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Beyond the Boys’ Club is a monthly column from journalist and radio host Anne Erickson, focusing on women in the heavy music genres, as they offer their perspectives on the music industry and discuss their personal experiences. Erickson is also a music artist herself, recently releasing the song “Eternal Way” with Upon Wings. This month’s piece features an interview with Anette Olzon, formerly of Nightwish.
Anette Olzon previously fronted one of the biggest symphonic metal bands in the world, Nightwish, but has since embarked on a solo career. This year, she returned with her sophomore solo album, Strong.
The new set is nothing like her debut solo release, Shine. While the latter was a much more stripped-down, intimate collection of songs, Strong takes the listener in a much heavier and darker direction with triumphant metal instrumentals and powerful vocals.
For Heavy Consequence‘s latest edition of “Beyond the Boys’ Club,” Olzon checked in to discuss the new album, how the pandemic influenced the darker tone on the set, her experience as a woman in metal music, and much more.
Read our interview with Anette Olzon below, and order her new album, Strong, via Amazon.
On her new solo album, Strong, and why it was the right title for the release
It felt like a great title to show that this album is heavier and stronger. In the times we’ve had since I started writing this album in 2020, we’ve need the strength to stay strong.
On how Strong, her second solo album, differs from her solo debut, Shine
For me, they’re not even linked, since it’s been so many years between them, and they were also written in such different approaches. With Shine, I was still in another band, so I couldn’t write a metal album and compete with my other band, whereas this time, I had no such thing to consider. So, I really could just make the album as I wanted and under a great record label, Frontiers, that supports me in whatever I want to do. That’s also different from the first album. And, of course, if you both listen to and look at the videos and artwork, they are very different. Shine was a softer, more intimate album about more personal things in my own life, and Strong is heavier, faster, darker and more about how I see the world around me after my 50 years walking this earth.
On why she chose “Parasite” as the first single off the album
“Parasite” was an easy choice for me, because it’s the fastest and hardest song, both in the music but also the lyrics, which are about something I felt strongly about. It’s about men and women who we see and know around us that may look as though they are all so nice, walking around in nice proper clothes, telling things that sound as if they mean well, but then, their real intentions are to just create chaos and use others for their own winning, being like parasites.
On if the pandemic influenced her writing on Strong
In some ways it did. It was, of course, easy to be in the mood to write a darker album in the times we had and still have. It was my intention to write about other things on this album, since I could go more metal. I can’t write about to fictive things, that’s not for me, so I still had to find a meaning with the words I wrote. But, it was quite easy finding subjects to write about just looking around me.
On how writing and recording music is different as a solo artist verses with bands such as The Dark Element and Nightwish
It’s, of course, a big difference, since in neither of those I write any songs but am mainly the singer of someone else’s songs. So, for me, creating the songs myself and being the one deciding it all is much more fun.
On how the pandemic has affected her career as a musician
As with many other musicians in the world, it’s been the same here in Sweden. I’m sure it’s been a stressful time for many. For me, personally, not working as a full-time musician in that way anymore and having a secure education and another career (as a nurse), it’s been some of the same, so I’m happy and content. I took another way down the road many years ago. I am a nurse and starting my studies to become a midwife in two weeks. It’s been OK to work in the pandemic, even if it’s been very stressful at times.
On if she ever felt there was resistance starting out when it came to being a woman in metal music
Ever since I started to sing with Alyson Avenue, which is melodic rock, we got to hear that “female-fronted bands sucked,” and sorry, but I still feel many [music fans] — but, of course, not everyone — have that same attitude. Being in rock and metal is harder as a female, but still we have many great female metal musicians and bands that are seen and heard. So, let’s hope the attitude has changed.
On women in music she’s looked up to over the years
It’s been many. Those big icons like Madonna, Whitney Houston and Zara Larsson. When I grew up and wanted to become a singer, I knew very early on that I wanted to learn from the best, so these were the ones that were the greatest at that time and still are. Zara is, of course, a new one, but she’s immensely talented and a good woman for young females to look up to.
On if she feels there’s more pressure on women in rock and metal to look a certain way to be appealing
It’s the same as in the whole music industry and the world. Looks sell, and as sadly as that may be, for women, it’s much more pressure to look good and young and perfect than for the men.
On the advice she has for women getting into metal music
Be ready to use your elbows and stand your ground.