“When I listen to our music I think that, you know, they are happy albums, because they are so catchy and melodic. But if I go in too deep into Jani’s lyrics, they are quite sad and bitter.”
Finland’s melodic/symphonic metal outfit The Dark Element was formed in 2017. The band features ex-Nightwish and Alyson Avenue vocalist Anette Olzon as its frontwoman. On the release day of their sophomore album, Songs the Night Sings, I got to explore Anette’s thoughts of the new album, the future of the band, and women in metal.
Kane: Congratulations on your new album today! What was your favourite part of making Songs the Night Sings?
Anette Olzon: This album went really smooth. You know, now we all know each other. In the first album we didn’t really know each other. Of course, it’s always easier, you know, and Jani [Jani Liimatainen, Insomnium, ex-Sonata Arctica] knows my vocal style and he believes in what I do so it was all really smooth.
And who does the songwriting? Is it just Jani or is it both you and him?
A: No, it’s mainly Jani. I mean, he is a songwriter so he always makes the songs and sends me the demos and then I go into the studio and, of course I do the vocals how I want to do them. Of course, I follow his melody, but all the harmonies and stuff that I want to do I can do myself.
And this time he actually asked me in the middle of the process if I had any lyrics because I guess he had some writer’s block, so then I sent him some lyrics and he actually took some of those parts from me and put them in ‘Pills on My Pillow’ so I have been a little more creative this time in that way.
What would you say is the album’s strongest quality?
A: Well I believe The Dark Element was very melodic, so we’re still very melodic and have quite catchy choruses, for instance. This time we talked about, after the last album, that I would really like to have a bit more heaviness and more guitars and he actually listened, so he made it a bit more heavy and bombastic this time and I think he has added some more disco, too, which is really nice.
So I think that the melodies and catchy choruses are the strongest part. Somebody said that it’s a bit of “ABBA metal” and that it truly an honour because ABBA is, of course, the best band. [laughs]
Of course! I mean, if you’re gonna do a poppy style of metal then I don’t think there’s a better compliment you could get.
A: [laughs] No, it’s really an honour when people say that. It’s all fine by me, being a Swede. [laughs]
How would you say Songs the Night Sings differs from your debut?
A: You know, I would say that the first one was a little bit of a tryout, both for Jani and for me. He did pull some songs out of his drawer that maybe he had just had there for years and then he wrote them into something new. These songs are all written new for Songs the Night Sings and I think he kind of knew the direction better after how people reacted to the songs in the first album. So think it’s kind of the same vibe as the first one, just a bit bolder and more elements that he has tried out that are a bit different.
I think I would agree. There’re a lot more orchestrations and it sounds a lot fuller and there’s more detail. I’d say it’s like a refined version of the first album.
A: Yeah, I think so. You know, the first album had songs that differed a bit more over the whole album than this one. I think this one has more of a right balance. I mean the new songs do have a lot of different elements but this album has a red thread into it.
For sure. Do you have any favourite songs?
A: Yeah! My favourite since I heard it is ‘The Pallbearer Walks Alone’. I just love that from the first time I heard it and when I when to the studio to sing it. It’s my favourite song from all The Dark Element. I really like ‘Pills on My Pillow’; there’s a lot of pain in that one, some cool disco, and the poppier song ‘Silence Between the Words’, which is really poppy. [laughs] But I really like it! It’s a really fun and easy song. But I like all of them for different reasons.
So you guys decided to release two music videos and one lyric video. How important do you think music videos are?
A: I think they are important because kids today watch YouTube. That’s how it is. You know, back in the day MTV was the big thing to look at. I think videos today, like our videos, are very easy. They are not like high-cost videos that MTV had, you know, with a big budget, I guess. I mean, Rammstein has a huge budget for their videos. [laughs]
But I don’t think you need to do them so creatively, people just want to see you. There’s something about that thing, you know, when they can look at you. So I think videos are still very important.
Do you guys have any plans to tour the album yet?
A: I mean, yes, we want to play gigs, we just have one issue and that is Jani has joined the big band Insomnium and they are touring heavily. We have gotten a lot of requests and we are very much trying to squeeze in gigs between his touring with Insomnium, so hopefully. There will probably be some gigs but, if it comes to touring, maybe we will just have to join Insomnium! [laughs] Since he is so busy.
We have had to say no to some requests, unfortunately, due to his busy schedule but I think there will be some. Hopefully he has some time off now and then. Not so many days, but some.
