Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Album Review: The Dark Element - The Dark Element

Talent is not enough to make it in the music business. Sometimes, you have the wrong album at the wrong time, or you find yourself in a position where fans are wanting something different. That's been the story for Anette olzon through her career. She made her first impact with Alyson Avenue, releasing the AOR classic "Presence Of Mind" (one of my all-time favorites). She and the band couldn't sustain the spark and success of that record, but years later she found herself in Nightwish. Her performances on record were fantastic, but the fans couldn't grow to accept anyone who wasn't in a particular mold, so that didn't work out either. After a solo album that showed she was still a hell of a singer, we now have The Dark Element, trying to return her to glory.

Teaming Olzon with guitarist Jani Liimatainen of Sonata Arctica and Cain's Offering fame provides more than enough talent for The Dark Element to be something special.

Those expectations weren't diminished by the pre-release singles, which showcased a modern and heavy blend of symphonic and power metal, full of heavy riffs and rich melodies. Tracks like "My Sweet Mystery" pack powerful hooks that are immediately memorable, and go down like warm cider on a cold autumn evening. The songs also find the right balance where they have symphonic elements that give enough depth and color to the compositions, but they don't go so far down the rabbit hole of orchestration that the songs themselves get lost in the compositional bravado.

A big part of the package is Anette herself. There are plenty of women in this genre, but none sound quite like her. While there are many who have classical training, and try to sound angelic that way, Anette's sharper vocals are not only more befitting a metal band, but they give The Dark Element a face in an increasingly faceless crowd. I have long been a fan of her voice, and she hasn't lost a step since Alyson Avenue's heyday. She sounds fantastic on these songs, plain and simple.

We get a nice diversity of songs on the album. The title track leads things off with the most densely symphonic approach of them all, while "Someone You Used To Know" is a soothing yet dramatic ballad that shows off the clarity of Anette's voice, and "Here's To You" pulses with a boundless and contagious energy. That track in particular hits on everything that is right with The Dark Element. It's the same case with "Halo", which is a flawless track that should become a staple, it's that good.

I was trying to avoid making the direct comparisons here, but let's go ahead and say it anyway; "The Dark Element" is both better and more enjoyable than any of the recent albums by Nightwish or Sonata Arctica. While they have gone searching for new artistic avenues, The Dark Element is made up of two people who are happy to be making the kind of music they're good at making. There isn't any longing to be taken seriously as something more than a metal band making a metal album, nor any shame in doing something fully inside-the-box.

In that sense, The Dark Element is a replacement for the memories of those bands, filling the void they left when they were tired of being who they were. That works out for everyone, since I can easily ignore them, and instead give my attention here. Hopefully, this album will remind everyone what they've been missing in Anette Olzon. I have no reservations about saying The Dark Element is going to end the year as one of my absolute favorite albums.


  1. Best review yet, and nailed my sentiments to a tee regarding this being better than anything their former bands have done in years! Well done.