- - - - - -

Anette Olzon - Shine

Anette Olzon - CD Review

 Anette Olzon - Shine



CD Info
Ear Music Official
10 tracks
English lyrics
Score: Christiana:7.0/10; Justin:8.0/10

Another former Nightwish vocalist goes solo: let the controversy begin! It seems that whenever there has been a singer change in Nightwish camp, it has not been without its share of soap opera-type histrionics. If rumor mills could generate energy, anyone remotely interested in Nightwish could very well keep their entire city running with power for months, with plenty to spare! So when Anette Olzon announced that her solo album, Shine—a project that was shelved in 2009 for a number of various reasons, her commitment to Nightwish not the least among them—the divided Nightwish fan community was abuzz with talk once again. Would Anette turn her back on the rock/metal style that made her famous, and return to her pop music origins? Or would she do like her predecessor, Tarja Turunen, and try to appease the Nightwish fanbase by trying to make an album merging the Nightwish-styled music with a sound of her own? And of course, would any of the songs contain lyrical content that could give any clues as to her inner feelings about her departure from Nightwish or could be taken as a "jab" at any of her former bandmates? One thing was for sure: Anette's album got people talking before anyone heard a note of it! But would it live up to the hype?

Track #1-“Like a Show”

Justin:  From the beginning of the song, your ears are greeted with a slight electronica beat, with violins that seem to airily climb from a higher octave back down to a lower octave. When Anette Olzon’s sweet voice enters the delightful din of this light progressive rock sound, you feel you have entered into a dimly-lit artistic cafe, where Anette is performing while two or more instrumentalists are playing the type of sweet, addictive song that never leaves your mind. It is the type of song that really is “like a show inside my head, that keeps repeating.. repeating.” The moment you remember these lyrics inside your head, it will play inside your mind forever, and ever. Of course, that all depends on whether you like this song,in the end.

Christiana:  A slow number merging poppy and symphonic. Some electronica influence in there as well. Almost sounds like something that might have been on one of the Alyson Avenue albums, with a touch of Nightwish orchestral sensibility mixed in. Nothing spectacular going on with Anette's voice; it's pretty soft and mellow throughout the song, and at times a bit repetitive. (A line in the chorus of "keeps repeating" probably does not help much here either.)

Track #2-“Shine”

Justin:  In terms of sound, this song comparatively has a much stronger bass sound than the lighter rock, electronica sound of “Like a Show.” It is much brasher;therefore, Anette has a much more robust voice, as she belts “Shine, Lift your head high!” during the chorus. It is very empowering, and it is the type of song that will definitely make you lift your head high at the start of each day.

Christiana:  The title track starts off slow too; more electronica/synthpop-type stuff here. This song *really* sounds like a leftover track from her Alyson Avenue days. Again, Anette's voice is not doing anything remarkable and I don't hear anything vocally that grabs me yet. This track is mid-tempo; kinda ho-hum, and then when it seems like the song's about to pick up, it just ends.

Track #3-“Floating”

Justin:  Why the hell is there carnival sound at the start of this song? It all makes sense, once Anette’s lilting high notes enter the fray, and your mind starts swimming with images of a leafy woods with leaves tingling with freshly fallen rain. It reminds me of Kate Bush’s “Sensual World,” as it seems to be a song that expresses kinship with your natural surroundings. It is the type of song that beckons you to think of days of your childhood, where you have time and freedom to wander your backyard at ease. This song makes me want to dream up a beautiful panorama of a electrifying Steampunk universe, or something even more whimsical in nature. On and on, you’ll literally fall mentally headfirst into this song and keep floating evermore.

Christiana:  Now this is a song I really like! It has that upbeat, '80s synth feel that I really like. I could easily picture a song like this being a staple on radio during the '80s. Anette's voice sounds cute and quirky on this track, and this song almost makes up for the other two not being as memorable. She incorporates her higher tones a little more here, and while there isn't much to the chorus, the song has a nice upbeat vibe to it.

Track #4-“Lies”

Justin:  This is my favorite track of the album because it is the most vocally and musically complex of all the songs. There are many moments of contrast in the sound, and Anette’s voice undergoes some interesting, subtle changes in terms of the timbre and pitch of her voice. Interestingly,Anette sings this song with hint of sarcasm, in response to the inevitability of lies being disseminated about something controversial that has occurred in her life. Many have alleged that this song is the “I Walk Alone” of the album, in that it expresses Anette’s discordant feelings about leaving Nightwish. I will not insinuate about my own feelings about this theory, and I will instead state that the meaning of this song is subjective to the feelings and thoughts of the listener.