Or enough, anyway!
A: [Laughs] Yeah, I’m on him every day like, “Hey, have you checked your schedule? Have you checked your schedule?” because I would like to play a lot next year, much more than we’ve done. It’s really nice that he’s joined Insomnium but it a bit more of a hassle for us. But we’ll see!
Do you have anything you particularly like or dislike about touring?
A: Well, for me, I’ve done that big, heavy touring thing that he’s doing at the moment. I did it with Nightwish. It was fun but it was also very, very hard. I have problems sleeping in the bus, for instance, so either I have to drink beer or take pills to sleep, [laughs] which is hard. I also think it’s a bit boring when it comes to traveling. Nowadays, I don’t really like to go anywhere and I just stay at home because I’ve seen the world, I’ve been in cities. I remember that I woke up many times and I didn’t have any clue what country I was in, what city I was in, and it was kind of scary, you know, when you just wake up like, “Where am I?” It happened a lot. I also have a lot of memory losses from my touring days because it was very intense. So I try to think that I’ve done that, you know, that Jani’s doing at the moment, and I cherish it, but I prefer to do a little bit less gigs. More like “let’s do two gigs and have fun” and then we go home. I prefer that.
I can see how that saves a bit of energy, too, and nobody has to really strain themselves.
A: Yeah, and I think also that when you do a tour like that six days a week, travelling, travelling, travelling, people getting sick and still having to perform, you know, singing with a flu in your body and stuff, you don’t give your best every evening. If you only have a few gigs, normally you’re not ill and you’re good and you’re happy, and I think that shows to the audience, too. You can give them much more for their money, I believe.
Shifting back to the album, do you think the lyrics or the overall sound are more important?
A: Oh. Well, when I listen to our music I think that, you know, they are happy albums, because they are so catchy and melodic. But if I go in too deep into Jani’s lyrics, they are quite sad and bitter. They are not happy lyrics. They are sad lyrics, all of them, and you wonder if he’s been through Hell in his life or not. [laughs] So, for me when I listen to the songs, I think the overall sound is what I listen too. Of course, I listen to the lyrics, too, but I think not many people sit down and just nail through and listen really deep to the lyrics. I think people just want to hear a good song with a good tempo and something fun in it. So I believe lyrics are important but the sound is probably more important.
Aside from The Dark Element, what are you listening to these days?
A: Well, I listen to the radio. [laughs] But I listen to many different things depending on my mood. I listen to a lot of metal, actually, because me and my husband share the Spotify account and he’s like a “death metal dude” and “metal dude” so the only thing that comes up in mine is Katatonia and stuff, so I listen to that. I also listen to singer-songwriters, but I listen to a lot of radio mainly, all those hit that are in the pop charts. They are easy listening.
As a female metal artist, do you feel that women are having more success these days?
A: Well, I remember when me and Alyson Avenue came out with our first album and we were out gigging back in the days when I was very young, that was in the late 80s and early 90s. Female-fronted bands were, like, the worst of the worst. It was so bad. People were like, “Female-fronted? They suck!” And I think you still can feel that vibe, in a way, as soon as there’s a girl singing there’s something with a lot of men, because that’s just how it goes, where they prefer a male singer. I don’t know why.
But I think it’s gotten better with so many good singers out there who’ve showcased that they can growl and they can do all those things a male singer can do, too, like belt and sing progressive and stuff. So, I think it’s better these days than it was when I was younger and started singing.
I think it definitely helps having big bands like Nightwish, Battle Beast, and Amaranthe that have fantastic frontwomen to help move it forward, too.
A: Yeah, and where bands like Evanescence are still going, and like you said Battle Beast. Noora is fantastic and she proves inmany ways that a girl can do what a man can do because she really sings in many ways like a guy. And then you have, of course, bands like Arch Enemy that also proves that there are some really good female-fronted bands out there.
We’re just about out of time here so I want to squeeze in one more question! What do you want to see The Dark Element become?
A: Oh! Well. I personally would love to do some more gigs, that’s my aim, because we’ve had so much fun. And hopefully some more albums, before I get too old, with that same happy feeling Jani and I have at the moment, and that his creativity continues the way that it has and that we get better and better with every album because he’s a very talented songwriter. And, hopefully, sell a lot and sell more so we can do more of what we want with more gigs and better videos and have a higher budget for everything. That’s always what you want.
Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me!
A: And thank you! It’s been an honour.
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