For those who are fans of Symphonic metal, Nightwish in particular, Swedish singer Anette Olzon was, at the time, a polarizing figure. During her tenure with Nightwish from 2007 until her acrimonious and mysterious departure in 2012, Olzon released two albums with the Finnish metal icons, 2007’s Dark Passion Play and 2011’s Imaginaerum. Both albums divided the fan base, due in part to the fans loyalty to former vocalist Tarja Turunen, and partly to the drastic change in vocal styles. While Turunen is one of the pioneers of operatic symphonic metal vocalists, Olzon’s vocals were more pop/rock oriented to widen the bands commercial appeal. Personally, while I enjoyed both albums featuring Olzon, I never thought she was a great fit with them, especially when performing live.
Fast forward to 2017 and Olzon has returned to metal prominence, thanks to Frontiers Records, who have paired the vocalist with Finnish guitarist/producer Jani Liimatainen (Cain’s Offering, ex-Sonata Arctica) to form the new project The Dark Element. Where the pressure to fill the shoes of Tarja must have been immense, on The Dark Element’s self-titled debut album, Olzon sounds more comfortable and at home doing what she does best, using her pop-infused melodic vocals to their upmost potential. Olzon has always been a fantastic singer, but she has really upped her game throughout the album with strong vocal melodies and charismatic performances.
Liimatainen’s production alongside Jacob Hansen’s mix gives the album an energetic sound that brings together pop, hard rock, and symphonic metal into an enjoyable listen from start to finish. Of course, there are definite and deliberate nods to Olzon’s past with Nightwish on the keyboard-heavy title track, and especially My Sweet Mystery, which harkens back to Bye Bye Beautiful, with its keyboard accents, heavy guitar riffs and pounding drums courtesy of Jani “Hurtsi” Hurula (Cain’s Offering). Make no mistake; this is not a carbon copy of Nightwish. There are lots of different soundscapes and atmospheres ranging from AOR hard rock (Last Good Day, Here’s To You), pop rock ( Halo), and melancholy power ballads (Someone You Used To Know, and the brilliant Heaven Of Your Heart) where Olzon truly shines with her passionate emotive vocals. The symphonic metal fans will not be disappointed, as songs like Dead To Me and The Ghost And The Reaper. The Dark Element experiments with modern sounds and styles on I Cannot Raise The Dead as well as the album closer Only One Who Knows Me, which has a Delain-esque flavor to it.
If you are a fan of Cain’s Offering, Olzon’s work with Nightwish, as well as similar bands of the genre such as Delain and Amaranthe, you will welcome back Anette Olzon and The Dark Element to the world of Symphonic metal with open arms.