For those of you unfamiliar with the name Tarja Turunen, she is a Finnish, operatic, lyric soprano singer/songwriter who is most well known for being the former lead vocalist of the Symphonic/Power Metal band Nightwish. Now, for those of you who are Tarja fans, I'm going to start this review off by making a confession: I had never listened to any of Tarja's solo material before this, despite having followed Nightwish since the late 90's and being disappointed when she and Nightwish parted ways. This was never a conscious decision, more like one of those things I just didn't get around to. So, keep this perspective in mind for this review.
Act 1 has all the ingredients that make a good live album – it has good performances by the musicians, a healthy level of crowd noise that adds to the experience of the recording but isn't so present as to distract from the music, good solos, and even a few cover songs. There is even a couple Nightwish covers thrown in. But Tarja focuses on her own solo material, rather than dwelling on her past with Nightwish. As a newbie to her material, I like that she seems to display her own style rather than sounding like "the former Nightwish singer doing more Nightwish-y stuff." Her band has a bit more edge to them than Nightwish – more crunch to the guitars and a heavier beat. Tarja's material also has more of a "Classic Metal" feel to it, but she juxtaposes her classical, operatic style of singing with this heaviness quite well. In fact, she features this juxtaposition quite well by switching back and forth in the opening song between an almost baroque sound with harpsichord and some choral arrangements and the heavy grinding metal sound. One thing I found to be very nice about Tarja's music is that for me it had this sort of déjà-vu-like feeling to it – many of the songs felt familiar to me even though I had never heard them before.
There are two things I felt this album did very well: 1) it made me want to see the DVD, and 2) it made me decide that I REALLY need to get on to the task of listening to Tarja's solo albums. I do feel, however, that I need to point out two things that did bother me about this live album. First off, for every song on the album, the crowd noise fades in at the beginning and fades out at the end. For me, this kind of destroys the illusion, or the feeling that I'm "almost present" at the live event, and it was a little annoying to be honest. The second thing that bothered me was the Whitesnake cover, "Still of the Night" – now, my opinion of this one might be discolored a bit by the fact that I LOVE the original. But to me, I felt that Tarja's style of singing just didn't work well with this song – and I think Tarja has a gorgeous voice that I feel usually works well within a metal context. But that being said, this is still an excellent live Metal release, and I'm sure the concert was quite an experience!
Originally written for www.seaoftranquility.org