Album review: HEART HEALER – The Metal Opera by Magnus Karlsson

Frontiers Records [release date 12.03.21]

Magnus Karlsson needs no introduction. Neither do the (all female) vocalists who grace Heart Healer.

Apparently a “Metal Opera” has been something of an ambition of Karlsson’s for some time. The idea is not new of course. Avantasia, Savatage, Epica and others are leading exponents of the style.

In the manner of classical opera, Heart Healer has seven lead vocalists. That in itself, doesn’t lead to us into deep wells of emotion and pathos. Yes, there is a strong lyrical theme, but if we’re honest, the idea of “the concept album” is often simply to create a hook to hang the songs on.

What we get is entertainment. This is an album, a suite indeed, of Symphonic Metal accessibility…filled with track upon track of rock and metal immediacy.

Berklee College graduate, Adrienne (Seven Spires) Cowan has an amazing vocal range and can switch styles in an instant. No surprise she takes the first solo lead, on opening track ‘Awake’. It’s beautifully composed and orchestrated – more movie musical than opera – and in places it’s softer, more muted than you might expect from an artist with a distinct metal and hard rock background.

There are many highpoints to choose from. The ultra anthemic ‘Who Can Stand Alone’, performed by Anette Olzon and Adrienne, is probably one of the outstanding melodic metal moments on the album. And ‘Come Out Of The Shadows’, where the voices of Youmna Jreisatti, Netta Laurenne and Margarita Monet rise above the slick, symphonic swell, isn’t far behind.

Throughout, you can visualise Karlsson striding onto a huge Symphonic Metal soundscape, wielding a rich pallette of many musical colours. And yet, it never suffers from sensory overload. Each track carries it’s own dynamic weight. Each arrangement is tailored to suit the song. He shows a pleasing lightness of touch on ‘When The Fire Burns Out’ (sensitively sung by Netta), while ‘Evil Is Around The Corner’ (Noora Lohimo and Adrienne) and ‘Mesmerise’ (Anette) show their operatic metal teeth, each one gilded with an insanely catchy hook, using the bite and sting of riffed up chordshifts to toughen up the orchestration, and the sound of Timpanis to pound out the meter.

The album has a constant pulse, and a momentum. It just keeps moving forward. It’s
a sonic calling card. If the next Hollywood epic can’t get Newman, Zimmer or Elfman to sign up, they now know where to turn. ****

Review by Brian McGowan





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