(By Kira Schlechter*, Guest Contributor/Writer, RiffRelevant.com)
Singer Anette Olzon — unceremoniously let go from Nightwish mid- “Imaginareum” tour after powering that album and the equally majestic “Dark Passion Play” — has hooked up with guitarist / keyboardist Jani Liimatainen (formerly of Sonata Artica), bassist Jonas Kuhlberg, and drummer Jani “Hurtsi” Hurula in the new band The Dark Element.
Just the mere nature of the members ought to be indicative of what you’re going to get with this project, and indeed that’s true. The Dark Element as a band is very reminiscent of Nightwish no doubt, with its raging guitar /keyboard /string section side-by-side riffing and modulations (witness the first single “The Ghost And The Reaper” video below), and that’s probably to be expected.
It’s lighter sonically and thematically, lacking the musical weight and lyrical ponderosity of Nightwish, but that’s not a bad thing. What The Dark Element delivers is simple musings on life’s twists and turns (especially within relationships), irresistible sing-along choruses, and melodies to burn.
The title track is about embracing the darker side of human nature and not being afraid of it. “Last Good Day” is an intriguing ponder on living for the moment, acting as if each day was your last. “Here’s To You” is a breakup song with the person at fault taking full blame and laying out their shortcomings without restraint.
“Someone You Used To Know” is wrenchingly sad, the aftermath of a relationship where the one who is left will do anything – or be anyone – to change the outcome. “Dead To Me” (visualizer below) is more brutal, a scathing kiss-off with the memorable line, “But now you’re hanging on your cross / And I’m banging in the nails.” Ouch. On the other side of the coin, “Heaven Of Your Heart” is a pure old-school power ballad.
For those who might still be having trouble warming up to Floor Jensen in Nightwish (admittedly, I am one of those people), hearing Olzon in a similar setting is a good substitute. While this album doesn’t necessarily stretch or challenge her, it’s just great to hear her voice again in this context, in material to which she is well-suited – not operatic, not playing a character, just being herself.
One does hope that The Dark Element will further develop its own sound and take more chances in the future. It’s OK to pay homage, but that can only go on for so long, especially when the original is still going strong.
Kira spent 11 years at the Associated Press in Philadelphia, and another 11 at the Harrisburg Patriot-News covering music, specifically and frequently heavy metal. She’s been writing about and listening to metal since she was 15. Currently she also freelances for the Reading Eagle newspaper; in the past, she has freelanced for RIP, The World Of Hibernia, and Mademoiselle.