Nightwish - Imaginaerum (2011)
©Nuclear Blast Records


  1. Taikatalvi (02:35) 
  2. Storytime (05:22) 
  3. Ghost River (05:28) 
  4. Slow, Love, Slow (05:50) 
  5. I Want My Tears Back (05:07) 
  6. Scaretale (07:32) 
  7. Arabesque (02:57)
  8. Turn Loose The Mermaids (04:20) 
  9. Rest Calm (07:02) 
  10. The Crow, The Owl And The Dove (04:10) 
  11. Last Ride Of The Day (04:32)
  12. Song Of Myself (13:37)
  13. Imaginaerum (06:18) 

The outlook of a Nightwish album that was also technically a film score isn't an overly optimistic one. What it said to me was the corniness and over-the-top theatrical themes would take the forefront and leave the creative process of making music completely behind. Much to my dismay, that prediction was 100% accurate. But unfortunately, this album doesn't stop there. This album simultaneously gets just about everything wrong and misuses the talent of everyone in the band in the process (which was limited to begin with), and then coats that in countless gimmicks and badly structured songs that instead emphasise on being memorable as opposed to actually being good. The verse/chorus structure is used and abused to death, which I can't even see working in a soundtrack context - let alone a 72 minute album one.

But let's leave all that aside for a moment. Nightwish couldn't have possibly got this far without excelling in at least one aspect that makes all the bad parts of this album forgiveable, right? Well if it's there, I can't find it. The thing that originally set them apart was the fact they had an operatic singer in a metal band, which was something not polarized on at the time. Of course, those days are over. What sets them apart now? Well, just about nothing. But even if that was true, it's still enjoyable, right? Uhh... Well let's start with the positive(s). The orchestra sounds great and is used very well throughout the album and is the only thing about this album that truly sets it apart from its peers. As you'd imagine from an album that is also technically a film score, it's at the forefront of just about everything. This is good because everything else is either awful or just so damn standard that if anyone else did it no one would care.

The good point(s) end there. There are so many things that cripple this album from the get-go that I barely even know where to start. But the biggest and most crippling aspect of this album is the main vocalist, Anette. Now I'm not one of the ones in the "bring back Tarja!" party, but Anette's voice just isn't utilized well at all here. Tuomas (keyboardist, composer) throws her in the deep end (or she's not as good as she thinks she is) and forces her to do styles and theatrics that she just isn't a good enough singer to pull off. The over-the-top and obnoxious theatrics just don't suit her voice, which is far more geared to the more quiet and delicate moments. It makes her delivery, which is paramount to the entire album, totally unconvincing and sometimes cringe-worthy. The male vocals by Marco (bassist) are used more here, which is nice, but none of his lines seem to be delivered with any of the conviction of the previous albums. Though I wasn't a fan of Dark Passion Play, there were points in there where he sounded huge, majestic even. Here he's just "there". Speaking of vocals, whoever decided a choir was a good idea should be slapped with a wet fish because it just adds so much cheese to this and it just wasn't needed. Especially the children's choir, which does a good job of inducing me to vomit up my last meal. But worst of all, nothing done on this album is in any way atmospheric or compelling - something this band used to do so well.

Past the vocals across the board, there just seems to be nothing to hold it all together. None of the performances here seem genuine or heartfelt, and where that is admittedly a difficult thing to judge, it all just seems so clinical and there for the sake of being there. The guitar work, where well played just doesn't take center stage and barely does enough to scrape a metal tag on Last.FM. The drums, again, just do what they need to do to carry the momentum and the bass may as well just not be there. It's a relief that the bassist also does some of the best vocals on this album or he may as well not have bothered showing up at the studio. Everything on this album screams the same aesthetic, just doing what it needs to do to qualify as a Nightwish album. The lazy structuring of songs, the lackluster delivery of key parts that needed the umph that no one delivered, and even the ordering of the tracks seems off. The only part of the album that seemed to have any effort put into its organization and execution was the orchestra and I'll bet just about anything that aside from the songwriting, the orchestra did all the work. The whole album just takes absolutely no risks aside from in one track where it didn't really work and just dragged on, trying a jazz kind of thing that just screamed tacky, because none of the band had any experience in jazz at all. Instead of minimalistic it just sounded empty. This entire album just screams empty and hollow.

So "barely enough for a Nightwish album" should at least qualify for an average rating, right? It would if it wasn't for my infinite frustration for this album's delivery. Tuomas' infuriaing lack of judgment totally killed this album, or perhaps over-ambition. Anette just isn't cut out for the parts Tuomas threw her into and none of the band seem to be in it at all. It's difficult to tell whether the lazy structuring is down to the band just being lazy, not caring or trying to appeal to a wider audience (since verse/chorus is a basic as hell structure) but it makes the whole album seem so insincere. The album is too overblown for its own good and just falls short of the premise it sets, especially considering the average at best delivery of the band. There are fleeting moments that are great that are soon drowned out by repetition and just bad ideas (What the hell is with the 7 minutes of dialogue in Song of Myself?) and juvenile themes. It's like if Tim Burton did a kid's movie and someone just played power chords over the soundtrack. Whilst bored and drunk.

What the fuck happened, Nightwish? You're better than this. You KNOW you're better than this.

3/10, and only for the effort put into the orchestra.


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