Imaginaerum is the seventh studio album by Finnish symphonic metal band Nightwish. According to Nightwish songwriter Tuomas Holopainen, the album is a concept album that tells the story of an old composer who is reminiscing of his youth on his deathbed. The album was produced alongside the movie of the same name, directed by Stobe Harju, who previously directed Nightwish’s “The Islander” music video, and the album and the film share the same themes and general story. It is their second and last album with vocalist Anette Olzon.
The first single off the album, “Storytime” was released on November 9, 2011 and quickly topped the Finnish single charts. According to Iltasanomat, Imaginaerum sold more than 50,000 copies in Finland during the first day after release. It has been described as Nightwish’s best album by Sonic Seducer and was chosen as the album of the month by Dutch metal magazine Aardschok Magazine.
While rumours of the next Nightwish album had been circulating for a while, the album was confirmed in the June 2009 edition of the Finnish magazine Soundi, when lead composer and keyboardist Tuomas Holopainen stated that he had started work on a new album. In October 2009, rumours about the new album were circulated, suggesting that the title would be Wind Embraced. Lead vocalist Anette Olzon dismissed the rumours as false and stated that the songs for the new album had not yet been completed, with the exception of three songs written before May 2009. Holopainen said in a 2009 interview that ” I can’t reveal to you anymore but there is going to be a big twist so to say, on the next album.” In an interview with pipist Troy Donockley (who recorded with the band on Dark Passion Play), when asked about his involvement in the new album, he stated “Oh, yes, I will be playing on the next album and, from what Tuomas has told me, it is going to be something extraordinary…”
In early 2010, Olzon reported that the album was half-written, and that fans should not expect anything earlier than fall of 2011. In April 2010, Holopainen revealed that he has now finished writing songs for the album, and in June, he had finished recording the pre-production demo. Throughout the summer of 2010, the band gathered to rehearse songs in the Finnish village of Sävi, and recording of the album started in October 2010 and ended in May 2011, while the finished album stood ready on June 4
The band announced in late 2010 that more information about the album’s content would be released in late January 2011, but on February 1, the official website bore a statement written by Holopainen that there would be a delay in the information being released due to schedule changes. He added, however, that “it still is the Burton-Gaiman-Dalí amusement park we are about to enter.” In the same statement, it was also revealed that the album would be themed, and that “mood changes seem to be more present than ever before”. The orchestration demos he had received from Pip Williams were described as “beautiful, twisted, tribal and cinematic stuff”. In the Finnish version of the statement, it was also revealed that a few songs would not be getting any orchestration at all, differing from their latest album, on which all songs had a major orchestral presence.
On February 10, 2011, Nightwish announced on their website that the new album title would be Imaginarium. They also revealed that the band had been preparing a movie based on the album, which would be released in 2012 and directed by Stobe Harju, who previously directed the music video for “The Islander”. According to Tuomas, the name was meant to be related to “the power of imagination and the roller coaster of life”. At first he thought of Imagine, but that would be too obvious and similar to John Lennon’s song, so he changed it to Imaginarium.
On February 23, three interviews were released on the website – one each with composer Tuomas Holopainen, director Stobe Harju, and producer Markus Selin. Holopainen revealed the origin of the project, and that Nightwish will appear as themselves in the film, with minor roles. On August 31, the band announced that the album and movie had changed name from Imaginarium to Imaginaerum, to avoid mix-ups with other things entitled “Imaginarium”. This also led to changing the title of the track with the same name, but the song “Storytime” still includes the word “imaginarium” in the lyrics.
In early September, it was announced that the first single from the album would be “Storytime”. A week later, the band released the Imaginaerum cover, track list and commentary on each song written by Holopainen. “Storytime” was released as a CD, download and as a video through YouTube on November 9, and after a mere week the band announced that the single was topping the Finnish single chart, as well as having high positions in Hungary and Great Britain. On November 18, Amazon released 30-second samples from every song off the album, and the band shortly announced on their website that Amazon had done so without their knowledge, and that they recommended that one shouldn’t listen to them, if one “want to experience the true impact of the album”.
Concept and Storyline
The album is produced alongside the film with the same name, directed by Stobe Harju and described as an “emotional fantasy-adventure”, and feature the same basic themes and ideas, though told in more detail and with more extensive characters in the film than in the album. According to Holopainen, the film has evolved radically from the original plan, while still retaining the main spirit of the foundation. To Holopainen, it “was important from the very beginning that the album would work as its own individual piece of art” that would “work on its own without the film”. According to drummer Jukka Nevalainen, “this is not a concept album per se”, but it’s “a coherent package from the beginning to the end”.
The foundations to the music were developed before the pre-production of the film, during which Holopainen and Harju collaborated in developing the characters and the script.
Imaginaerum World Tour
The release of Imaginaerum was followed by a world tour, named the “Imaginaerum World Tour.” The tour started in Los Angeles on January 21, 2012. Finnish metal band Amorphis supported Nightwish on this portion of the tour. The European leg of the tour began on March 2, 2012 in Joensuu, Finland. When the tour returned to North America following the European leg of the tour, Nightwish was supported by Kamelot.
During the US tour, singer Anette Olzon fell ill at the show in Denver on September 28, 2012. Elize Ryd(Amaranthe) and Alissa White-Gluz (Arch Enemy), the back-up singers for Kamelot, stepped in to help perform the show. After the Denver show, Nightwish posted the following message on its Facebook page: “We were in hell [yesterday]. Vocalist in a hospital. Show about to be canceled… But nobody gave up an inch. With the help from the ladies Elize and Alissa from KAMELOT, we actually managed to pull of a relaxed and great show! The crowd doing the mass karaoke with the band playing was absolutely amazing. We were humbled and grateful at the same time. This is unity and help from friends and fans.” Two days later, Olzon was let go from the band with Floor Jansen being called to finish the tour in her place. Jansen was announced as the new lead singer of Nightwish in October 2013.