Christiana:  This was a good choice for a first single; it's probably the closest to a Nightwish song you'll get. There are symphonic influences, guitars, and Anette's chanting vocals that fans loved on songs like "Sahara". Her voice sounds very emotional on this track too; not as cold or rigid as on the previous tracks. I see a lot of the Nightwish fans sitting on the fence warming to this song; there are enough orchestral influences coupled with rock sounds to draw them in.

Track #5-“Invincible”

Justin:  The song starts out as a lovely, heart-rending acapella moment, and then it ingeniously begins to build in intensity. With that emotional intensity, Anette’s emotive voice only chills the soul further, making this song the perfect counterpoint to “Lies.”It acts as the emotional reaction to the spurious rumors that are circulating about her, and how she tries in vain to harden herself emotionally against the storm of various reactions to those rumors, in addition to the rumors themselves. It is a wonderful, emotionally-charged song that creeps up on you unexpectedly, and then slams you down to the ground with its powerful chorus.

Christiana:  This song starts off slow, with nothing more than Anette's voice. She sounds very good here. The music starts in slow; some acoustic guitars and percussion. This might be another song that the Nightwish fans will like; it reminds me a little of "The Islander", except the songwriting of Tuomas Holopainen is missing. Another song it reminds me of is Tarja's "Underneath", in that it's slow, sweet, and simple.

Track #6-“Hear Me”

Justin:  Rather than beginning the piece with an acapella moment, it begins with soothing wood-wind instruments that lull us effectively into the song. Throughout this album, the various individuals, in charge of mastering the sound on this album did an exceptional job. All the instrumentals are wisely incorporated, offering the listeners a sound that is carefully arranged to provide listeners with music that has no gimmicks. I love the soft drum beat that pervades that song, as Anette’s versatile vocals weave their way in, and clamor for a certain individual or a group of individuals, unknown to the listener, to hear her out on what she wishes to convey in her music. Maybe, just maybe, this song is directed towards apprehensive listeners with different preconceived judgments about the quality of her solo release. It is imploring them to objectively judge her work on its own merits.

Christiana:  Lovely acoustic guitars kick off this track; again reminiscent at first of something Nightwish-esque. Anette's voice sounds just okay at first, and then picks up as the song goes on. Musically, the song is a nice coupling of rock guitars and '80s-inspired synths. There is a vocal part towards the end where Anette really lets loose, but it would have been nice to hear more of this kind of singing throughout the song.

Track 7-“Falling”

Justin:  The strong pulse of the electronica beat that was so pervasive in “Like a Show,” makes a welcome return right from the get-go of the song. Impressively, the song acts as a clever inverse version of Floating. In Floating, the lyrics kept interchangeably switching between the words “floating,” and “falling,” expressing two different modes of dealing with tough emotional circumstances. Essentially, you can either “float,” and remain comatose and frozen to your emotions. Or, you can fall and basically undergo severe mental collapse. This song expresses a certain degree of palpable caginess, which especially comes through by the way Anette seems to artfully choke on the lyrics “Moments come and moments go.” As with the entirety of this album, this song expresses Anette’s very strong ability to not just experiment with her vocal range, but it also portrays a lyricist that is attuned to their emotions. She articulates her emotions so strongly, and that is a sure sign of musical talent, in my opinion.

Christiana:  This was a song that Anette shared a demo of as far back as when this album was first coming together in 2009. Vocally, she sounds very nice; the music is a little more rock-oriented but still doesn't stray far from the pop influence. It's another song that Nightwish fans might enjoy; it's got a quirky sort of psychedelic sound going on in the background, as well as some light symphonic/orchestral influences.

Track #8-“Moving Away”

Justin:  As with the entirety of this album, there is a great variety in the arrangement of the sound. For instance, “Moving Away,” begins with the subdued sound of an acoustic guitar, being played quietly as the other elements of the song seem to drift in quietly. There is nothing bombastic about the song, and it seems to be stripped away of any unnecessary technical alterations.

Christiana:  Another slow song that starts off with nice acoustic guitars. Again, Anette sounds pleasant but is not doing very much outside the box. A pretty song; I would consider this another favorite.

Track #9-“One Million Faces”

Justin:  This song begins with a very alluring piano sound that is very reminiscent of the lone piano sound that begins well-known Within Temptation ballads, like “Forgiven” or “Fire and Ice.” Of course, Anette’s voice is as beautiful as ever in this song, and I love that she does not feel a need to resort to cheap thrills of belting out notes to convince out she a skilled singer. Rather, she sticks with singing in a way that adds to the emotional dimension of any given song in this album.

Christiana:  Slow piano and the faint wailing of guitars are the center of this song. Anette seems to get more in touch with the emotional side of her voice. It's the most ballad-esque of the tracks, and I would consider this another favorite.

