Tarja's new album The Shadow Self is set for release in August, but during the recording process, the crossover Queen found that there were too many tracks to fit on just one album. The result is The Brightest Void, billed as a 'prequel' but essentially a collection of songs that failed to make the final album.
No Bitter End epitomises the converging of opera and metal that Tarja has become famous for and gets the album off to a flying start. Her beguiling soprano rings out over a power metal backdrop piled with guitar hammering and whammy bar solos. Heaven Or Hell uses former Hanoi Rocks frontman Michael Monroe to great effect over this mix of blues, opera and rock. Another surprise guest is RHCP drummer, Chad Smith, laying down some power for the theatrical Eagle Eye. Witch Hunt's ghostly symphonic soundscape and Tarja's forceful classical vocal bring the album in-line with her earlier work and could easily have been a cut from My Winter Storm; it's very different from anything else on the album and leaves us guessing which way The Shadow Self will play out in terms of musical style.
Off beam cover versions of House Of Wax and Goldfinger, are a bit of a let down due, in part due to poor song choice. Tarja's vocals continue where McCartney's emotive high tenor left off, but musically it loses it's way during the guitar solo and doesn't quite reach the heart-wrenching level of the original. Goldfinger is a song that many wouldn't touch after several Martinis at a karaoke, and with good reason. Shirley Bassey's Bond theme is so iconic that if the vocal isn't delivered right it can sound like a parody. Tarja gives the track a touch of Goldeneye with a rock backing and guitar laden arrangement. Her vocals alternate between seductive and shrill and are not textured enough to match Bassey. It's not the best choice of Bond song for her vocally, even if it is one of the most dramatic. Paradise featuring Within Temptation returns Tarja to her comfort zone in an explosive collaboration.
There's clearly a further development of a symphonic metal sound and moving away from the operatic metal tone of her first album. As far as crossover albums go, it shows promise for what is to come, but the reluctance to cut any of the material leads to some dubious additions and makes this album strictly one for the completists.