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nightwish imaginaerum
Artist: Nightwish
Title: Imaginaerum
Genre: Symphonic Metal
Release Date: 2nd December 2011
Label: Nuclear Blast

Album Review

Finnish NIGHTWISH is a band of a status that many other bands of the genre covet; many others covet their sound too and imitate them. They were formed in 1996 by Tuomas Holopainen, who remains to be the man behind the music and ideas, Emppu Vuorinen and Tarja Turunen; soon they were joined by other members. As many bands out there they had been through their ups and downs, notably their lowest point was especially the ‘split’ with their vocalist, Tarja Turunen. It was a very acrimonious and open affair as they parted their company with her via a public letter and it remains somewhat of a wound. Since it belongs to the history of the band, Holopainen will not be able to avoid all the speculation and its mention however much he and his male band mates might wish. I will forward my small speculation later on, so for now to sum up the rest, Turunen was replaced by Anette Olzon. Her task was by no means easy; the hard-core Turunen fans (especially in South America) were hostile to her. Some couldn’t get over that she was a Rock singer and not a classically trained singer as Tarja and that meant the change of NIGHTWISH sound they didn’t wish to hear. Her test by fire was their previous album ‘Dark Passion Play’ (2007) and the commencing tour. So those who wish to refuse a change can go back to their catalogue and visit five albums of NIGHTWISH with Tarja Turunen. And those ready to keep on giving Olzon and today’s NIGHTWISH a chance can visit their new ambitious project ‘Imagenaerum’.

‘Imagenaerum’ is a concept album, based on a premise of an old man, a composer, who is close to his final breath, reminiscing about his journey through life, glimpsing slivers of his childhood dream, in which he refused to grow old. If you like, this is a reckoning between imagination and passage of time. An ambitious undertaking as it’s released alongside a movie directed by Stobe Harju. Though Holopainen likes to see the band as being the first to do something extraordinary, we had WITHIN TEMPTATION releasing short movies to accompany their concept album (‘The Unforgiving’) earlier in the year, but NIGHTWISH’s film is full length and it also exceeds it in the scope of ambition. Another fact that the band’s heavily invested in it - approximately € 2.6 million is no laughing matter, they also had a grant given by the Finnish government. However, I will not be able to review the film part of the release, but only the music, which should not impede the attempt to describe the album as they are said to stand on their own. I can only judge from watching ‘Storytime’ single’s video, where glimpses can be stolen from the film, that it is promising and a visual treat to boot.

As you get listening to the album, at once you realise what may had been one of the reasons at the core of the split with Tarja Turunen. Her operatic and mesmerising vocal would have taken most of the attention, whereas with Olzon the focus is more on the music, which is not overshadowed by the voice. I’m not really one of those who would not give Olzon, even if I did love NIGHTWISH with Turunen, a chance and I greatly admire her fighting spirit to be herself and to withstand the pressure. So even if her voice is without the strapping by no means she can be ignored - she does just fine where many others would have failed. Of course you might say you’ve heard that with their previous album and the reflection you might deem stale, but the music here is a showdown of skills and ideas, truly striving, elaborate and driven. It’s as if they’ve exorcised their darker emotions, leftovers from the difficulties from the split and their lives into ‘Dark Passion Play’ and now they’re ready to simply show their new vision and re-invented musical identity. It’s as if only now they could fully let go and truly unleash what has been locked within their creative core.

The opening ‘Taikatalvi’ (“Magic of the winter”) is male vocal driven, sung in Finnish, a tender song with Folkloric elements together with an understated and charming atmosphere. Its piano, gentle bells all add to a feeling that the voice of our protagonist’s father is singing a lullaby to him when he was a child, all of it is beautifully done. The Folksy element also underlined that amongst NIGHWISH’s guess musician was Troy Donockly on Irish pipes. What is commendable is that this is not whipped into a Celtic frenzy; it’s just on a right edge of a “flavour”. With ‘Storytime’ it breaks into a hard territory; the metal riffs that give the album a harsher edge throughout the many songs within it are perfectly fusing with the fantastical mix of their styles. The interaction between Olzon’s and male vocals give many of them a further edge, an immediacy, urgency, passion, struggle and tension. As you would also expect their collaboration with London Philharmonic Orchestra directed by Pip Williamson constitutes a large role, furthering the cinematic feel (after all, NIGHTWISH is heavily influenced by film scores). ‘Slow Love Slow’ is beautifully jazzy and lets Olzon’s vocal really shine (and smack all the naysayers on their badmouthing lips); it’s just a very gorgeous song and one to come back to over and over again.

I also love many effects on the album - like a ticking of a large clock at the end of this song. One of those where the Celtic feel is evoked the most is a belter ‘I Want My Tears Back’, but again, luckily it’s not overdone. ‘Arabesque’ is a brilliant instrumental, putting focus on the drums and percussions, the choir-like vocal innuendos only there as if another instrument, whereas in ‘The Crow, the Owl and the Dove’ you’ll marvel at the beauty of softer guitars. It’s also one of the more sentimental pieces on the album. ‘Last Ride of the Day’ with its kind of recite-singing nature gets you ready for the next one which is rounded around Walt Whitman’s poem ‘Song Of Myself’. A song massive in scope as if you stared at the eves of Notre Dame transported into a Gothic film - that impressive feeling of spaciousness mixed with magnitude of a man’s dream to replicate (or restore) the magnificence of heaven to Earth. The choir and the heavy riffs are just perfect together, and foreboding, cutting and creating great blast of energy by themselves at the same time and softened by the poem’s recitation and music alike, perfectly juxtaposing the layered nature of the song. In complexity and scope it’s the best to represent the album itself.

The band sees ‘Imaginaerum’ as their Magnum Opus, whilst I see that they are justified as this album does have all that makes a masterpiece, which sets the bar very high indeed, personally I would like it to be only a beginning part of Opera Magna. Mostly because it’s like a film or book, a moment in your own imagination, you wish never to stop...


01. Taikatalvi - 2:35
02. Storytime- 5:22
03. Ghost River - 5:28
04. Slow, Love, Slow - 5:51
05. I Want My Tears Back - 5:08
06. Scaretale - 7:32
07. Arabesque (instrumental) - 2:57
08. Turn Loose the Mermaids - 4:20
09. Rest Calm - 7:03
10. The Crow, the Owl and the Dove - 4:10
11. Last Ride of the Day - 4:33
12. Song of Myself - 13:37
13. Imaginaerum (instrumental) - 6:18


Anette Olzon – vocals
Tuomas Holopainen – keyboards, songwriting
Emppu Vuorinen – guitars
Marco Hietala – bass, vocals
Jukka Nevalainen – drums, percussions

Websites /

Cover Picture

nightwish imaginaerum


Music: 10
Sound: 10
Total: 10 / 10

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