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Honorary Collaborator
4 stars It's really an excellent symphonic metal album!

WOW! Man ..... I think the four years in waiting after their Dark Passion Play album in 2007 is worth. Nightwish has just released Imaginaerum as their seventh studio album on the 30th of November 2011. I was not quite following to what the band was up to during the making of this seminal album but from the net I found that the album is a concept album as said by Tuomas in an interview telling the story of an old composer on his deathbed, reminiscing of his youth. What an interesting storyline. Well, it's not for Tuomas only, it's for me personally as I had a dream when I was childhood that I wanted to be a composer of great prog music. What I meant at that time was that I wanted to make a music as great as Gates of Delirium (Yes) or Supper's Ready (Genesis) or Tarkus (ELP). But unfortunately, told me another lesson that the better way to be a composer was to give that job to other people and I would just enjoy and review the music .....

The album was produced alongside the movie of the same name, directed by Stobe Harju, who previously directed Nightwish's "The Islander" music video, and the album and the film share the same themes and general story. The first single off the album, "Storytime" was released on November 9 and quickly topped the Finnish single charts. Imaginaerum was certified 2x Platinum in Finland on the day of its release, with more than 50,000 copies sold.

Solid composition

When I talk about prog, I think this album has little measure on it. But, I will have a look more on how the composition has been crafted by the band. First off, I think this album has a quite strong and sometimes memorable, in some segments, in terms of tagline melody. From the opening track of Taikatalvi that sets the overall tone of the album, sung in Finnish, has successfully demonstrated clear direction on the musical side. It flows naturally to other tracks in nice melody. In terms of harmony, the album demonstrates great combination of all instruments and orchestration they play. For the metal fans, the music may sound awkward as the guitar sound is not quite dominating the solo part of the music. In terms of tempo and style changes there are many that I can feel throughout the album. The album lacks complexities as most of the tracks do not provide challenges to the listeners. They music just flow beautifully even if you do not like prog music at all. It's quite an easy listening music, I believe. In terms of structural integrity - this album proves that they are the masters of music making as the overall structure of the music is solid and cohesive - it supports the storyline, really.

I have been playing this album many times, I think more than 5 times and everytime I play, I always play it in its entirety. Only when the album reaches track 7 Arabesque, I always play another round again because I love this instrumental piece. Actually, not only that, the music sounds nice really as right after the opening track they play Storytime which has up tempo style, performed in simple melodic metal style. The continuation to Ghost River happens beautifully with excellent orchestration. The female vocal performs nicely with clear voice. I don't feel anything diminishing with her vocal quality compared to previous singer, Tarja Turunen. Yes, the vocal style is different, but it still fits with Nightwish music. It's a great transition that the band was able to manage well. The orchestration work is really great. I even love their previous album Dark Passion Play.

The music turns slow and melodic with Slow, Love, Slow and then returns back into up tempo with a poppy stuff I Want My Tears Back. There is no reason for not liking this easy to digest and energetic track. Scaretale is a melodic power metal track with great orchestration and guitar riffs. I always love the combination of guitar riffs and string orchestra. In some musical breaks the orchestra sounds really powerful and captivating. Arabesque is a masterpiece orchestral work - the most favorite track for me. Turn Loose The Mermaids demonstrates great vocal work combined wonderfully with acoustic guitar, woodwind and string section. It's really a melancholic track.

Rest Calm brings the music into medium tempo style followed with thin guitar riffs and grandiose orchestra. This time male vocal takes part followed with nice female vocal. I love the flow of this track - it's really cool. The Crow, The Owl And The Dove is a mellow track with duet vocals. Last Ride Of The Day is really a wonderful composition with grandiose orchestration followed with another great track Song Of Myself . The album concludes with a reprise section in instrumental version - performed in orchestra fashion.

I do not need to conclude this wonderfully crafted album. It's a masterpiece symphonic metal album - 4.5 stars.

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW

Report this review (#595867)
Posted Sunday, December 25, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars By way of introduction I have to say that Nightwish with "Imaginaerum" took a step to the new level and this release is something more than just symphonic metal.Probably the best nightwish album .I said:"an album" but it is actually a soundtrack to the film or something like theater play. That "theatricalness" and soundtrack-feeling is present in all the songs.The band uses twelve different masks, twelve scenes and different interpretations. There is a big variety.If term "progressive" means not only typical art-rock album but music which blends different elements from many genres - this album for sure fulfils this definition.

