So, Anette Olzon, who you’ll doubtless remember being mercilessly rendered an unperson by Nightwish not so long ago, has joined up in a new metal project with former Sonata Arctica/ Cain’s Offering guitarist Jani Liimatainen, The Dark Element. The result, unsurprisingly, isn’t a million miles away from the sound of those three bands coaxed into a blender…
Actually opening track The Dark Element, suffused as it is with modern-sounding farts and belches from a doubtless state-of-the-art bank of synths sounds a bit more like Amaranthe if anything, and it’s not a bad way to announce the band to waiting ears. Second track My Sweet Mystery is so close in sound to the Nightwish of Olzon’s tenure you have to wonder whether or not it’s actually a bit of mischievous nose-thumbing from the diminutive Swede, right down to the superbly accurate uplifting key change at the end and the thunderous drum-synth exit.
Whether it’s a deliberate snipe or not, it’s better than anything on the most recent Nightwish album…
Stage set, the band spend the rest of the album tinkering with this blueprint sound in small ways, though never enough to seriously challenge the listener. Third track The Last Good Day is packed with chunky riffage and more of those parping twenty first century synths, but never really drags itself out of the ordinary file, while Here’s to You, with it’s ear-snaring chorus and muscular yet simple riffage might easily find itself on a vintage Within Temptation album.
Someone You Used to Know is an achingly effective ballad, taking its cue from Abba in their late-career-raging-self-pity phase, and it’s a stormer.
Next track Dead to Me goes back into uptempo Nightwish territory, and though good you once again find yourself questioning why such a clearly talented bunch of musicians would spend their time trying to so accurately replicate the sound of a band one of them was formerly in. Maybe Olzon felt the need to get this style out of her system in public, who knows? Whatever the reason, Dead to Me still falls a little flat.
Halo underlines the feeling that this band still isn’t quite sure where it’s ultimate destiny lies, again falling back on sparkling Amaranthine synths to back up the strident chorus lines, but they have more luck with I Cannot Raise the Dead, a superb, shimmering piece of melodic hard rock that showcases Olzon’s magnificent voice to its fullest extent. Less strident than the other rockers on the album, it’s confident in its own skin and features a marvellous solo from Liimatainen to top things off, and it’s going to be up there on my list of best songs of the year I’m sure.
The Ghost and the Reaper is a straightahead, churning headbanger, nothing special, but the band hit paydirt with the Cain’s Offeringesque Heaven in Your Heart, which is another of the album’s absolute highlights. Delicate, beautifully sung and possessed of an elegance lacking on some of the more strident material, it’s a real highlight.
Final track the semi-balladic Only One Who Knows Me is ends things in rousing fashion, with some big-sounding drums from Jani ‘Hursti’ Hurula and throbbing bass from the excellent-throughout Jonas Kuhlberg backing up the two star turns. Olzon ends with another spine-tingling performance, and Liimatainen saves one of his best solos for the fadeout.
Pretty good overall, then, with enough material of real quality to suggest The Dark Element have a bright future.
The Dark Element is out now on Frontiers Music