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Frontiers seem to be good at instigating the pairing of musicians for new creative ventures. One such example was Chilean vocalist Caterina Nix's 2015 'Chaos Magic' album alongside ex-Stratovarius guitarist Timo Tolkki. Now we have the results of a new, all-Scandinavian musical coupling - ex-Nightwish frontwoman Anette Olzon from Sweden, and ex-Sonata Arctica guitarist Jani Liimatainen from Finland. With the recording lineup featuring the Cain's Offering rhythm section of sticksman Jani Hurula and bassist Jonas Kuhlberg, a band also featuring Liimatainen, 'The Dark Element' promises much. And it delivers!

Over three years ago, Olzon released 'Shine' - a lyrically personal, post-Nightwish, poppier affair. The album was great. I loved her voice in Nightwish and it was fantastic to hear it within the context of something a little different. Olzon proved herself a lady with vocal versatility. Her expressively passionate and emotionally powerful voice really did shine in all kinds of captivating ways. But, now, with The Dark Element, with the instrumentations comprised of guitars, bass, keyboards, and drums, and knowing Liimatainen's sympho/power metal background, it seems, at least on paper, she's returned to her Nightwish aesthetic. In reality, listening to 'The Dark Element', I would say this is partly true. But in a totally positive way.

Comparisons to Nightwish are inevitable, I guess, and a little too easy/lazy. But, there's something very Nightwishy about some of this. From the project/band/album name, 'The Dark Element' (echoes of 'Dark Passion Play'?) to tracks like 'My Sweet Mystery', which sounds like Olzon-era Nightwish from the off and throughout... it'll only fuel comparisons. However, 'The Dark Element' is an album that deserves to be digested, enjoyed and considered for its own merits... of which there are many.

Liimatainen is an incredibly talented songwriter... and a fantastic fretboard widdler. Some tracks do adhere to sympho/power paradigms through their general constitution. Others less so. But, subgenre affiliation aside, let's get to the crux and genuine essence of 'The Dark Element'. Specifically, Olzon's incredible voice; some amazing instrumentations and performances that provide the perfect sonic backdrop for her voice; and an endless string of enthralling melodies that drive the album forward in the most invigorating of ways, from start to finish. With a very nice production/mix to boot, there is so much to recommend about 'The Dark Element'. As much as I'm an ardent admirer of Floor Jansen's voice, this album shits on 'Endless Forms Most Beautiful'. There, I said it.
Frontiers Music
Review by Mark Holmes
10th Nov 2017
1) The Dark Element
2) My Sweet Mystery
3) Last Good Day
4) Here's To You
5) Someone You Used to Know
6) Dead to Me
7) Halo
8) I Cannot Raise the Dead
9) The Ghost and the Reaper
10) Heaven of Your Heart
11) Only One Who Knows Me
"...'The Dark Element' promises much. And it delivers!"