Swedish THE DARK ELEMENT and ALYSON AVENUE vocalist Anette Olzon is back again with her second solo album, “Strong,” which is the follow-up to her 2014 solo debut, “Shine.” Following in a similar vein name-wise yet a rather different sound, the new release is set to grace listeners’ ears on September 10th, 2021, via Frontiers Music Srl. Co-written and produced by Magnus Karlsson and promising something a little harder and heavier this time around, we naturally had to tune in. Check out our interview from September 1st soon.
If you’re familiar with Olzon‘s previous album, you might be surprised to hear that “Bye Bye Bye” feels rather NIGHTWISH-y at first in its backing sound. As “Shine” was a very sweet and peaceful album, “Strong” is liable to surprise you with its ferocity right off the bat. Olzon‘s voice takes an unusually deeper turn in “Bye Bye Bye,” which is fierce and powerful, so give the song a proper chance. The growls, done by Johan Husgafvel add some wonderful flavor to the sound, teased at first before taking their own spot in the limelight. Ultimately, while it may be disappointing for not being an N’SYNC cover, the song otherwise proves to be a very strong start to the album.
Admittedly, while on the whole there is nothing wrong with “Sick of You,” I find the chorus a bit repetitive and uninteresting compared to a lot of the other material on the album. It fortunately has a pretty strong rhythm section and good guitar work, however, that help make up for this. This is a bit unsurprising from Swedish production, come to think of it, especially as a single.
If the previous track didn’t work for me, Olzon fully makes up for it with the shockingly epic “I Need to Stay.” My #1 most expected failing in solo albums is in the rhythm section. While I could generally use a bit more bass in the mix, the drumming has more than just a basic disco beat and the synths do a good job of adding flavor along with the guitars. If I do have one complaint, it’s that the vocal melodies – while beautifully sung and very strong (pun fully intended) in songs like “Strong” and “Parasite” – begin to feel a little overly simple at times. Olzon is, by every account, a wonderful singer, so it’s a shame that most of the songs often end up with her doing pretty basic melodies. She doesn’t play around much. It feels like an album written very much within someone’s comfort zone, though whose I could not say. Is it weird to encourage someone to show off a bit more?
“Sad Lullaby” has dramatic synths and backing tracks as Olzon forcefully belts out her words. Meanwhile, “Fantastic Fanatic” is a personal highlight due to the almost cinematic feel of it at times, though the hard-to-describe… I want to call it “twiddling” of the synths in “Who Can Save Them” is also delightful. This track also shows a return of the grunts and a bit of fun guitar-play. Olzon‘s higher range is tested a bit in “Catcher of My Dreams,” with a nice riff and catchy verses – this would be a good choice for a radio single, with a bit more flare than “Sick of You.” “Hear Them Roar” has one of the punchiest intros on the album, even if it gets a bit straightforward as it progresses. The album takes a turn towards power metal with a dose of epic as it closes with “Roll the Dice.” The song is pretty bombastic, clearly made to be the culmination of things based on how big it is. One of the most dramatic songs on the album, it’s a definite stand-out track.
Overall, I’d say this album is very much like the most recent release from DARK SARAH – there’s plenty to enjoy, but it relies a bit too much on creative backing tracks for dynamics and doesn’t show off enough of the musicians themselves. The album is lovely, powerful, and vibrant, which is what makes it enjoyable to listen to, but it feels very safe, which is perhaps why it doesn’t stand out more than it does. Ultimately, if you like Olzon‘s sound, “Strong” is a pretty great way to describe this album, with at least a few songs that are liable to catch your favor, so be sure to give it a chance.
- 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
Frontiers Music srl