I have previously outlined the history of Finnish symphonic metal band Nightwish when discussing their excellent 2015 release “Endless Forms Most Beautiful”. Today I’m looking at the new album by their former vocalist Tarja Turunen, titled “The Shadow Self”.
Actually, there are two new albums from Turunen, as some weeks before “The Shadow Self” surfaced there was a prequel album titled “The Brightest Void” issued.
I feel that Turunen’s output has been of somewhat variable quality since her departure from her former band whilst their subsequent work has gone from strength to strength. Her first solo album “Henkäys Ikuisuudesta” (2006) was a purely classical Christmas-themed affair, and “My Winter Storm” (2007) and “What Lies Beneath” (2010) were as much classical as rock, though certainly listenable, with the possible exception of a dreadful cover of Whitesnake’s “Still If The Night” on the latter.
So it was only really with her fourth solo album “Colours In The Dark” (2013) that I think some more modern heavy rock sounds began to come to the fore. That good work was undone with 2014’s live album “Beauty And The Beat”. This was a classical collaboration between Turunen and American journeyman drummer Mike Terrana which sounds rather like Turunen performing with a symphony orchestra and some guy deciding to provide accompaniment by banging away on a drum kit. I get that it was an attempt to draw younger listeners into the world of classical music but is definitely one of those records that only gets listened to once or twice before being filed away for posterity!
That was followed in 2015 by “Ave Maria – En Plein Air”, a purely classical recording comprising of thirteen different compositions all titled “Ave Maria”. An interesting, but not essential, listen.
Of the new full album Turunen says “I am very excited to finally be able to share the first details of my new heavy rock album with all of you, ‘The Shadow Self’ is full of songs that are very dear to me. I cannot wait for you to hear the record that I believe is one of my heaviest albums to date.”
Well, following a delicate piano introduction to opener “Innocence” it’s not long before the drums kick in and are almost immediately joined by heavy detuned guitars providing a musical accompaniment with far more muscle than has been the case since the singer’s Nightwish days.
“Demons In You” features Alissa White-Gluz from Arch Enemy with her trademark harsh vocal delivery and is a great number – although the funky guitar intro to the tune and the funky bass guitar break around half way through is best ignored!
Track three “No Bitter End” is one of two songs which feature on both of these albums. An edited version starts “The Brightest Void” and “Eagle Eye” has its longer version on the same release. Both decent songs but the duplication is really rather unnecessary.
“Supremacy” is a cover of the Muse track and is a definite improvement on the aforementioned Whitesnake cover! Other highpoints on “The Shadow Self” are “Undertaker” and “The Living End”. Quite what the idea with the hidden track tacked on to closer “Too Many” (following three minutes of silence) which goes from punk metal to techno and back again is frankly beyond me!
Overall, though, I would say that there are some very good musical performances, catchy choruses and, of course, impressive vocals from Turunen even if the arrangements themselves seem a little too contrived.
Onto “The Brightest Void” then. Maybe I should have tackled this one first? No matter. Turunen says “Surprise, surprise! I genuinely hope that ‘The Brightest Void’ is a pleasant surprise to each and every one of you. During the long process of recording the songs for my new studio album ‘The Shadow Self’, I realised that there were so many tracks, too many too dear to me, for just one album. So this time I decided to keep nothing for myself and to share all my favourite new songs with you, the fans, who have shown such passionate and constant support. ‘The Brightest Void’ gives more than a first taste of ‘The Shadow Self’; it is a full album filled with 9 songs! I am sure that everyone will immediately discover how much ‘The Brightest Void’ and ‘The Shadow Self’ are entwined with each other but, at the same time, are two independent records which stand on their own.”
Given that we have already established that two of these nine tracks are on “The Shadow Self” and that the final track “Paradise (What About Us?)” is simply a new mix of a song originally on Within Temptation’s 2014 album “Hydra” that featured Turunen’s vocals and that only leaves six new songs.
“Your Heaven And Your Hell” features Michael Monroe, formerly of Hanoi Rocks and co-judge, with Turunen, on Finland’s version of TV show “The Voice”. Not sure about this one as the two voices are not particularly well suited to each other. Elsewhere, “House Of Wax” cover of Paul McCartney song and “Goldfinger” is a very good rendition of the famous James Bond theme song.
Ultimately, then, these are good records. Worth a listen even though one could argue that dispensing with the duplications and new mix of older material would have enabled a single album release. I’m afraid that for all her bombast Turunen is still some way behind her former colleagues in terms of musical quality and progression…
1. Innocence / 2. Demons In You / 3. No Bitter End / 4. Love To Hate / 5. Supremacy / 6. The Living End / 7. Diva / 8. Eagle Eye / 9. Undertaker / 10. Calling From The Wild / 11. Too Many
“The Brightest Void” tracklist:
1. No Bitter End / 2. Your Heaven And Your Hell” / 3. Eagle Eye / 4. An Empty Dream / 5. Witch Hunt / 6. Shameless / 7. House Of Wax / 8. Goldfinger / 9. Paradise (What About Us?)