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3.66 | 25 ratings | 3 reviews
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Album · 2011

Filed under Symphonic Metal


1. Taikatalvi (2:35)
2. Storytime (5:22)
3. Ghost River (5:28)
4. Slow, Love, Slow (5:50)
5. I Want My Tears Back (5:08)
6. Scaretale (7:32)
7. Arabesque (2:57)
8. Turn Loose The Mermaids (4:20)
9. Rest Calm (7:03)
10. The Crow, The Owl And The Dove (4:10)
11. Last Ride Of The Day (4:32)
12. Song Of Myself (13:38)
13. Imaginaerum (6:18)

Total Time: 74:49


- Anette Olzon / vocals
- Tuomas Holopainen / keyboards
- Jukka "Julius" Nevalainen / drums
- Marco Tapani Hietala / bass, vocals
- Emppu Vuorinen / guitars

with ("fellow imagineers")
- Troy Donockley / uilleann pipes (on track 5 & 13), tin whistle (on track 1, 8 & 10), vocals (on track 10 & 12), bodhran, bouzouki
- Dermot Crehan / hardanger fiddle
- Dirk Campbell / sorna
- Guy Barker / solo trumpet
- Paul Clarvis and Stephen Henderson / ethnic percussion
- Pekka Kuusisto / violin
- Metro Voices / choir
- The Young Musicians London / voices
- London Philharmonic Orchestra / orchestration
- "loved ones and fellow imagineers" / stanzas on track 12

About this release

Release date: November 30th, 2011
Label: Scene Nation/Nuclear Blast Records.

Deluxe edition includes a bonus disc with the entire album as and instrumental version.

Thanks to adg211288 for the addition and Pekka, diamondblack for the updates


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Specialists/collaborators reviews

Finland's Nightwish are probably one of metal's best known artists and certainly are a name that new metalheads will come across sooner rather than later. They've always been a pretty divisive band as well though, having popularised the soprano voiced symphonic metal sound that was a far cry from metal's roots. With Tarja Turunen fronting the band they gained quite the loyal following though, so when Tarja was fired Nightwish became even more divisive than ever. There weren't just fans and detractors any longer, but divisions within the fans themselves. With Tarja's distinctive voice gone many fans understandably felt that the band had lost one of its key elements, which was only further enforced when they announced that instead of doing what was expected of them and finding someone who could handle the material of the Tarja era, that they were instead bringing in one Anette Olzon of the AOR group Alyson Avenue to be their new lead singer.

Now, I think Anette Olzon gets a lot of unfair criticism for her performance in Nightwish. She's certainly no Tarja Turunen but she was never supposed to be. For what it's worth I think she gave it her all for her two albums with the band before she too found herself going the way of Tarja and was also fired. The first of her Nightwish albums was Dark Passion Play (2007) and though I personally quite liked it at the time I can't say it's weathered too well since. I think that album feels like the band were still in the same gear as they were with the final Tarja voiced album Once (2004) which would have been all well and good if Tarja had still been around to sing on it. Fast-forward a few more years though to Olzon's second and final studio album with Nightwish, which may just be their most divisive release all told. Imaginaerum (2011) is not an album I recall fans reacting too positively about at the time of its release and I can say that I for one hated it right at the start. But then it started to grow on me. This is actually not my first review of it as I reviewed it way back when to the best of my ability once it had opened up into a more positive experience, leaving my readers with words along the lines of 'I'm very sure that there’s a masterpiece hidden in Imaginaerum somewhere, only I haven't found it yet'.

Well guess what? Many years later, I do believe that I have now found what I have expected has always been here. It's been a long journey to take to get to where I am at now with the album, listening to it only very occasionally to see if my perspective had changed at all as I got more experienced with different types of metal music (and more importantly, other symphonic metal acts) and every time I couldn't say that I felt any different about the album, until the day that it suddenly clicked. I'm not sure exactly what changed to make everything about Imaginaerum suddenly fall into place, but it happened. I've left it a good while (over a year even) since then before doing this review re-write just to make sure it wasn't just me being in a specific mood for this album, but lo and behold it seems this is the real deal.

I've had to have a good think about why this could be and I think it may be because I've listened to a lot more symphonic metal bands since I first heard Imaginaerum and noticed that most artists playing the genre are pretty generic. There are a few variances in sound such power metal and folk influences creeping in and sometimes there's some progressive stuff or even outright pop leanings, but those things have become so common that they are now part of the generic symphonic metal formula. It's actually more unusual I think to hear a new symphonic metal release that doesn't use any of these little cliches. Then there's Imaginaerum. It has the folk influences (both in a metal context and not), and it has a little bit of power metal, but it also has a whole lot more besides. Track by track Nightwish do different things on this album, refusing to uphold any formula. Although it has taken me a long time to hear and appreciate it I think it may be the case that Imaginaerum is not only the most creative Nightwish album but also a contender for the most creative symphonic metal album in general. The amount of atypical elements along with the familiar in this album should be applauded. There's Celtic folk music, folk metal, jazz, power metal, progressive and even avant-garde metal, poetry recital, pure orchestral music; you could probably even make a case for it being a form of cabaret. Now tell me, what other symphonic metal album does all of that?

I, at least, can't name another. Of course it's all very well being inventive with your influences but what really matters in any album is whether the songs themselves work. I think that maybe my initial disappointment in the album may have been to do with it possible feeling disjointed. As I previously stated, the band do flit about with their style a lot more than normal on Imaginaerum. This is ultimately to the album's credit though. It's a difficult album to really summarise how it sounds because there's rarely a second song on it that is quite in the same frame as a previous one.

