Tarja_Colours-In-The-Dark_StandardWhen Tarja Turunen took her larger-than-life operatic talents out of Nightwish and off to South Beach, she and her former band-mates engaged in enough back-biting and insults to fill an entire season of a Mexican soap opera (and a few Mexican wrestling matches as well). When all the bickering was done, Nightwish acquired Anette Olzon and soldiered on as Tarja began her solo career in earnest. While Nightwish has fared respectably with a few decent albums under their belt in the post-Tarja era, Tarja‘s solo outings have ranged from average to rather bad. Her voice remains a powerful and impressive tool, But she’s really struggled as a song-writer and a lot of her compositions strive for a blend of symphonic rock and goth metal that never quite gels. I heard slight improvement on 2010s What Lies Beneath, but it was nothing I needed to hear again and the album was quickly forgotten. Now she’s back with her third outing, Colours in the Dark (technically her fourth since she released a solo album whilst still in Nightwish), and it’s a mixed bag of cats. There are songs that work fairly well and a few that actually rock, but the song-writing is still very uneven and spotty. However, you can almost always count on Tarja to over-sing everything and her commitment to bombast makes things interesting and sometimes unintentionally hilarious. The best stuff is that closest to Nightwish and I’m not sure that’s a good thing.

Things open positively with the oversized Nightwish-esque, epic pomp of “Victim of Ritual” where Tarja goes Full Diva (you never go full diva!!) with way over-dramatic singing as she rolls every hard R she can find. If you can imagine Nicholas Cage as an opera singer, she sounds exactly like that, but the song is oddly fun and works in a goofy, endearing way. “500 Letters” is essentially a simple rock song that Heart could have written in 1983, but blown up by operatic fetishism and unrestrained enthusiasm. When Tarja sings the pop rock chorus like it’s Nessun Dorma, you’ll roll your eyes and laugh since it’s the aural equivalent of hunting quail with field artillery. Then you realize the song is stuck in your head like a goddamn pitchfork and Tarja has the last laugh. Tunes like “Lucid Dreamer” and “Deliverance” try to mine the same vein that Nightwish did with “Nemo” and both are decent, if a bit too lazy and sedate.

Colours-in-the-dark-promo-1Also respectable, but on the dull side are tracks like “Mystique Voyage” and “Darkness,” where Tarja goes for mood and angst. “Medusa”, the lengthy closing track has a more attention-grabbing and ominous feel and Tarja is paired with Justin Furstenfeld (Blue October). It’s an interesting choice since Justin has a very Dave Matthews kind of delivery to counter-point Tarja’s drama queen wails. It works more often than not, though it feels too long.

Things go south with the nu-metal crunch of “Never Enough” which suffers from annoyingly overwrought vocals and a generic, phoned-in feel. “Neverlight” sounds like unused, watered-down Korn songs with Tarja going big on the opera over chunky, bland riffs. “Until Silence” is a big, sappy ballad loaded with 80s style Euro-pop keys and actually sounds like Erasure wrote it while on a major crying jag. As the song progresses it even starts to sound like the theme to Titanic (near…far…WHEREEVER YOU ARE!!!). Not good.

Tarja_Colours-In-The-Dark_press-pictures_photo-credit-Eugenio-Mazzingh_3There’s no denying Tarja has a big voice and that’s the appeal for her fans. She does manage to include nuance on the quieter, moody songs, but regularly overdoes it with the Diva schtick and sometimes it works, sometimes it totally doesn’t. A big issue here is the way the guitars are either muted, non-threatening and buried in the mix, or jacked up and made into nu-metal parodies. I get that this isn’t meant to be all that heavy, but the guitars are so often drowned out by the symphonics and the vocals, it makes it feel too soft and weak.

I’m not sure I’ll ever love a Tarja solo outing and I doubt she’ll ever rejoin Nightwish, so I guess I’m stuck. This is her best release as a solo artist, but it isn’t one I’ll be returning to often. If you crave soft, symphonic-laden goth metal with opera vocals, parts of Colours in the Dark will probably appeal to you. If you’re hoping this tops the recent output from her former band, you can forget it. I do love the odd, video-game like cover with Tarja dressed like the dude from Prototype.

