Nightwish has, of course, gone through singers at an increasing pace. Anette Olzon was their singer for two studio albums, including the astonishing Imaginaerium. That was a few years ago now, and this is her first album since then. Teaming up with Jani Liimatainen, a founding member of Sonata Arctica, and a member of Stratovarius, it’s really pretty clear what sort of music this is going to be.
From the start, the album mixes synths and guitars to create a symphonic metal template for Olzon to work with. Some songs (My Sweet Mystery’’, Dead To Me’, ‘Ghost and the Reaper’) sound very heavily influenced by Nightwish – sometimes you even think you can pick out which song they are like. Other songs sound more like one of Liimatainen’s bands, like ‘Halo’ or ‘I Cannot Raise The Dead’, both of which have very prominent keyboard parts.
There are three ballads amongst the 11 tracks, which feels like an attempt to showcase the qualities of Olzon’s singing. While she does sing well, and the songs do highlight that, it doesn’t feel like it’s enough of a stand-out quality to focus on quite this much. Of the three, ‘Only One Who Knows Me’, the last album track, is probably the best because it’s more of a power ballad and includes some excellent guitar playing.
Aforementioned track, ‘I Cannot Raise The Dead’ is by far the ‘poppiest’ track on this album, and while moving in to this territory has worked great for bands like ‘Beast In Black,’ here it’s like the rest of the album, it’s good but it’s not earthshattering.
Of course, a lot of the focus here is on Olzon but she’s not found some unknown people to work with, Jonas [Kuhlberg] and Jani [“Hurtsi” Hurula] (bass and drums, respectively) were in Cain’s Offering with Jani Liimatainen, so they have essentially changed their singer in order to try to find a niche.
Liimatainen is also the producer of this album and is clearly both talented and someone with a metal pedigree. The guitar playing throughout this album is certainly very good and deserves to be mentioned. He also plays the keyboards on this release, so it’s not clear if he’ll hire someone to tour, or use programmed keyboards and play along with them.
Songs like ‘Halo’ sound like they are following the template of symphonic rock. Realistically, these guys are a little stuck. This would always be promoted by stressing the links to Nightwish, but of course, Nightwish is not here. Olzon probably is capable of a lot more variety but for this to succeed, it needs to appeal to fans of her former band, because they are the people most likely to buy it. Her sacking from Nightwish seemed harsh and sudden, and it’s good to see her dipping her toes in to the metal scene again.
Hopefully this finds enough success for this band to stretch out beyond what is expected of them to gain attention now, and to find a sound of their own.