The album opens with a music box winding up and then playing a beautiful tune, acoustic instruments and Marco Hietala's voice adding along the way. This first track is a Finnish song called "Taikatalvi," a soft but effective way to open a magical album before leading into "Storytime," the catchy and spirit-lifting first single that reveals the standard fantasy lyrical composition for the entire album.
Things get heavy with "Ghost River," which features both singers' vocals. Anette belts during the rather quiet verses, but Marco comes in for a booming chorus of screaming and singing (you know, the works). Later in the song, a children's choir comes in to sing the chorus. It's certainly not one of my favorites from the album on any level, but it's not bad. I think it'll make fans happy in general with it's undeniably cool guitar riffs and the balance of their two singers.
"Slow Love Slow" slows everything down in a way no Nightwish fan would have expected. Sure, the creepy piano part isn't far from typical Nightwish... but this is a jazz song. An amazing and haunting jazz song at that. Right away, this became one of my favorite songs from the album since I have an appreciation for jazz, but even one who listens to this song that doesn't like jazz may find they like the general eerie feel or even Anette's vocals. After all, this may just be the best I've heard of Anette Olzon's voice, as well as the most soothing Nightwish song ever created.
Next comes "I Want My Tears Back," where Nightwish returns to a more familiar sound. Fiddling can be heard throughout the song in the midst of the cool guitar riffs. The bridge, my favorite part of this song, is really just a fiddle solo, bringing back the Finnish folk influences that I love so much! Whenever I hear that part, I want to dance around like a Hobbit (Tolkien)! Plus, Anette and Marco's voices blend in the chorus with a powerful tone, adding to the greatness of this rather fun song. Really, that's what I've always loved most about Nightwish: the musicianship. I never had a fit over them changing singers because, quite frankly, I didn't care. The musicianship and the different sounds accomplished throughout Nightwish's history (primarily by Tuomas Holopainen) is what attracted me to this awesome band.
"Scaretale" follows, and it's SCARY. The stringline is scary, the children singing "Ring Around the Rosey" is scary... then we get to hear some amazing symphonic metal riffs that made my heart race... then Anette starts singing. And (I mean this in the best way possible) she sounds absolutely frightening. I don't know how she's capable of singing in such a bizarre, old witch-like style, but she nailed it, and it went perfectly with the freaky lyrics. Marco comes in during a rather circus-like part, and he sounds almost as terrifying as Anette. Though I compliment the singers, the creativity, and the amazing riffs, this is my least favorite track from the album for whatever reason. Circus themes just aren't my thing, I guess.
An instrumental track called "Arabesque" keeps the creepy-factor, but it combines with a nature-feel and even a bit of urgency, making it more appealing to me but not necessarily a standout in my opinion. But then, we come to the eigth track, "Turn Loose the Mermaids," a highlight from the album as well as the band's history in general. Anette's voice is light and pretty, as are the guitars, but acoustic instruments that seem to imitate nature come in, making this song over-the-top with beauty. This reminds me of older Nightwish music in the sense that it just sounds... like nature. With lyrics that do it justice, of course. Almost tribal-like drums pick up slightly to add another epic layer towards the end of the track... And that fiddling at the end of the song... Oh my goodness, it makes me melt.
The music picks up the tempo in "Rest Calm," with a chorus softer than the verses (I find this unusual). Again, a children's choir in involved as the song goes on, keeping the theme of innocence flowing throughout the album, and both singers are present, like in the next track, "The Crow, the Owl, and the Dove," the planned second single written by Marco Hietala. It's a softer song, peaceful.
The next two tracks are two of my favorites (along with "Turn Loose the Mermaids"), starting with "Last Ride of the Day." The recurring theme of the whole song is the choir/string line is so catchy, along with the chorus that flows so well. Lyrically, the song is references roller coasters, and as a fan of roller coasters I say that this song captures the experience exteremely well. "Song of Myself" is my other favoite. It opens classically, and Anette is half whispering the lyrics until it picks up mid-verse. Though I adore the entire song in general, the climatic choir bit is what made me fall in love with this song. The bridge is very heavy, another aspect that I loved, and then it leads into one of the most amazing outros I've ever heard, with the climatic choir bit I mentioned on a loop. But, the final half of the song isn't so... big. It sounds like a decent film score with a man and woman speaking poetically over the music, which picks up as it goes, adding more voices. Although this part sort of drones on, it's beautiful.
"Imaginaerum," which is obviously the album's title track, comes last. It's completely classical, summarizing the sounds of various songs on the album, kind of like a little wrap-up. Personally, I've never heard of an album ending like this, and I thought it was an interesting idea to end a great album.
Not every single song was my favorite on this album, but I loved most of them. Since I bought the special edition, I can report that the instrumentals are not boring at all and I enjoyed those as well. Maybe after a while I'll eventually love the songs that aren't exactly standouts for me at the moment, but even now, I feel this album deseves all five stars.
Imaginaerum is a creative album with different sounds bound to make just about anyone happy.