TARJA
"My Winter Storm"

(Vertigo/Universal)

01. Ite, Missa Est
02. I Walk Alone
03. Lost Northern Star
04. Seeking For The Reign
05. The Reign
06. The Escape of the Doll
07. My Little Phoenix
08. Die Alive
09. Boy And The Ghost
10. Sing For Me
11. Oasis
12. Poison
13. Our Great Divide
14. Sunset
15. Damned And Divine
16. Minor Heaven
17. Ciarán's Well
18. Calling Grace

RATING: 6/10

Beautiful, graceful, majestic… all adjectives that could be easily used to describe the high points of the former NIGHTWISH singer's second solo album since her less than amicable split with the Finnish symphonic metallers. Drawn-out and slightly pretentious could serve as the flip side of that coin. Continuing the trend set by her last outing, "Henkäys Ikuisuudesta" (a Christmas album), "My Winter Storm" gives the impression that the diva is trying to put some distance between herself and her metal past.

"My Winter Storm" comes across as more of an opera that makes infrequent use of rock instrumentation than it does a crossbreed of metal and classical music. I would imagine this was the way it is intended too, as the classically trained siren's voice sounds much more at home in this setting than it did with her work in NIGHTWISH. That's not to say that the hour-long disc is without its moments that cater to the staunch symphonic metal elitist. Lead single "I Walk Alone" showcases the operatic abilities of the singer, while still holding onto the structure of a traditional, symphonic rock tune. Songs like "Lost Northern Star", "My Little Phoenix" and the climactic "Die Alive" feature a little more beef in the guitar, bass 'n' drum department while still staying within the realm of Tarja's operatic vision. The dark yet obviously forced "Ciarán's Well" misses terribly and plays like someone took one of Turunen's spare vocal tracks and dumped it atop an up-tempo jam session. While her cover of ALICE COOPER's "Poison" is a step in the right direction when compared to the remake of ABBA's "Happy New Year" heard on the last album, the song itself is a mediocre affair at best.

It's on the more classical-based tracks that Turunen's stellar voice shines the brightest. Devoid of any rock/metal elements whatsoever, "The Reign" is a captivating example of what the songstress is capable of. Other awe-inspiring vocal performances include "Boy And The Ghost" and the haunting "Our Great Divide". The main problem with these, and tracks like them is that you either have to be a fan of this particular style or have the mindset needed to immerse yourself into this long and dedicated journey.

If you were a NIGHTWISH fan for Tarja's vocals, or arias are your thing, then "My Winter Storm" is right up your alley. With the small amount of guitar-driven metal found on this album, I don't see too many symphonic metalheads going nuts over this one. The main focus here is Tarja's pipes, and rightfully so as she's one of the best out there right now. It does, however, take more than just a pretty face (or voice in this case) to make an amazing record and "My Winter Storm" doesn't quite cut it. A solid and respectable effort though.

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