Heart Healer – The Metal Opera by Magnus Karlsson [Things You Might Have Missed 2021]

After carefully digesting AMG’s necessary and well-worded apology and policy statement, I discovered a new stark difference between AMG and myself. AMG incisively declares, “I do not now (and never have) cared about the biographies of bands. I do not read them, other than to know where they’re from […] I don’t read interviews with musicians or any of this stuff.” I, on the flip side, revel in going down internet rabbit holes to dig up every interview and obscure side project my latest musical fixation has participated in. I fill my brain with facts about musician inspirations, processes, and gear to a fault such that I’ve rendered myself useless at bar trivia unless the topic of the round is Brian Eno quotes or album art by Fursy Teyssier. Following my TYMHM for Seven Spires’s Emerald Seas last January, I continued doing my homework to stay up to date regarding any new projects vocalist Adrienne Cowan took part in. It’s no surprise then that one year later, I find myself writing another TYMHM for a band involving Cowan in a major role.

I am surrounded by no shortage of friends and loved ones who are also enthralled by Cowan’s artistry. My partner first pointed me to Heart Healer, a new metal opera project founded by musician Magnus Karlsson (Last Tribe, Allen/Lande, Primal Fear) which features the Seven Spires star. But on this set of ten tracks, Cowan is not the sole vocalist. On The Metal Opera, Karlsson teams up, not only with Cowan, but with six other strong vocalists. Bear with me while I capture them all here. Netta Laurenne (Smackbound, Laurenne/Louhimo), Youmna Jreissati (Ostura), Ailyn Gimenez (Her Chariot Awaits, ex-Sirenia), Noora Louhimo (Battle Beast), Margarita Monet (Edge of Paradise), and Anette Olzon (The Dark Element, ex-Nightwish) join Cowan, all bringing with them unique energy and vocal prowess. The Metal Opera is a dramatic concept album about a character (played by Cowan) who wakes with complete memory loss of everything, including her own identity. Cowan learns that she can heal people with her touch at the cost of her own strength. Intensity builds throughout the album as each vocalist steps into the role of a different character wishing to either help, terrify, or haunt the Heart Healer.

Despite the obvious cheesiness of the storyline and lyrics, The Metal Opera maintains luster in the proficiency of the vocalists and the world-class orchestration. The songs are symphonic and dramatic yet light-hearted. On “Who Can Stand All Alone,” Cowan and Olzon’s voices tip-toe and dance around each other, anchored by a pounding pulse. As on this favorite track of mine, most of the songs give way to a melodic and unobtrusive guitar solo by Karlsson. Come for the wide array of killer vocals, and stick around for the vocals as well. Listening to so many amazing women shine on this album is pure joy.

In the first several days of 2022, I found myself waking up wondering where in the world 2021 vanished to. Here I am yet again beginning another year with my anxieties about the latest variant abounding. Despite its release back in March of 2021, The Metal Opera is still providing me with a spirited respite from all things heavy and uncertain in life.

Tracks to Check Out: “Who Can Stand All Alone,” “Evil’s Around the Corner,” “Awake”

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