When Anette Olzon first embarked on a solo career, it was a tough sell. Following her acrimonious split from symphonic metal titans Nightwish in 2012, the Swedish singer turned away from metal, releasing her solo debut, Shine – an album of folky pop rock that stripped back the bombast, helmed by Celine Dion’s producer. It was the music in her heart, but it failed to ignite the interest of metal fans. Over the last four years, Anette’s work as one half of The Dark Element, her melodramatic collaboration with ex-Sonata Arctica guitarist Jani Liimatainen, seems to have rejuvenated her passion for heavy music. Just like TDE, her second solo album, Strong, comes off like a metal incarnation of Abba, with inescapable melodies juxtaposed against galloping guitars and synths. Opener Bye Bye Bye could be a Nightwish track, tinged with symphonic histrionics and eyebrow-raising lyrics that could easily be about her ill-fated time with the Finnish metallers: ‘Could I ever know what would come? / The day I got the call from you / Could anyone have told me before /That the end would be so cruel / I got screwed…’
While The Dark Element’s material sometimes lacked bite, the melodies on Strong are consistently arresting and impactful. Sick Of You’s Eurovision-esque sensibilities are swept away on producer and guitarist Magnus Karlsson’s squealing solo lines, and some monstrous vocals from the man himself add some deliciously weighty balance amid the pop sparkle. Similarly, the title track and Parasite take their nods from Dimmu Borgir’s icy keys and the earworm melodicism of In Flames. By the time Roll The Dice brings the album to a dramatic close, showing off Anette’s sweet yet impressive vocal range to the full, it’s clear the singer has turned in her best work since Nightwish’s Imaginaerum.
Anette Olzon's Strength is released on September 10 via Frontiers Music