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My Winter Storm CD Cover
Image © Universal Music GmbH 2007

Tarja Turunen
Tarja Turunen
(former Nightwish vocalist goes solo)
Image © Universal Music GmbH 2007

More Tarja Turunen:
Nightwish
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Beto Vázquez Infinity
 

(26 December 2007) Tarja Turunen. A Finnish singer whose operatic vocal work captured the hearts of legions of fans during her time as vocalist for renowned symphonic metal act, Nightwish. After the band released their acclaimed fifth album, the bombastic Once in 2004, difficulties arose between Tarja and the four other members, tensions grew and in 2005 an open letter was handed to Tarja composed by songwriter/keyboardist Toumas Holopainen after the band's 'End Of An Era' performance at the Hartwall Arena. A letter stating that it would be for the best for the band, and Tarja, if Nightwish continued on without her.

With 2007's My Winter Storm Tarja Turunen presents her first full-length solo release, as she hopes to cast off the shackles of a controversial and highly-publicised end to her time with Nightwish and move forward, producing an album just over an hour in length, containing an impressive 18 songs that make for a diverse, adventurous insight into the response, reaction and ambitions of Tarja following her venture into the challenging world of a solo career.

The mood and atmosphere of the album is extremely dark, brooding and certainly strays away from the aggressive bombast of her former band Nightwish's sweeping sound, as Tarja's vocals are filled with longing and plenty of real emotion, putting in a performance that sees her experimenting with her voice. A voice that seems to have matured and grown in confidence over time, since her contribution to Nightwish's Once.

The tinkle of keyboards and gradually rising string-work opens the album, before first single "I Walk Alone" introduces the album fully. A swaying, delicately-paced song revolving around simplistic drum and guitar work that creates an almost waltz-like vibe, the chorus letting Tarja flex her vocals as she mournfully sings of the lonely path in going it alone. It's a memorable song, though the production can't help but feel a little flat, which causes the song to lose some of its essential magic.

Haunting instrumentation sees an engulfing blend of gothic choirs, chugging guitar work and the subtle strings of a cello present in the driving "Lost Northern Star". Tarja hovers over experimental atmospherics before the song increases in pace, the second verse bringing the steady bass work to prominence before the choirs return for a chilling chorus. Supposedly cited as one of the 'heavier' songs on the album, there is a lacking bite, hard-hitting impact that feels lost in the mid-paced feel the song holds. It is this steady, almost restrained pace that becomes a continuing weakness of the album, despite the adventurous instrumentation which can be found.

Ballad "The Reign" however, is without doubt the highlight of the album. A breathtaking composition that was inspired by the majestic sounds found in film scores. Tarja's utterly heart-wrenching vocals drift inside stirring strings, waves of keyboard, the faint plucking of acoustic guitar and sounds of tribal drumming in a moving display of music, conjuring imagery of blissful oceans and a mood of serene tranquillity. "Boy And The Ghost" sees a return to the chugging guitar work and piano splashings found in "Lost Northern Star" in one of the weaker tracks from the album. It offers nothing of the excitement or energy you would expect in its openings, an all-too-familiar verse-chorus structure lacks a cutting edge despite Tarja's solid vocals. The bridge suddenly produces a powerful mix of swirling strings and booming choir-work, yet this inspired passage can't save the whole song from an unavoidable flatness.

The one-two of "Sing For Me" and "Oasis" present the best of Turunen. "Sing For Me" containing some interesting vocal melodies, backed by piano before building to a dramatic chorus, the strings complimenting Tarja's vocal strains perfectly, whereas "Oasis" is a brief instrumental piece, beautiful piano work, soft vocal hushes and rich flute allowing for a moving listening experience.

My Winter Storm is an album filled with an abundance of ideas and ambition. It sees Tarja wanting to find her own voice, forge her own path and let loose the creativity perhaps she was restricted from holding whilst in Nightwish. Vocally, she has never been better as we are treated to a voice as matured and assured as it has ever been. Musically, the experimentation is there, yet the album produces a certain hit and miss feel throughout. The song-structures vary between inventive, moving and engaging to those heard so often before, and produced with more impact and energy than what exists here. A mid-paced feel rests within a lot of the songs on offer, that whilst allow Tarja the chance to impress, fail to create a real lasting impression, or memorability. The production balances between inspired and disappointing, as certain songs sometimes crave for that extra crunch, particularly in the rhythm section, whereas other songs, such as "The Reign", thrive on a wonderfully balanced mix.

A hugely anticipated release such as this will receive as many lovers as it will haters, and it is certainly a challenge to review an album of such ambition. One that is certainly not perfect, nor what many may have expected or even hoped for. Still, My Winter Storm proves to be a bold attempt from an individual who took a chance, failing to withdraw to the shadows after a difficult time in her life and instead pushed forwards, hoping to remove any past restraints and stepping back out into the world of music. Today available only as an import or "new and used" at the marketplace for American customers. Walking alone, perhaps, as she has always wanted to.--Jim Hall in Derby, England

 
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