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Imagine Its a Decent Album...
on 8 December 2011
Nightwish is my favourite band and had not done an album that I didnt rate very highly. Although I was initially attracted to the band by their use of Tarjas fantastic Operatic voice, the last album, Dark Passion Play, was such a triumph that any doubts about having a Rock/Pop vocalist were removed. So for me, this release was looked forward to with intense anticipation, even though I hadnt really liked the single "Storytime" that much.
Oh boy, did that change when I listened to it.....
It is a hugely overblown concept piece, where the need to get over the concept gets completely in the way of the songs and is constantly rammed home. It is not helped by a cinematic (over)production which makes it seem like every single disparate element of each song was recorded separately without any knowledge of the whole (sadly reading the interviews I think this is exactly how it was made!). It starts with a lovely Finnish ballad, which...finishes before it gets going, thrown away as intro music...
The single, Storytime, is OK, but I find there is something screechy in the vocals, and the chorus is a bit repetitive for me. Ghost River is probably the best track on the album, great verse, good middle 8, chorus is a bit heavy on the vocals and choirs but defintely a grower. "Slow love slow", well, thats just a weird diversion into some sort of jazz territory and sent my CD flying across the room just like the first time I heard "Ten Story Love Song" by the Stone Roses, on second listening its not too bad but not my cup of tea, we are on B side territory here.
They are then back on form with "I want My Tears Back"...that is until the middle turns into an Irish jig instead of a Keyboard/guitar duel , to my mind totally inappropriate for the sad tone of the song up to that point, but maybe I am spoilt by all the Amorphis I have been listening to, as this is the kind of folk metal territory this song inhabits. A good track and may grow on me,
"Scaretale" is however hideous. Featuring some particularly cliched Nightwish guitars at the start, it sounds like a Disney cartoon theme and unlike Tuomas I hate Disney and even if I liked it I would find no place for this on a Rock album, again here there is a lot of talking and weird vocal stylings to force the movie concept over,and a particularly silly sub-pirates of the caribbean section in the middle. Awful. Then, amazingly the next two tracks are both soundtrack filler! Arabesque is just incidental music, Turn Loose the Mermaids has a good song trying to break out but it never comes and seems unfinished, and frankly Leaves Eyes do it much better.
The last four tracks are much better, but none of them really hits home. Rest Calm has a complex and interesting arrangement but the chorus is a bit weak and endlessly repeats for over 2m to finish, the Crow, etc, is a good song also but overdominated by Irish instrumentation, Last Ride of the Day is again good but now I was getting sick of the choral intros that sounded like they were lifted from the session tapes for "once", you know the "oh oh oh" over the chugging guitars and drums , so it all sounded a bit cliched. At least this song had a guitar solo in it, sadly lacking from most of the album! Finally "Song For Myself" at 13m long has the opportunity to be a great song and features some fantastic lyrics, but instead it turns the concept of talking heads which was clever for a minute or so into a completely over the top extravagance rendering the last 5 minutes completely pointless listening unless you like the poetry. Somewhere under there, there is a lovely, lilting theme, but there is nothing for you to sing along too.
So, for me this a classic "misguided,overblown concept album". Lots of bands at their peak have done them, most have regretted it later. I can see that in 10 years time I may be able to see through it all and claim that "slow, love, slow" is an undiscovered Nightwish classic. Right now I shall reflect on all the money this turkey has saved me in flights and hotels as I have no wish to see it performed live...there are hardly any synths or guitars in the mix and way way too much orchestration,so I cant see how they could perform it anyway. Finally, Annettes voice is absent for long periods, and when its there it sounds nasal and well, frankly poor. (and DPP is my favorite Nightwish long player so I am not saying that cos Im a Tarjaholic).
I am not even sure how you would categorise it, the need to be Symphonic and provide a soundtrack to a movie concept has overridden virtually everything. In places its not rock, most of it sure isnt heavy, yet the vocals are anything but operatic, it sounds more like Abba the musical than a Rock album.
Hugely, jaw droppingly, embarrassingly disappointing.
Now can we have a proper album and not a soundtrack please?