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Tarja - In the Raw

In the Raw
by Gary Hernandez at 17 November 2019, 1:48 PM

Tarja Turunen is an icon in the Symphonic Metal universe. A founding member of NIGHTWISH and later to launch a stellar 14-year (and counting) solo career, she continues to produce incredibly high quality music from Metal to Classical. On August 30, 2019 TARJA released “In the Raw,” her seventh full-length studio album if you include her Christmas releases, fifth if not. The album ranges the full spectrum of Symph from riff heavy, epic tracks to richly layered orchestral compositions. The albums features a small army of guests and studio artists, including Cristina Scabbia (LACUNA COIL) on “Railroads,” Tommy Karevik (SEVENTH WONDER; KAMELOT) on “Silent Masquerade,” and Bjorn Strid (SOILWORK) on “Dead Promises”

The album is a bit of an audio Cordon Bleu, you know, meaty on the outside and cheesy in the middle. Track one, “Dead Promises” is probably the heaviest song on the album, giving the enterprise a solid launch. The hypnotic lead guitar and deep groove-tinged riffs hypercharge the song. The choral chants add an epic punch and, of course, Tarja’s performance, accented with Bjorn’s, is excellent. The heaviness carries into track two, “Goodbye Stranger,” and levels out a bit with the catchy “Tears in the Rain.”

The album shifts gears with “Railroads,” a song inspired by writer Paulo Coelho. Over the next several tracks, the tempo eases, classical movements show up with more frequency and linger a bit longer, and lyrically the songs become more introspective. “You and I” is a gorgeous love song, reminding us of how great of a vocalist Tarja is, earnest and emotive across her full range. And then there is “The Golden Chamber: Awaken / Loputon yö / Alchemy” which will make your soul hurt . . . in a good way, not in the necrotic way like when you listen to Black Metal and summon the nameless one. Things pick up a bit with “Spirits of the Sea,” which balances the heavy and soothing and is probably my favorite song on the album. From there the album steadily picks up right through to the end. I should qualify that by saying the final track, “Shadow Play,” does have a light, soft opening but churns up to heroic proportions about halfway through.

Tracks I could do without? The first 37 seconds of “Silent Masquerade” and the 22 seconds between the 6:01 and 6:23 mark nearly killed me. Spoken word narratives are melodramatic and overwrought. Always. Other than that, I liked the entire album, both the meat and the cheese.

In the Raw” reminds us how good Symphonic Metal can be: Vocal performances executed to perfection, versatile songwriting, thoughtful arrangements, deeply talented musicians, excellent production values. Good, good stuff. Looking through TARJA’s discography can be daunting. It is remarkable that she continues to produce such strong work from her staring point in 1996. Voluminous begins to describe her output but also seems to discredit her talent — as if to say that the more an artist creates, the lower quality the product is. That might be true on an economic basis of supply and demand, but it doesn’t quite float in the world of metal. Tarja is both immensely prolific and immensely talented.

Songwriting: 8
Musicianship: 8
Memorability: 8
Production: 8


4 Star Rating

1. Dead Promises
2. Goodbye Stranger
3. Tears in Rain
4. Railroads
5. You and I
6. The Golden Chamber: Awaken / Loputon yö / Alchemy
7. Spirits of the Sea
8. Silent Masquerade
9. Serene
10. Shadow Play
Tarja – Vocals, Piano (tracks 5, 10)
Alex Scholpp – Guitars (tracks 1-4, 7, 9), Drum Programming (tracks 1, 2), Vocals (additional) (track 3), Bass (tracks 1, 3, 7, 9), Keyboards (track 3)
Christian Kretschmar – Keyboards (tracks 1, 8)
Kevin Chown – Bass (tracks 2, 10)
Record Label: earMUSIC


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