Nightwish – Imaginaerum

 Four years is a long time between albums unless your name is Def Leppard and you have a drummer that was in a bad car wreck costing him an arm so that he had to relearn how to play his drums with only one hand. Now there is Nightwish to add to the list.
     Don’t get me wrong, Imagenaerum is a fantastic release that shows the versatility of Toumas Holopainen‘s songwriting abilities and he wears his influences on his sleeve rather than underlying within the music’s background.
     Like many Nightwish fans, I too pine for the days of Oceanborn, inasmuch that I wish there was just more metal to the album in the form of guitar leads, runs, and fills… But damnit, that the songs on Imaginaerum are very good and guitarist Emppu Vuorinen admits that after the extended touring that came with the release of Dark Passion Play he was so burnt-out with playing his instrument that he did not touch it for any reason for months, hence, there is good reason that lead guitar work is minimal in the extreme on Imaginaerum.

     The video for Storytime introduced what the album would sound like and yes, it is evolved from Dark Passion Play. There is a darkness to the songs but because of how the album reads it is more in the vein of Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas / Corpse Bride than the standard Gothic melancholy. There is a reason for the darkness and it can be playful itself. That it comes off like a children’s movie should not surprise any fans of the band.

     So what is painstakingly different about Imaginaerum from Dark Passion Play? What makes the album shine and stand out? Tarja fans close your eyes. Anette Olzon makes this album work. If you don’t believe me give it a few spins.
     Anette‘s voice and how she uses it per song, sometimes squealing like, sometimes normal (or abnormal), sometimes with mock accent, Anette is the stand out performer.
     I don’t know that the songs were written more geared toward Anette’s voice but her voice fits comfortably to the songs. There is a song where, at first listen, it sounds like Marco Hietala singing but it turns out to be Anette. Huh? Who knew? Maybe that the turmoil of the early days of Nightwish is finished and that Anette‘s trial by fire (so to speak) is also over with, she has found her niche in the band and for those that still don’t believe, again, give this album a few listens and you too will decide that she has a very versatile, bluesy, soulful vocal range that goes well with Nightwish‘s music. 
 A kind of concept album much like Iron Maiden‘s Somewhere In Time was, every song dealt with the same subject: Time. Imagenaerum’s concept is loose and not storylike either yet you can tell that the songs tie together to form an entire. That the songs also stand well on their own (you don’t have to listen to the album from start to finish to get the meaning) is different than say Avantasia‘s Metal Opera‘s where coming into the album in the very middle can leave you wondering what the hell it means.

Track listing for Imaginaerum:
01: Taikatalvi
02: Storytime
03: Ghost River
04: Slow, Love, Slow
05: I Want My Tears Back
06: Scaretale
07: Arabesque
08: Turn Loose The Meramaids
09: Rest Calm
10: The Crow, The Owl, And The Dove
11: Last Ride Of The Day
12: Song Of Myself
13: Imagenaerum

     Pine for the days of Oceanborn, yes, yes, yes, we all do. The blog for the Oceanborn album has always been the most popular article on my site here and I do wish for a complete PowerMetal release from Nightwish again but this album is just so cool and there will be a movie that ties into it too, double down on the cool factor, aye?
     Like Within Temptation‘s Black Symphony, where does Nightwish go after this? WT went to a more hard rock sounding album, but c’mon, how could they top the performance of Black Symphony but by not trying to. As well, Imaginaerum is a pinnacle that could be easily repeated because it is so infectious. And just how much more symphony does ToumasMetal have within it? He is definitely a Maestro in this modern world of ours that leads us all back to childhood remembrances and makes us lonely for the days of childish innocence where everything was a wonder and nothing was short of amazing.
     As with every Nightwish release, I simply enjoy it and the pathways it takes me down. Imaginaerum put a smile on my face and this band, sans certain orginal members, still makes magic.

Nightwish – Angel’s Fall First

     While I do believe that Oceanborn is, musically, the best release by Nightwish, so to do I believe that Angel’s Fall First is a special album, especially in the day and age it was made.

     How many performers now days put out an album that sounds like a first album? Almost none.
     Angel’s Fall First has a lackluster production sound and the album is better for it.

          I mentioned before that I only listen to Mötley Crüe ‘s first release, Too Fast For Love, and the reason I still do is because of the raw sounding energy not hidden behind glossed over production. Angel’s Fall First has this energy.
     This is the epitome of a first album – thrown together from a bunch of demo’s, made with little or next to nothing cash for studio and production time, guitars that sound un”effect”ed… but for all that, it still sounds like they did the best they could do with what they had before them.
     Energy, youth, eagerness and naiveté. You can’t get that from a pop performers first release!

