Review Summary: Contains an abundance of good music that fails to be cohesively organized into anything but an average effort by a band capable of much higher standards.
Expectations were high for Nightwish's first studio album in over four years, and their second with vocalist Anette Olzon. The band has now had a proper amount of time to work with and write material suited for Anette, and is poised for a real breakout performance. The pieces are all there for this album to be a real classic; however, like a puzzle where all of the pieces have been placed in the wrong spot, the beautiful pieces of music do not come together to make the album as a whole a winner.
With perhaps the greatest amount of variety seen on any Nightwish album, Imaginaerum
has something for everybody; however, there doesn't seem to be quite enough to satisfy any one taste. Fans of heavy, classic power metal should enjoy "Last Ride of the Day", "I Want My Tears Back", and "Ghost River". "Storytime" appeals to those who like a more commercial sound (which I don't believe is necessarily a bad thing), while someone with a soft spot for ballads will love "Turn Loose the Mermaids" and "Slow, Love, Slow". Most of the individual songs are quite good (though many also have their issues); the problem is that as soon as you begin to really get into a sound, the album does a complete about-face and moves in a totally different direction. Now, I'm a fan of variety and certainly do not want every song on an album to sound the same; that being said, I do like a common thread, whether it be a sound, lyric, mood, etc. to follow through the album. The change from song to song tends to be so jarring that it is difficult to settle in while listening to Imaginaerum
While I would hesitate to call any song on this album a "filler" song (with the possible exception of the title track itself), some of the songs seem to suffer from having filler within
the song. For example, the chorus of "Ghost River" goes on for a bit longer than is necessary, and "Rest Calm" rambles on for a few minutes longer than it needs to. "Song of Myself", while clearly intended to be a lengthy epic in the vein of "Poet and the Pendulum", only attains its length from adding segments that don't seem to fit with the song as a whole. These seem to serve to split the song into distinct pieces; however, the song may have been better served by being broken up into multiple songs and removing the parts that are there for nothing other than adding length and dividing the "real" parts of the song, which are quite good individually. The spoken words which occupy what feels like the last 3/4 of the song (actually less than half, but it feels longer) are understood for what they are trying to convey, yet are not something I would usually bother to listen to all the way through.
Taking the songs individually, the album does contain a few real gems. "Turn Loose the Mermaids" is a beautiful ballad, possibly one of the best Anette has so far performed. "The Crow, the Owl, and the Dove" is possibly one of the best written songs on the album. The lyrics and the performance come together to produce what is one of Nightwish's best songs since at least Once
. Among the songs which are not quite so slow, "Scaretale" is well done and a bit of a surprise. Definitely one of the more interesting songs on the album, Anette really showcases the unique things she is able to produce with her voice, and is expertly backed up by the band in giving a creepy yet enchanting whirlwind tour of a circus of horrors.
While there are not that many songs I would deem gems, there are also not many which are failures. "Slow, Love, Slow" is a different sound for the band and Anette delivers quite well on what is asked of her; I cannot help, however, feeling that the song is about a minute and a half or so longer than it should be. It simply cannot hold the attention of the listener as well as it should. "Rest Calm" has the same problem. For a song that is over seven minute long, I would want something that really draws you in and doesn't let you go until the song is over. A perfect example of this is "Ghost Love Score"; for a song that is over ten minutes long, "Ghost Love Score" still leaves you wanting more. The only want I had for "Rest Calm" was for it to end when it should have, and not been milked far beyond any interest that it could offer.
Finally, I would like to comment on Anette's performance (because, honestly, who couldn't listen to Nightwish now and have that as a focal point?). It is clear that Imaginaerum
has been written with Anette's talents in mind. She showcases on songs such as "Scaretale" and "Slow, Love, Slow" the great and unique vocals she can produce. However, I feel that her voice is often not as strong as I know that it can be. Her energy strength really seem to shine through more on Dark Passion Play
than on Imaginaerum
. Anette gives a very commanding performance on her opening track, "Storytime". After this, however, it seems that rather than rely on Anette to carry strong melodies, many of the songs have been written to use various tricks and gimmicks that Anette can produce (often quite well), rather than giving her center stage. I can't help but wonder if, in writing Imaginaerum
, Tuomas set out with a mindset of "I'll show you all the things that Anette can do which Tarja can't", and tried to stray too far from the types of songs that would have been written with Tarja still around. For, while Anette would certainly struggle to perform some of Tarja's songs, she is quite capable of performing many of them, and acquitted herself quite well on Dark Passion Play
, even though many of the songs on that album feel like they may have been written with Tarja at least partially in mind. Anette is a great vocalist, and I'm disappointed that she wasn't given a chance to really command this album as she should.
is certainly a good listen, but I believe Nightwish is capable of much, much better. Muscially, the pieces were all here; however, a number of poor decisions prevent this album from being the masterpiece that it was capable of being. If some of these were cleaned up, I could easily be saying here that Imaginaerum
was Nightwish's best album by far. Unfortunately, the album fails to accomplish this and ends up if an enjoyable, if not special, album.