Sunday, March 4, 2012

Dark Suites Music Reviews

Nightwish- IMAGINAERUM Limited Edition (2011)
Reviewed by Anthony Servante

Nightwish is the Finnish Symphonic Metal band comprised of Anette Olzon on vocals, founder Tuomas Holopainen on keyboards, piano, and composer, Emppu Vuorinen on guitars, Marco Hietala on bass and vocals, Jukka Nevalainen on drums and percussion, and a guest appearance by Troy Donockley on uilleann pipes and sax.

The band is globally known except in the U.S., where it only maintains a cult following. When former singer Tarja Turunen completed the band with her operatic voice, they did not tour the US, which may account for their relative obscurity in the States. But once Tarja was fired from the band, and Anette Olzon took over on vocals, the band has toured here three times in five years, and have put out two albums, their latest being Imaginaerum (changed from Imaginarium to avoid confusion with the Terry Gilliam movie, rumor has it). This is one of the pioneers of Symphonic Power Metal.

Since the dismissal of Tarja, Anette as the new singer seemed to have found her voice in the music of the first lp, Dark Passion Play (2007), but on the new lp, the powerful music overwhelms her limited range. Marco as usual makes up for the loss of Tarja’s massive voice with a husky intonation that makes poor Anette sound like a back-up singer. However, on the very musky noir sound of Slow, Love Slow, she creates a nightclub singer personality that takes the song beyond the Metal sound. That voice with an accompanying piano riff plus a sexy saxophone in the background sound of a smoky bar; when she wails the melody as the music crescendos, she takes Nightwish to a new level. But on the straightforward rockers, she is trying to keep up. Her strongest vocals are on Storytime, the first hit single off the new lp. On I Want My Tears Back, Marco’s vocals are on display with this funky Scottish Rock beat. Hietala once fronted the band Tarot, so he is no stranger to being the main singer.

With a little more practice projecting herself in the studio and on stage, Anette can find her place again in Nightwish’s elaborate music as she did on the first lp. Problem may be Tuomas is still writing to Tarja’s vocal levels; he too needs to work with the tools at hand when he writes his new music. When I took my brother to see Nightwish in concert, he loved them, even though he wasn’t familiar with their music, but when I took him to see Tarja, he was in awe of her voice; her operatic projection on stage overwhelmed the heavy metal back-up band—that’s how powerful her voice is. My brother said, “If that was the voice of Nightwish, I wish I’d seen that band in concert.” Then catching himself, he added, “But Anette was good too.” If Annette is to grow with the band’s evolving sound, as we see she is capable of in the latest CD, Tuomas better start including her range in the range of the music for the next lp.

My complaints aside, the music reaches for areas Nightwish has not even thought to go. Imaginaerum delivers an orchestral punch to the gut with this new CD. A movie for the music was shot along with the making of the music. And this is the band’s first concept album. All the songs play a unified piece, yet Tuomas composes some jazzy work that he has not explored before. It is good to see the sound of the band evolving. The only constant is the Metal use of the symphony, their trademark, with both Tarja and Anette.
I look forward to their next CD. Until then, give a listen to their new lp: Nighwish: Imaginaerum (2011) in its entirety.

Hanna Movie Soundtrack: Chemical Brothers (2011)
Reviewed by Anthony Servante

Hanna’s Theme caught my attention right off during the movie, so I had to hear the rest of the soundtrack, away from the context of the movie. The entire movie score stands on its own as a fine studio work of music.

The Chemical Brothers consist of Techno-Pop Brits Tom Rowlands and Ed Simons.

This is my first listen to The Chemical Brothers, although they seemed to have L.A. captivated a few years back, selling out big venues. They bring parallels to Kraftwerk and Hooverphonic to mind: easy listening, rhythmic with rich melodies, one long ensemble piece rather than individual songs, although there are separate songs for each scene of the movie, with reoccurring themes present (the whistle, for instance). Easily dismissed as electronic mood music, and wrongfully so: It is driven by melodic themes repeating in surprising places throughout the tracks. Reminiscent of Eno’s electronic work, but with more catchy tunes sandwiched between the long walls of sound. I’m pretty sure I liked the movie, Hanna, so much because of the music. I look forward to listening to older works by the duo. Meanwhile, listen to this synoptic preview of the soundtrack.

--Anthony Servante