It's gotten to the point now that each new release from Finnish symphonic metal legends Nightwish gets treated like a major musical event. One listen to their brand new one Imaginaerum and you can easily see why. The vision of bassist/vocalist Marco Hietala quickly unfolds on opening track "Taikatalvi", and explodes on the following song "Storytime", as huge swells of orchestral keyboards and the soaring vocals of Anette Olzon carry the song to glorious heights. Yes, it's Nightwish, but there's a greater sense of theatrics and 'Broadway spectacular' on display here, as opposed to the operatic metal the band was delivering in the Tarja days.
Much of Imaginaerum is a grand, majestic spectacle, an album well crafted and perfectly assembled. "Ghost River" is a wonderful slice of symphonic rock, featuring Tuomas Holopainen's film score styled keyboards, beefy riffs from Erno Vuorinen, and the effective vocal interplay between Olzon and Hietala. Anette is all on her own on the gorgeous "Slow, Love, Slow", supported by some lovely piano from Holopainen, and she and Hietala again work magic together on the Celtic Metal track "I Want My Tears Back", one of the most addicting tunes this band has ever written. You'll be hard pressed to get this song out of your head for days after hearing it that first time. The addition of bagpie here only adds to the majesty of it all. Stunningly good.
"Scaretale" once again brings the bombastic film score element to the forefront and mixes with crushing riffs for a dramatic effect. Anette's vocals here are deliciously spunky, and Vuorinen's guitar work is especially potent. "Arabesque" is an instrumental piece for all the symphonic prog lovers out there (killer keyboard orchestrations) and "Turn Loose The Mermaids" is a folky prog number featuring acoustic guitar, flute, and Olzon's dreamy vocals. If you love Blackmore's Night, you'll dig this one. The band bounces back with heavy symphonic rock on "Rest Calm", as the crushing riffs, keyboards, and dueling vocal attack work more wonders. The Celtic themes always remain underneath it all, which gives the songs their true identity, and they are there in full on this one. After the folk based "The Crow, The Owl And The Dove", a charming number dripping with pop majesty, the band lurch into "Last Ride of the Day", one of the heaviest pieces on the album, and a tune sure to get you on your feet with your fist pumping in the air. The real highlight though on an album of highlights comes in the form of the 4 part epic "Song of Myself". This one has it all, metal, prog-rock, film score theatrics, you name it, with great vocals from Olzon and over the top keyboards. Wonderful stuff, and a tune you'll want to play over and over. The title track is another keyboard based instrumental that closes out the CD in wonderous fashion.
Basically folks, this is a fantastic display of everything that is great and exciting about symphonic metal. Nighwish have put together what could be their magum opus, their most powerful and adventurous statement. Anette Olzon really sounds like she's settled into her role here, and the shadow of Tarja is now completely gone. If you are ready to go on one of the most amazing musical journey's here in 2012, Imaginaerum is the ride you need to get on.
03. Ghost River
04. Slow, Love, Slow
05. I Want My Tears Back
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
1 - From A Dusty Bookshelf
2 - All That Great Heart Lying Still
3 - Piano Black
4 - Love