Anette Olzon was always on to a hiding to nothing when she was announced as the replacement for Tarja in Nightwish. Not quite on the same scale of the catcalls Blaze Bayley received when he replaced Bruce Dickinson in Iron Maiden, but pretty damn close. The two albums that she recorded with Nightwish ‘Dark Passion Play’ and ‘Imaginaerum’ were both successful, but split the fanbase. The boots that Tarja left vacant were not easy to fill, and some bemoaned the loss of her soprano, operatic vocal range. Nightwish had evolved, and some couldn’t handle the change. A shame really, as both albums were actually very good, and Olzon proved to be a powerful vocalist in her own right. After a messy split from Nightwish, Olzon has mainly produced solo material and provided backing vocals for other bands… until now. Partnering with guitarist Jani Liimatainen, of Sonata Arctica and Cain’s Offering fame, the pair now bring us a new band – The Dark Element. Lighter, catchier and more melodic than you might have expected, it’s fantastic to hear Olzon sound so alive again, and sound like she is having a ball! Liimatainen brings his power metal prowess to the party, and seems to revel in being able to show off more of his songwriting skills with the lighter moments. Fans of symphonic metal can be quite fickle, and revolt as soon as established bands like Nightwish, Delain, or Within Temptation lose some of the bombastic symphonic elements to their music. A perfect example would be some of the comments that greeted Within Temptation’s last album ‘Hydra’. Shame on them for daring to try something different! Shame, I tell you. With that in mind, ‘The Dark Element’ might just be the album (and band) for you.
First thing to note is that it’s a long album, eleven tracks, and over fifty minutes long. The second thing to note is that it’s bloody good. Combining all the elements of the genre with some skilful songwriting and nailed on production, Olzon and Liimatainen have produced a winner. ‘The Dark Element’ has something for everyone. It’s not too heavy to put casual listeners off, but heavy enough to dust off the air guitar and strain the neck muscles. Liimatainen also handles the keyboard duties and the arrangements, but it’s his six string (or seven string) ability that impresses the most. Subtle, and never overpowering, he knows when to take a step back, the title track being a good example. Where some guitarists would crank it up, Liimatainen resists the urge to drown out Olzon, and instead allows the vocals to soar… and soar, they do. Powerful and heartfelt, they remind everyone time after time that Olzon can go toe-to-toe with the best of them. ‘My Sweet Mystery’ (Bounce, I tell you. Bounce!), ‘Dead To Me’, and ‘Halo’ are all superb, and stop you in your tracks, ‘Someone You Used To Know’ is the big ballad, with it’s soothing arrangements and soft acoustic guitar pickings, ‘The Ghost And The Reaper’ is the total banger and closing track. ‘Only One Who Knows Me’ is the pop-tastic one. A damn fine album indeed. Anette Olzon is back!
‘The Dark Element’ is available November 10th through Frontiers Music. If it’s not asking too much, some live dates would nice!
Find out more about The Dark Element on facebook.
Review: Dave Stott