Anette Olzon
Strong


3.8
excellent

Review

by Dewinged STAFF
September 15th, 2021 | 18 replies


Release Date: 09/10/2021 | Tracklist

Review Summary: The girl with oceans within is back stronger than ever.

One day you're the singer of a relatively unknown AOR local band called Alyson Avenue and the next day you're fronting one of the biggest symphonic metal acts of the moment in front of thousands of people. Anette Olzon's cinderella story is one for the books, but also one written with blood sweat and many, many tears. It's no secret that the former Nightwish singer has been expelled out of the stage by an angry mob of Tarja Turunen acolytes more than once, and that many critics considered her an unfit replacement for the Finnish diva, but still, as resilient as an icebreaker tanking through the north pole's frozen waters, she slowly melted the ice surrounding her persona singing through many nights and many tours, slowly carving her own little space in the heart of many reticent Nightwish fans. With Dark Passion Play and Imaginarium she accomplished the unimaginable. Not only she gifted the band with a more commercial sound that still retained the band’s essence, in fact, these two albums still remain among the band's most sold releases in their discography, and songs like "Amaranth", "The Poet and the Pendulum" and "Storytime" have become staple classics of Nightwish in its own right.

Unfortunately, every fabled story must meet an end, and Anette's wasn't a smooth one. Forced to abandon the band in the middle of a tour around the US due to reasons that remain debatable from both sides, she vanished in the following years to focus on her family life, which had been impacted greatly by constant touring and the band's busy schedule. Losing her mother to cancer fueled her to release her first solo record in 2014, Shine, which, sadly enough, didn't see great sales due to her sound veering towards a softer brand of pop rock and the lack of promotion behind the album. It wasn't until 2017, when Sonata Arctica's very own Jani Liimatainen invited her to become part of The Dark Element. With them she regained her mojo back, and the project proved to be fruitful enough to release a second album titled Songs That The Night Sings a couple of years later. Linking with the actual events, it wasn't until 2020 that she would meet the mind behind this second solo album, Swedish composer and string master Magnus Karlsson, with whom she had worked in a collaborative album Olzon did with Symphony X's Russell Allen for Frontier Records, the German label also behind this solo release.

Karlsson is well known for being a sound architect capable of building vessels that adapt perfectly to the singers he works with. His partnership with American singer and ex-TNT Tony Harnell in Starbreaker remains a personal favorite and honestly, after hearing what he has created for [i[Strong[/i], there’s no doubt that he was the correct choice for this album. Anette Olzon's second full length is probably the heaviest record she has ever done, and that includes Nightwish. Her formula of Abba meets Swedish melodic metal works stunningly well here, but the ghosts from the past don’t disappear that easily, and the shadow of Nightwish, for all that is worth, also looms over Strong in considerable measure.

As a recently converted fanatic of Nightwish myself, I will admit that I enjoyed hearing those influences as soon as "Bye Bye Bye" opens the album (title and lyrics might be more than a distant “wink wink” to "Bye Bye Beautiful"). With added growling vocals by Olzon's husband Johan Husgafvel (Pain, Cyanide, Plague Divine), and the thunderous drumming of Anders Köllerfors, the opening track shows Olzon riding with the Nordic metal winds once again in a way that feels both fresh and familiar.

The second track, "Sick Of You", wouldn't feel out of place in Dark Passion Play thanks to its theatrical and sticky chorus but that's maybe the closest this album gets to Olzon's previous adventures with the Finns. Songs like the blistering "Parasite" or the stupidly catchy "Fantastic Fanatic" take her in a slightly different direction, with Karlsson at the wheel, showing how confident and powerful her voice still sounds even after a three-year hiatus. When considering she has been working as a nurse these last three years and that she has just turned 50, it's pretty amazing how consistently good her singing is across the 11 tracks included in this last album, with special mention to some impressive belting in "Catcher Of My Dreams" or the tender performance in the ballad "Sad Lullaby", dedicated to the passing of her father due to Covid.

Strong honors the many virtues of Anette Olzon while channeling the perfect synergy that exists between her and Magnus Karlsson, and it does so with an album in which only the lyrics feel particularly juvenile at times, especially when hatred seems to transpire as the engine of at least half of the songs, tackling overarching themes of domestic violence, modern world horrors and personal griefs with a language that feels a bit shallow at times, leaving no room for interpretation or depth of meaning. In addition, some of Karlsson’s efforts to create a familiar environment result in mirror images. Such is the case of the driving riff of “Fantastic Fanatic”, which reminisces greatly certain “Storytime”, or the use of over-the-top keys and orchestral arrangements like the ones created by certain Tuomas Holopainen. These are but small qualms when looking at the big picture though. The fact that Anette is back in great shape producing music that somehow ties with her era in Nightwish while at the same time expands on it with heavier material can only mean good news for her fanbase, myself included, so I don't know... Let’s rejoice!?



