distant past, where his dreams of old come back to him mixed with the young boy's world of fantasy and music. In his dreams the old man fights to find the memories most important to him.”. I have to say that I like that. It's quite an original and interesting story, and with me being a fan of Nightwish in the past, I could easily say that Holopainen's music would be the best fit.
In “Imaginaerum” Holopainen has tried to fit in everything he likes in music. Orchestral parts and choirs, heavy guitar riffs and power metal, jazz and pop music, celtic and folk elements. The result is altogether impressive when I comes to the compositions. The London Philharmonic Orchestra, adult and child choirs, bombastic orchestrations, interesting arrangements and crystal production, put them all together and you will get the beautiful and mysterious soundscapes of this album. The musicianship of the whole band is flawless as expected, but unfortunately there are so many things to be noticed on “Imaginaerum” that especially the guitars take a step back.
As for Anette Olzon, she does a decent job here. She might not be the greatest singer and there no point comparing her with Tarja, but she has gained confidence since “Dark Passion Play”. The songs are written on her voice, though she does give a more pop feeling to the music. The bad thing was that sometimes, when she hits high notes, she sounds more cartoonish. What I liked was the vocals on “Scaretale”, where Olzon sings in a much more theatrical way. Hietala’s powerful voice, as well as the choirs, are used wisely, and they take the lead in parts where Olzon would sound weak.
The opening track is quite surprising. “Taikatalvi”, which means winter magic, sounds like a lullaby. A music-box melody, combined with piano later on, and Hietala’s soft vocals introduce you to the fairytale that is “Imaginaerum”. The rest of the songs are literally a roller-coaster. From the hit single and quite pop “Storytime”, we go to mid-tempo and more metal “Ghost River”, then to the ballad “Slow Love, Slow”, which is filled with jazz parts. “I Want My Tears Back” is again more dynamic, with some interesting folk elements, and reminds strongly of “I Wish I Had An Angel”. “Scaretale” on the other hand is easily the most sinister song of the album. “Arabesque” is an instrumental track that gets completely lost when listening to the entire album. Personally, I had to go back an listen to it alone to appreciate it. The next three tracks I can't say that they drew my attention at all. “Last Ride Of The Day” is full of energy and starts very impressively, with the focus on the drums and the choir. “Song Of Myself” is the longest track, reaching 14 minutes. The first half delivers, but again the chorus is very pop. After the seventh minute you can only hear some speaking samples. The title track and final song is a medley of all the main melodies of the album, played by the orchestra. Seeing this album as a soundtrack, this ending is quite nice, but otherwise I find it completely useless.
“Imaginaerum” is a 100% Nightwish album. The songs are heavy, impressive and with some hooks that will have sing them for days. Holopainen has done his magic again and put out a very good album. It's not a masterpiece, it's not the best Nightwish album, it has its ups and down, but it does the job. If you are a fan of the genre and of the band, you will like it. If not, don’t expect to change your mind.
Label: Nuclear Blast
Anette Olzon - Vocals
Tuomas Holopainen - Keyboards
Marco Hietala - Bass, Vocals
Emppu Vuorinen - Guitar
Jukka Nevalainen - Drums