Nightwish – Imaginaerum (2011) – Review

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Following the outstanding Dark Passion Play, Nightwish created their 7th studio album Imaginaerum. And wary we were, believe it or not. Because after such great results, one is never sure how to top the last edition of a band’s delights.

Now, to start, the band – together with director Stobe Harju (The Islander) – decided to accompany the album with a film created in tandem. The movie finally saw its light of day in 2012 and features reinterpretations of tracks on this current album, plus some new stuff. The tracks Slow, Love, Slow, an instrumental of I Want My Tears Back and Scaretale are directly played on the film.

Anette Olzon – at that time lead singer of the band – always manages to astound me with her pretty stellar capabilities as a vocalist. It looks like she fell from grace with Holopainen and the band shortly after they started touring, and got chucked out rather unceremoniously. Not a good decision in my book. This sounded very much like the abrupt disconnection from Tarja Turunen some years back.

The aftermath with blame and counter-blame was not nice to see. No good PR can come out of mutual mud-slinging if you want to run a smooth operation. That said, however, the RMR offices (grouchily) admit that Floor Jansen does an amazing job since her arrival with proof delivered in their 2015 record Endless Forms Most Beautiful.

And Anette Olzon finally moved on to launch her solo career with her debut album Shine. Which, we understand, already started during the Dark Passion Play World Tour. Interesting, huh?

I must say, Nightwish do not take kindly to criticism. I left a rather direct message on their Facebook site and was blocked for a while by the webmaster. WTF, you guys from Nightwish! Learn to live with some negatives, now you give me a chance to write about it.

But back to Imaginaerum.

The music is fast, rocky, and very well structured, Symphonic Metal at its best. And I really like this mix between hot and cold, sweet and rough. Ghost River is a very good example of that. Now, credit goes to Marko Hietala and Anette Olzon who harmonize perfectly on this disc. As usual, the record sports equally great lyrics and good story play, perfectly created by Tuomas Holopainen.

Imaginaerum takes off with a furious Storytime, moving over to the excellent I Want My Tears Back. The band really lets loose on that specific track. This is fully mounted Nightwish at its best, a full 10/10 for this track alone.

But they can also do soft and silky, a style that gently injects itself into the fray. The well-rounded Turning Loose the Mermaids is nothing for hardened metal fans. Yet it will strike a chord with those up for some perfectly executed slow-motion tracks.

I really like this somewhat decadent feel of variété and hidden debauchery that permeates Imaginaerum. A circus-like performance that Nightwish perfectly knew how to interpret. And it permanently gives you this impression of a motion-picture soundtrack. A story being told. Which – of course – is exactly what this album is.

Unfortunately, the second half of the record loses speed some. Yet, you will find no fillers. A series of songs that culminate in a soft ‘n’ rough Song of Myself. An epic creation almost 14 minutes long. May I also suggest taking a moment and listening to the somewhat endless monologue that is exceedingly well done? Even if the lyrics dangerously lean towards overcooked bombast near the end.

If anything, this track is a precursor to their next album that will speak about creation. And, yeah I know, the album does not end there. But the last contribution is really not worth mentioning. Not unless you want to fall asleep real fast. And you are in dire need of endless instrumentals of the operatic kind. 

To wrap this up, Imaginaerum is one of Nightwish‘s finest. And perhaps the drama surrounding Olzon‘s departure even helped to spice things up some more. It might just be this quantum of added action that really got the record on its way to nirvana.

The record mixes stellar musicianship with a potent savoir-faire in storytelling and excellent songwriting skills. The outcome is a slightly wicked, highly entertaining piece of Symphonic Metal that needs to be topped still.

I love the album. A very varied, excellently crafted piece of work. Congratulations, Nightwish!

Record Rating: 8/10 | Label: Nuclear Blast Records | Web: Official Site
Release date: 30 November 2011

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