There was a time after the fall out from the split with Nightwish when it was fashionable to bash vocalist Anette Olzon. Hell, the social media critics are still belittling what truly were some of the best symphonic metal albums released - "Dark Passion Play" and "Imaginaerum." A large part of that success comes from Olzon's vocal performance, which - albeit different - provided a much more pop infused range that breathed new life into what was becoming a stale subgenre filled with classically trained opera singers. What The Dark Element does is take all the magic of that time and expands it further, and who better for Olzon to team with than one of the worlds most gifted songwriters - Jani Liimatainen (Cain's Offering/ex-Sonata Arctica). Outside of Xandria and Serenity, you would be hard pressed to find a better symphonic metal album than this.
What Jani Liimatainen has crafted on this debut is a wonderful journey that combines the beauty of classics like "Storytime" and "Song of Myself" and adds even more hard rock and pop influences, which is Olzon's forte, highlighted in the 2014 solo album "Shine." Punchy metallic numbers like "My Sweet Mystery," "Halo," "The Ghost and the Reaper" and the title/eponymous track are buffered by gorgeous power pop ballads like "Someone You Used to Know " and "Heaven of Your Heart."
Joining Olzon and Liimatainen are some familiar faces: bassist Jonas Kuhlberg (Cain's Offering) and drummer Jani “Hurtsi” Hurula (Cain's Offering). Guests include Insomnium vocalist/bassist Niilo Sevänen, who provides great contrast with his atmospheric growls in "Dead to Me."
There is so much to offer fans of any side of the careers Olzon and Liimatainen - so don't think that what has been released as singles so far means you will be treated to Olzon-Nightwish era clone. Vastly different numbers like "I Cannot Raise the Dead" and "Only One Who Knows Me" offer a ton for fans of high quality hard rock, rock or just plain old good music. With well crafted melody lines sometimes the most beautiful songs are the ones that follow the "less is more" policy - so don't expect huge expansive symphonic songs like "Scaretale." The Dark Element offers radio friendly, but well written songs.
The sound is crystal clear, courtesy of Liimatainen's production and the mix from the great Jacob Hansen. Olzon isn't just out in front of the mix and the keyboard work from Liimatainen is tasteful and not overbearing. Best of all...you can hear the guitar - an issue that plagues a lot of symphonic metal bands. Trust in Jacob and he will deliver.
For those fans that appreciate the whole career of Anette Olzon so far will find it all plucked from history and laid before you on an album that showcases the best of her talent backed by Cain's Offering and the talented Jani Liimatainen. Olzon's voice is infectious and ranks among one of music's finest. The Dark Element should attract fans from across the span of symphonic metal, hard rock, rock and pop.