Archive for August, 2012

Nightwish – Imaginaerum (2012, Roadrunner Records)

  1. Taikatalvi
  2. Storytime
  3. Ghost River
  4. Slow, Love, Slow
  5. I Want My Tears Back
  6. Scaretale
  7. Arabesque (instrumental)
  8. Turn Loose The Mermaids
  9. 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
  13. Imaginaerum (instrumental)

Band Lineup (The Imagineers):
Anette Olzon – vocals
Tuomas Holopainen – keyboards, piano
Emppu Vuorinen – guitars
Marco Hietala – bass, vocals (tracks 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 9, 10, 11, 12 )
Jukka Nevalainen – drums, percussion

Guest Musicians (Fellow Imagineers):
Troy Donockley – uilleann pipes (on track 5 & 13), tin whistle (on track 1, 8 & 10), vocals (on track 10 & 12), bodhran, bouzouki
Dermot Crehan – hardanger fiddle
Dirk Campbell – sorna
Guy Barker – solo trumpet
Paul Clarvis and Stephen Henderson – ethnic percussion
Pekka Kuusisto – violin
“The loved ones & the fellowship” are credited for reciting the stanzas in track 12.

Orchestra & Choir:
The Metro Voices (led by choir mistress Jenny O’Grady)
The London Philharmonic Orchestra, called “The Looking Glass Orchestra” (led by Thomas Bowes and conducted by James Shearman)
Pip Williams – director of orchestra & choir arrangements

Producer: Tuomas Holopainen

Country: Finland

Total Time = 1:14:50

Nightwish
Nightwish Facebook page
Roadrunner Records

(NOTE — This album was released worldwide in late 2011 but January 2012 for the U.S.)

Nightwish is a band that I never really got into until recently…..and by recently I mean since 2007′s DARK PASSION PLAY, the debut of Anette Olzon (formerly of Alyson Avenue) as frontwoman. Up until 2007, I only knew of Nightwish from the press the band received and the reviews I read online and, even though I enjoy female-fronted Metal of all kinds, I was completely unsure of former vocalist Tarja Turunen’s operatic style. The only Nightwish album I own from the Tarja era is WISHMASTER (2000) and I think I only bought it because I found it cheap in a used bin somewhere. DARK PASSION PLAY and Anette opened my ears to the excellent Symphonic Metal that Nightwish creates so I was pretty excited to hear that the band was releasing a new album, IMAGINAERUM, internationally in late 2011 and the U.S. in early January. Unfortunately, that excitement was slightly cancelled when I read that the new record would be a concept album with a movie based around the album.

Now I’m all for concept albums, if they are done right. Too many albums released today are deemed “concept albums” just because they have a running theme throughout. Nightwish, mainly composer/keyboardist Tuomas Holopainen, have taken it to another extreme by developing a film of the same name and each member having minor roles as themselves in the film itself. That makes IMAGINAERUM the soundtrack to the film that is being made…..sounds a lot like the idea behind KISS’ concept album (MUSIC FROM) THE ELDER (1981). At least Nightwish are making the movie, KISS never got that far! So what is the concept? Holopainen’s story revolves around a dying composer who is reminiscing about memories from his youth while his adult memories slowly fade. Interesting but it sounds very Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

The first song on the album is ‘Taikatalvi’, a song sung primarily in the band’s native Finnish by Marco Hietala and translated as “magic winter” in English. The song is very basic with minimal music accompaniment from Holopainen’s piano giving the song a children’s lullabye feel to it and it’s basically an intro to the actual album. I consider the track a throwaway and I skip it everytime I listen to the CD. The real opening song is ‘Storytime’ and it is everything that Nightwish is: bombastic and powerful full of orchestration and plenty of crunching guitars to go along with Anette’s vocals. This is the song that sets the album up for me and dashes any doubts as to the quality of the rest of the songs. Once I heard the huge symphonic sound of ‘Storytime’, I felt a little better about the whole concept, the film project and the rest of the record. Judge for yourself, here’s the video…..

