ANETTE OLZON
"Shine"

(Armoury)

01. Like a Show Inside My Head
02. Shine
03. Floating
04. All of the Lies
05. Falling
06. Moving Away
07. Invincible
08. One Million Faces
09. Watching Me From Afar
10. Hear Me

RATING: 7.5/10

The controversial parting between NIGHTWISH and Anette Olzon in 2012 left a sour taste in the mouths of many fans, though NIGHTWISH's faithful have appeared to move on and embrace Floor Jansen as their new queen of symphonic metal. Where that's left the tailspun Olzon, who recently gave birth to her third child, is in a state of musical flux without a place to call home. Instead of landing elsewhere, Olzon's appeared content to sieve her emotional departure from NIGHTWISH into a solo project, "Shine", one that couldn't be further different than that venue.

Olzon has stated that "Shine" is an album full of songs she's been working on in private since 2009. To quote Olzon, "the overall message of the album is that life can be dark and filled with hardship and sadness, but you can always choose to see some light coming through, to make you stronger and full of life, making you shine, no matter what."

The slow-cooking "Like a Show Inside My Head" may or may not be what Anette's listeners are expecting from this album with its winding electronic beat and spritely synth lines. Only after a few minutes do the bass and guitar tracks heavy up the track, though not by much. Anette sings like a foal emerging out of fog, trying to make sense of the wonderment of her new surroundings.

To her credit, Olzon engineers a vibe well far astray from NIGHTWISH and it's the strength of her calm that carries into the slightly stepped-up title track. The singular, low-key guitar strums and steady beats escort the listener to expected uplifting choruses which indeed allows Olzon to shine. The subsequent track, "Listening" is once again light fare that finds Olzon crooning sweetly to a synth calliope. The pairing is perfectly agreeable, though perhaps not strong enough for more metallic tastes.

"All of the Lies" and "Falling" are as heavy as "Shine" gets and that has more to do with the layering of the guitars and bass to fortify those songs' effervescent pop flavors. Anette Olzon mixes pitches between honeyed and hardened on "All of the Lies" and it pays off nicely by attrition. "Falling" has more density in the bass and guitars and presents a tougher sound for the most part, from which Olzon swoons dejectedly.

"Invincible" is another crestfallen yet hopeful soft number as Olzon exhibits both a guarded and revelatory lilt to her singing with the intent of rising above her trials. The striking "One Million Faces" is "Shine"'s most poised moment with its commanding piano lead, dropped-in guitar jerks and above all, Anette Olzon's confident vocal performance. Both her front and backing tracks stir the soul and present a different level of heaviness without having to be metal in the least. On the wave of piano crests and a tribal rhythm, Olzon climbs out of her funk on the soothing "Watching Me From Afar" and then she wraps the album with an Eighties-born sweat rocker, "Hear Me".

NIGHTWISH is obviously dedicated to melody, which is a saving grace for fans stepping over to "Shine". Anette Olzon sounds terrific in this non-metal forum, one as left-of-center from NIGHTWISH as she could've hoped for. Yet the jury will be out on "Shine"'s acceptability. If Olzon's goal was to disseminate her solo work from her alma mater's, she's well-met in that respect. "Shine" is designed for transition and purging, and it's decidedly done for Olzon's own healing path, let those come along who will.

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