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Tarja: Colours in the Dark

Tarja Turunen, one of Finland's greatest female vocal gifts, needs little introduction. She is a professionally trained and classical soprano singer/songwriter and composer. She was the first singer of Nightwish, which many will say put the genre of female operatic/symphonic metal on the global rock map. Her inspiration has created many stars that have followed her lead.

However, Turunen was dismissed from Nightwish on October 21, 2005 for personal reasons. It was a stunning surprise. After all, she along with Tuomas Holopainen and Emppu Vuorinen had formed the band in 1996.

Undaunted, her spirit and inspiration unbroken, she released a Christmas album called Henkäys Ikuisuudesta in 2006. She followed that with her first solo rock oriented album My Winter Storm, along with an accompanying world tour. In 2010, she released her third album What Lies Beneath, and followed that with another world tour. She released her first DVD Act I on August 24, 2012. Now she embarks on her fourth studio album Colours in the Dark, which will be released in October, with a Colours in the Dark World Tour to commence on October 17, 2013.

Colours in the Dark opens with "Victim of Ritual", and a Bolero similar to Ravel's, only this time the subject matter is much darker. Dark maybe as the mind of Jodi Arias. Tarja's voice does sooth that opening well before the lightning and thunder of drums, bass and lead electric guitar rip open the seam. The power of the instrumentation and Tarja's confident vocal delivery will help explain why this is the only song that she could both open the album and deliver her first promotional video.

"500 Letters" is a "fan" stalker track that brings to bear another of Tarja's fears. The power of the lead guitar, bass, keys and drums overwhelm your senses at the opening. Tarja sings, "Why do you love me? Why do you want to hurt me? 500 letters from a stranger at my door. 500 letters I can't take it anymore. 500 letters pass like stars no one can see. 500 secrets slowly killing me". I won't spoil the ending, but her passion in delivering this warning and plea is unforgettable.

"Lucid Dreamer" is another symphonic powerhouse with the vocals I have always read about from Tarja's earlier work, but so far have not experienced. I do understand why she is so well respected. The perfect delivery. Power soprano, but well-tuned so as not to cause damage to the hearing. Emotional and passionate. Leaving nothing on the cutting room floor so to speak. Is it any wonder so many ladies have endeavored to reach this pinnacle of delivery? There is a very cool, dream sequence within the middle of the track that will be the perfect welcome for Halloween visitors in a couple of months. The keyboards interlaced in that mid-section create a nice reminder of the Vincent Price era of film. Tarja sings with complete conviction, "You can do anything. You can go everywhere. Just look at me, I'm a lucid dreamer", bringing back memories of Sabine on Edenbridge's "Star Crossed Dreamer", from earlier this year.

"Never Enough" is another one of those power drivers you will cherish and play often. Tarja has that perfect mix of sympathy and emotion that really is well captured digitally by Tim Palmer. Tarja's warmth mixes well with the grinding and thrashing electric guitars, bass and blasting drums.

It is hard to choose a favorite song when almost every song is a greatest hit, but I have always enjoyed traveling and Tarja offers us a beautiful "Mystique Voyage", full of soft and emotional vocals, trickling piano, supporting female sirens and an anthem – like symphony that make this one of my favorites on the album. More power than most bands supply in an entire album. This is one of the best tracks I've heard this year.

Ah "Darkness"...Tarja, one of the best female rock and metal singers performs Peter Gabriel's classic well. Yes, you knew this one peaked my interest early. The track opens powerfully with drums, bass, and launching lead guitar, but slows down to a quieter tempo as Tarja delivers both spoken word and soft tranquil vocals. Tarja's discovery of the monster she fears is harmless is so well delivered emotionally. The lead guitars at the end of the piece build a cool Hitchcock – like atmosphere.

"Deliverance" must follow darkness right? Well the symphonic explosion that ignites after the soft string – like keys and a soft melody that open this track, will make you wish they made more songs like this. Almost sounds like a full orchestra supporting the band at times. Then Tarja sings, "Dreams go on forever. With only one life. You cannot relive what you gave me…never. I'm breaking myself out with tears. Through the years". P…O…W…E…R. Yes, lyrically as well as the emotional delivery. Tarja sings with endless charisma and emotion, "Far away to Heaven. I run with the wind. That's how I begin. Road to my deliverance". The strings and orchestration that begin mid-way through the song will have you wishing this song would never end.

"Neverlight" is a Led Zeppelin – like rocker complete with slashing guitars at the opening. The drums and deep bass are perfect for a trip back to the best of the 70s. Tarja's voice is a welcomed addition to the slicing power thundering all around the soundscape. She stands firm and strong in the center of the power flowing around her. "Don't let my inside fall apart. The prison I don't need". Then some excellent keys are added to the background effects before we lunge forward into something that sounds like a return to LZ's Presence album. Perfect.

I do love the power of the last song. It is a great return to the kind of music I remember growing up with in the 70's. However, today I am more into songs like "Until Silence", which provide a more ethereal sound. The passion and power Tarja delivers with this track in perfect English and full spirit of emotion, "I saw our memories die. For our dreams had lost their meaning. But the dreams still in my heart. Of painting colours in the dark". String effects like a blast from LZ's "Kashmir", surround, as Tarja sings, "Good bye…I know this love will go on until the silence says goodbye". The melody is beautiful with supporting orchestration.

"Medusa" opens with soft woodwinds flowing across what sounds like desert sands. Deep bass and lead guitar add their strum to the growing momentum of the melody unfolding. Then rifling drums and the echo of Tarja's vocals in the distance. Power drums, bass, lead electric and strings support. Let's take this up a notch. Ok…Full power! Then, slow things down so that Tarja can deliver the lyrical lie of Medusa, "Come to see me. I will show you. Close your eyes and leave the empty plane. Taste the sweet wine from my lips. Face your virgin bride without a veil. And I will forgive you all your sins". Remember this is Medusa, so be careful. Yet, her voice delivers such a sweet welcome that many would take the risk. Justin Furstenfeld, lead singer of Blue October, delivers the male vocals that intermingle with Tarja's to weave the perfect duet. The woodwinds and keys take over from there. A classic closer worthy of one of the female symphonic genre's seminal singers.

Over an hour of interesting and emotional music that will definitely take you away from your usual routine. Tim Palmer, (Pearl Jam and U2), mixed Colours in the Dark in Austin, Texas and you can hear the difference in the clarity of the sound. Make sure you listen to the album on headphones to get the most out of the experience. The album artwork helps add to the quality of the music inside. This album is magic. It turned a somewhat interested listener into someone who wants to go back and listen to Tarja's catalog and the entire Nightwish catalog that came before it. My introduction to the sound of Tarja is complete. Your ears will not turn to stone with Tarja's voice. But be careful, you may definitely become a fan.

Track Listing:

01. Victim Of Ritual
02. 500 Letters
03. Lucid Dreamer
04. Never Enough
05. Mystique Voyage
06. Darkness
07. Deliverance
08. Neverlight
09. Until Silence
10. Medusa [featuring Justin Furstenfeld]

Added: August 21st 2013
Reviewer: Mark Johnson
Related Link:
Hits: 3497
Language: english

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