Nightwish
Imaginaerum


2.5
average

Review

by Matthew D. French USER (50 Reviews)
December 1st, 2011 | 182 replies | 31,517 views


Release Date: 2011 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Imaginaerum sets itself up for success, but ultimately falls short.

9 of 12 thought this review was well written

Imaginaerum should have been great. Sharing the same themes as the film of the same name, Imaginaerum centers around the tale of an old composer reminiscing on his youth as he awaits his imminent death. Through a wildly imaginative journey, Tom (the protagonist) struggles with dementia as he recalls memories from his childhood, but consciousness of his adult-life and all that’s associated with it- his daughter, his friends, his musical journey - is eradicated. In these final moments, his daughter strives desperately to recover his mind. Now, with a concept this open to exploration - one that’s predisposed to be harrowing - Imaginaerum sets itself up for great success. It’s a concept that centers around the notion of trying to find oneself through an existential form of existence before meeting an inevitable end. So, it’s a little safe to say that while it’s unfair of people to have any preconceived notions as to how this should sound, it’s difficult to not be excited by the overarching possibilities. However, Nightwish’s musical interpretation of this is a complete mess that borders on being overwrought and overdone, resulting in one of, if not the most frustrating musical venture of 2011.

Now, without meaning to borrow too heavily from the age-old cliche “too much of a good thing can be bad”, it has to be noted that Nightwish cram the songs on Imaginaerum with too many different elements (metal, pop-rock, Celtic and renaissance themes, folk, etc.) - and at 74 minutes in length, it’s pretty exhausting. And it’s really a shame, because some of Nightwish’s best work is showcased here, but it’s also scattered, resulting in a really disjointed record. The tracks are almost all bloated and overstuffed. “I Want My Tears Back” illustrates this well: the first minute is led with Anette’s angelic vocals before breaking out in an unsuitably bland chorus, and eventually segueing into a fantastically (and surprisingly) fun medieval-esque Celtic pipe solo. But that’s more or less the most blatant detraction: there are gorgeous moments of eclecticism within drab symphonic tracks. It really begs the question: Are these brief moments of sheer brilliance - few and far between - really worth revisiting? “Song of Myself” is probably the most frustrating track on the entire album because of this. The decided ‘epic’ of the record, “Song of Myself” goes on for far too long (13 minutes, to be exact) and comes across as over-the-top in terms of its theatricality, featuring some of the most uninspired and derivative guitar work of Nightwish’s musical career. And the choirs... too often are choirs employed in their songs just because, and nine times out of ten they sound exactly identical, making their homogeneity come across as gimmicky -- just a device thrown in there to be ‘showy’ and ‘deep’. They service Imaginaerum in such a way that makes their songs appear feigned. Moderation is key, and it seems to completely elude the band mates this time around.

It’s not even just a result of the songs being bloated that tarnishes the record though. The second track, “Storytime”, sees the band on the cusp of mainstream pop - which isn’t necessarily brand new terrain for them, but never before have they sounded so uninspired and removed from the creative process (ironic, because they should be more on the ball now than ever before). Tuomas Holopainen’s commentary on some of the tracks on the record also make one wonder how knowledgeable he is of the music he’s helping to produce. According to him, “Rest Calm” is a ‘heavy’ track that pays homage to doom metal bands like ‘My Dying Bride’ and gets ‘totally out of hand at the end’ (it doesn’t). Still, if all of this sounds a little scathing, it isn’t really meant to. The tracks aren’t very enjoyable to listen to, but they aren’t off-putting to the extent of hatred; rather, they’re difficult to listen to because Tuomas Holopainen and co. are obviously squandering brilliance. The vast majority of it works to no avail and comes across as disingenuous -- but more than that, it’s maddeningly frustrating to hear these glimmers of brilliance quickly fleet. The only time the album reaches glorious heights is on the poorly titled “Turn Loose the Mermaids”, where Anette Olzon lends her voice beautifully to a Celtic ballad. As a matter of fact, Olzon’s voice is probably the most consistently enjoyable aspect of Imaginaerum.

Ultimately, Imaginaerum is in a league of its own when the quirks come to the surface. The bar-like folksy pipe and guitar combination in the Celtic “I Want My Tears Back”, the lovely spoken word excerpt that borrows from Walt Whitman’s poem of the same name on “ Song of Myself”, and the instrumental conclusion, “Imaginaerum”, which utilizes a 56-piece orchestral ensemble, all add enjoyable quirks to the overall product. However, too often the songs are marred by their somewhat aimless directions and melodrama, and these stand-alone moments aren’t enough in their own right to save Imaginaerum from being a mostly tepid and disjointed album. Given the right attention to detail, Imaginaerum could have been a masterpiece, but alas, it wasn’t meant to be.



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user ratings (344)
Chart.
3.5
great
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Comments:Add a Comment 
Gyromania
December 1st 2011



15495 Comments


I really wanted this album to be good =[

Crysis
Staff Reviewer
December 1st 2011



16310 Comments


yeah i've heard this sucks

Gyromania
December 1st 2011



15495 Comments


It's not 'terrible', but I didn't really derive much pleasure from it. I suggest listening to "Turn Loose The Mermaids" though.

pizzamachine
December 1st 2011



12571 Comments


I agree that it's a disjointed album, but I don't think that ruins the album at all. Excellent review.

MO
December 1st 2011



18518 Comments


never been a fan

Poet
December 1st 2011



5922 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

One I completely disagree with you..

Two GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR RAGE THROWS I wanted to be the first and only person to review this for a while because I was going to write mine tomorrow and its going to be my last review.



Gyromania
December 1st 2011



15495 Comments


Loving the Christmas avatars, guys :P Especially Pizza's - that hat looks so well fitted.

Gyromania
December 1st 2011



15495 Comments


Post is anyways, Poet; I'd like to see your take on this.

Poet
December 1st 2011



5922 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

oh obviously I am =) I can't wait to write my non bias view!!

Tuomas Holopainen’s commentary on some of the tracks on the record also make one wonder how knowledgeable he is of the music he’s helping to produce


I'm pretty sure he is knowledgeable considering he wrote the entire thing :p


Dreamflight
December 1st 2011



1760 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Review is very well written and devoid of any boring naysayer comment. But tbh I really hope I won't be agreeing with you once I listen to this. And based on your opinion regarding storytime, I can see some glimmer of hope.

Gyromania
December 1st 2011



15495 Comments


Poet: Fair enough, it was a decidedly bold comment to make. He knows what he's doing in terms of producing (to some degree) but some of the things he says... lol.

Dreamflight: Thanks man! To be honest, nothing on here really sounds like "Storytime" so it's hard to say.

DarkNoctus
Contributing Reviewer
December 1st 2011



8780 Comments

Album Rating: 1.5 | Sound Off

it's literally like someone threw bad vocals and power chords on a wannabe-Disney soundtrack

this is terrible

Gyromania
December 1st 2011



15495 Comments


Haha, I don't dislike it quite as much as you, but I appreciate that there are other people out there that aren't proclaiming this a masterpiece :P

DarkNoctus
Contributing Reviewer
December 1st 2011



8780 Comments

Album Rating: 1.5 | Sound Off

anyone who claims this as a masterpiece is probably way too swept up in the ambition to realize how much it fails on all fronts

anette is nowhere near a powerful enough vocalist to carry any of the themes this album tries to go for and every song is just gimmick after gimmick after gimmick

Cells
December 1st 2011



1875 Comments


wow a 1.5 and a 2.5 review, sheesh

Fugue
December 1st 2011



7352 Comments


No Tarja, no love.

But yeah, this is a pretty typical Matthew D. French review so obviously it's good and all. I can't really see any mistakes but I'm tired and I so hope you're wrong about the rating.

Xenophanes
Emeritus
December 1st 2011



10593 Comments


My x-mas avatar is the best : P

Gyromania
December 1st 2011



15495 Comments


Noctus: I actually like Anette as a vocalist, it's the approach and songwriting that bothers me here.

Cells
December 1st 2011



1875 Comments


I've come to stop trusting Noctuses' ratings honestly so this is probably better then what people make it seem.

Gyromania
December 1st 2011



15495 Comments


Ross: Cheers, mate.

Xeno: Nah man, I think Ross' avatar takes the cake :P



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