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Tarja - Act I (Armoury Records)

By: David E. Gehlke

[7.5/10] A word to this wise: Don't ever read the comments on a Nightwish video on Youtube. You'll pull your hair out...if you're fortunate to have any. The perpetual badgering that goes down in the Tarja Turunen versus Anette Olzon debate has reached beyond stupid levels, primarily because someone had to replace Tarja and that person is Olzon. Nothing more, really. But of course, keyboard warriors have to poke fun at how Olzon moves on stage, or what key she sings "Wish I Had An Angel" in, or the color of her hair. (And no, yours truly does not head up the Anette Olzon North American fan club. It's just borderline ridiculous how people find the time to argue over innate stuff such as this.)

As for the former Nightwish frontwoman, she's enjoyed moderate success overseas with her solo career, occasionally touching upon the symphonic metal sound that made her famous, while opting for a more streamlined approach. None of this really suits her voice the way Nightwish did, yet she's gifted enough to make lemonade out of lemons, as evidenced by the relatively enjoyable nature of last year's What Lies Beneath. On her first live outing Act I, the singer presents a hefty double album's worth of material recorded in front of an adoring crowd in Argentina, with a cross-section of cuts from her three solo albums, and only one Nightwish jaunt, "Nemo."

Tarja's solo material comes across in a much more literal, less expansive way than Nightwish's. Since modern metal chugs embody tunes like "My Little Phoenix" and "Into the Sun," Tarja's voice is left to do most of the grunt work. And since she's only 35 years of age, her voice has hardly any wear-and-tear, able to hit those glass-shattering notes with ease, while playing the part of jovial songbird ("Over the Hills and Far Away") and reluctant symphonic metal starlet ("Until My Last Breath").

The dearth of Nightwish material on Act I is a prime indicator of how badly Tarja is trying to distance herself from her symphonic metal days. Invariably, she’ll always be a part of Nightwish’s storied past…it’s simply unavoidable. Yet with this live set, one cannot help but be swayed by her voluminous, bold, and beauitful voice. For now, she's timeless.

 Tarja official site

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