‘Ghost River’ continues the bombastic Metal style but with a little more edge to it when Marco’s harsh vocals come in for the chorus. What I like here is that it’s not as “clean” a track as ‘Storytime’, there’s some added aggression in the vocals and guitar and it gives the band another dimension. There’s still plenty of orchestration and a children’s choir but there’s something haunting about this song and it gives off a sinister vibe at times. Just when I think that I know what the album is going to sound like, Nightwish throws in a curveball with the ballad ‘Slow, Love, Slow’ that sounds like it’s straight out of a Vegas lounge piano bar, it’s jazz vaudeville style reminds me of something Bette Midler might sing. The focus here is Anette’s voice and she is without a doubt one of the best singers in the genre…..the song segues right into ‘I Want My Tears Back’, a tried and true Power Metal feast that has a Celtic feel to it with bagpipes throughout. The guitar riff that opens ‘I Want My Tears Back’ is solid and the bagpipes kick in immeadiately on the main riff. There’s a beauty to Anette’s voice that has me in a trance at this point…..I could listen to her sing the telephone book to me (do they actually make those?). The only way I could describe the sound is like pure Power Metal meets the Renaissance sound of Blackmore’s Night…..Folk Metal maybe? It’s a great song and has plenty of power and the album has shown a lot of diversity so far and that’s obvious by the various styles on the uptempo metal nightmare that is ‘Scaretale’. The song is a nightmare scenario in the overall concept and it goes from all out Power Metal to an animated movie feel in the middle…..maybe something from my kids’ favorite A Nightmare Before Christmas? It’s a very diverse song and both Anette and Marco deliver very different vocal performances, Anette does a shrieky, scary vocal while Marco does a ring announcer/carnival barker vocal in the “animated movie” sequence. It’s an interesting track and keeps the listener guessing as to what they will hear next.

‘Scaretale’ moves directly into the instrumental ‘Arabesque’ which also has a movie soundtrack sound to it, I actually think of the old Conan movies when I hear it. Instrumentals don’t really grab me as they did back when I was younger so ‘Arabesque’ is more of a throwaway to me but it does tie the songs together and acts like a bridge to the ballad ‘Turn Loose The Mermaids’. If you want to hear what Blackmore’s Night sounds like, then this is the song! Anette does her best Candice Night impression and the band sounds just like Blackmore’s Night again with that Renaissance music sound. It’s actually a pretty good song and really focuses on Anette’s vocals, and let’s face it, she is the selling point of the band as Tarja was before.The band continues in the dramatic mid-tempo direction with ‘Rest Calm’ that has a solid main riff and good trade-off vocals from Marco & Anette while the song does from heavy to soft once the chorus kicks in. Reminds me of a Balance Of Power song from one of their records but with female vocals…..again, the beauty of the track is in the angelic voice of Anette Olzen. ‘The Crow, The Owl And The Dove’ is another slow ballad that builds dramatically while maintaining it’s calm pace with acoustic guitars, piano and subdued drums to go along with the vocals while ‘Last Ride Of The Day’ builds up immeadiately with choral vocals into a soft Anette purr as she builds up with the song, it kind of reminds me of ‘Storytime’ with it’s fast tempo and grand sound.

Nightwish is a band that thrives on their grandiose style and their bombastic approach, the band uses different orchestrations, choruses, tempo changes and arrangements to build their overall sound. This is extremely evident on the 13+ minute ‘Song Of Myself’, which is technically broken up into four sub-songs. The problem with this song is that thew first half is a proper song that runs into the same vein as other uptempo numbers on the album but the second half is mostly spoken word narration. This is where the overall concept gets in the way, who cares about the movie, just make a good record! If you edit the spoken word narration and cut ‘Song Of Myself’ in half, then you’ve got a solid album track. I understand the point that this is a concept record and the spoken word part follows that direction but there’s a point where it goes to far and it becomes pointless. The title track is the last song and it’s another instrumental of parts of every song on the album. It’s a nice way to roll the crdits on the upcoming film but nothing to really get excited about as an album track.

Just on a side note…..IMAGINAERUM was released as a single CD or a special limited edition double disc that included a bonus CD of just the instrumental version of the album. I decided against buying the limited edition version because I already knew that I would never listen to just the instrumental version. Only the absolute diehard Nightwish fans will enjoy that, I’m a fan of the entire package and especially Anette Olzen, so I found it unnecessary.

Bottom Line:
I’ve been honestly listening to this album since it’s early January release in the U.S. and I have really enjoyed it. I listen to the record and I hear new sounds all the time so it’s an album that is very complex and epic. The musicianship is above top notch and the vocals of both singers are awesome, Nightwish continues to get better with every album. My only complaint is that the album follows the movie concept on some songs more than others and that hurts the overall flow of the album. The good news is that Nightwish are so talented as musicians that they are able to evolve further with every release. At this point, the band is hitting it’s creative stride and they are poised to become one of those bands we talk about 20 years down the line. IMAGINAERUM is a solid album and one that I recommend, it’s surely in my end of the year top albums list.

