February 21, 2008

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Tarja, My Winter Storm
Universal Records, U.S. Feb. 26
Europe has yielded a few glum-faced, overly metalized coveters of the Evanescence throne — Norway’s Octavia Sperati, Austria’s hapless, underrated Visions of Atlantis for two. A fetish for pure opera catapulted wizard-bearded Finnish band Nightwish to the front of the line, and there they waited, for just a little U.S. love, for several years until their very public separation from singer Tarja Turunen, sealed through a pair of War and Peace-length open letters committed to the Internet in 2005.

Turnen’s subsequent solo album did away with all the Armored Saint power-metal, leaving her with the kind of deal that happened when Dio left Sabbath — dirgey power chords over-decorated with Macy’s-Thanksgiving-balloon-sized quasi-opera vocals. Her second album, this guy here, shows that she’s worked on her writing some, one successful result of which is the instantly breathtaking track “Sing For Me.” Toward the appreciation of that song and pretty much everything else, a taste for Verdi goes a long way; Turunen’s soprano refuses to quit diva-mode, i.e. her jive can get unintentionally Rocky Horror-campy when the songwriting isn’t up to scratch. A cover of Alice Cooper’s “Poison” is the low point. C+ — E. W. S.