CD Review: Imaginaerum by Nightwish

Imaginaerum Cover

I was thinking that I wouldn’t be writing a rant today as I really did not have anything to say and had settled in to watch some TV or play some video games on my day off but then fate came calling. You see, I went to the local Post Office this morning as I am expecting a few parcels (I love you eBay!) when I was handed this from a mail clerk. Then I knew I would be blogging today, as I had to review this CD. Imaginaerum is one of the most highly anticipated releases of the year and the follow up to the highly successful “Dark Passion Play” CD that was the debut of new vocalist Anette Olzon.

So let’s look at the people responsible for this CD. Nightwish consists of Tuomas Holopainen on keyboards, Anette Olzon on vocals, Marco Hietala on bass guitar and vocals, Emppu Vuorinen on guitar and Jukka Nevalainen on drums. As stated before this is Olzon’s second CD with the band but Holopainen is the main songwriter and composer for the band and his strength is catering the material to the current talents in the band.

There is a film of the same way on the horizon and according to the Wiki on the album:

The album is produced alongside the film with the same name, directed by Stobe Harju and described as an “emotional fantasy-adventure”,[41] and feature the same basic themes and ideas, though told in more detail and with more extensive characters in the film than in the album.[15] According to Holopainen, the film has evolved radically from the original plan, while still retaining the main spirit of the foundation. To Holopainen, it “was important from the very beginning that the album would work as its own individual piece of art”[30] that would “work on its own without the film”.[42] According to drummer Jukka Nevalainen, “this is not a concept album per se”, but it’s “a coherent package from the beginning to the end”.[42]

The foundations to the music were developed before the pre-production of the film, during which Holopainen and Harju collaborated in developing the characters and the script.[3

Nightwish

I will go track by track and try to find a youtube link for each song. Are you ready to go on a journey to Imaginaerum?

#1  Taikatalvi – 

This is one of the very few Nightwish songs sang entirely in Finnish and is the only time, according to Holopainen, that an intro song to set a theme was ever used for a Nightwish album. Marco Hietala handles the vocals here and it is a very simple song with his soft vocals  accompanied by a music box and later a piano. Later in the short song, more instruments are added to make it sound “fuller.” It will be a different song to those who are not familiar with the band’s back catalog and the previous songs in Finnish. It is said to be setting up “the snowflake theme” that Nightwish is trying to establish in the CD and the film. Also, Taikatalvi is the Finnish word for “magic winter.”

#2 Story Time-

This is the first single off of the album and I have to say I have noticed slight changes to the single version and the CD version. The bass guitar is much more pronounced in the track from the CD and carries much more weight. This is much to my delight, as I think Marco’s bass playing is fantastic, it adds soul to the band. Olzon’s vocals are great on this song and it really shows how Holopainen recognizes what style she brings to her performances. Previously the songs were written for a very different style and the music reflected that, but Olzon has a Rock N Roll pedigree and it allows him to write songs like Story Time. This is a fantastic song and will carry the sales of the CD at first. Great stuff!

#3 Ghost River-

The first song to meet my “Olzon and Hietala” duet quota, as I love the sound of how their voices mesh together. The disparity in their voices is the highlight of this song as Olzon has such a soft and angelic vocal, where as Hietala is a growling and grittier vocal and it works. It is in the same vein as “Wish I Had An Angel” and “Bye Bye Beautiful” but does’t have the catchy chorus that those songs have which is my only complaint about the song. What made those songs great was Marco’s singing of a chorus you would walk away singing after one listen. This song doesn’t present that opportunity but it is a very guitar oriented song that gives Vuorinen a chance to shine. A solid track that could have been better.

#4 Slow Love Slow-

I have to admit that this song shocked me, big time. Nightwish has been known to incorporate a Celtic flavor to their sound and also Native American influences as well from time to time but this is something altogether different. This is Jazz. Yes you read that right, Jazz and I have to say….I love it! It is greatly inspired by David Lynch and his Twin Peaks. Olzon’s sensual vocals just shine through this slow burning song and you can imagine her laying across a piano as she sings it. Hietala softens his vocals for this song and I have to say if two people could make love through vocals, it is Anette and Marco on this song. It is that “hot” when they sing together. This is a sleeper hit and will shock many long time Nightwish fans. Amazing!

