Not content with waiting until August before releasing her latest opus ‘The Shadow Self’, Finnish vocal gymnast Tarja has released a prequel of sorts called ‘The Brightest Void’, an album of new material to make the two month wait pass all the quicker for her legions of fans. Fears of the tracks being merely leftovers from the main course are pretty much unfounded as ‘The Brightest Void’ has enough chops to stand on it’s own two feet, with perhaps one of the greatest cover versions of all time thrown in for good measure.
Opener, ‘No Bitter End’, has a more polished sound than you might have expected from Tarja. It’s very American FM radio orientated, with its driving guitar riffs and catchy chorus. Ms Turunen copped some flak when the official video was released, as a few keyboard warriors took umbrage to her poppier sound, but when you consider her role as a coach on the Finnish version of TV show ‘The Voice’, then it’s understandable that she might look to win some new fans. Older fans need not worry though, as there are plenty of moments on the album where she unleashes the trademark Tarja metal soprano vocals to full effect, and her vocal range is as impressive as ever. Fellow ‘The Voice’ judge Michael Monroe pops up on ‘Your Heaven And Your Hell’, and any accusations of a watered down sound are blown right out of the water, as the song is an all-out assault on the senses. A short blast from Tarja gives way to a punkier attitude when Monroe comes in sneering in the way only he knows how, and the two Finns go toe to toe. The song has a mid section jam, where Monroe breaks out his harmonica, before melting into a smooth sax solo…. nice! Six minutes of punky rock ‘n’ roll bliss.
‘Eagle Eye’ has a more traditional symphonic rock feel to it. The uplifting chorus, the sweeping soaring vocals with an ethereal quality, and a guest appearance from Red Hot Chili Pepper, Chad Smith on drums. One of the stand out tracks on the album, that gets better with each listen. ‘An Empty Dream’ sees Tarja at her mysterious best, as she reins in the soprano aspect of her voice in favour of an almost whispering style. It’s very atmospheric, and sounds amazing through a pair of cans. ‘Witch Hunt’ is more of the same. Atmospheric, dark, and brooding, it’s very simplistic in its execution, and the minimalist approach of just Tarja’s vocals along with some orchestral arrangements works very well. Less is more. ‘Shameless’ sees the guitars make a welcome return, with a simple chugging riff throughout. in what could be described as “classic” Tarja symphonic metal. Having rested her voice on the two previous tracks, she unleashes the vocals that made her famous, and makes hairs stand on end.