I think it might've been a mistake to market this album so far ahead of the movie...because the casual Nightwish fan may not be aware that there is a movie to go along with this album, and if they treat this as a stand-alone album, they could say it's easily the worst Nightwish album to-date....and after the first listen, I would've agreed with them. However, some of the songs that don't have the typical Nightwish feel have really grown on me, and so I'm not completely disappointed with 'Imaginaerum.' Unlike some other bands I could mention, there are some pretty damn good tracks here.
Half the album is, in essence, the Nightwish I know and love. 'Storytime' (contender for song of the year. Pretty amazing how Anette Olzon has significantly improved her operatic voice, though I still prefer her clean vocal,) 'Ghost River,' 'I Want My Tears Back,' 'Rest Calm,' and 'Last Ride of the Day,' are everything that I've come to expect from Nightwish: heavy guitars, bombastic keyboards, excellent vocals (although Marco Hiatala's attempt to grunt is a bit on the 'fail' side...stick to shouts.)
The other half of the songs sound like they do belong on a movie soundtrack, and without a label of who wrote the songs you wouldn't know it was the same band. 'Taikatalvi' could be the opening or ending song to the movie. 'Slow Love Slow' has a film-noire feel to it. 'Scaretale' is unlistenable...but it makes me curious about the movie scene that will support this track...could be disturbing to say the least. 'Arabesque' has that background-music-to-a-movie feel. 'Turn Loose the Mermaids' and 'The Crow, the Owl, and the Dove,' have a big-time Blackmore's Night-feel and either would be my pick for the second single (if anything, 'Imaginaerum' is pretty weak in the singles department.)
....and what would a Nightwish album be without an epic track? Well, it's half-epic anyway. 'Song of Myself' is about 6 and a half minutes of heaviness, with some progressive moments that I don't think Nightwish has ever flexed before...the other half is more like a spoken story (possibly a prologue of the coming movie?) Ending it is the title-track, which is more of an instrumental orchestraic medley of the album.
There are some inconsistencies, but that is typical of movie soundtracks. What may work in a movie may not work on an album. However, in the end though, in spite of a few terrible tracks, if this album as a whole, is indeed, a sountrack to the movie of the same name, this will easily be the best ever movie soundtrack I've listened to since the soundtrack to the 1986 Transfomers movie. The movie soundtrack industry could learn a lot from Nightwish.
Review Score: 85 / 100
Best Tracks: 'Storytime,' 'I Want My Tears Back,' 'Rest Calm,' 'Turn Loose the Mermaids,' 'Last Ride of the Day.'
The score which I award this album, however, is based on how the album stands on its own. (only 'Once' has a worse score among the Nightwish albums, which I rated an 84 back 'in '04.) I have a feeling I will be re-reviewing this one when the movie comes out next year.
'All these years you spoke me, to my heart, to my sanity. Revealed to me all my deepest fears, and brought me down, soaked in tears.' -- Sirenia