Although her contribution to the NIGHTWISH story will be overshadowed by those of her predecessor and successor, Anette Olzon always had the right voice for bright and pop-driven symphonic metal. In many ways, THE DARK ELEMENT is a much more fitting project for her talents. On "Songs The Night Sings", the Scandinavian band keep the sugary anthems coming, but with a great deal more conviction than before, with Olzon's performance a particularly invigorating revelation.
There are no rocket science lessons required to put yourself snugly at the heart of THE DARK ELEMENT's perpetually melodic world. Where her former band have a penchant for expansive, progressive musings, this is all about the sparkly eyed money shot: from thunderous, goth-tinged opener "Not Your Monster" onwards, there are so many hooks and giant choruses being hurled into the air that you may begin to feel slightly bewildered. "Songs The Night Sings" is heavy, too; albeit in that highly polished way that symphonic metal demands, but it's a winning combination either way. The absence of any overtly modern pop tropes is an additional bonus. This is a smart and versatile record, with shades of WITHIN TEMPTATION's effortless genre-blending, but with plenty of that oh-so-Finnish pomp that guitarist Jani Liimaitanen brings to the table.
The title track is a particularly fine example of what happens when AOR sensibilities collide with the melodrama of the symphonic set. It's a world class, radio-friendly rock song, but with aesthetic depth to spare, an infectious stuttering disco beat and a wild bass guitar solo. "The Pallbearer Walks Alone" is similarly irresistible, Olzon's subtly powerful vocal bringing a dash of soul to a blazing collage of riffs and refrains. As simple and succinct as THE DARK ELEMENT can be, there are no shortage of layers to uncover here, but it's the tunes that will linger in your head. From raging metal singalongs to tear-soaked power ballads ("To Whatever End" is particularly overblown, in the best possible way), "Songs The Night Sings" is unapologetic in its melodic shininess. Fans of AMARANTHE craving another fix will definitely find plenty to adore here, but pop sensibilities are used sparingly and with admirable precision: for the most part, this is a traditional symphonic metal record that simply can't resist a colossal chorus. Best of all, Anette Olzon has never sung better or sounded more emotionally engaged. THE DARK ELEMENT are steadily evolving into a formidable proposition.