Tarja – “The Brightest Void” (earMUSIC)
Wow, I mean wow – not one album but two from Tarja Turunen! Now firmly established as a solo artiste following her departure from Nightwish, “The Brightest Void” is her 6th album and prequel to the main release “The Shadow Self” to be issued later this year. While recording, it soon became evident that there were too many tracks for one album, so rather than trash them or hold them for a later release, Tarja picked the best and has decided to share them with her fans here. These tracks aren’t outtakes or demos but fully recorded songs, some of which feature guests like Mike Monroe (Hanoi Rocks) and Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith, along with covers of Paul McCartney’s ‘House Of Wax’ and Shirley Bassey’s ‘Goldfinger’. As such, don’t be expecting anything remotely low class about this album – right from the cover this is suave, modern adult rock with a very big emphasis on not just looking cool, but also sounding it! With a jaw dropping number of session musicians backing her, clearly no expense has been spared in every aspect of this album, which certainly goes a long way in challenging any critics of rock or metal who perceive it to be neanderthalic. The material is equally commendable, measuring up in both depth in terms of quality of musicianship to the breadth of styles from modern rock n roll on ‘Heaven and Hell’ (with Monroe) to the symphonic metal of ‘Paradise (What About Us)’ recorded with Within Temptation now given a Tarja mix! With the heavier tracks like ‘Eagle Eye’ also tastefully incorporating plenty of passion alongside hard, crunching guitars, the album’s heaviest track had to be ‘Shameless’, with its squeaking Tommy Victor guitar sound soon taking the darkness of the song into an uplifting beat and catchy, passionate chorus – before the hard beat rocked back in – superb! In complete contrast came ‘House Of Wax’, a dark ambient track with heaps of melancholic atmosphere thanks to the range of instruments from the in-the-wind guitars to classy orchestrals. Now, few women can compete with Shirley Bassey when it comes to singing ‘Goldfinger’, a brash, swaggering track as bombastic as its megalomaniac character and sung with all the power and sultriness that Bassey exudes. Turunen, for her measure, sensibly doesn’t attempt to take on Bassey, but rather adds her own classy and sultry feminine touch, using her full range including sopranos in this stylish modern rock cover backed with just the right hint of orchestrals. In fact, throughout this album, Tarja’s vocals are unflappable in quality, shifting effortlessly between operatic to meltingly soulful to beautiful femme highs and whilst being omnipresent as the signature sound, are not overpowering. As such this has made for an elite release but one that can be enjoyed by a wide range of listeners rather than being construed as an over indulgent piece of solo worship.