September 20, 2022

I’m not sure if it is by co-incidence or planned but this month sees the release of two albums featuring the supreme Anette Olzon (The Dark Element, ex-Nightwish) with her collaboration with Russell Allen (as Allen Olzon) with the album Army Of Dreamers and this debut album from the new band Ultima Grace. Whatever the reason, if you are a fan of Olzon’s then you are in for a real treat.

Army Of Dreamers is covered elsewhere and this review is concerned with the new outfit Ultima Grace which sees Olzon teaming up with the Japanese keyboard player Yuhki (Galneryus, Alhambra) which was initially put out in Japan earlier in March this year but is now getting a release for the rest of the world this September. The rest of the band comprises guitarist Toshihiro Kajihara (Alhambra), bassist Atsushi Hasegawa (Gerard) and drummer Hideki Harasawa (Mahatma, Alhambra) and all are most accomplished musicians indeed.

The album is a highly intoxicating mixture of hard rock and symphonic metal with just a hint of a jazz vibe going on deep in the background which gives the music a surprising twist and makes it even more enjoyable. The overall feel of the record is of semi-retro hard rock with Olzon’s voice eminently suitable for the more direct approach and she gives a powerful and strident performance whilst Toshihiro Kajihara lays down a myriad of riffs and solos with the amazing and fluid keyboards of Yuhki matching him note for note in exactly the same way that Ritchie Blackmore and Jon Lord did, and you get the impression that both Kajihara and Yuhki wanted this to be the case. I guess that Made In Japan is a record that they both return to frequently but then who doesn’t? The keyboards of Yuhki truly thrill and it is so life affirmingly good to hear the Hammond organ get such an extensive workout.

This is a long album, over 60-minutes, with so much happening that it can overwhelm the senses and it must have pushed Anette Olzon to keep up with so many extravagant musicians, but she keeps pace with them, and the result is a crazy roller-coaster of a metal album that has so much to give, and you keep picking up on new elements within the work that you had previously missed. The tracks are extended allowing for the extended musical interplay and the track that will probably garner most attention is the over 11-minutes epic that is The Lost and what a musical score it is too.

Be aware though, this is not a record designed for a casual listen and you will need to commit time and space to let it grow and develop but what a work of art it is. Exhausting for sure but so, so rewarding.

Ultima Grace

  1. A Legend Begins (2:41)
  2. Getting On With Life (5:52)
  3. Cry For The Rain (5:51)
  4. Powers Of North And East (5:02)
  5. Beguile The Night (6:17)
  6. Ripples (4:46), Rise (7:02)
  7. Night Hunt (6:08)
  8. Double Caution (5:07)
  9. The Lost (11:28)
  10. Requiem (5:17)