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Worthy Of Tarja, And Worthy Of Us - 90%

PrincipleOfEVIL, May 25th, 2009

Imagine you are sitting by a warm hearth, away from the winter storm raging outside, fancy the smirking feeling of satisfaction because of your warm shelter and you might catch a mote of the listening pleasure this album bestows upon those who got rid of prejudices that might threaten its listening experience. I also fell victim to those - I admit - but after you stop expecting another ''Oceanborn'' or ''Wishmaster'' or some metallic storm, you might start to understand the real, somewhat disclosed beauty of this album.

The first element that drew my attention were the lyrics, especially those on the ballads and on ''Die Alive''. After hearing such lyrics as those on ''Our Great Divide'': ''How can I see through your eyes my destiny? I fall apart, you bleed for me. How can I see through your eyes our worlds collide? Open your (my) heart to close our great divide...'' - simple words, but effective, coupled with Tarja's delivery, it just made shivers run down my spine and I felt an instant connection with the music; or ''No more fate and no more mystery, even as time falls away, I live my days. Every moment and its memory, not only to survive to die alive!'' I must say I deem 90% of Nightwish lyrics to be puerile, vain, pathetic and illogical, with very few exceptions, ie ''Two For Tragedy. I was passing through a hard period and this album helped me go out of it almost unscarred. If tarja could walk alone, wherefore couldn't I? Nay, I can and I found my ''Minor Heaven'', hah.

No superfluous lauds are needed for her voice, but her delivery on this album is enrapturing, after that lukewarm outrage named ''Once'' and the somewhat low-standard ''Century Child'', what we have here is Tarja at her best- pristine beauty, always sounding relaxed, she easily delivers each songs and transfers the emotion onto the listeners' heart as she did so many times before. Now, I must say that this album is almost exclusively classical music with very few metal elements (in the form of background mostly basic riffing), but this, eventually, is not a problem. Beauty manifests in various forms.

As already said, the most beautiful songs are the ballads and the slower ones. Namely, ''The Reign'', ''Our Great Divide'', ''Oasis'' and ''Minor Heaven''. There are few faster songs - the opener, ''I Walk Alone'', an intelligent answer to Nightwish's strutting mosquito bites ''Bye Bye, Beautiful'' and ''Master Passion Greed'', ''Die Alive'', a highlight of the album, as this song thus blends classical and metallic elements to please both sides, ''Poison'', a cover which shows that Tarja is not that serious, and finally ''Ciaran's Well'', the heaviest song here, the only that could be called completely metal, with a very interesting part at the end where Tarja displays her vocal skills. There is a good balance of tempo and heaviness throughout the whole album, so it's not boring and dull.

True, there are lots of short intros, but they are introes and blend nicely with the songs they introduce. Saying they are a big flaw is just the result of the wish to find whatever flaw and not of constructive criticism. If you mind them that much, remove them from the playlist. Also, it is true that the metal band behind Tarja sounds robotic and generic at times, and this is something that should be improved, but this can be easily ignored. Once we stop putting our own wisnes upon the music and listen to it for what it is, only then can we start to really enjoy it. Moreover, listen the new single ''Enough'' or the remix of ''Damned And Divine'' (''Damned Vampire And Gothic Divine'') and you will notice this issue is no more.

In conclusion, while Nightwish made an utterly forgettable album which will appeal only to those who follow trends and/or mainstream tides, this album shows maturity and serious involvement in its creation, which should not be overlooked. But, as I said, to truly enjoy this album, the listener should get rid of prejudices and listen the music for what it is. This album might appeal to those who do not listen metal at all, especially to those who appreciate classical music, which is a plus. We can expect much more from Tarja after this, and with a reason, as she didn't used all her abilities here. The stakes are already high, that's sure!

Nightwish lite, at best - 35%

Emerald_Sword, March 6th, 2009

When Tarja Turunen was booted out of Nightwish in 2005, the band stated her growing interest with commercial success as the main reason, and while Nightwish seem to enjoy their own fame, this album does give some weight to their argument. This is for the most part really, really watered down symphonic rock that flirts more with nu-metal and modern rock than anything Nightwish has ever done.

