Wednesday 18 December 2019

The Dark Element - Songs the Night Sings (2019)

Country: Finland
Style: Symphonic Power Metal
Rating: 8/10
Release Date: 8 Nov 2019
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Here's another release from Frontiers Records, who are doing a fantastic job down there in Italy. While the Dark Element, who are a symphonic power metal band from Finland, may not seem like a traditional choice, it was the label who put them together. They offered a deal to guitarist Jani Liimatainen, a founder member of Sonata Arctica and now a member of Insomnium, adding in a major lead vocalist in Anette Olzon, the singer for Nightwish in between the eras of Tarja and Floor, who appeared on two of their albums.

The initial Dark Element line-up, present on their self-titled debut album, was fleshed out by a couple of members from another of Liimatainen's bands, Cain's Offering, bassist Jonas Kuhlberg and Jani Hurula. The single change for this second release was to replace Hurula with Rolf Pilve, the current drummer for Stratovarius. As such, this is surely a power metal supergroup and they live up to that billing.

My initial feeling was that this was a heck of a lot better than the Sonata Arctica album I reviewed in September. For all its melody, it's heavier and happy to be heavier, the guitars high up in the mix, the drums able support and the songs wanting to rock. We don't get to a ballad until track six, To Whatever End, and even then it doesn't stay that way throughout. Even with a more delicate approach for a while, it still has more balls than anything on Talviyö. In fact, the dynamics in play make it a real highlight here.

And it's also followed by one of the faster and heavier songs on the album, The Pallbearer Walks Alone, which doesn't feel out of place next to it. This is my sort of symphonic power metal, even though it doesn't set its borders anywhere near that tightly. Was that a disco section midway through Get Out of My Head? There's certainly some Abba in there and even some electronica and these are all little touchs that elevate the song. There's a jazzy feel to I Have to Go, which closes out the album in style.

Generally speaking, Songs the Night Sings is immediately pleasing to the ear but not so catchy as to be earworm material. It feels warm and friendly but a little elusive, as if the band is eager to be introduced but holding back until we get to know each other over a drink or two. Symphonic metal can be distant, willing to let us listen politely until it knows that we're classy enough to respond, but this doesn't feel remotely like that. It's symphonic metal that's as willing to raise a pint as a cocktail.

Listening through again, those earlier songs do grow. Not Your Monster is a stormer, even with quieter piano sections. It's the longest song anywhere on this album at six and a half minutes and it throws a heck of a lot at the wall in that time. The good news is that most of it sticks. The title track follows in a similar fashion, mixing up pop melodies with metal backing and finding a sweet spot. Things still heat up midway through the album though. My favourite three songs are the middle three.

There's a lot on this one to enjoy, as I realised when I figured out how I'd rate it. I was initially thinking a 7/10 as, while every one of these eleven songs is a good song, some are also certainly less good than others. Then I realised that I'd marked six of them as highlights, which is a lot. So it's an 8/10 and I look forward to coming back to it in a month or so to see how it stands up.

1 comment:

  1. I love your reviews Hal, and I reckon you are spot on with this one. It's an album I am enjoying immensely at the moment.Keep up the good work and PS.... I can't stop listening to Shadow Weaver who you introduced to me!