Anette Olzon – Strong

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The career of Swedish singer Anette Olzon, formerly of Nightwish and currently of The Dark Element, is ever so interesting to follow: you never know what she will come up with next, and one thing is given, she will always get better and more creative, surprising us with the new directions her talent takes.

The release of her second solo album, Strong, comes seven years after her first one, Shine, eighteen months after her collaboration with Russell Allen and Magnus Karlsson, Worlds Apart, and only a few months after the release of Karlsson’s metal opera Heart Healer, where Anette features in one of the roles on vocals.

This new masterpiece is fairly different from what she has previously done. In an interview published online recently, she explains this with the fact that while recording Shine, she was still with Nightwish, not wanting to step on their toes, while this time around she felt free to do what she wanted. It does feel that her own talent has taken charge and has gone exploring, not only as a fabulous singer, but also as a composer and lyricist. 

The collaboration between these two gifted Swedish musicians has now taken a step up from their previous joint projects; Strong comes across as exactly what it says on the tin: a particularly strong album. While still coming up with a lot of catchy tunes and melodic refrains, it takes Anette’s and Magnus’ contribution into the history of symphonic metal to a whole new level. Olzon experiments with things not done by her previously, tastefully delving into the territory of death metal by carefully introducing growling vocals into her work (delivered by her husband Johan Husgafvel, otherwise known as a bass player), and this absolutely works a treat, blended into her epic, yet melodic, and particularly ambitious music.

Strong strikes you as a poignant, powerful, emotionally charged piece of work. Each song tells a story of its own, with a common underlying theme of being strong and surviving what life throws at you, be it an abusive relationship, loss of a loved one, or other challenges we all have to deal with at various stages of our lives. Some songs sound like a kind of a revenge fantasy, for example ‘Bye Bye Bye’, ‘Sick of You’, and ‘Parasite’, with lyrics absolutely dripping with sweet sarcasm. Any woman who’s been through an abusive relationship will enjoy these songs and find a lot to relate to, yet there is a lot more to this album than channelling your hate, pain and disappointment. The lyrics are highly charged with energy, whether a negative one towards the ex or those bullies out there, or empowering and inspiring us to find strength and faith within ourselves to overcome life’s challenges. Whichever way the tracks take us, their story is presented in a tasteful and epic form: symphonic metal at its best.

It is interesting to observe how the music partnership with Karlsson manifests itself here. On the one hand, it is fairly obvious that this work of art definitely carries Magnus’ specific stamp with the bombastic symphonic intros and choruses, delicious soaring guitar solos (courtesy of his own guitar), and the deepness of all those layers unpeeling themselves the more you listen to the tracks. Yet, he has responsibly managed not to stamp on it too hard to make this album his own and, while for a numerous time reasserting the magnificent uniqueness of his talent, he takes a bit of a back seat, making it clear that there has been someone else co-authoring the music, and this gives it a unique and particularly enjoyable taste of being a successful collaborative effort.

There is, of course, more to the music in this album, with some great synthesiser work, for instance ‘Parasite’, whose speedy rhythm makes it feel as if you are in an intense video game. Growling vocals work in great unison with Anette’s clear voice, which she absolutely unleashes and lets rip to her heart’s content, making it a delicious piece to listen to. The clever, modern sounding keyboard work can also be heard in the last track, ‘Roll The Dice’.

Overall, this album is yet another great one under the two musicians’ belts, and definitely one to keep on your playlist for a long time to come.

Track list:

  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 Them
  9. Catcher of My Dreams
  10. Hear Them Roar
  11. Roll The Dice

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