Welcome to 2012! And what better way to start the year than have a look at 2011’s final heavy hitter from the biggest, most critiqued female fronted symphonic band, with music composed by child-like Jack Sparrow impersonator, Nightwish’s Imaginaerum.

It’s fair to say that 2007’s Dark Passion Play knocked a few socks off from the unbelievers in the wake of Tarja’s departure. Imaginaerum‘s opening instrumental leads into the first single Story Time, and so begins the concept album. Or, an album written to accompany a film. Story Time is a great opener to the album, lacing the innocence of Olzon’s voice with the sweeping keyboards and thundering guitars that we’ve all come to expect from the band over the last fifteen years.

For every high that the album delivers, it almost seems like it’s accompanied by a low. While the very next song, Ghost River, blasts off with a fantastic intro, the stomping circus vibe of the pre-chorus coupled with the lacklustre vocal melodies drag down whatever melodic momentum was gained. What’s worse is that it continues across the album, as the band descends into jazz half-ramblings in Slow, Love, Slow. While the album certainly isn’t without it’s charms and nuances, the chorus of I Want My Tears Back bringing us back to straight up power metal and a final chorus hook that’s never quite where you expect it make for some of the polarity of the  record. I should mention the almost Rednex-style folk interlude with recorded hand-clapping which is brilliant and breathes extra life into the song.

Imaginaerum is obviously well crafted and an incredibly deep endeavour, even if glossed over with Disney levels of saccharin and pretentiousness.  Song of Myself is apparently divided into four parts according to the album track listing. Can I skip the part about an old bloke having a cry-wank (no, I’m not making that up) in order to get to the music? Can I buggery.

The album does pick up towards the end, excluding the afore mentioned self indulgence. The Crow, The Dove & The Owl is a wonderfully atmospheric dirge that is reminiscent of The Islander, and Last Ride Of The Day provides the final soaring bang on the album before descending into undiluted toss for the last twenty minutes.

Like a poo after a dodgy kebab, Imaginaerum lacks consistency. Nightwish can deliver far better overall products, as their track record has proven, the diamonds on the album being left tarnished. Still, where the album excels it shines.