Favorite Songs:
‘Storytime’, ‘Ghost River’, ‘I Want My Tears Back’, ‘Scaretale’, ‘Turn Loose The Mermaids’

Here’s what’s been assaulting my ears this weekend!

KISS – ‘Hell Or Hallelujah’ single (2012): I finally broke down and purchased a song from iTunes for the very first time because I just couldn’t wait for the new KISS album, Monster, to hear this new single. I paid my $1+ and downloaded the tune and it’s been non-stop because it’s a great song! This is the KISS I like: heavy, fast, blazing guitars and Paul sounding great. If this is any indication of how the rest of Monster will sound, then it’s going to be a great record.

Motley Crue – ‘Sex’ single (2012): Thanks to the Crue for letting the fans download the track for free on the day of release. Just like the new KISS single, I’m playing this nonstop to get a handle on how the new album will sound. Seeing that both bands are touring together this summer it’s no surprise that both bands threw a teaser track out there to promote while on tour. ‘Sex’ isn’t bad (is it ever?), it’s a good song more along the lines of the Saints Of Los Angeles album from 2008. It’s hard to believe that album is 4 years old! ‘Sex’ didn’t impress me at first but it’s growing on me kind of like Van Halen’s ‘New Tattoo’ did.

Van Halen – A Different Kind Of Truth (2012): There’s just no getting over it…..this is one of the best albums of 2012! Say what you want about it not being a full Van Halen reunion, the recycled demos from the early years or David Lee Roth’s merits as a singer, this sounds like the album that would have come after the landmark 1984! I can’t stop playing it and I won’t miss their next stop in the New England area when they continue the tour.

UFO – Seven Deadly (2012): This new UFO record has been cemented into the stereo from Day #1! This is another awesome album from the band and it proves that good bands never age. Right now, this is a Top 5 album for me this year.

Lita Ford – Living Like A Runaway (2012): I’m missing the Def Leppard/Poison/Lita Ford concert on August 18 because that’s the day of my 40th birthday party but Lita is doing a signing and performance the next day at the Newbury Comics record store in Norwood, MA. My daughter and I are definitely there so I’m listening up on the new album…..it’s pretty good, very introspective and reflects Lita’s current personal life. Without a doubt, this is a far better album than Wicked Wonderland…..that was a pitiful record!

Lita Ford – Lita (1988): This was Lita’s big platinum seller back in the ’80s and the bulk of those sales came off the high MTV rotation of lead single ‘Kiss Me Deadly’ and her duet with Ozzy Osbourne ‘Close My Eyes Forever’. I figured that I’d re-listen to the hit record prior to the meet & greet at Newbury Comics and I just realized that it’s really a mediocre album. Is it the better wisdom of 24 years gone by or does the album have a staying power? I’m still listening and trying to decide.

Black ‘n Blue – Nasty, Nasty (1986): I had my iPod on shuffle the other day and the title track came on, I forgot that this was a Gene Simmons produced record and that gene used the main riff from this song for ‘Domino’ from Revenge (1992). I went back and gave all the Black ‘n Blue a fresh listen but Nasty, Nasty has stayed in my rotation…..what a great band they were, they should have been bigger.

Big Time Rush – (various songs): Yes, I’m talking about the boy band from Nickelodeon. I have two daughters and these guys are the biggest deal right now so we went to the concert yesterday (Sunday) at the Comcast Center in Mansfield, MA. I already know most of the songs from my kids’ iPods & CDs and the TV show but I got in a few more songs so I knew the tunes for the concert. My wife & I are cool parents and we shelled out the bucks for our kids to have a great time. I kept it Metal in the parking lot as we tailgated…..

I’ve been catching up on my podcasts as well…..definitely check these out on iTunes or head to their websites…..

Iron City Rocks — http://www.ironcityrocks.com/
Focus On Metal — http://www.focusonmetal.net/
Radioactive Metal — http://www.facebook.com/radmetal
Decibel Geek Podcast — http://dbgeekshow.blogspot.com/
Metalcast — http://www.metalcastshow.com/
Talking Metal — http://www.talkingmetal.com/2011/