#5 I Want My Tears Back-

Holopainen considers this to be the most “approachable” song on the CD and feels it could potentially be the next single released off the album. The song features Troy Donockley on pipes. Wow! This song comes out and grabs you right away with the much heavier and more Nightwish sound. Olzon again shines in this song and truly ups her game when the music gets faster and heavier. This is the third song that features the “Olzon-Hietala” duet and I am in heaven!!!! This is the song that will follow the like of “Wish I Had An Angel” and “Bye Bye Beautiful” as it has the chorus that Ghost Rider was lacking. Marco dials down his vocals and they sounded amazing with Anette’s. This is my song of the CD so far.

#6 Scaretale-

Ok, this song starts out rather creepy with a eerie musical score and children singing “Ring Around The Rosey.” This is the stuff Freddy Krueger would attempt in his movies. The only way I can describe what happens next for is the song has a Disney vibe that then turns into a heavy rock song. Yes, we went from Freddy to Disney to Hard Rock. Seriously. This has been described as the band’s lyrical version of what Metallica created with “Enter Sandman” and at about 2:05 of the song, you hear the heaviest riffs of the album. Olzon has the vocals on this one and it is her rawest vocals to date with Nightwish. The song then turns back into a Disney vibe and Marco acting as The Ringmaster and then he breaks into a very………..interesting performance. I am not a fan of this part of the song as it just oozes Disney. Seriously, as I listen to this right now I see Mickey Mouse in my head dancing. This may grow on me someday.

#7 Arabesque-

This is an all instrumental song with no vocals, which was constructed especially for a scene needed in the movie. It is one of two instrumentals on the album, alongside the title track, the most amount of instrumentals yet on a Nightwish album. Nevalainen’s drumming takes on a very tribal flavor in this short track and I do love hearing the guys just tear it up on their own. It adds something unique to the CD as there are not many bands that do instrumental only songs.

#8 Turn Loose the Mermaids-

Well if anything, the title is interesting right? Olzon has the vocals on this song that sounds like a sister song to “The Islander” sung by Marco on the “Dark Passions Play” CD. The vocals are beautiful and the musical style really is amazing. Nightwish is the one of maybe only a handful of metal bands in the world who can pull off song such as this. Her power of her vocals really shines here. She doesn’t have the “fullness” of power like former singer Tarja Turunen had but that is due to Tarja’s Opera training. This song has grown on me as it has played and I am a fan. I can see their being a playlist with “The Islander” and this back to back in my near future.

#9 Rest Calm-

Holopainen has described this as the heaviest song on the album and in the same vein as  doom metal bands such as Paradise Lost and My Dying Bride, and is a mid-tempo and heavy but still melodic song. The first thing I notice is it is by far the heaviest song on the album and oh my god…yes!!!!! Hietala and Olzon duet!!!! Marco handles the main vocals and Anette has the chorus and I have to say, this song is freaking awesome. It really has such a heavy sound when Marco sings and gets very gentle when Anette sings. This is the song I was waiting for and worth the price of the cd alone. Tuomas must have heard me saying how we need more Marco vocals on the next CD and how more duets with Anette would be fantastic. I truly can not do this song justice in how good it is. The only gripe I have with it is the chrous of children singing towards the end but it is a minor gripe and in the same vein as when the children chorus shows up in Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick In The Wall.” I can live with that.

#10 -The Crow, the Owl and the Dove

If you are a Nightwish fan than you know they have one of these types of titled songs on every CD and this is no exception. This song was one of two co-written by Marco Hietala, as Tuomas usually does all of the writing and crafting of the songs. Tuomas said in regards to Marco’s writing  “It is kind of funny that the most poppy song on the album is composed by the most metalhead dude in the band”. Marco’s voice is simply amazing at the start and my god yes….Anette and Marco duet again!!! It is a very slow ballad that just shows a softer side of Marco and the band. This CD is just getting better and better my friends and I am thinking already it has topped “Dark Passion Play.” I am sitting here in awe at what I am hearing. EARGASM!!!!!