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user ratings (5)
3.5
great


Comments:Add a Comment 
Dewinged
Staff Reviewer
September 15th 2021


25605 Comments

Album Rating: 3.8

I'm on my best streak of terrible summaries. Well, this was a pleasant surprise. Really cool album, especially for fans of the two Nightwish albums she was on.



"Parasite": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eEbQWMOPBO0&ab_channel=FrontiersMusicsrl



"Sick of You": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fwVDWvxcvQk&ab_channel=FrontiersMusicsrl

Digging: Anette Olzon - Strong

alamo
September 15th 2021


4215 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

ooooooooooo had no idea about this gonna jam rn. i love her nw albums and really enjoyed the dark element debut

Dewinged
Staff Reviewer
September 15th 2021


25605 Comments

Album Rating: 3.8

For the love of Holopainen I gotta change that summary

Sevengill
September 15th 2021


10308 Comments


Really enjoyed Shine. Looking forward to spinning this. Nice writeup, including the context!

Dewinged
Staff Reviewer
September 15th 2021


25605 Comments

Album Rating: 3.8

Phew ok, much better now I think.



Thanks Seven! You're gonna be surprised if you come from Shine. She's gone full on metal again.

TheSpirit
September 15th 2021


28380 Comments


Great write-up friend, I think I'll jam this.

I'm not a big Nightwish fan but Dark Passion Play is by far my favorite record from them. Like you said, commercial sound w/o losing their essence.

Digging: Lamp of Murmuur - Submission and Slavery

Aerisavion
September 15th 2021


3031 Comments


I still need to check this, but this was a good read.

Also, the fact that Anette has completely overcome how turbulent her exit from Nightwish was to now fully established herself not only solo but also via The Dark Element is really nice to see.

Dewinged
Staff Reviewer
September 15th 2021


25605 Comments

Album Rating: 3.8

Cheers Spirit, Aeris, tx for reading. Yeah the way her story with Nightwish came to an end wasn't pretty. Her wiki says she claimed that they fired her cause she was pregnant but on but that doc about the transition between her and Floor, Tuomas just said she was too sick to perform.



Anyhow, she has done a lot of stuff since Nightwish, while raising three children (one of them is called Nemo, how adorable) and working as a nurse and just last week she started a master degree.



Very busy woman.



CriticalMyth
September 15th 2021


29 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

I really enjoyed this! I was a big fan of her albums with Nightwish, and my problems with The Dark Element were more about production choices than her vocals. I've given this a few listens now and I think it really grows over time.

Aerisavion
September 15th 2021


3031 Comments


Speaking of the period in which she was fired, there's a very interesting documentary called 'Please Learn the Setlist in 48 Hours' that offers some insight on how it all played out.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vhExkmWKMEU

Dewinged
Staff Reviewer
September 16th 2021


25605 Comments

Album Rating: 3.8

Yeah Aeris that's the one I watched, really interesting stuff, gives a lot of background about what went down. The problem is that Anette refused to be showed, so any footage of her was edited out, meaning you only get to see the band's version of what happened.

DarkNoctus
September 16th 2021


11595 Comments


'the dark element' is very overlooked. stronger than pretty much all modern nightwish material. i bet this is great.

Digging: Marianas Rest - Fata Morgana

Dewinged
Staff Reviewer
September 16th 2021


25605 Comments

Album Rating: 3.8

It sounds more Nightwish than the last 2 Nightwish albums with Floor ;)



No but seriously, if you can deal with the Eurometal cheese and some inoffensive cringe on the lyrics, yeah this is good fun Noctus.

Flugmorph
September 16th 2021


24499 Comments


oh wow this is pogging off

Dewinged
Staff Reviewer
September 16th 2021


25605 Comments

Album Rating: 3.8

What's the bird's verdict?

valek
September 16th 2021


321 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Okay I didn't expected anything from this and after 3 songs I find it surprisingly nice, it may be a good surprise in the end? Let's see.

valek
September 16th 2021


321 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I have to say I liked it more than the last 2 nightwish releases at least, it has nothing special but it works, is nice and easy to listen.

Flugmorph
September 16th 2021


24499 Comments


ill come back to you dewi



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