I don’t know if Tarja even wrote these songs herself or if some self-proclaimed hitmaker did it for her, but whoever did it is a pretty damn poor songwriter. The songs on My Winter Storm are short, simplistic and filled to the brim with downtuned groove riffs and half-cooked symphonic arrangements that Tuomas Holopainen could have written in his sleep. Essentially they sound like half-decent Nightwish singles at best and half-decent Evanescence singles at worst. The detractors could probably say the same about Nightwish, but this is simply on a lower level altogether. Not even Dark Passion Play had a guitar tone this polished and harmless, and you would have to force feed Emppu Vuorinen and Jukka Nevalainen (guitars and drums, respectively) a considerable dose of valium in order to lower their standards to this level.

Tarja is obviously the star of the show here, but never have I heard a less engaging performance from the finnish soprano. Her voice sounds surprisingly cold and restrained, and no one could have saved the hopelessly uninspired vocal lines that plague several of the songs on here. She is, however, the only thing that keeps some of these songs above the surface. Her work on the ballads is as emotional and heartfelt as ever, and she really soars on the chorus to I Walk Alone and Our Great Divide. The latter is a genuinely good song, the highlight of the album, and could have replaced that finnish ballad on Once.

Oh, and did I mention that the album is way too long for it’s own good? Seriously, if you can’t vary your songwriting, try some new ideas or write some longer, more challenging songs, then your album shouldn’t be longer than 40 minutes. My Winter Storm is 60 minutes long, spanning 14 tracks (and four pointless interludes...) and it’s like they wrote three songs: a mid-paced symphonic rock song, a symphonic ballad and a slightly faster groove metal song and threw them into a blender in order to obtain the remaining 11 songs.

To all Tarja fans out there: don’t bother with this album. Tarja’s performance on here is actually weaker than Anette Olzon’s performance on Dark Passion Play, and in overall quality Mrs Turunen’s first solo outing doesn’t even come close to Nightwish’s promising but inconsistent and directionless debut. Overall Tarja’s solo project needs improvements in just about every aspect, but after listening to this debut album, I’m not even sure if making genuinely good music is its aim.

My Winter Mediocrity - 63%

The10thPlague, February 5th, 2009

As many, I had been waiting for Tarja’s debut album for quite some time after Nightwish kicked her out. I was shocked when I first heard of her leaving, for I thought Nightwish would be like a car without engine if it weren’t for Tarja. I was wrong in the end, although the engine certainly has less power nowadays. So, as you might expect, my expectations for Tarja’s own album were high. Even more so when I heard her Finnish single “Kun Joulu On” – a beautiful song that is.

However, I found myself quite baffled at the mediocrity of this album. Needless to say, Tarja has a great voice, but she doesn’t play WITH the instruments, she plays against them. Especially the guitars sound flat and very repetive. The rhythm guitar is only playing eighth notes, almost no variation. Sometimes a staccato riff emerges to the surface, but only for a few seconds. And what’s with the “intro’s”? Couldn’t she have stuck those intro’s into the next songs? The intro for “The Reign”, “Seeking for the Reign”, for instance is totally useless. It actually is just a part of “The Reign” itself. The more songs the better, eh? Not quite.

But the most baffling is how this album starts: It starts with a cover! It starts with a piece of Mozart’s “Requiem”. How on Earth can you start an album with a cover, that’s just heresy! The original may be hundreds of years old, but it’s still essentially a cover.

But with all those bad things said, there still are good parts of this album. The ballads are what make this album, they can still give me goose bumps. Without the mediocre guitars, Tarja sounds as beautiful as we would’ve expected. She can still pull of that voice which so many guys – and women - fell in love with. “The Reign” – including “Seeking for the Reign” – “Die Alive”, “Boy and the Ghost”, “Sing for Me”, and “Our Great Divide” are my favorites on this record.

I don’t know what to think about the Alice Cooper cover, though. I really like the song, but it doesn’t quite fit in a symphonic metal album. A sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll song doesn’t really fit in a ‘maidenly’ symphonic outfit.

