The album’s theme is a report on the determination Tarja summoned as the world went wacky around her. The album is also a pinnacle of IMAX metal. Lyric sopranos like Tarja Turunen are among the finest instruments produced by the human species, and her gift is worthy of an IMAX presentation. But like most of the movies offered on the ten-story screen, Tarja’s solo albums are forgettable. They’re made to be big and loud. They’re light in songwriting and heavy on the special effects of her 72-octave range. .
Colours In The Dark keeps the spotlights on the vocals, even if Tarja’s vibrato show hints of touring abuse. On the maddeningly flawed “Lucid Dreamer,” Tarja glides through an enchanting power metal melody that tingles the spine when she shoots for the high E. The song misguidedly interrupts itself in the middle for an ELO acid trip, featuring the world of sounds that must go through a zombie’s head.
The song returns from its smoke break and gets back to business, but the momentum is gone. Tarja is the chief composer on the album. She’s won armfuls of music awards. “Lucid Dreamer” might have led her back up on the awards podium if not for that self-indulgent dream sequence.
The album does excel in “Never Enough,” “Neverlight” and the shameless “500 Letters,” a fine piece of songwriting that blends the secret ego boost a stalker offers while wrapping an operatic skin around the skeleton of The Pussycat Dolls’ “Dontcha wish your girlfriend was hot like me?” In spite of this, these songs combine the incredible musicianship that permeates the album through the good and bad with a sumptuous production that allows the sound to kick butt all over the Pro Tools computers.
On Colours In The Dark, the guitars are to die for, so to speak. The rhythm section is perfection and above all, Christian Kretschmar’s keyboards are magical. There are many instances where the orchestral emulation invokes the old question, is it The Hamburg Philharmonic or is it a bank of Access synthesizers?
Colours In The Dark is riskier than Tarja’s previous three solo albums. The album is a huge panorama of operatic metal, where some artistic experimentation is attempted, but repeatedly crushed under the album’s bombast. The dramatic scope of the strings and choirs, guitars and woodwinds, arrangement and high-gloss presentation is truly wondrous.
Above it all, the metal diva reaches for heights where few notes fly. It’s frustrating though, that when Tarja reaches for those heights, she doesn’t float back down with a few songs plucked out of the darker clouds.
(Released August 27th, 2013 on Armoury Records)