Album Review: Nightwish – Imaginaerum [8 out of 10]

By JC Green

Nightwish is a band that has kept their fans polarized since the departure of original singer Tarja Turunen. Just because Tarja is not longer in the band, there is the blind group of fans who pre-state that the band is not worthy anymore neglecting the irrefutable fact that a band is greater than the sum of its members. There is also another segment of fans that accepted the change and welcomed the input of Anette Olzon to the band, some even considering the band’s current lineup better than the previous one, a fact that I totally disagree with. That said, the Finnish band just delivered another element of discord, a new album entitled “Imaginaerum.” The album is already available in Europe and will be released on American soil on January 10, 2012.

“Imaginaerum” is an album that basically does the work as the soundtrack to a movie that the band will launch in 2012. It is undoubtedly an ambitious project that shows the band doing certain things they had never done before, although this does not necessarily guarantee good results. A key element about this new album is that it is the second recording with Anette onboard after her debut on “Dark Passion Play” which was released in 2007, and which had reactions of all kinds. In my opinion, her debut with the band was very appropriate and I was very curious about the outcome of a second disk. But did “Imaginaerum” fulfill my expectations as a whole? After listening to the album over a dozen times, I have to say that it partly does.

“Imaginaerum” features 13 tracks and starts with a short introduction with a Finnish narrative called “Taikatalvi” and ends with the instrumental album’s title track which is nothing but a collection of parts of the tracks from the entire disk . This basically does not add or subtracts anything to the album’s quality as they are basically pieces to create the impression of a real soundtrack. Encapsulated between the “intro” and “outro” the album features an intermediate instrumental track entitled “Arabesque”, which divides the disk into two parts of 5 songs each. Honestly, just like the “intro” and “outro”, “Arabesque” is another minor theme in terms of importance within the album. So we actually have 10 songs to evaluate.

“Storytime” is the first single from the album and the version presented on it is totally superior to the single version, being much more elaborated and somewhat less commercial. In addition to “Storytime”, the songs “Ghost River”, “Scaretale”, “Rest Calm”, “Last Ride Of The Day” and “I Want My Tears Back” are the best ones in the album, especially “I Want My Tears Back”, which is not only the best song from “Imaginaerum” but one of the best songs in Nightwish’s whole career. “Song Of Myself” is a song of more than 13 minutes and the first 6 and half minutes are amazing but the last 7 minutes are an extremely long narrative bordering on pure monotony. If the narrative had been kept for a maximum of 2 minutes, it would have been perfect, but 7 minutes is too much.

“Turn Loose The Mermaids” is sort of a ballad with roots in Finnish folklore. It’s a good song where Anette’s voice stands out, though the song itself is nothing spectacular. “The Crow, The Owl And The Dove”, which is emerging as the next single from the album, is another track with a strong influence of Finnish folklore similar to “The Islander” from the album “Dark Passion Play”. Unlike “The Islander”, “The Crow, The Owl And The Dove” was not developed to its full potential, being a conservative song at not risky at all. I have to point out that Marco Hietala’s voice in this song is amazing and it is basically what saves the song. “Slow, Love, Slow” is the song that remains to be mentioned and I decided to leave it for last although it is the album’s fourth track, as I consider it to be the worst part of “Imaginaerum.” It is a very jazz influenced song, which I have no problem. My problem is that it is too simple and boring at its best, and on top of that it lasts almost 6 minutes. Anette’s voice detracts much on this song and sounds totally out of focus. Definitely a risky song and although I consider it a failure, I applaud the fact of the band trying to create something different.

To sum it up, “Imaginaerum” is a very good album, but it is not a spectacular product given the failures exposed. Perhaps the fact of thinking that the album would serve as the soundtrack of a movie altered dramatically the result and affected the product. Still, I applaud the fact that it is an ambitious album that is not a mere “Dark Passion Play” Pt2. The symphonic arrangements are mostly excellent and several are somewhat unexpected and unpredictable. Another highlight of “Imaginaerum” is that the band continues to expand its product by incoprporating Finnish folk music into their subjects. To Tarja fans, I urge them to turn the page. The period with Tarja was amazing and I prefer it to the current era of the band. But bands that employ soprano styled singers belong to the past and are just pure cliché. In terms of vocal resources it is obvious that Anette is not as good as Tarja, but Anette is very versatile and her contemporary style is what it is needed in a band like Nightwish to remain relevant. Remember that it is not who sings the best; it is who suit the best to the current needs of a band. Nightwish’s leader Tuomas Holopainen had a dream, Tuomas dreamed in big. And that dream was realized with “Imaginaerum” surely the most difficult album to compose in the band’s history.

Rating: 8/10

US Release Date: January 10th 2012
Label: Roadrunner Records

Track Listing:
1. Taikatalvi 02:35
2. Storytime 05:22
3. Ghost River 05:28
4. Slow, Love, Slow 05:50
5. I Want My Tears Back 05:07
6. Scaretale 07:32
7. Arabesque 02:57   (instrumental)
8. Turn Loose the Mermaids 04:20
9. Rest Calm 07:02
10. The Crow, the Owl and the Dove 04:10
11. Last Ride of the Day 04:32
12. Song of Myself 13:37
13. Imaginaerum  06:18   (instrumental)