Conclusion: This COULD have been a wonderful album .Without the mediocre guitars, and sometimes very flat backing vocals, My Winter Storm would be great. It’s sad that she let the music go so average. She needs to get in touch with her fellow musicians, so the music can enjoy more harmony. Now, the music and the vocals aren’t working together. For a successful album, it is necessary that all musicians work together. I’m giving this a 63, because Tarja’s solo career has potential, but only if she throws out the mediocrity. I’m giving her the benefit of the doubt; she proved she’s still capable of doing great things on the ballads. Now she's got to make beautiful metal songs as well!

Tarja, You're Doing it Wrong - 35%

Khull, October 11th, 2008

There are two types of people when it comes to Tarja Turunen. Those who find her classically trained voice mesmerizing and her figure erection inducing, and then there are those who scream and cringe at the first note of her operatic style while still managing to pop up at her figure. Myself, I've no shame in admitting I was of the first type. Her performances throughout early and mid Nightwish were simply breathtaking. When Once rolled around the originality and beauty she brought to the table faded, and to my great disappointment only continued to fade as she pursued her solo career and My Winter Storm.

Nightwish realized this early on when deciding to use Tarja as their vocalist; that her powerful voice needs to be carried by equally powerful music. Even when she's not showing off her vocal wankery, as heard during Oceanborn, her voice simply isn't light, but instead carries this naturally deep tone to it. This is especially present on ballads such as Sing for Me and Boy and the Ghost. The music on My Winter Storm, poor as it is, doesn't even begin to compliment her voice on anything other than the ballads, instead it acts as a distraction and ends up hindering rather than helping the album.

Musicianship is often times where solo albums and side projects fall short. Typically the other instrument players need to be brought in on an album-by-album basis unless the artist is competent with multiple instruments. It's like releasing a debut over and over, as the temporary members rarely have enough time to sync with each other. This shortcoming is painfully obvious on this album, as all instruments fail, though some more than others. Guitars and drums miss the mark equally; both offer the same boring, bland, uninspiring and unmemorable presence throughout the album, with the exception of Die Alive. Okay, so to be fair, the keyboards aren't terrible, but rather merely average. Songs like My Little Phoenix, Lost Northern Star, and Die Alive showcase decent keyboards, while I Walk Alone and the ballads present mediocre and rather weak melodies.

My Winter Storm takes one of my major pet peeves with albums and throws it right back at me four times over. Yeah, I'm talking about the four utterly pointless intros. What on earth are you going to accomplish in under a minute's worth of playtime? This isn't grind, so why not put more substance in intros who's purpose is to supposedly introduce separate chapters, sections, parts, whatever the hell you want to call them? The only positive thing they add are an additional four tracks to the song listing, because the number of songs is directly proportional to the success of an album, clearly.

I can't even give Tarja credit for providing a relatively full album! If we take away the digipack we lose three bonus song (And the dumbest song name in the entirely of the symphonic genre), bringing the count down to 18. The four pointless intros have to go, as they provide nothing of value, leaving us with 14. Minus another for the Alice Cooper cover of Poison, not only a relatively bad 'Cooper song, but also a rather poor cover in the first place. Down to 13, and I feel perfectly justified to cut out every other song besides Lost Northern Star, My Little Phoenix, Die Alive, Boy and the Ghost, Sing for Me, and Calling Grace. This leaves My Winter Storm sporting a total of seven (7) decent songs and an album length of a little over 25 minutes.

Had My Winter Storm been an EP containing only the songs above it would have been a respectable release, no question. The fact is there is simply too much filler, too much pointlessness, and too much mediocrity mucking up the potential the album might have had. I Walk Alone, The Reign, Oasis, Our Great Divide, Damned and Divine, Minor Heaven, and Ciaran's Will are all examples of the myriad mediocrity plaguing the album, showcasing nothing that isn't better on the other six tracks. If anything, they prove that Nightwish carried Tarja, not the other way around.

I truly hope this was a mistake Tarja has since realized. If you really feel the need to express your elation over being “free” from whatever it was you felt was holding you hostage back in Nightwish, then by all means do so, but at least provide decent music to back it up. Shouldn't 10 years with a respectable band in the symphonic genre give you a good idea as to how decent music sounds like?

