1 December 2011

Imaginaerum: A Review of Sorts

So Finnish symphonic metal band Nightwish's long awaited new album was finally released, and I've listened through it a handful of times, now.

Reactions to the band's new material since the split with Tarja have of course been mixed. As for myself, the previous album, Dark Passion Play, is by no means my favourite Nightwish album, but I do enjoy listening to it. And I have no antipathy towards Anette, either. Her voice and singing style may be different from Tarja's, but she's by no means a bad singer. And in any case, the music of Nightwish is about Tuomas's compositions. The vocals are merely one element in the mix.

So, anyway, I had pretty much no expectations for the new album, Imaginaerum. Or at least I tried very hard not to have, lest I be disappointed. As it turns out, I'm not disappointed. More like addicted, actually, though it's hard to put one's finger exactly on the reasons why. The album feels fresher, I think, than Dark Passion Play, yet firmly rooted in classic Nightwish sounds.

The sound is definitely more whimsical and playful. There is some intriguing experimentation with different, less traditional influences. There are bits influenced by celtic folk (which isn't really new, of course). The chorus of the first single, Storytime, has an almost ABBA-ish quality that makes it perfect earworm material. The slow, jazzy number Slow, Love, Slow puts me in mind of Twin Peaks. There's a surreal circus show, an Arabian interlude, and even a whistling nod to Ennio Morricone in one song...

All this is of course wrapped up in bombastic orchestral and choral arrangements, done once again by Pip Williams. All in all I like the instrumental arrangements quite a bit. Some of the vocal parts maybe took a little bit longer to get used to, but I'm growing to like them as well.

The lyrics deal largely with the same yearning for childlike wonder and innocence that has been present throughout Nightwish's career. It has been announced quite some time ago, of course, that a film is being made, which should intertwine the songs into a narrative of sorts. While I'm probably not expecting a masterpiece, I guess after hearing the album I am quite looking forward to it.

Time will tell how this album will fare in relation to Nightwish's earlier works, but right now I'm quite enjoying it, and I think it's already one of my favourite new releases from this year. Which, strangely enough, I find myself slightly surprised by.

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