Track #10-“Watching Me From Afar”

Justin:  Other than “Lies,” this is probably my second favorite track on the album. It is one that will stay trapped in your mind for a few days, and you will sing the unforgettable lyrics of the chorus over and over again to no foreseeable end. There are not too many cheap musical trappings in this song either, and this song just lets you feel the gratifying sense of all your stress and burdensome emotions melt off of you, as Anette’s soft, emotional singing voice fills your ears.

Christiana:  Anette's voice sounds clear and sweet on this track; it's another that reminds me of her Alyson Avenue days, which makes me think that this must be one of the earlier tracks from when this album was first being put together. There's not a lot of instrumentation here besides a piano; Anette's voice is the centerpiece here, as it should be, which makes it an appropriate album closer.

Overall opinion from both staff writers:

Christiana’s verdict:  If you are looking for a rock or metal album from Anette Olzon, you should probably save your money and pass on this. However, if you are looking to hear more of Anette's pop-styled vocal and hear music that is more her "style", then this album will probably not disappoint. Musically, a lot of it is throwback to '80s AOR, which is probably what I liked most about the music. Vocally, Anette's voice sounds nice, but for her first solo album out after departing from Nightwish, I expect a little better than "nice". A lot of the times it felt to me like Anette was holding back, or just staying in a sort of "safe zone" and not taking a lot of risks. On a lot of these songs, the choruses seem to be little more than just a phrase or a few words just repeated over and over. (Sorry, but "swaying, floating" doesn't qualify as a proper chorus, in my book.)

Anette sounds like her typical self, which is not a bad thing, but you also know what to expect. She's not going to pull anything new out of her hat that you haven't heard before, and that's a real shame. I think that it's a testimony to Tuomas as a songwriter, because both former Nightwish singers have seemed to suffer from lackluster solo releases on their first try out, and vocally did not seem to push themselves to the limit the way they did on Nightwish albums. We really got to hear Anette's full potential on Imaginaerum, and it's too bad that she has not taken whatever she learned from that experience and applied it to this solo album. I get that this is not meant to be a metal album and that she wants to be more of a pop/soft-rock artist, but that doesn't mean she has to sound bland or unimaginative. I really enjoyed the '80s pop influence throughout, but considering that Anette's voice is supposed to be the star of the show, I found her vocal delivery to sound quite flat. There are some moments, but they are few and far between and not nearly stunning enough to hold the rest of it together.

However, if this is your first introduction to Anette as a vocalist, I think this would be a good place to start, so you do not have her history with Nightwish in mind and do not have any preferences or preconceived ideas of how she should sound. I would say this is a good album to recommend to friends who are new to metal music or who are fans of pop music. But if you are a Nightwish fan who liked Anette's voice on Dark Passion Play and Imaginaerum and are hoping to hear more of this type of singing, then you should either not bother with this album or put away your expectations ahead of time and go into this with an open mind. This is a good "mellow music" album for chilling out and relaxing, but definitely not intended for headbanging or "cranking with the volume at 10". For an album called "Shine", it seemed to focus so much on a polished sound that some of the sheen was stripped away; thus leaving it disappointingly with a lot more fizzle than sparkle.

Christiana’s score - 7.0/10

Justin’s verdict:  At first, I was a bit ambivalent about the album as a whole, but hearing “Lies” for the first time completely changed that. I loved the song because I thought it was a nice, creative departure for Anette, who has been trapped in the musical mold of symphonic metal for a bit too long. I never thought her voice belonged there because it is not quite powerful enough to competently handle the type of frenetically-paced songs that Nightwish performs. Her Nightwish albums were wonderful, but the softness of her singing voice prevented her from filling the needed bombast quota that the genre of metal requires, in my humble opinion.

Anette Olzon’s voice seems to be a great fit here. Her voice really seems suited for an album, whose predominant sound is a very mellow fusion of rock and pop elements. I would not venture to call it metal music because the sound itself does not seem to carry any distinguishable metal elements.

Depending on your musical appetite, I can see how someone might not care for this album because of its subdued quality. It is really the perfect type of album to act as aesthetically-pleasing background noise, while you are doing something else. I believe the songs are musically and lyrically strong enough to hold up against careful listening, but I wouldn’t call them instant classics either.

It is really a generally good, well-polished album that I really enjoyed, and it has made my creative writing output higher. Anette’s voice has a lot more versatility than within her Nightwish albums, where I felt like she was mandated to sing uncomfortably outside of her range at times. Here, her soft, lyrical singing voice is put on display, and it really is quite a beauty to behold, when it is wrapped comfortably in the fabric of a mellow rock-pop sound.

If you are in the mood for a mellow album that is stylistically the type of music found in a Starbucks cafe, you should really check this out. As Christiana mentioned, this is not a bona fide metal album, and it really should not be evaluated as such. It is mastered well, and I believe it is a generally good album, not out-of-this world or superlatively excellent, just a great album overall.

Justin’s score - 8.0/10