Nightwish - 'Imaginaerum' (Nuclear Blast) Print E-mail
CD Reviews
Written by Mark Ashby   
Thursday, 12 January 2012 05:00

NIGHTWISHIt's very rarely that a writer approaches a review with trepidation - but, it must be admitted (because we're an honest bunch here at URHQ), this was one of those occasions. After all, Nightwish's seventh album is so epic in scope that it comes in about a million different formats - and its own movie, ferchrissake! When the massive, double CD deluxe box set hit the doormat, the reaction was instantaneous - "holy shit, Batman, I'm either gonna love this or hate this." Yes, it was definitely going to be one of those reviews with no middle ground, no room for prevarication, no dithering neutrality: it's come down on one side or the other. Maybe. Possibly.
To be honest, there is one word which fairly describes, and sums up, the opus: EPIC! This is symphonic metal on the grandest scale - huge riffs, huge subjects, huge orchestras, huge choirs... huge everything... imagine Tim Burton and Terry Gilliam directing and Stephen King, Neil Gaiman and Clive Barker collaborating to adapt Lewis Carroll and Brothers Grimm, with Salvador Dali designing the sets, Rob Zombie in charge of casting and Richard Wagner scoring the apocalyptic soundtrack and you come somewhere close to taking just a small part in this conversation on the edge of insanity.
The album sucks you in slowly. Opener 'Taikitalvi' (or 'Enchanted Winter' - thanks to the nice people at for that) is a Finnish poem recited over subtle keyboards and pipes, before 'Storytime' hits with a crushing riff which is somehow redolent of Rammstein in its power, against which Anette Olzon's vocals sound childish and out of place - but, maybe that's the intention, as it's certainly the singer's only weak performance on the album.
From here, the opus twists and turns its way through its surreal story, from the smoky torch song of 'Slow Love Slow', with its brushed snare and an earthy vocal from Olzon, who drops her voice, very effectively, a couple of octaves, to the heavy metal jig of 'I Want My Tears Back', complete with uilleann pipes and reeling fiddles, to the appropriately titled 'Scaretale', where things really do start to get decidedly weird as Anne Rice and Frank Zappa rewrite 'Alice In Wonderland' against the backdrop of an acidhouse circus sideshow, with the heavy orchestration and crunching melodies topped by Olzon's particularly twisted and evil vocal writhings - a stunning performance in itself!
'Turn Loose The Mermaids' provides a folky interlude which feels somewhat out of place, especially with Olzon's wistful vocal (although it is a good song in its own right), and 'Rest Calm' and 'The Crow The Owl And The Dove' are equally iffy - the former starting unpromisingly, gathering momentum slowly only to be turned on its head and then finish strongly, the latter pure meaningless filler. 'Last Ride Of The Day', however, restores the balance, with its choral symphony and lures you back into the magical freakshow with power and passion.
The centrepiece is the four-part 'Song Of Myself' - a bold and dangerous piece: clocking in at almost a quarter of an hour, it's a mini-opera the second half of which is taken up by a spoken poem, recited by the individual band members, their families and various other cast members, which makes a daring but strangely effective piece.
Yes, it's grand and it's epic - but, without the coupling of the accompanying movie, ultimately unfulfilling. There are standout moments - 'Storytime', 'Slow Love Slow', 'Last Ride Of The Day' and the second and third movements of 'Song Of Myself - which, on their own are powerful proof that Nightwish make great gothic rock, but, overall, it's sort of like watching a silent movie with your eyes closed and just listening to the soundtrack.


'Click Here' - to buy your copy of 'Imaginaerum' now.