Rating: 2.5/5.0 — Nightwishy-washy
Label: Universal Music Group
Websites: tarjaturunen.com  |  myspace.com/tarjaturunen
Release Dates: EU: 2013.08.30 |   NA: 09.03.2013

  • I get flak for enjoying Nightwish as much as I do, but truth is I began to enjoy them in earnest when Tarja left the band. Tuomas Holopainen is a fantastic songwriter with an incredible ear for melody and drama, and I think Nightwish has only gotten fresher and better musically without Turunen’s overpowering vocals. Its like you were saying in your review, she takes a simple Heart-like rock song and dampens it with the sheer weight of her vocal delivery.

    I’m not saying she’s a bad vocalist by any means, in fact her vocals on Nightwish’s Oceanborn were often stunning, but her voice would wear on my patience after awhile. She basically needs to hire a songwriter who could gift her with songs like “Ever Dream” and “Nemo”, where operatic heights were blended or balanced with really smart pop sensibilities.Its all about understanding your strengths. She’s been trying in vain to experiment with different styles in her solo career.

    I haven’t heard this solo record yet but if its anything like her others as you suggest, then she’s still hell bent on trying to have her cake and eat it too.

    • Ralph Plug

      My problem with Tarja (and Tarja era Nightwish) is the same as I have with a band like In Extremo. The vocal range, whilst impressive, is very restricted, which leaves you with little to no place to go, just like with the bagpipes in In Extremo’s music. It’s undoubtedly good, but in the end, very same-y. Nightwish got better musically as soon as they could go and move away from that full-blown operatic style.

      What I’m basically trying to say is that Tarja Turunen is like a bagpipe.

  • Mariam Chikovani

    I absolutely love this album

    • Mariam Chikovani

      I’m not a crazy fan :D Colours in the Dark is anything but metal and Tarja’s vocal gets boring and irritating but still there is something I love about this album, I don’t know exactly what

  • Not about the record, really. I just want to say, I’m not sure bell bottoms were a good style for anyone.

    • I think she looks pretty hot. Just saying….

  • This is by far her best solo effort, but on the other hand it wasn’t too hard to top previous efforts…

    Like you, I doubt I’ll be returning to this album, but fans of her solo work should find here enough decent material…

  • Raphael Mangini

    I’m also not a fan of her solo work, BUT, I do not quite agree with this review. It was not partial, with a thousand comparisons completely nonsensical! Beyond that, all that irony and sarcasm are dispensable… To complete, the album has absolutely nothing soft, which to me, is exactly one of the problems, the guitars are too heavy, and the vocals are overly operatic, like the last one. For her to release a good album, it would need to be a mixture: the symphony of MWS, the well balanced “heaviness” of WLB and the lyrics of CITD. For her to release a great album, all she needs to do is make an album with songs like “The Crying Moon”.

    • Firstly, you complain about some of the same stuff I did (overly operatic singing), yet say my review is somehow unfair.

      Secondly, I cannot see how you think this album is “too heavy.”

      Thirdly, no review is impartial (which I assume is the word you were looking for).

      Lastly, if you don’t like sarcasm, don’t read my reviews.

      Extra lastly, you’re a silly man.

      • Raphael Mangini

        See, is exactly that kind of attitude what I meant…

        Firstly, yes, I agree with some parts of your review, not all of it.

        Secondly, I think is heavy because, among other things, guitars are “in your face” (in this case, ears) ALL the time.

        Thirdly, it was a typo, and yes, reviews should be unbiased!

        Lastly, I don’t know how old you are, but you should know that opinions differ. People should be able to discuss opinions without personal insults, which was what you did, I did not, not in my first text neither this one.

        With that said, I think there is nothing more to discuss, it would be useless.

        • Since when is “silly man” an insult? Wow, you are a sensitive kinda metal dude, aren’t you?