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Tarja - Act 1 Review

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Tarja - Act 1

Tarja - Act 1

Armoury Records
Finnish singer-songwriter Tarja Turunen (often known professionally as Tarja) is best known for her haunting lyric soprano voice and for her role as the long-time lead vocalist and founding member of the symphonic metal band Nightwish. Since her dismissal from Nightwish in 2005 (in the form of a public open letter written by the best of the band wherein they announced that they no longer believed that Tarja was the right fit for the band's style and values), Tarja has embarked on a successful solo career.

Act 1 is her first live album, released on the Armoury Records imprint of Eagle Rock, and is available in multiple formats: double CD, double DVD and Blu-ray. The album was recorded in March of 2012 at the Teatro el Circulo in Rosario, Argentina where Tarja performed for two nights in a row.

Act 1 includes a broad range of material, including many from Tarja's three solo albums (especially My Winter Storm and What Lies Beneath), some Nightwish classics (like the soaring, operatic “Nemo”) and some previously unreleased original compositions.

Act 1 also contains a numbers of covers and tributes, including a rendition of Andrew Lloyd Webber's “The Phantom of the Opera” and Gary Moore's “Over The Hills and Far Away,” which closes the album. There are a few amusing diversions as well (which can be refreshing or silly depending on your personal tastes), like the ‘80s medley that includes parts of Belinda Carlisle's “Heaven Is A Place On Earth.”

Tarja has an extraordinary voice and is an extremely charismatic singer, qualities that Act 1 shows off extraordinarily well. Her voice has deepened and darkened is recent years while losing none of her upper range, resulting in a tone that can be treacle dark and syrupy, rich and warm and velvet but also silvery light and nimble, as each song demands.

The sound is also captured beautifully; the quality of the recording is near-flawless, and it is easy to forget that you are listening to a live album, but for the cavernous sense of space that is faintly palpable and the ecstatic reactions from the crowd. The production is full and rich, complementing the operatic quality of the music well.

If you are a fan of Tarja, whether you favour her work with Nightwish or her solo material, you will greatly enjoy this album. It has the feel of a mid-career retrospective, and accurately captures and celebrates many of the best qualities of her talents and techniques.

There is a certain indulgent, celebratory quality to the record that may be a necessary evil from the nature the tour and specific live show this captures, but without a unifying theme to it, Act 1 does come across as much as an exercise of ego than of art. Still, for fans of Tarja and symphonic heavy music in general, Act 1 is supremely well done.

(released September 4, 2012 on Armoury Records)

Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
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