Sometimes a concept is bigger than the people that create it. Nightwish fans finally get the chance to hear such a spectacle for themselves as ‘Imaginaerium’ has finally dropped this month. The band’s seventh release, ‘Imaginaerium’ takes the listener on a magical journey through what Nightwish describes as an amusement park filled with “Burton/Gaiman/Dali-type rides.” To fans of the surreal, dark and beautiful, that’s the Holy Trinity. Imaginaerium is all of those things in turn, though maybe not all at the same time.
The album is the most conceptual to date for the band, and the songs vary enough to make it sound more like a movie soundtrack (stow that little tidbit away for a while), with each song focusing on the same subject, but by different artists. From plaintive swan-song minstrel pieces to epic riverdance-conjuring numbers to intense video game boss battle power tracks, ‘Imaginaerium’ definitely brings the drama that fans have come to expect, with all the glorious pageantry that is to be expected from a band that has been perfecting a unique musical formula for over 15 years.
Taikalvi, which translates to “Magic Winter” in Finnish, starts the album off with a music box driven, fairytale opening. For those that don’t understand Finnish, the beauty of lines like “Here at the tale’s roots I may live/where a violin of vast longing/its eternal melody paints” is somewhat lost, but the feeling in Marco Hietala’s voice allows the meaning to shine through.
Songs like Turn Loose the Mermaids show an even greater predilection for the gentle and serene, as singer Anette Olzon’s voice swells to the tune of a pan flute. The listener feels transported across the misty moors of times gone by.
In contrast, songs like Ghost River are heavier, and the layering of Hietala’s screaming with Olzon’s haunting voice creates an interesting juxtaposition, with the band’s trademark orchestral elements in the background. This track could be from a conflict-driven scene in a rock opera, no surprise since Olzon created one titled Gränsland in 1992.
Storytime, the first single off the album, was released last summer. The song features Olzon prominently, and is probably the most polished of all the tracks- which is saying a lot, since every song here has a slick production value that can only come from putting so many movie soundtrack lovers and musical engineers in one room. The video for Storytime was released as a teaser for the band’s forthcoming full-length movie, also entitled Imaginaerium, which is due out later this year. That’s right; sometimes a concept is even too big for one medium. With the release of the video, it became clear to fans and critics alike that Nightwish was serious about this forthcoming project, and that they planned on executing it with the same intense fervor as the album itself.
Can the world still handle such an involved concept album? Imaginaerium entered American charts at #27, and Japan’s charts at an astounding #7. Both are new records for the band. Perhaps Nightwish has stumbled onto a unique project in a world starved for creativity from the darker side of the rock dream pool. In a world of faceless metal and radio rock, Nightwish has found its niche, and it appears this time the whole world is listening.
By: Nicole Banister