#11 Last Ride of the Day

All I could find for background on this song is that it is inspired by riding a roller coaster. Well, ok. I guess that is a good thing. The start is powerful and Jukka’s drums sound massive. I can already tell I will love this song as soon as I hear Marco’s bass guitar kick in, he is a virtuoso. This is more of a traditional Nightwish song in the lines of “Amaranth.” Very heavy, very powerful and catchy. I can not believe how good this song is, even though there is no Marco duet but that is ok. Anette is just blowing this one out of the water and  the bass guitar and drums are really driving the song. Oh my god. Emppu has a rare guitar solo! Nightwish does not feature a ton of solos in their songs but it is really cool to hear him showing off his skills. I can see this being a single for the CD, it is that good. Full of win!

#12 Song of Myself

This song has been described by Holopainen  as “The epic song on the album,” It is a 14 minute odyssey, that is split into 4 parts. Let’s start with part 1 shall we? Very heavy music with strong vocal work by Anette, and she is very “metal” in her approach to this one, which is a good thing. It really shows her range. I am really digging this song and am waiting for the next part to kick in. Ah at about the 3:40 mark we get a change in the pace of the song and it feels even heavier, amazing. Her vocla shave gone to a lower, grittier style and it really does make the song feel like a different song. I really have to call out anyone who says she is not as good as Tarja, she is just as good but different. Anette opens up different songs for Tuomas to write as Tarja could not sing what he is crafting right now. Another instrumental break in the song but it maintains the heavier vibe the song has undetaken. At the half way point of the song, we have the style change again as the heaviness is being lifted and a piano softly playing and someone speaking. I am not sure of it is Tuomas or Marco but Anette and an older man are now reciting poetry. There are a variety of people reciting the poem right now, the latest having a British accent.  I did find this tidbit of information:

Song Of Myself  is inspired by Nightwish keyboardist Tuomas Holopainen’s favorite poet Walt Whitman (1819–1892), and his famous free verse poem of the same name. The song includes a six-minute recitation of the Transcendentalist poem. He explained to Metal Hammer magazine: “I wanted to pay homage to him and do the lyrics in a way that he would possibly write. It’s a real, open, thorough, personal catharsis – especially the spoken-word part.”

This is simply a deep and thought provoking piece of art. I really can not describe it in any other fashion than that. The musical arrnagement in the background has Emppu playing another solo and I can not believe I am going to say this but….I like this. Usually I find this attempt by a band as campy but in this case, I can’t. Nightwish pulls this off and I am hooked into it.

#13 Imaginaerum-

This is a medley of the album’s main musical themes and is an instrumental track. Holopainen thought of it as an outro to the album and what would play as the credits rolled at the end of a movie. He gave orchestral arranger Pip Williams free hands to make what he wanted of it, making it one of two songs off the album not composed entirely by Holopainen. This is an very cool piece of music that allows you to pick out the familiar music fromt he previous songs you listened to. “Story Time” stood out to me right away. Again I would usually think of this as campy but Nightwish makes it work.

I recieved the 2 disc special edition that came with the original cd, a second cd of all the songs without vocals and only instruments, a mini booklet with lyrics and quotes and a small poster.

So what do I think over-all?

I think that this is one hell of an album and well worth the wait and the hype!!! I have to give Nightwish credit for they have gone out on a limb and tried some different things with this album but they pull it off. Boy do they ever. This is a step above the very, very good “Dark Passion Play” and that says something folks. The album just kept ramping up and getting better with each song. I just have never had that happen before with any CD I own.

I will not just recommend this CD to anyone who likes Nightwish, I say you HAVE to buy it or else you will be sorry. To the casual listener I suggest go into it with an open  mind as it will be like nothing that you have ever heard before but that is ok. If you allow yourself to be open minded enough to experience this CD, you will not be disappointed.

MY SCORE: 9/10

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About Jason Huskins

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