Colours in the Dark is the third solo album from Finnish metal diva Tarja Turunen, following on from 2010′s “What Lies Beneath. A lot of water has flowed under the bridge since Nightwish dramatically sacked their lead singer way back in 2005. Her old band have re-invented themselves while Tarja herself bounced back strongly and quickly found her voice as a solo artist.
The album begins as it means to go on, starting with an excerpt from Ravel’s Bolero leading into powerchord riffs and falsetto vocals that come over as a heavy metal Lena Lovich. Despite a little less use of choirs and orchestras, it’s still perhaps her strongest and most musically ambitious album to date.
The album takes in metal and pop with a heavy dose of progressive rock alongside some big sweeping ballads that wouldn’t sound out of place in a West End musical but for the metal guitars. There are a couple of very commercial numbers with huge pop choruses; indeed, “Never Enough” is effectively Abba with powerchords up to the distorted white noise of the outtro.
Classical motifs reappear in the epic “Lucid Dreamer”, containing an eerie atonal instrumental section that eventually gives way to a theme from Grieg’s “Peer Gynt” suite; for once, it’s something other than “Hall of the Mountain King”. The snatch of John Barry’s James Bond theme at one point in “Deliverance” makes you wonder if Tarja is angling to sing a Bond theme. If she did she’s be the most powerful voice since Shirley Bassey sang “Goldfinger”. The album ends with the epic “Medusa” with its evocative flute line. Much of the album demonstrates how symphonic metal and progressive rock have always been close cousins, with the combination of big guitars and complex classically-derived arrangements.
It’s all completely over the top, but then it’s a Tarja record, and you wouldn’t really expect anything else; it would be like expecting Meatloaf to make a lo-fi Americana album. As the ice-queen of symphonic metal, she doesn’t put much in the way of soul-baring emotion on this record, but like the bombastic arrangements, it’s what Tarja does.
If you prefer a record with a lot of emotional depth, then perhaps this record is not for you, but if you have room for over-the-top melodrama that isn’t afraid to verge on the cheesy, then there is a lot to like about this album.
(This review also appears in Trebuchet Magazine)