Anette Olzon: "It’s hard to work your way up from the very bottom again"

a portait of the dark element
(Image credit: Patric Ullaeus)

“The idea of The Dark Element excited me,” Anette Olzon reveals via phone from her home in southern Sweden. “I like the songs – they are written especially for me – and, of course, I did like the songs I did with Nightwish, so it’s fun to do that style again.”

The singer, who spent five years as the female voice of the progressive symphonic Finns, is in a chatty mood as she brings Prog up to date with her life. There have been highs and lows, from Finnish reality TV to her solo debut Shine, and no subject is out of bounds. She freely admits that album didn’t do as well as she had hoped.

“I really loved my album and I’m very proud of it,” she says, “but maybe it was a bit hard on the fans because it was a completely different genre.”

When Prog last caught up with her, her focus was on establishing herself as a solo artist, but her priorities have changed, and she’s open about her current part-time status as a singer. For the last few years, she’s been studying nursing at university in Sweden and hopes to graduate soon. Her studies have taken up a lot of her time and it’s clear that she now sees music as an extracurricular activity, rather than the full-time career she previously had.

“When you’ve been out with Nightwish, playing all the arenas, it’s quite hard to work your way up from the very bottom again,” she admits. “I thought I would give my studies a go and that meant I had to put my singing to one side. With The Dark Element, the deal from the beginning was that Jani would write all the lyrics and music. I told the label, ‘You cannot stress me if I’m going to do this. I need to have time to do the recordings on my own in my own time.’ The flexibility was very important to me.”

She recorded her vocals in Sweden with Alyson Avenue keyboard player Niclas Olsson and says she’s “very happy and positive” with the finished results. The process was a giant leap from the intense production schedule she experienced with Nightwish, but it gave her the space she needed. She admits she’s excited by the prospect of playing live again.

“I feel full of energy when I sing these songs: a lot of them are so up-tempo we use them for the spinning class at my gym! I don’t know if everyone knows it’s me, but there was one guy, who’s maybe mid-60s and not into metal, who came up to me and said, ‘Is this you singing? I really like My Sweet Mystery.’ It was really good feedback.”

Olzon’s former band Alyson Avenue recently confirmed they would play their 20th anniversary show in Sweden in May, and the vocalist hints she could start writing more solo material soon. Perhaps The Dark Element is the spark that Olzon needs to reignite her singing career.

You can read the full story behind The Dark Element’s new album in the latest issue of Prog Magazine – on sale now. Buy it directly here or become a TeamRock+ member to read it right now

Introducing The Dark Element, prog's newest supergroup

Natasha Scharf
Deputy Editor, Prog

Contributing to Prog since the very first issue, writer and broadcaster Natasha Scharf was the magazine’s News Editor before she took up her current role of Deputy Editor, and has interviewed some of the best-known acts in the progressive music world from ELP, Yes and Marillion to Nightwish, Dream Theater and TesseracT. Starting young, she set up her first music fanzine in the late 80s and became a regular contributor to local newspapers and magazines over the next decade. The 00s would see her running the dark music magazine, Meltdown, as well as contributing to Metal Hammer, Classic Rock, Terrorizer and Artrocker. Author of music subculture books The Art Of Gothic and Worldwide Gothic, she’s since written album sleeve notes for Cherry Red, and also co-wrote Tarja Turunen’s memoirs, Singing In My Blood. Beyond the written word, Natasha has spent several decades as a club DJ, spinning tunes at aftershow parties for Metallica, Motörhead and Nine Inch Nails. She’s currently the only member of the Prog team to have appeared on the magazine’s cover.