Tuesday, March 13, 2012
For most of my life, my tastes in music were predictable. I liked pop and New Age/Celtic, so my playlists featured Enya and Michael Jackson, with Roxette and Loreena McKennitt backing them up.
But then I heard a Finnish symphonic metal band called Nightwish.
Heavy metal, or any kind of metal with loud drums, electric guitars and snarled lyrics, didn’t work for me. What hooked me on Nightwish, though, was their unusual combination of the drums and guitars with a truly operatic voice—their singer, Tarja Turunen, has an incredible vocal range. As a result the songs have a sense of depth and drama, and the lyrics often contribute to this as well. “Wishmaster” references both The Lord of the Rings and DragonLance, while "7 Days to the Wolves" is inspired by Stephen King’s Wolves of the Calla.
Nightwish and Tarja Turunen parted ways in 2005, however, and while I listened to a few of their songs after that period, they never quite did it for me. The band had a new vocalist, Anette Olzon, but her voice was just too different—the grand soaring quality was gone. I’m not so invested in music that that came as a disappointment, though, so I just listened to the Nightwish songs I did like, and thought it ended there.
Then I heard of their latest album, Imaginaerum. Maybe it was the name, the lovely cover, or just curiosity which made me listen to a few of the songs, but… they’re superb. Fast-paced but haunting, infused with atmosphere, just right for a night carnival, a dark-side-of-the-mind wonderland and an “Imaginarium/dream emporium”.
I am the voice of Never-Never land,
The innocence, the dreams of every man,
I am the empty crib of Peter Pan…
Last Ride Of The Day evokes a roller-coaster ride under the moon. Turn Loose The Mermaids is another of my favorites—sad and dreamy at the start, yet seguing into an energetic C-part that’s apparently influenced by spaghetti westerns.
Then again, the album is the soundtrack for an musical fantasy film, and it shows—the songs reflect the panorama of the big screen. Anette’s voice fits perfectly with this new style. I don’t think Nightwish will ever reach that operatic plateau they did in the past, but they don’t need to—they’re brilliant, bold and evocative. Metal has never been easier to listen to.