Written by guest writer Gary Redhead.
Many albums have graced my headphone collection, but very few have earned themselves a permanent place on my precious iPod.app. Origin of Symmetry by Muse is one, almost entirely down to the opening 30 seconds of Plug in Baby, while The Lateness of the Hour by Alex Clare is one that did not, and that is because I didn’t see it as worth the precious megabites that I can afford to spare on the iPod. Not that it’s a bad album, but a man’s gotta have his principles.
So what of the latest offering from the Finnish symphonic metal band Nightwish, the very same outfit that recently parted way with their second lead singer in the space of seven years? The answer, dear reader, is devilishly simple: Imaginaerum will hold a place in my collection until either me or my iPod die.
Why? Because not only has Nightwish yet again delivered layers of eerie choir song, operatic vocal lines and symphonic melodies, but this time they have made it into doom metal. Oh yeah, that more than proves compatible with the well-used megabites nestled in my trouser pocket.
In 2008, rumours of a second album with the marvellously talented Anette Olzen emerged from the land of sickly-sweet romantic vocals and busty corsets. These rumours were confirmed in June 2009 by the Finnish magazine Soundi, but other than ‘there will be an album’, all of the other gossip was quickly dismissed.
So we waited, and waited. And finally, at the end of 2012, we are rewarded with thirteen tracks of musical excellence that only Nightwish can deliver with such spine-tingling, sensuous form. It opens with the mysterious Taikatalvi, one of very few pieces in the band’s discography that is performed entirely in Finnish. Taikatalvi is a powerful piece of music, one that conjures images of an almost ancient or ancestral feel… albeit backed-up with some seriously modern production.
The second track is the album’s money-spinner/first single Storyteller, before the truly haunting Ghost River flows along into third. Slow, Love, Slow is the album’s surprise gem as singer Anette Olzen invites the listener to ’come and share this painting with me’, backed-up by an almost classic-jazz motif intertwined with a slimy Child Snatcher groove.
I Want My Tears Back is the most exciting track since Amaranth. It manages to match the feel of Last of the Wilds with the energy of Wish I Had an Angel and themes of Over the Hills and Far Away to give birth to a screaming Celtic-metal diva ballad. Don’t fuck with this track. Not even pirates should fuck with this track.
The theatrical Arabesque emerges of the dark to blossom into a beautifully composed instrumental, reminiscent of heroes on Persian horses fighting wars against giant, crazy-eyed, bearded axe-wielders. And if you think I’ve had one too many biscuits, just wait until you heard it.
Turn Loose the Mermaids showcases Olzen’s voice, allowing her to sing virtually undisturbed if it wasn’t for the borderline yelling of bassist Marco Hietala. Not one hundred and ten per cent in my bag, but if you consider Turn Loose the Mermaids as an undemanding insight into the strange and sexy music offered up by Europe then you’ll be OK.
The ponderous Rest Calm goes on about 5 minutes too long, but is saved with the lilting salute to Irish traditionalism that is The Crow, the Owl and the Dove. A vocal showcase and musical masterstroke emerging from the late eighteenth century, little wonder it was chosen as the second single.
An untrained ear may mistake the opening segment of Last Ride of the Day as Queen’s The Show Must Go On, but this galloping battle ride simply oozes energy and radiates sex. Put another way, it’s the sort music that if used in an advert, or indeed something not truly epic, you’d say, ‘well, the music’s a bit much.’
Song of Myself is, without question, a tremendous artistic statement, but a tune divided into four parts strikes me as the archetypal notion of musical self-indulgence. I mean… four parts?! Is there really any need for so much to go on in one song? Especially since it took at least three years to get Imaginaerum onto the shelves…
The climactic track, Imaginaerum has an almost fairytale or fantasy sound and is another instrumental, and one that sounds like ‘that song from the end of …. ‘ insert most movies here.
All in all, Imaginaerum is an enjoyable and well-constructed example of modern symphonic music, but at the same time it does not massively differ from that of any other countries or artists. Yes, it allows for a crazy amalgamation of jazz, power ballads and Stratovarius metal worked around by rockers peering from behind Danny Elfman and Tim Burton masks. But by the same token, the album is infected by empty spaces of white noise that may have oodles of musical quality,but not an ounce of snap, catch and provocative fluidity. It is certainly a great album, and one that is definitely worth the space on my iPod.app and the little tiny piece of my back pocket, but it almost begs something more.
…then again, it is the soundtrack to an upcoming movie release.
I’ll be lenient. This time…
01 – Taikatalvi
02 – Storytime
03 – Ghost River
04 – Slow, Love, Slow
05 – I Want My Tears Back
06 – Scaretale
07 – Arabesque
08 – Turn Loose The Mermaids
09 – Rest Calm
10 – The Crow, The Owl And The Dove
11 – Last Ride Of The Day
12 – Song Of Myself
13 – Imaginaerum