So here it finally is - Anette Olzon's long awaited debut solo record, a year and a half after her sudden and shock exit from Nightwish. With all songs bar one written back in 2009 and the album originally slated for a 2010 release, it's been a long time coming, although it's been more than worth the wait as she's delivered a musically sublime feast of aural treats that are rich with both captivating melodies and raw emotional depth. Working on the songs with Stefan Örn and Johan Glössner, it's no surprise that there's a poppy slant throughout some of the material, given the former's credentials. Yes, he's the guy who wrote and produced Sweden's 2011 winning Eurovision Song Contest entry, 'Running Scared', although a pop-oriented impetus doesn't necessarily imply selling out. Far from it as 'Shine' is an album that exudes integrity in each and every song. Pop music can tread that fine line between cheese and catchiness although, here, it's most certainly firmly rooted in the latter. And a poppy twang is only one part of Anette's sonic palette which has also been flavoured with rock, metal, classical and folk idioms.
To be honest, although I immediately liked what I heard upon the first couple of listens, it was not until the third play-through that I found myself fully engaging on an emotional level with the majority of songs on the album. That, for me, is a positive thing, as albums that are growers (in whatever way that might be) are invariably blessed with longevity. And the songs on 'Shine' have enduring potential as music with this much affective profundity, combined with its diversely cross-genre essence, is undoubtedly timeless. The source of the album's emotional depths derives from a truly magnificent vocal performance from Anette. Utilising the inherent strengths of her voice, more so than she ever had the chance to within Nightwish, her singing is simply mind-blowing. Powerful at both the low and high-end of her range, while also letting rip and showing restraint as and when lyrical themes demand a particular delivery, her vocals are both heartfelt and sublime.
Drawing from real life experience, be it a love song for her husband ('Watching Me From Afar') or the relentless nature of touring and its concomitant stresses ('Like a Show'), lyrics are of an über personal nature so, in one sense, it's no surprise that songs are loaded with so much emotion, although her vocal expression of such is still mightily impressive. And, rather astonishingly, most lead vocals on the album were from the original demo recordings whereby she was able to capture the raw emotions of each song's affective significance. It's moving stuff and strikes a nice balance between the melancholic and optimistic, although with the latter ultimately triumphing over the former. And therein resides the record's central message - one of optimism and emotional resilience, despite what hardships you might face in life.
'Shine' also sounds wonderful production-wise, being the well-produced/mixed effort it is - each and every element of the lavishly layered instrumentations is audible with crystal clarity. Simultaneously, and pleasingly, it's not been over-produced so it's not been marred with a misplaced pop polish. There's just enough rawness to the overall sound that's all so important for conveying songs' intrinsic emotions. And there are no standout tracks as such because the album in its entirety is a standout work of musical grandeur. I can't recommend it highly enough. Anette strikes me as a thoroughly optimistic lady who always looks for the positives in life, even through adversity such as her tumultuous departure from Nightwish, and the silver lining here is that she can now flourish with her solo career. And based on the strength of 'Shine', flourish she will.
Review by Mark Holmes
31st March 2014
1) Like a Show
6) Hear Me
8) Moving Away
9) One Million Faces
10) Watching Me From Afar
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
"...a musically sublime feast of aural treats that are rich with both captivating melodies and raw emotional depth."