I’m not a huge fan of supergroups, but I do like a good collaboration. A couple years ago, Russell Allen and Anette Olzon worked together on a wonderful album called Worlds Apart. It must have been a success because on September 9th they are releasing their sophomore effort, Army of Dreamers, via Frontiers Music. I went into the debut with doubts, and I couldn’t help but feel that way this time, too, but both times these veterans of music have proven me wrong.
Russell Allen is best known as the vocalist for Symphony X, though he also produces music with Star One, Adrenaline Mob, and more. With Symphony X going on 8 years without a release, I’ll take whatever I can get. Anette Olzon is, of course, the former vocalist for Nightwish, but also produces music with Alyson Avenue and The Dark Element. For this album, they recruited Magnus Karlsson for guitars, bass, and keys, along with Anders Köllerfors on drums.
I remember that, when the announcement of the Allen/Olzon collaboration popped into my inbox, I immediately thought of the old Allen/Lande albums from 2005-2014. I rather liked those. I have to admit, though, that I have liked both Allen/Olzon albums even better. There is something undeniably infectious and reassuring about hearing these two musicians making music together.
The music here is melodic metal. I would say that there are heavy progressive and symphonic leanings, so I think that melodic metal label is just an attempt by the label not to promise too much in the way of any certain style, but it delivers on all fronts. Allen and Olzon provide the vocals, obviously, and they sing together quite a bit. On the debut, they traded back and forth from track to track mostly, but on this album, they tend to trade back and forth from verse to verse within the same song. The choruses tend to be a group singing effort by both of them. I wasn’t sure how I felt about that, but I have come to like it.
Army of Dreamers is definitely served with a small slice of cheese, both musically and lyrically. There is an epic feeling to almost every single second, and the lyrics are all about jealous hearts, heading out on one’s own, and hope for reconciliation. It’s stuff that we’ve heard many times before, and the music, too, is the typical array of meaty riffs and thundering drums.
I mean, this album is certainly not meant to innovate any genre. But that is exactly why it is so great. This album is all about strong songs with humongous choruses, vast keyboard soundscapes, and rockin’ moments. Allen and Olzon sing their damn hearts out, that is for sure, and this makes for pure enjoyment. The more you ditch your mental baggage and just let go, the more this album shines.
The eleven tracks range from good to excellent. I think my favorites are “So Quiet Here”, “All Alone”, and “Are We Really Strangers”. All three have super catchy melodies and tightly written vocal choruses that are very impressive. “All Alone” has a chorus that reaches the next galaxy; I am convinced. Even some of the cheesier tracks are just pure sugar, like “Army of Dreamers”, “Out of Nowhere”, and “I Am Gone”: all three are incredibly entertaining.
Other tracks deserve a mention. “A Million Skies” is a sprawling, colorful track. “Carved Into Stone” has a memorable, rolling sort of chorus. “Until It’s Over” is one that I always want to sing along with, regardless of where I am. I love the guitars on that one, especially. The closer, “Never Too Late” is particularly great, too, with a chorus that doesn’t feel like much at first, but opens wide soon enough; it has a backend hook, so to speak, that really reels me in every time, not to mention the sweet guitars in the second half.
Allen/Olzon obviously know how to construct memorable songs. Both of their albums have been refreshingly grand in various ways, most of all being the terrific vocals. This is an album that might feel part of the past in some ways; but that is the point, I think. This album gives us more of the sounds that made these two singers famous, and I‘m here for it.
Find Allen/Olzon online: