Nuclear Blast Records
02 December 2011
by Danny Montana
Saying 2007’s Dark Passion Play was a hit is a bit of an understatement. After selling two million copies – a rare feat for a metal band – everyone was wondering what Nightwish had up their sleeves for Imaginaerum, their seventh album. A thirteen-track concept album with a made-up title that will eventually be accompanied by a feature film? Why not?
Nightwish’s major protagonist, Tuomas Holopainen has written Imaginaerum with the movie in mind. What started as a series of short movies turned into a feature film. He had an idea and it got out of hand and it’s patently evident in the swagger and grandiosity that runs throughout the album.
From the gentle, introductory dreamscape of ‘Taikatalvi’ and the crunching orchestral magnificence of ‘Storytime’, the first single, you will start to visualise stark, barren landscapes. Probably with Annette Olzon singing in a snow-filled meadow. This is how the film is almost certainly going to be. Is it slightly cliché? Perhaps. Is it going to be an enormous production, the magnitude of which is only seen in this genre by the very, very biggest? Absolutely.
If the symphonic power metal that has made the Finnish heavyweights a household name (in heavy metal households, at least) isn’t your thing then the more dramatic contents of Imaginaerum probably still won’t be your thing. However, it the dark pomp and circumstance of their music always took your fancy the added Corpse Bride-esque soundtrack dimension will absolutely fascinate you.
There is variety (folky parts in ‘The Crow, The Owl And The Dove’, weird trumpets in ‘Slow, Love, Slow’) and there is dynamic. Just because Nightwish have Annette Olzon in their arsenal, they do not feel compelled to use her silken tones at every turn, such as in ‘Arabesque’. Holopainen has written the album he wanted to write and it has turned out brilliantly. There’s even a moment where a children’s choir is used in ‘Scaretale’ to far greater effect than what Machine Head did recently.
After the cathartic and poetic ‘Song Of Myself’ where the band’s friends and family are invited to speak poetry during one movement in the enormous song, the instrumental title track closes the album and will be played over the film’s closing credits. It closes the album in the same way. There is no unfinished business with Imaginaerum. It is satisfying and entertaining in equal measure.
It could’ve gone either way but Imaginaerum follows on musically from DPP and takes the ideology even further. With an album that is as thoughtful as it is bombastic, Nightwish have added sand and gravel to their already cemented position at the top table of heavy metal. Bravo, you weird Finnish bastards. Where are my black and white striped socks?
Sounds like: Nightwish doing a Tim Burton soundtrack
Top tracks: Song Of Myself, Storytime, Scaretale
Guitar solo rating: 4/6 – there are some killer guitar lines