What could Nightwish do that is more adventurous, grand and bombastic? Unleash Imaginaerum upon us. Venturing from merely another Scandi symphonic metal band, Nightwish has been expanding to become a progressive metal band of film score proportions. Indeed, as much as main composer Toumas Holopainen has always wanted to score a movie, this album will be followed by a feature film of the same name in 2012. So, once more, Nightwish delivers with epic proportions on Imaginaerum.
Thematically, Imaginaerum tells the story of an aging songwriter, suffering dementia and facing imminent death, reflecting upon his youth, the only period of life he remembers, and the ensuing adventures into his imagination. The album is intended to stand alone in its concept, while the film founded upon the same ideas will be more extensive.
Above, Nightwish: from the midnight Imaginaerum release event/signing session at Kamppi, Helsinki.
Musically, the substance of the album is still melodic and symphonic metal, Nightwish's consistent foundation, and infiltrates much of the album. By example, Storytime, the first single, and the two instrumentals Arabesque, written specifically for the film, and the closing title track affirm this motif. (Again Nightwish engages a live orchestra for the symphonic elements.) Nightwish offers some celtic and folk flavor I Want My Tears Back, an aggressively accessible and friendly number, and on Turn Loose the Mermaids, a melancholic ballad.
Nightwish can also be heavier and aggressive. Sometimes this comes with bassist Marco Hietala (also Tarot, Northern Kings) adding vocals as on the creepy Ghost River. Combine this heaviness with a quicker pace and the symphonic and you have Last Ride of the Day. Then Rest Calm reduces the pace, and combines a near doom metal fell with symphonic grandeur; it's obsessively self-indulgent piece from the band. Never wanting to except the epic, longer, piece, Holopainen and company explore poet Walt Whitman's Song of Myself, which includes a recitation of the poem
Perhaps the most interesting songs on the album are Slow Love Slow, Scaretale, and The Crow, The Owl, and the Dove. The first two songs feature vocalist Annette Olzon in two different lights. Slow Love Slow finds Olzon nearing the smooth and sultry torch singer in an American jazz club, and dig that bass. Later, in Scaretale, she sounds like a devilish mistress of the dark in a song about childhood nightmares. The Crow, The Owl, and the Dove is the only song written by bassist Hietala (though he has contributed several songs in the past). It has him in duet with Olson, but not doing his best gruff vocals. Rather, it's light and friendly, a near 'pop,' piece from the band.
Imaginaerum finds Nightwish at the height of their glory and grandeur, and perhaps their most musically profound and mature. Imaginaerum is thoroughly enjoyable, easily another Nightwish classic. Strongly recommended.
Imaginaerum finds Nightwish at the height of their glory and grandeur, and perhaps their most musically profound and mature. Imaginaerum is thoroughly enjoyable, easily another Nightwish classic.