FINNISH metal soprano Tarja Turenen has a new solo album “The Shadow Self” due for release in August but in the meantime she has whetted our appetites with the release of prequel album “The Brightest Void”.
In the words of the lady herself, ‘during the process of recording The Shadow Self I realised that there were so many tracks, too many too dear to me, for just one album”
Opener ‘No Bitter End’ is a hard rocking tune with a driving beat throughout with a bit of down tuned guitar and is the first track released off the album. Featuring an Eddie Van Halen style solo it’s a pretty good start.
Next song ‘Heaven and Hell’ has a furious twin guitar opening riff and employs the services of Michael Monroe (Hanoi Rocks) on guest vocals. Summoning up his inner Alice Cooper Monroe delivers a gruff and sinister vocal with shades of Axl Rose in it. The harmonised parts, with Tarja, work really well but the surprising part of this song is the middle section. Slowing right down with harmonica and haunting vocal an overlapping guitar and saxaphone sequence takes the listener back to the days of David Gilmour and Dick Parry. Tarja’s vocals only serve to add to the atmosphere before the song reverts back to the full on heavy riff. Lyrically it’s fairly dark which is a theme repeated later.
‘Eagle Eye’ is slower in tempo but still has heavy riff throughout. Featuring Chad Smith on drums the rhythm section drives the song with Tarja’s voice prominent. A contribution on vocals from Tarja’s brother Toni gives it a bit of depth. A layered accapella section near the end is also a nice touch.
‘An Empty Dream’ is a mysterious electronic number with sound effects in abundance. Tarja’s vocals are more operatic and will probably be a bit of a grower for a lot of listeners. This bleeds into ‘Witch Hunt’. Another mostly electronic song it continues with the dark lyrics theme. It is a classic vehicle for Tarja to show off her range and timbre. The orchestration in the middle section gives it a more classical feel.
‘Shameless’ gets the heavy riffage treatment and moves along at a decent pace. It’s a catchy number which mixes operatic and more standard rock vocals with the operatic element being more prominent.
The album finishes with three cover songs starting with the Sir Paul McCartney penned ‘House of Wax’. It’s slow paced with an eerie, atmospheric vibe to it. The pitch of Tarja’s voice is generally lower throughout. Featuring a guitar solo the aforementioned Gilmour would be proud this song may turn out to be highlight of the album. Different, but stunning in its own way…
A curveball is well and truly thrown over the plate with the penultimate offering, a rendition of Shirley Basseys’ classic James Bond theme tune, ‘Goldfinger’. Sticking fairly closely to the original orchestral sound a slow and grinding riff and rhythm section breathes new life into the old girl (not Shirley, the song). The end note is held perfectly by Tarja and it’s bound to get a sing-a-long at many a drunken party.
Finally we have the Tarja mix of the song she recorded with Within Temptation for their Hydra album, ‘Paradise (What About Us)’. A chunky riff moves the song along at a good pace, the vocal intertwining of Tarja and Sharon Den Adel seemingly more up front on this mix.
There are various styles on this album and may be a turn off to those hankering back to the good old days Nightwish but it’s the divergent nature that makes the album interesting and show Tarja’s ability to stretch herself and not stand still.
Recommended listening and makes the August release of ‘The Shadow Self’ and album to really look forward too.
Review by Andy Gillen