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Anette Olzon - Strong

Anette Olzon
by Mark Machlay at 18 October 2021, 12:45 PM

Former NIGHTWISH singer and current THE DARK ELEMENT vocalist Anette Olzon released her second solo album “Strong” last September the 10th, over seven years after releasing her first, “Shine” in 2014. Olzon’s first formal band was singing for Swedish melodic rock ALYSON AVENUE when she was originally taken on as a backup vocalist but did so well on demo recordings that she was promoted to lead singer, staying with the band through 2 studio albums. The band slowed down a bit in 2007 and since NIGHTWISH were publicly announcing a need for a new singer, Olzon decided to take a chance and was chosen from about 2,000 applicants. She stayed with NIGHTWISH until 2012, being featured in 2007’s “Dark Passion Play” and “Imaginaerum” in 2011 as well as the live album “Made in Hong Kong (And in Various Places” in 2009. Though her departure was seen as controversial, Olzon was undeterred and got right to work on material for a solo album that became 2014’s “Shine”. Later, she would join SONATA ARCTICA guitarist Jani Liimatainen for the project that became THE DARK ELEMENT releasing a self-titled album in November of 2017 and a follow-up “Song the Night Sings” almost exactly two years later.

Plans for this second “Strong” began as far back as June of 2015, only a little over a year after “Shine” was released. Olzon indicated details were still being discussed with the label and news of the follow-up was sparse until recently. A lot had happened in the intervening time and clearly a musical metamorphosis as well as the music for “Strong” is much harder and faster than previously. The music was written and composed together with the acclaimed Swedish guitarist and producer Magnus Karlsson at the helm. The duo had worked together before on a duet album called “Worlds Apart” in 2020 with Russel Allen – singer for progressive metal pioneers SYMPHONY X. While the songs are heavy, they still hold the melodic and grandiose nature of symphony metal. The album was mixed by Jacob Hansen who has worked with AMARANTHE, VOLBEAT and THE DARK ELEMENT.

A lot of people may have soured on Anette Olzon – my wife included – ever since her less than amicable split from NIGHTWISH but I never doubted her musical ability and I’m very happy to see her continue to evolve as an artist with the darker turn on “Strong” from her previous solo album “Shine”. The album is surprisingly and welcomely heavy, with Olzon clearly belting them out in the studio with passion and power. From the start with the bona fide anthem “Bye Bye Bye”, it shows her influences from NIGHTWISH but is just as captivating as any of their tunes with juxtaposing growl vocals provided by husband Johan Husgafvel and fiery, whip-cracking speed to jump start the album. The title track “Strong” while epic-sounding and has some excellent sonic qualities with the chant-like pre-chorus, it does get a bit repetitive at times. It makes a perfectly passable single for the album but wasn’t really the standouts like the opening track, aggressive and pummeling “Parasite”, or the centerpiece ballad “Sad Lullaby”, it’s delivery so tender and melancholy about the passing of her father due to Covid. “Strong” is a wonderful reflection on the events of the past year and reminder that we as a human race can stand up and fight against all odds.

Songwriting: 8
Musicianship: 10
Memorability: 6
Production: 8

4 Star Rating

1. Bye Bye Bye
2. Sick of You
3. I Need to Stay
4. Strong
5. Parasite
6. Sad Lullaby
7. Fantastic Fanatic
8. Who Can Save Him
9. Catcher of My Dreams
10. Hear Them Roar
11. Roll the Dice
Annette Olzon – Vocals
Magnus Karlsson – Guitars & Bass
Anders Köllerfors – Drums
Johan Husgafvel – Growling Vocals
Record Label: Frontiers Music


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