Review by Paul Monkhouse for MPM
Following a stellar career with Nightwish, it’s been a busy nine years for former singer Anette Olzon, so much so that this belated follow up to her first solo outing ‘Shine’ in 2014 only gets recorded and released now.
With a deeply personal flavour to the release, Olzon’s husband Johan Husgafvel playing bass and providing growls along with the lyrical content, this album also amps up the musical aggression and is arguably her heaviest release yet.
Perversely, the release kicks off with ‘Bye Bye Bye’, the singers bids a farewell to her old bandmates and it’s a muscular start, full of high drama and stabbing keys and riffs. Like being strapped to a barely controlled toboggan, this is like diving into a pool full of ice and is a huge slap to the senses, kicking starting what is one hell of a ride.
Despite its theme of abusive of abusive relationships, ‘Sick Of You’ is gorgeous and absolutely irresistible, being both brutal and beautiful it really causes a massive tension between the emotions, sucking you in and not letting go.
The touching ‘I Need To Stay’ also juxtaposes wistful lyrics with full pelt attack, the music tearing like a shot of adrenaline through your veins. Not to be outdone, ‘Strong’ is a titanic follow up, hugely powerful and punchy, the anthemic titular track is a real declaration of what and how we fight in these times when we may feel small an against the odds.
The darkly mysterious swirl of ‘Parasite’ is a fearsome beast, rushing in from the night, its razor-sharp talons shredding as it bursts through windows in a shower of glittering glass shards.
The highlight of the album comes when Olzon gives her best vocal performance ever on the heart breaking ‘Sad Lullaby’, written by the singer as a tribute to her late father. An orchestral tour de force, the track sounds so huge that it could shatter or heal worlds with its stratospheric power but centred absolutely on tender voice that is its very soul.
Catching the zeitgeist, ‘Fantastic Fanatic’ rails about the hypocrisy of those who claim to be helping solve the ecological issues in the world whilst jetting all over the globe, the music like a rampaging Viking horde on a works outing, full of fire and joy.
The furious riffing of Magnus Karlsson dominates ‘Who Can Save Them’, his playing throughout the album giving a real visceral power that scythes over the top as Husgafvel and the drums of Anders Kollerfors rattle the speakers with their pounding rhythms.
In keeping such a tight unit, the release benefits from a sense of this being a band, more than just a faceless vehicle for Olzon’s talent and therefore gives everyone a chance to truly shine, the musicians adding extra commitment and weight to the project.
Given these chances, everyone stretches out and imbues the tracks with their own personalities, numbers like ‘Catcher of My Dreams’ being infused with real atmosphere that may have been alternatively missing entirely or overdone. Given the tendency for Symphonic Metal to head gleefully into overwrought territory, it’s a testament to Olzon and Karlsson that they’ve constructed a set of material that balances power with subtlety, the sledgehammer attack of ‘Hear Them Roar’ and ‘Roll The Dice’ both epically thrilling whilst full of bursts of colour and imagination.
It’s with this latter track that ‘Strong’ closes with, its huge sound an adrenaline rush that leaves the listener on a high, the album a mile high testament to the power of music and one not to be missed.
Buy or Stream: https://orcd.co/anettestrong
- Bye Bye Bye
- Sick Of You
- I Need To Stay
- Sad Lullaby
- Fantastic Fanatic
- Who Can Save Them
- Catcher Of My Dreams
- Hear Them Roar
- Roll The Dice
Anette Olzon – Vocals
Magnus Karlsson – Guitars, Bass
Anders Köllerfors – Drums
Johan Husgafvel – Growling Vocals