Nightwish's Imaginarium leads in the right direction

By Mike Shames
[senior entertainment writer]

4.5/5 records

Nightwish is one of those bands that oozes the word “epic.”

It’s a blend of orchestra and metal, with operatic female vocals mixed with growling male accompaniment.

Imaginarium makes you feel like you can take on the world … or send you in to utter despair. There’s even a jazz track. Surprisingly, this album was initially supposed to be a concept album similar to Green Day’s American Idiot or Pink Floyd’s The Wall, but it doesn’t have any solid connection between the songs. Maybe I missed it but this seems like Nightwish went the route of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – as in the band just made another album.
They did leave out much of the orchestral work, the band’s usual signature.

It gives the album as a whole more of a dark feeling and more of a metal sound.

The orchestra is still there, especially in the instrumental songs “Arabesque” and “Imaginarium” which are almost exclusively instrumental. “Arabesque” has the mandatory Middle Eastern sound with a soaring choir in the background. Images of sand dunes and furious midnight horse rides come to mind. “Imaginarium” is more like the end of an opera or movie, a melody of all the major musical themes previously played.

The single “Storytime” is an epic way to start off the album after a brief Finnish lullaby intro. It’s the one song that really seems to be part of an actually concept album.

It’s something that Tim Burton would use at the start of a kids movie; twisted with heavy guitar and triumphantly evil sounding vocals. It’s a song to conquer the world.

The stand-out song on the album is “I Want My Tears Back”. The softness of the verses contrasted with the near-fury of the chorus make the song memorable. The pipes are a nice touch, and the song seems to keep building on itself as the male vocals soon overtake the softness of the females.

Long-time fans have lamented the new lead singer Anette Olzon, claiming she isn’t as good as former singer Tarja Turunen. Olzon does wonderful job showing that she does have the vocals and range to cement her place in the band.

While not possessing the operatic range and style of Turunen, Olzon has moved Nightwish away from the grandeur and theatrical roots, to a more cinematic and hard-core style.

If Imaginarium is any indication of the future, bring it on. The world needs the kind of music that makes us want to slay dragons and demons.

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