1.Taikatalvi - Superb atmospheric introduction with the waltz rhythm from music box , the perfect prelude to a wonderful musical adventure.

2.Storytime - This single is much better than previous singles such as "Bye Bye Beautiful", very catchy symphonic metal.There is some kind of postmodernism beacuse you can hear a few old nightwish songs in it. Pay attention: fantastic orchestration with almost a quotation from "Crimson Tide" by Hans Zimmer and bridge with children's choir and taiko powerful ethnic drums.

3.Ghost River - Starts with Van Halen-like guitar riff but overall composition has nothing to do with this style, then we have great mix of metal and symphony. Duel between the Devil and the Mother Gaia.Very Theatrical. Pay attention: bridge with gigantic orchestrations, arrangement's instinct, especially when the following elements appear separately: guitars, symphony then the children's choir and at the end we have Anette singing during calm moment. Masterpiece.

4.Slow, Love, Slow - Great bands can be recognized by the fact that they can experiment with any genre.The first jazz piece by Nightwish, seductive and sensual. Jukka plays "shuffle" drum beat. Pay attention: Anette sexy vocals and atmospheric trumpet like the one from Miles Davis records.

5.I Want My Tears Back - Modern downtuned riffs, the whole song can be described as celtic folk-metal, great ulliean pipes. Some echoes of "Last of the wilds" can be heard. Pay attention: thrilling vocal lines, bridge with bodhran and celtic instruments.

6.Scaretale - Musically, the best song on the album, amazing middle section where as someone said: "Danny Elfman ate one too many hallucinogenic mushrooms, and began to dance finnish humppa" . Very theatrical.Fantastic orchestration with horror climate and unusual song structure. Pay attention: the whole atmosphere, absolutely sensational and frightening (in a good sense) children's choir, Anette witch-like voice

7.Arabesque - Finish response to Hans Zimmer, let's face it Tuomas Holopainen is even better than a german composer because of more thrilling melodic lines, amazing oriental piece, sounds straight from the Middle East. Pay attention: zurna solo parts - turkish oriental intstrument,.taiko drums -ethnic and tribal.

8.Turn Loose The Mermaids - The only one real ballad.Celtic folk music with folklore instruments, beautiful melody and great singing of Anette. Pay attention: The Spaghetti western bridge, almost quotation from Ennio Morricone "Ecstasy of Gold".

9.Rest Calm - Doom metal influenced track but still epic.Contrasting structure.Emotions become more and more intensive. Pay attention: the best entrance of children's choir .Surprising contrast in a song structure, usually songs have strong choruses and delicate verses.Here - brilliant inversion.

10.The Crow, The Owl And The Dove - Theoretically the simplest thing on the album though it is still a nice track. Bass guitar is very well exposed. Pay attention: Bridge with Troy Donockley playing bouzouki along with singing in cumbrian language(!)

11.Last Ride Of The Day - Lots of energy, verses are rather slow but the chorus is riding like hell,very catchy chorus and good guitar solo at the end. Pay attention: choirs, energy, the lyric - praise of the moment

12.Song Of Myself - Number one of the album, emotional bomb.Tuomas Holopainen walks in the footsteps of the greatest american poet Walt Whitman and matched him.Amazing praise of life with all it's beautiful and dark sides simultaneously (G-Em parallel scales, two coexisting sides of the same coin). The depth of the lyric matched Whitman.Recited poem gives you goose pimples.Opus Magnum, there is no unnecessary note. Pay attention: poetry, Anette vocals, choirs.

13.Imaginaerum - Medley only with symphonic orchestra.There is a lot of Zimmer influences ("Pirates of the Caribbean") in arrangement, Morricone and Shore as well.

