Frontiers Music [Release date 08.11.19]
Dark Element is the second coming together of Symphonic Rock’s golden couple, Jani Liimatainen and Anette Olzon. One recorded 8 albums with genre giants Sonata Artica and Stratovarius, the other 3 albums with the genre’s pioneers, Nightwish.
And with Songs The Night Sings the matching of musical minds is really paying off.
If there’s such a thing as traditional Symphonic Rock, this is it. The album is an object lesson in how to do it, and get it right. Liimatainen integrates electronic music with traditional orchestral arrangements with Zimmer-esque flair and eloquence, creating mini symphonic rock epics of sonic brilliance, holding our attention from the first note to the last.
‘Silence Between The Words’ and ‘You Will Learn’ are remarkably assured pieces of work, driven by Liimatainen’s spine tingling orchestration, occasionally leavened by bursts of sharp edged axework. Each is gracefully furnished by Olzon’s bright soprano. ‘Not Your Monster’ is particularly marked by that same intensity, especially the manner in which Olzon caresses the higher notes.
The title track and ‘Pills On My Pillow’ are nearest thing that Symphonic Rock will ever get to great pop, and we’re ok with that. The latter has a memorably melodic, Max Martin of a chorus, grand without being grandiose. Liimatainen’s keyboard riffs spar and jab with the speed of a welterweight boxer, while meantime Olzon’s vocal dances around the ring, amusingly staying just out of reach.
That said, ‘When It All Comes Down’ and ‘To Whatever End’ are probably the picks. The first has a towering edifice of a hook, spiralling ever upwards, looking down on a line of wannabees stretching into the distance, all eagerly listening, watching, hoping they’ll get the next fifteen minutes. On the second, a piano and violin create a subdued sense of drama, allowing Olzon’s soprano to do all the heavy lifting, building the emotion to breaking point. Both songs have a live music thrill about them, and armed with compelling, “true-life” lyrics, they mark the songwriters and performers out as something really special.
What next? “Songs The Night Sings”, the musical? Wouldn’t be surprised. ****
Review by Brian McGowan
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