The prodigious and productive powerhouse Magnus Karlsson remains as busy as ever. Perhaps best known as one of the two ferocious axe-slingers in power metal sensation Primal Fear, he not only played on the band’s 2020 “Metal Commando” album, but he masterminded other ambitious projects. Last year he created a spiritual successor to Allen-Lande in the form of Allen-Olzon, and also delivered a gem of a masterpiece in the form of “We Are the Night,” the latest addition to his Free Fall project portfolio. A lesser mortal would surely require respite after creating more auditory beauty in 2020 than the average musician generates in a decade, and yet here we are in February 2021 with a lovely new record in our hands from Maestro Karlsson in the form of Heart Healer, a symphonic metal opera set for a March 12th release date. Hopefully Magnus is treating himself to a much-deserved holiday after this latest album release.
At this point, after doing so much work with the Frontiers record label, Magnus is no stranger to collaboration with label president Serafino Perugino, whose name is essentially synonymous with the label itself. So it is that Signore Perugino tapped into the seemingly bottomless fountain of talent that is Magnus Karlsson, and gave birth to a new symphonic metal project. To be specific, Heart Healer is literally symphonic, blending the impressive writing, production and guitar mastery of Magnus with actual orchestral accompaniment. The jewel of the project, however, is the enlistment of seven of the most celebrated voices from the fairer side of contemporary heavy metal. The album assigns operatic roles to the following exceptional women: Adrienne Cowan (Seven Spires, Sascha Paeth’s Masters Of Ceremony, Avantasia), Netta Laurenne (Smackbound, Laurenne/Louhimo), Youmna Jreissati (Ostura), Ailyn (Her Chariot Awaits, ex-Sirenia), Noora Louhimo (Battle Beast), Margarita Monet (Edge of Paradise), and Anette Olzon (The Dark Element, ex-Nightwish).
Adrienne remains one of our near-and-dear favorites here at Sonic Perspectives, most particularly what she delivered in her newest Seven Spires album “Emerald Seas.” She does not disappoint in this album, in her role as the titular Heart Healer, a being who upon awakening with no identity, discovers an innate ability to heal those in need, while also giving up life and strength to do so. Over the course of the story arc, she encounters those who love her and those who fear her, and her journey brings her to understanding her own identity and purpose. Ms. Cowan’s diminutive stature belies an absolutely huge voice, and she does not disappoint in playing a central role much like Labrie carried in Ayreon’s “Human Equation.”
At this point, it becomes challenging to give a description of the album in words. It is akin to using a paragraph to describe Wagner’s Tannhäuser overture to one without the gift of hearing. Granted, the writing is certainly of a cinematic approach, rather than a traditional classical methodology, but the result remains brilliant. The opening track is so grandiose it could make Tuomas Holopainen blush. The overall modus operandi of the album is one of blending one or more female voices with distortion guitars, bass guitar, drums, and symphonic orchestration. The opening track, “Awake,” is a solo showpiece for Adrienne, where the remaining tracks are interactions of the other characters in varying combinations, with the exception of a couple other solo tracks. It will be a treat if Frontiers produces videos (or even an entire full-length album video) so we can get a better sense of which singers are performing which parts. With seven world-class voices interacting, it can be a little hectic, but make no mistake, it is always brilliant.
If we can make any special standout mention for the album, it would probably need to be Noora Louhimo, who ostensibly seems to play the part of one hell of a Battle Beast as the primary challenger to the story’s protagonist, although the formidable Anette Olzon seems to also play an adversarial role. Noora’s vocals are absolutely off the charts in terms of force and power. For a small sampling, be sure to check out the video for her solo track, “Into the Unknown.”
As a whole, the album consists of rising and falling plot action (and musical intensity) from the awakening of Adrienne’s character, to the penultimate track where her power seems to fail her… before the story and the music return stronger than ever for the conclusion, a finale calling upon all singers at once for a spectacular finish.
One could draw parallels with Nightwish material, and it would be difficult not to. Although that band has its special signature sound, and until recently the voice of Marko Hietala was a critical and unique pillar, the fact remains that Magnus projects like Free Fall and Heart Healer speak more to the metal musician, especially with so much exceptional lead guitar work to be enjoyed. Although the story of Heart Healer has some parallels to Spock’s Beard’s “Snow” album, it’s an enjoyable approach offering opportunities for both the light and the dark, as well as for the major and the minor. If we were to be some very choosy beggars, it would be lovely to have voices like Anneke Van Giersbergen and Floor Jansen in the mix, but aside from the conflict of interest for someone like Floor, it’s also unrealistic. This may already be the first project quite like it, and expecting any more would be pure gluttony. With any luck, and some successful sales numbers, there may be another like it, with another cast, and the possibilities are exciting. Definitely check out the videos from the album, and if you like what you hear, pick up a copy of the record on March 12th. Let’s send a message to Serafino that we want more of this.
Released By: Frontiers Music srl
Release Date: March 12th, 2021
Genre: Symphonic Metal
“The Metal Opera by Magnus Karlsson” Track-Listing:
We were pleasantly shocked to the core that Magnus Karlsson could match his epic 2020 Free Fall record with a new metal opera project, but here it is. Heart Healer, a modern masterpiece.