It is certainly very eclectic album for people with open mind.It is not for those who seek only riffs and guitar solos because it is really a soundtrack with some guitar addition.Songs are strongly influenced by Hans Zimmer / Elfman / Morricone. Breathtaking orchestrations and very complex arrangements. Big diversity: metal, symphonic music, film music, folk, jazz....In one sentence"very emotional and wonderful musical-literary journey". In conclusion it is worth to mention that Anette Olzon sings with more confidence and interprets a lot.I think that this album shows "urbi et orbi" that Tuomas Holopainen is more than just metal musician. Is Holopainen some kind of finnish version of Hans Zimmer?.I would put the thesis that he is much more versatile than any of film music composer. Final rating: 5/5

Report this review (#681069)
Posted Saturday, March 24, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars I have been looking forward for the release of this record with mixed feelings for quite a while. I really adored the band's last bombastic, diversified and impressive output "Dark Passion Play" and was intrigued by this new record, its concept and the upcoming movie in relation to this release which may come out in the beginning of the next year. On the other side, I expected a quite similar style to the last output, somewhat a copy and doubted that the band would be able to top the previous gem.

After listening to the first songs that were released from this record, I had a rather negative feeling. "Storytime" is a superficial and quite ordinary single that tries to be catchy and commercial but can't catch up with "Amaranth" or "Bye bye beautiful". The possible second single "The Crow, The Owl And The Dove" sounded like a boring version of "The Islander" with a touch that reminded me of a ballad from the Finnish rock band "The Rasmus". In fact, I didn't expect too much from the record anymore.

In the end, the album is not as bad as it seemed after the first two impressions. The album version of "Storytime" fits perfectly to the concept of this record and is much more impressive than the shortened single version. That's the case of many tracks as the whole result sounds better than the sum of its parts. Nevertheless, the final result doesn't sound more than good and intriguing but is far away from being a masterpiece or milestone.

The impression that this release would sound a lot like "Dark Passion Play" was indeed right but this record can't be seen as an improvement. It's rather like a weaker version of the first album with the new line-up. The epic track "Song Of Myself" for example can't catch up with the dramatic and impressive "The Poet And The Pendulum" and is stretched to an unhealthy length by too many narrative passages, a choir of children and more or less intriguing interludes. The final instrumental "Imaginaerum" is only a rather useless mixture of the different tracks of the album and not as magical as "Last Of The Wilds" from the last record. In fact, many tracks lack of genius, innovation and especially of the passion that one could feel in every song of the last output. Some good examples are the overlong "Rest Calm" or the more rhythm orientated "Last Ride Of The Day" that could also be a great single choice where Nightwish copy themselves and not in the best way. The tracks are not bad and should at least please to the fans of the band but I have the feeling that I have heard these tracks in similar and better versions on previous records.

The unique things about this record are without a doubt the very well done orchestral passages and the folk sounds. When these influences come together, the result sounds quite interesting. But this often only concerns the musical factor but not the vocals. "Turn Loose The Mermaids" is such a song but it's sadly flawed by rather mediocre vocals that don't have the magic that "Eva" or "The Islander" had on the last record. The final result sounds too close to artists like Loreena McKennitt which I prefer over this. The more dynamical track "I Want My Tears Back" works better and can be cited as a highlight of the record and would be a good choice for a catchy single, too.

Other tracks like the very well done "Ghost River" or the even better done creepy and atmospheric "Scaretale" are though fairly interesting and could fit to a gothic comedy or the score of a Tim Burton movie. These two tracks are also among the best ones on this album. Heavier and engaging parts sung by Marco Hietala and heavy guitar riffs are mixed with a touch of eighties' pop music by Anette Olzon's vocals and the usual orchestral bombast plus a choir of children. The songs have a few lengths and sound a little bit too ambitious but still have a great quality.

A fourth and last outstanding song is "Slow, Love, Slow" that sounds like a jazz ballad and is probably the most innovating song on the entire album. The vocals of Olzon and Hietala work really well together in this song. But this isn't quite often the case on this record.

In the end, we have a handful of really great and even original tracks like "I Want My Tears Back", "Ghost River", "Scaretale" and "Slow, Love, Slow" where Nightwish prove that they still have fresh ideas, justified ambitions and some courage. But most of the record sounds too much like the last output "Dark Passion Play" such as "Storytime", "Rest Calm" or "Song Of Myself" without having the same level of innovation, passion and energy as the tracks written a few years back. Overall, the album lacks a little bit of heart blood and sounds a little bit too ambitious and complicated at some points. The lyrics and the concept are sure intriguing but the music isn't always. The band should have focused on the new elements they brought in for the release and not on the concept of the story and the future movie. What we have here is a good Nightwish album that has all the band's trademarks but we don't have a new step in the evolution, a new degree of passion and energy or a new opus magnum in here. This record is a step back but on a high level. Nightwish fans and collectors should of course purchase the release without a doubt but any occasional fan honestly doesn't need this if he or she has already purchased "Dark Passion Play".

Originally published on on November 30th of the year 2011.

Report this review (#808896)
Posted Thursday, August 23, 2012 | Review Permalink
Prog Leviathan
4 stars Nightwish does a great job blending hard-hitting guitar riffs, entertaining compositions, choral arrangements, and symphonic instrumentation into a solid and approachable metal package. Imaginaerum is many things, and maybe tries to achieve too much during its running time, but pulls it off stylishly and memorably. It's all good, occasionally great, and sometimes excellent. Most appealing of all is the fact this group is doing something unique within a genre dominated by guitar-led soloists and men who sound like women.

The album opens with the winding of a music box which grows to an ever more lush and dynamic overture. It evokes sort of a sweeping orchestral feel that captures the imagination. And then the chugging begins. We're brought into the first real song "Storytime," an upbeat, energetic and riff-fueled rocker that has trombones blasting out hits alongside the drumming, and violins accompanying the female vocals, and epic walls of choir sound. There's a bit of cheese in there, but the overall effect is very enjoyable, and Nightwish does an outstanding job of giving the orchestra and choir something to do besides just support the band. In fact, I don't recall a single guitar or keyboard solo throughout the entire album. Heresy!

As things continue we're given moments of hard and heavy metal, folksy balladry, epic percussive moments, and emotive vocals. There is a lot of variety to be found here, a nice welcome compared to the typical prog metal fare. Here's a few examples:

"Slow, Love, Slow" is a mellow and lush ballad that has has a jazz-club feel, with brushed drum work and trumpets blowing away in the background. What a surprise, considering that the track before had harsh, throaty guitar riffing.

"Scaretale" is one of the better metal songs. It has a bouncy and stylish tone that makes it feel like something from an early Tim Burton film. It's heavy, quirky, and filled with hooks. Yeah it's a little silly, but the combination of vocalists and styles works well.

"Arabesque" is probably one of the standout tracks. It's an instrumental with an eastern flair that builds and builds and builds to a massive percussion finale that completely grabs hold of you.

"Turn Loose the Mermaids" begins with thoughtful balladry with acoustic flutes and piano that accompany the vocals... and then all the sudden we shift into the drums, violins, and trumpet fanfare of a spaghetti western. No I'm not kidding, and yes it is as fun as it sounds.

In being objective its safe to say that Imaginaerum will appeal to some more than others, but if you're interest in heavy music fronted by a first-rate female vocalist, or are a prog metal fan interested in something that stands out uniquely in a sea of Dream Theater soundalikes, this album comes highly recommended.

Songwriting: 4 - Instrumental Performances: 3 - Lyrics/Vocals: 3 - Style/Emotion/Replay: 4

Report this review (#1473913)
Posted Thursday, October 8, 2015 | Review Permalink
Prog-Folk Team
4 stars Every once in a great while a prog metal album earns my attention and eventually affection if not outright obsession. If I was to sketch out a template for an exemplary specimen in this sub genre, it would exclude growls but include male and female vox; be melodramatic and highly visual; juxtapose crunchy riffs with light catchy melodies; and of course include some concession to the folk idiom. It would sound a lot like "Imaginaerum" by NIGHTWISH. Of all these characteristics, it's their ability to transition over the top, even operatic vocals, heavy guitars and symphonic orchestration to tunes reminiscent of childhood nursery rhymes that completely wins me over. This deliberate lapse into nostalgia marks the fulfilment of the concept, and is just plain entertaining as well. It begins with the breathless "Storytime" and is eclipsed by the Celtified "I want my tears back", resuming on the schizophrenic "Rest Calm" and capped on the frenetic "Last Ride of the Day". Along the way are several more even tempered pieces like the languid jazzy "Slow Love Slow", the gorgeous "Turn Loose the Mermaids" and the even more sensitive "The Crow, The Owl and the Dove". At times the feverishness threatens to dampen the forehead, as in "Ghost River" and "Scaretale", but this remains a compelling work of the imagination that has also found a significant following in the prog world and beyond.

Report this review (#1518721)
Posted Saturday, January 23, 2016 | Review Permalink

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