Saturday, 7 January 2012

Review: Nightwish - Imaginaerum

 After a career that seems to have been built upon tension, unease and uncertainty with threats of band-splits and departures of various members lurking around every corner, it's great to see that Nightwish have finally become a settled and firm-standing group. This sense of new found power has reflected on their work with current frontwoman Anette Olzon, whose vocal styles better suited for rock and metal as opposed to the more operatic vocals of former singer Tarja Turunen have given the group a much harder edge which has boosted their credibility as a symphonic metal band through the roof. With a greater sense of respectability and a chance to fully focus on crafting musical work and not focus on personal issues, the groups hard work and time away surely reflects on what they have recently brought to us. They have been making what is to be an epic fantasy film Imaginaerum and to go with that, there is also the album of the same name with tracks set to feature on the film. Listening to the album, well, it's crazy.
The film should be an epic film since it will certainly have a soundtrack to match it. Seriously, at times this album out-epics all of The Lord of the Rings trilogy combined. With the chilling opener Taikatalvi transcending into Storytime, a display of heavy metal in it's most over the top state as crashing riffs of Emppu Vuorinen and pounding drumming from Jukka Nevalainen and a mass orchestral backdrop merge together to rattle skulls of listeners in the classiest of manners.
 From thereon, Imaginaerum effortlessly manages to completely lose control and entrance listeners in it's world of orchestral Gothic darkness. The vocals of Olzon and bassist Marco Hietala are incredibly gripping and exciting throughout and with an array of metallic hooks on display throughout the insane orchestral backdrops really means no one could possibly turn their backs on any point of this album while listening. Like on the mind-blowing Scaretale which effectively highlights the character of this album. Starting with a terrifying recital of "Ring-a-Ring-a-Roses" from a group of possessed children and an insane wall of orchestral music, the song leads into an eerie symphonic backdrop that one would expect to find on a Cradle of Filth album before crunching heavy metal comes into place and the bridge of the song hurtles listeners into a section inspired by circus music. It's this kind of craziness that makes Imaginaerum. Things like that, the main fiddle backdrop that appears in the power metal inspired I Want My Tears Back and the choir of children that have a considerable appearance throughout Rest Calm, all adding up to this sense of dark insanity and bringing the brilliantly twisted musical schemes of Tuomas Holopainen to life.
 Even the slower more subtle moments of the album keep up this chilling and enchanting atmosphere, like the jazzy Slow, Love, Slow which in it's smoothness, always retains a character of murkiness about it. Although, contrasting from this Turn Loose the Mermaids is probably the most uplifting song on the album, it's trumpet solo and graceful vocals giving the song a real characteristic of triumph and victory.
 Of course, the thirteen minute epic Song of Myself cannot go unnoticed. Not only is it a clear sign of the band at their most powerful, but the series of spoken-word sections is jam packed with emotion and pure intensity and if it does not entrance you in any way possible or trigger any kind of emotional response, everyone is allowed to shout "Robot!" at you. Because that's what you probably are.
 So, as you may have worked out by now, Imaginaerum is an album filled with ideas executed in a manner that is dramatic, chilling and filled with extreme Gothic fantasy. It makes for an engaging and entrancing listen most likely to leave readers in a state of enchantment and awe. If there is going to be a fantasy film in which this is the soundtrack then it's definitely not the kind of film for parents to take their bored children to during half term.

Nightwish's Imaginaerum is out now via Nuclear Blast.

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