Album Review: Tarja – “The Shadow Self”
Tarja Turunen never really came across as wanting to front a metal band even during her time with Nightwish, so it seems odd that the Finnish soprano continues to dabble in the genre. Nevertheless, here we are with her fourth rock album The Shadow Self, and it’s as Scandinavian and symphonic as you’d expect.
Opener Innocence ticks familiar boxes straight away: Soft, breathy intro? Check. Tinkly keyboard accompaniment? Check. Chugging melodic riff and soaring operatic chorus? Yep, all present and correct. But then less than three minutes in we’re diverted off to a piano recital which kills the momentum as if a second song has been jealous of all the attention and turned the volume down on the former. The two do merge back together after a couple of minutes, creating a nice movie soundtrack ambience, but as the first track on a new record you really want the bombast to prevail throughout.
Fortunately Demons In You, a collaboration with Arch Enemy screamer Alissa White-Gluz, remains a bit pacier (albeit after a bizarre funk intro which resurfaces halfway through), highlighting what Tarja can do when she tones down the operatics just a touch in favour of a more traditional vocal melody. She also likes knocking out the odd cover, and here Muse’s Supremacy gets the Tarja treatment. Although the song was already a military stomper, the band mix in some heavier riffing and layer things up with additional keys whilst keeping the James Bond strings firmly in place to produce a suitably grandiose track. Taking a copycat approach to the original on the shrill titular chorus, Tarja’s voice just about works coupled with the distortion it passes through, but it would’ve been nice for the Finnish chanteuse to do something completely different with a track that was already pretty symphonic in its own right.
Considering she was accused of being one in that infamous open letter from her Nightwish band-mates, Diva is an interesting choice of song title and it delivers a ‘phoenix from the flames’ tale of redemption, throwing in a few not-very-well-disguised barbs in the process. It does seem a little odd that Tarja still feels the need to mention her acrimonious departure from the band, but at least we get a nice little sea shanty out of it. Now let’s all move on and play nice until the inevitable Angels Fall First 20th anniversary reunion tour next year, eh?
You can't help but feel that without Tarja's name attached, The Shadow Self would get lost in the symphonic metal shuffle, which would be a shame as this is a decent outing and is the singer's most expansive solo outing yet. Some of the experimentation may be jarring, but at least Tarja's trying out new things rather than treading water in an operatic ocean.