Cool cover art, reminds me of Layers of Fear
There are people that I can trust with my money all the time. My parents, my sister and Jani-motherfucking-Liimatainen. My favourite
guitarist never released a crappy album and when I heard he's going to make a pop music album I dug up my ABBA tshirt that I had when I was 0 years old. Well, ok, it's not entirely pop- some metal got aboard. With his new girlfriend Anette Olzon and some Cain's Offering members: "The other Jani" and one of the Jonas Brothers on board, Liimatainen shows us how well he can write and produce a Nightwish album. Let's dig in.
Titular The Dark Element starts with some industrial motive that soon blends with more pop synths and vocals follow shortly after. A typical hit song to open an album, where vocals are driving the melody, but don't dominate the sound- it's easy to distinguish each element of the music. Some metal purists will shit on the synthetic-sounding mixing on this album just like they did with Cain's Offering, but in my opinion it fits this kind of music like a glove.
Despite being a hit song the structure is surprisingly complex, and I can say it's one of the highlights for the whole album, but for now let's jump into track number 2.
My Sweet Mystery was featured as a music video and I'm glad to finally be able to hear the album version on a cd quality. Anette's vocals sound softer in this song and lack the power/volume to break through the first verse's background, which is audible when played on a surround system. Thankfully the chorus doesn't disappoint. Another hit song with mid-fast tempo and a juicy guitar solo.
Last Good Day is something new, as it wasn't previously featured on Youtube. Starting more aggressively actually goes softer and slower during the verse only to speed up during the chorus. The most interesting part are Anette's vocals here, not only dominating the melody but showing her range and lungs capacity This only makes me wanna hear Mr. Kotipelto in a duet with lovely Anette. Sudden stop of the song only makes me want to listen to it again, what a great surprise this track was.
Here's To You goes back to what we heard on Youtube as an album promo. Another mid-fast tempo, catchy hit song where Anette's vocals are well supported by the drums, bass and guitars. But on the album version I have a hard time hearing the guitar solo during the outro, somehow on Youtube it was more audible?
Someone You Used to Know is another new piece and the slow start is a nice break from all the previous hit songs, allowing us to appreciate Jani's lyrics and blackoustic guitar. Oh, and Anette's vocals, if for some reason You haven't already.
Dead To Me comes back to the usual tempo where Anette yells at her ex boyfriend in a "I don't care about You, You're dead to me so here's a whole song on the subject" fashion, Taylor Swift style. But again- fast, catchy, interesting, begs for relistening. Main guitar motive is funny, sounds like Jani's having some technical difficulties.
Halo is something new again, going slightly slower than usual but still in the same fashion, although it failed to make a bigger impact on me, maybe in time I'll see something more in it.
I Cannot Raise the Dead is thankfully not only new but also has a few surprises. Synths and background are beautifully done here, lyrics also beat Halo by a huge margin. The chorus with guitar mixing with synths works very well with vocals melody, drilling down your brain so You can hum whole day pissing off anyone you are near. Great guitar solo followed by a softer break that descends to near silence before going back to chorus makes it my favourite track on the whole album just after the first listen. Holy fuck.
The Ghost and the Reaper goes faster and was previously shown to us on a second music video (and I'm glad Frontiers invests in another music video with this project, I pray this works in their favor in the future). Previously my favourite track, 9 is fast paced, has a nice complex build, hard headbanging & sing-along potential during the bridge and also a lot of breaks to catch a breath and allow us to appreciate bass guitar some more.
Heaven of Your Heart starts slower again, with weird lyrics. Anette's trying her best to sing them, but I just cannot enjoy myself while listening to this mess. Don't get me wrong- I like to fuck with the melody with some well thought-out lyrics and I love when Devin Townsend is doing the opposite, fucking with the lyrics for melody's sake. But here the chorus is acceptable and the rest is a mess. Me no likey.
Only One Who Knows Me closes the album with a mid tempo softer track. "On your shore just like I did before" sounds like a bow to Cain's Offering's "Stormcrow" outro track "On the Shore" but maybe I'm looking into it too much. Just like Halo before this song lacks something to hook me up for good. The verses are fine but chorus doesn't work for me, even though the guitar riff on the outro sounds great and the solo closes the whole album perfectly with a Galneryus-like fade out.
side note- the more badass Jani looks the more pop music he makes
Well, this album definitely is a trip, reminds me greatly of the debut Babymetal album, where about 85% of the songs were hit songs and the album felt more like a "best of" compilation than a standalone album. Is it bad? No, for a debut album it's a perfectly valid idea to throw all the catchy melodies you have- some will stick, some won't. As Jani stated during the "making of" video- it's catchy, more poppy and simple than a Cain's Offering and he delivers what he stated perfectly, implementing a lot of ideas that are too soft for Cain's Offering, perhaps some Sydanpuu leftover ideas? He wanted to make something with female vocals and Anette sure gave her best with her performance- so many similar songs and she somehows can sing each one differently enough that we listeners are not bored. The other Jani and Jonas brother were also able to bring some good qualities to the album. Drum patterns are simple but enjoyable, there's a ton of fun transitions and the bass accompanies the melody very well, breaking on the foreground only when it's necessary. Almost every track has a instrumental pause, that allows the listener to catch a breath between all those hit songs and there are a few slower pieces to diversify the tempo on the album a bit.
Even though I didn't like each song on the record it spins very well and one can lose a track of time while listening to it.
What I would like to hear once in a future (aside of Kotipelto-Olzon lovely vocal duet) is a longer track, with different moods and maybe a story to tell. But now only a quick summary before I jump back into listening to I Cannot Raise the Dead again.
Summary and points that totally matter:
Vocals: 10+/10 (Anette has a new fan in me)
Guitars: 10-/10 (surprised for the minus? More solos, damn it! This is supposed to be a debut album! Tons of solos are perfectly ok on debuts, stop being a mature musician, Jani!)
+ Complex (as far as symphonic metal goes) songwriting, nice song structures
+ catchy as fuck
+ Cool lyrics, basically reading alone builds a melody in your head
+ great mixing
+ song placement on the album. Most artists don't give a fuck about that but I do
Final score: 107,5%. I want more already, Frontiers please invest in those 3 finns and a proud swedish woman :)