The seventh studio album from symphonic metal experts Nightwish, Imaginaerum see the band further broadening their musical ambitions and horizons. The five piece have never been a band shy on ambition. This latest release sees the band further cement and consolidate upon the excellent previous release, 2007’s Dark Passion Play, which featured the debut of the band’s new lead female vocalist, Anette Olsen.

How to describe the music of Nightwish to a newcomer? Symphonic metal is like a mash up of different fragments and elements of both classical and heavy metal music. Featuring screaming guitars, pounding drums, gorgeous use of synths and a quite compelling combination of classically trained female opera vocals with growly and dramatic ‘metal’ male vocals, this band make for a different and diverting listen. Imaginaerum is probably one of the band’s more accessible releases, which will definitely bring them to a wider audience across the world.

Singing primarily in English, with a smattering of Finnish here and there, the album kicks off with “Taikatativi” and “Storytime”. Both are shorter tracks than those on the majority of the album. They lull the listener into a sense of calm before the storm, which well and truly kicks off with the storming “Ghost River”.

This is a really interesting listen. Combining elements that one wouldn’t normally throw together, Nightwish create a highly dramatic and cinematic musical effect on this record. It does take a while to get used to, as this scribe initially had visions of both Spinal Tap and Eurovision, which unfortunately can cloud the credibility of what is some very accomplished and well played music.

Track highlights include the almost jazzy and moody “Slow, Love, Slow”, “Scartale”, which sounds like a Brothers Grimm story in musical form, and the utterly bonkers “I Want My Tears Back”.This is a brilliantly schizophrenic band on a musical plane that pretty much use everything but the kitchen sink on this album. Where the Middle Eastern influence on “Arabesque” came from is anyone’s guess. Great track, but highlighting the ‘all over the shop’ attitude Nightwish have with what they create, which can enthrall and infuriate in equal measure.

The results can be thrilling and utterly over the top and exhausting to the listener all at the same time. Possibly too much of a good thing on this release from the band.

For fans of heavier music with open minds, this is a very enjoyable and different, at times utterly odd, listen. Recommended.

– Neil Evans