     Yes, Tuomas does state that he feels this is more of a demo, but Tuomas, why? Especially when most demo’s are not packaged and released as full length albums. So maybe it didn’t live up to your expectations years after it was released, and comparing it to later releases, yes, it seems unfinished, nevertheless, it is still a great album that is better for its imperfections.
     The music is gritty, grainy, and coarse and sometimes sounds like it is recorded using small practice amps, the vocals falter at times… It is still an unrealized ambitious and magical album. Production hinderances aside, it could have been Oceanborn.
    
I could praise this album to no end. For a first release, it is better than most.

Track listing for Angel’s Fall First:
01: Elvenpath
02: Beauty And The Beast
03: The Carpenter
04: Astral Romance
05: Angel’s Fall First
06: Tutankhamen
07: Nymphomaniac Fantasia
08: Know Why The Nightingale Sings
09: Lappi (Lapland)
        I.     Erämaajärvi
        II.   Witchdrums
        III. This Moment Is Eternity
        IV.  Etiäinen
10: A Return To The Sea*/**
11: Once Upon A Troubadour*
12: Nightwish (Demo)**
13: The Forever Moments (Demo)**
14: Etiäinen (Demo)**

     The sound is not a huge as their later releases as much of the album was recorded prior to the band being signed by Spinefarm Records. Essentially, it is comprised of demo recordings with a few songs recorded after being signed.

* – Denotes bonus tracks on early pressings.
** – Denotes bonus tracks on later pressings.

For whatever reason the song Once Upon A Troubadour was removed from later pressings.
I have never encountered the song Nightwish or The Forever Moments in any form other than the demo versions.

Nightwish – End Of Innocence

End Of Innocence, released in 2002, is not the typical band DVD. There are videos, concert performances, photograph galleries in the “Extra” option and there is an “Extra of the Extra’s” option. The main choice is a documentary, or interview, with Tuomas Holopainen, Jukka Nevalainen, Tapio Wilska (yes, he is not in the band but he has done guest vocals and is a friend and apparent drinking buddy as you see on this DVD).
The DVD has many humorous moments: the boat motor that won’t start, Tuomas musing over the lyric “The scent of a woman was not mine…” as being not something a man would write, Jukka still wondering about the oak leave pictures and still not getting the reason for them, Tapio thinking something was wrong with Tuomas on the release of Century Child because the lyrics seemed so sad…

The island they are on, owned by Tuomas’s family, is also the same place Nightwish came into being; the place immortalized in Sacrament Of Wilderness from Oceanborn. There is a small dwelling on the island where much of the interview takes place, the sky is overcast and from the chosen attire worn by the people the weather is growing cooler. Along with the booze and the intimate setting, the pace of the documentary is slow and mellow, and relaxed: just three friends taking a day out to reflect and muse.

There are outtakes from backstage, in the studio while making Century Child, on the tour bus, at hotel’s; the band and crew playing pranks on each other and other bands, Tuomas in the state of F.U.B.A.R. and being led to his hotel room where he is lain on his bed. The crew, having noticed something peculiar with Marco Hietala, put a camera on an amplifier and recorded just a single concert and what he was doing (I’m not going to say but the look on his face when he notices the camera is priceless), and what a concert sounds like behind the drums while playing.
The interview is informative, introspective, and a bit nostalgic to the point of sadness as the discussion goes back and forth from the earlier times of the band to the recorded present. It is this intimacy that makes End Of Innocence compelling, so much so that the extra content seems piddling by comparison.

This DVD is still in circulation in the United States and can be purchased, counting whatever retailer you patronize has a distributor that carries releases not widely known (my CD store here in Missoula, Montana does, yeah me! Got me Kiske/Somerville, but the owner carries a wide selection of metal music from Europe).

Listing for End Of Innocence:

01: “The Whole Story” Documentary/interview

Extra:

01: Videos: Over The Hills And Far Away
                   End Of All Hope

02: Photo Gallery
03: Interview with Mtv Brazil
04: Live performance in Oslo, Norway (4th of July, 2003)
      01: Sleeping Sun
      02: Wild Child (W.A.S.P. cover)
      03: Beauty And The Beast
      04: She’s My Sin
      05: Slaying The Dreamer

05: The Extra Of The Extra’s

Live performance at Summer Breeze Festival 2002
      01: End Of All Hope
      02: Dead To The World
      03: 10th Man Down
      04: Slaying The Dreamer
      05: Over The Hills And Far Away
      06: Sleeping Sun

Supposedly, there is a hidden outtake of Tarja singing an Acapella version of Sleepwalker. I have never been able to unlock this.

End Of Innocence is worth the money you will spend on it. If you attempt to download it you will not get anything but the documentary if pirating. If you like Nightwish buy the damn thing and support the band (that goes for any band you like. If they don’t make money how can they continue making music?)