Style: Symphonic Power Metal
Release Date: 6 Mar 2020
Sites: Metal Archives
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After last year's excellent second album from The Dark Element, Anette Olzon appears eager to team up with another foreign musician for a new project. In this instance, it's the American singer Russell Allen, surely best known for his work with Symphony X. As the backing musicians are Swedish, I guess this is more Olzon's project than Allen's, but, if so, she generously gives him a lot of space to shine here.
Of the eleven songs on offer, Allen and Olzon get three each, with the other nowhere to be found. The remaining five are duets, meaning that each singer in the name of the band sings on eight songs but the two musicians who play behind them feature on all eleven. What's more, while Anders Köllerfors sits behind the drumkit throughout, Magnus Karlsson handles everything else. He's been in a whole slew of bands, perhaps most obviously Primal Fear, so he's a highly experienced musician, but he contributes the bass, the keyboards and all the guitars.
He provides an excellent backing track for the singers to strut their stuff over and he does so on every song, so I wouldn't be amiss to rename the band to Karlsson. Primal Fear ventured into thrash, so it's not surprising to see Karlsson get heavy on occasion and I appreciated that. The beginning of I'll Never Leave You is as heavy as this album gets, though Lost Soul has a real crunch too. Even on those two, though, melody remains paramount.
Lost Soul could easily have been an early Dio song, with a different vocal approach. Allen is more than able to taken on that epic Dio style and he's not entirely unwilling to do it here, because he turns that up on My Enemy, but it's not as overt on Lost Soul as it could have been. Another stylistic shift is to folk on I'll Never Leave You but, unlike the latest album from Nightwish, the band Olzon used to sing for, her voice can get fluttery and folky without the song losing its symphonic power metal base.
What surprised me, given that I've long been a fan of Olzon's and I tend to prefer my symphonic metal with female vocals, it was Allen's solo songs that leapt out at me the most. Second single Never Die is like a textbook for any symphonic metal students out there and that's his. Lost Soul is his too, as is Who You Really Are and those are probably my three favourite tracks here.
I think part of it may be that he really gives himself to the material, just as much on his solo songs as the duets. Olzon is more than willing to match him on the latter, and she's easily capable of doing so, but she holds back on her solo songs to focus more on technique than emotion. For instance, she nails One More Chance from the technical side, and manages to reach a truly impressive height in the process, but I'd suggest that, should that one have been a duet, she'd have put more emphasis and emotion into it to follow him.
And all that leaves this an oddity for Olzon. If this is more her band than Allen's, she pretty much handed it over to him. As great as she was on that album last year with The Dark Element's name on it, I'm seeing this one as a Magnus Karlsson album with Allen singing lead and Olzon showing up for some duets. I don't quite think that's how they envisaged it. I'm leaving it with a wish to check out Karlsson's solo album, Free Fall, which features Allen on the opening track.