Taikatalvi opens the album and it's basically an intro track lasting for just over two and a half minutes. Male vocalist Marco Hietala sings it solo, in the band's native Finnish. Afterwards they proceed to Storytime, the lead single of the album. This is a fairly standard symphonic metal track that probably would have fit well enough on Dark Passion Play and seems to promise that Imaginaerum is going to be more of the same as its predecessor but then comes Ghost River and things start to get a bit more different, adding in some semi-harsh vocals from Marco.

The real curveball's start though with track four and the album's first full non-metal song, Slow, Love, Slow, as from out of nowhere Nightwish turn into a jazz band. Picture a dimly lit nightclub in times gone by (1930's) and Anette Olzon singing it up on the stage and you won't be far off what the album just dealt you. The song really shows off how good a vocalist she really is actually, as the music is quite minimal (this isn't the most lively kind of jazz). Though it's almost as long itself it forms a pretty great intro for I Want My Tears Back, which is when the genre of the album switches to folk metal. This is one of the tracks I've always liked the most. Then there's Scaretale, which takes things into some just plain weird, circus-like avant-garde kind of territory that seems totally at odds with the more structured I Want My Tears Back. Arabesque then serves as a short interlude, which includes some oriental folk elements.

When the second half of the album gets going the band have entered ballad territory with Turn Loose the Mermaids. There are probably too many instances of non-metal/balladry on Imaginaerum for the more traditional metalhead to stomach, but for me they actually also show the strength of the band as unlike most ballads in symphonic and/or power metal bands they aren't completely bland fare, this one being folksy. It's really quite a beautiful song. The Crow, the Owl and the Dove, just two tracks on from this, is quite similar in style but features some guest vocals delivered by Troy Donockley (who'd later join the band full-time). It's the closest the album comes to having two songs that are very alike though, along with Last Ride of the Day and the aforementioned Storytime. Between the two ballads though is Rest Calm, which plays well with both heavy and light elements to create an effective song. The slower plays and drawn out guitar in the heavy parts is even a bit of a nod to doom metal.

In the final stages of the album we get what promises to be an epic, Song of Myself, since it lasts for over thirteen minutes. This one was always a big shock to me because instead of being something on the level of Dark Passion Play's The Poet and the Pendulum, it's actually sort of half a fairly standard song and then everything is given over to a poem recital, inspired by (but not actually being) the piece of the same name by Walt Whitman. For a long time this has been my least favourite part of the album but I've come to appreciate it more of the years. It's actually quite a nice, gentle way to close the experience that has been Imaginaerum. But of course, there's still one track to go, the title track itself. It's actually a medley of the main themes from most of the previous tracks and sort of feels like the end credits of the whole production, which of course makes sense as the band also worked on a film of Imaginaerum (which I still haven't seen).

Imaginaerum is not the easiest of albums to understand but it is an album that I've really come to regard very highly. While my personal favourite of the band will likely always remain Oceanborn (1998), I think that objectively it's hard to argue that Imaginaerum is Nightwish's most interesting and inventive album; one that also has good songs. I expect some fans still listen to the Anette Olzon fronted Nightwish albums and expect to hear Tarja Turunen's soprano style over symphonic power metal as per the band's classic period and come away with a lower opinion of Imaginaerum because of it, but approach the album from a point of view other than it being a work by the same artist who made Oceanborn and Wishmaster (2000) and you may just come away surprised by it. For me, it's a masterpiece that I have finally unearthed and can now enjoy to its full extent.
Four years in silence and they came up with this ? I can't help to say but I'm totally disappointed. Well not too much because I haven't expecting anything from that camp since Tarja left and the only thing that interest me now is Vuorinen's side project, BROTHER FIRETRIBE, but with a long tour coming ahead to support this new album, looks like there'll be no new BF album until 2013 and that just pissed me off.

I don't have any problem with Olzon's vocal like many other. I think she's okay even though I have to admit she's inferior and less powerful than Turunen, but weakness of this album is obviously on the fact that they're forcing too much to blend the album with the upcoming movie, hence making the whole sound is like a colossal movie score and not a great metal album like what they had done in the past, not to mention the painful 75-minutes duration and only half of the songs that I'm fond of.

'Storytime', the first single, is the most appealing track for me. The dark nuance made you feel like you're trapped in a wicked circus, the massive choir is awesome, I love this song. But aside from the fourth track, 'I Want My Tears Back' which is a nice commercial track with Celtic melodies, the first half was swarmed with mediocrity. 'Ghost River' has nice riffs but lack of beautiful chorus and 'Slow, Love, Slow' is contradictive to any of their style which is sounds like an old American jazz. The intro on 'Scaretale' is too long and with 'Arabesque', both will be good as score but not metal.

The second half is better. 'Turn Loose The Mermaids' is melancholic and 'Last Ride of The Day' is the classic Nightwish all over the place. The problem is in 'Song of Myself', they bored me to death after the first 3 minutes, and I can't believe I had wasted the 13-minutes of my life for it. Maybe I was expecting a contender to their classic, I'm not a hater of concept album anyway, in fact I have many albums that I love, but not this one.

As a soundtrack album, 'Imaginaerum' might do okay, but as a symphonic metal album, I'm on the other side of the river. 65% at best and I know they’re better than this!

Members reviews

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".

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