The keyboardist from Nightwish has recorded a concept album about Scrooge McDuck. Read that sentence back again – your response to its very existence will tell you more than I could achieve in a thousand words.
Operating outside his famous alma mater for the first time, Holopainen has here abandoned every aspect of Nightwish’s sound that could be considered – no matter how controversially – Metal, pitching his sound in the kind of symphonic, culturally light-fingered soundtrack territory that suggests a lower-budget Enya. Swathes of mawkish synths hammer home cloying, heavy-handed melodies that seem to demand the listener has an emotional reaction, without providing appropriate reason to do so. Elsewhere, clumsy “ethnic” or celtic-sounding elements give the impression that Holopainen has been raiding the CDs in his local new-age shop.
Pretty much exactly what one would expect from keyboardist-minus-Nightwish, then, but one aspect in which the album fails to live up to reasonable expectations comes, regrettably, on the subject of fun. The concept sounds so ludicrous, so insane that one imagines the kind of tongue-in-cheek, unselfconscious silliness that can make even the terrible enjoyable for a time: Duck Tales samples, cartoonish key changes and the joyous middle-finger waving of a man who’s doing what he loves and doesn’t care what you think. It’s seriously disappointing, then, to realise how sober and restrained it is. Holopainen is taking his inspiration not from the cartoons but from Don Rosa’s well-regarded comic, and he’s at pains to make us realise just how “serious and moving” it is – there’s no Launchpad McQuack here, sadly. If Nightwish have anything to offer – and whether or not they do is a discussion for another place – then it’s surely the joyous, shameless sense of escapist fun that their best material captures, but that’s entirely absent from Life And Times.
An uninspired album of flat, featureless music which doesn’t provide any of the things that the small number of people who’ll actually want to listen to it will be hoping to hear. The soundtrack to a film you’d never watch.