Symphonic? Yes. Metal...? - 50%

alexxhighlander, July 15th, 2008

I waited for Tarja's My Winter Storm with so much hope and aticipation as any Tarja era Nightwish fan would. Surely I knew she had never been behind the marvelous songwriting of those beautiful songs, but she was and always will be the owner of that magnificent voice, so my hopes were very high.


I was also so mad at what had happened to my favorite band that I almost hoped this album would be nothing short of stupendous just for the sake of blowing Nightwish away... So I bought it upon its release and felt so much joy as the voice was obviously still there, and gave it about five listens in a row, only to find it grew tiring and... could it be? Yes, boring.


The lyrics are beautiful and Tarja sings with the same pomp and emotion that led me to fall in love with her singing many years ago. But the guitars are pretty weak, the drumming is just average, and the album just never really takes off. It is even hard to label this metal at all, as there isn't a single memorable guitar solo in its entirety, and the riffs seem repetitive and down in the mix.


The title track and opening song, "I Walk Alone", is impressive enough, with a very catchy chorus and its insinuating lyrics, which somehow sound like a direct answer to "Bye Bye Beautiful" on Nightwish's Dark Passion Play, stating that Tarja is not only alive and well but back with a vengeance.


But the vengeance is never truly fulfilled. What we get from that point on is very beautiful singing indeed, but that's about it. Alice Cooper's "Poison" gives us a break from the monotony of the songs about halfway through he album, but it sounds weak and just overall a bad choice for a cover, in a clear case of too little too late.


In my point of view, Nightwish and Tarja both have a problem now. There is only one Tuomas Holoppainen, and there is only one Tarja Turunen. Whoever wrothe the symphonic pieces on Tarja's album lacks the emotion and bombastic feel that comes so easily to Tuomas. Whoever wrote the "metal" part just forgot to add "heavy" to the mix. It is still beautiful music, but music which gets boring really quick as it lacks any real excitement.


I surely hope the end of this soap opera will be something quite like what happened to Iron Maiden and Bruce and Judas Priest and Rob in the past, with everybody happy ever after in the end, making great music.


I believe Tarja has great potential and the next album will be miles ahead of this one with the right lineup and better production. I give My Winter Storm a 50 for the singing, even though it does sound a bit weird at places as well. My favorite songs include "Die Alive", "Sing For Me" and "Oasis", for their passion and lyrics.

Decent enough - 79%

Dulthasil, June 27th, 2008

It is very easy to assume that solo projects such as this won't be worth the time of day. Many solo projects consist of a singer with an over inflated ego thinking they're more than the band they were previously in. With Tarja this is true in a way but not in others. What this album is, is decent; it isn't great nor dreadful and somehow still better than average.

The problem with this album is trying a little too hard i.e. 'Ciaran's wall' is quite frankly ridiculous. It's almost as if Tarja is trying to stay true to her 'metal roots', but it ends up feeling a little forced, this is true of quite a chunk of the album. Being symphonic metal so it's probably not right to criticise sections for being more metallic, but it's more the way it is executed. The guitarist on this album is really not good, the distortion is almost intrusive at times, it’s the tone jarring against the music s he fails to sound vast and epic; instead sounding sludgy and static. There are places that it works, i.e. in 'Lost Northern Star' but alot of the time it's just annoying, and this is mostly down to the tone of the guitarist. It would have been better to hear less of him, or used a guitarist better suited to this kind of music.

The most outstanding aspect of this album is Tarja's vocals. At times they are soft and soothing and others they soar brilliantly to dramatic climaxes. They really make this album and are hard to fault as a whole, the Alice Cooper cover perhaps being their weakest moment. It is good to hear a distinctive voice used so well.

In terms of the instrumentation the drumming is pretty uninspired, but I think if you're looking for inventive drumming you've come to the wrong place. The drumming is functional and that’s all it really needs here. The keyboards and other instruments used (i.e. the cello) fit well on this album which add alot to the must and at times it thankfully masks the grating guitar tone. The keyboards are used well if a bit obviously, overall pretty good.

To be honest, nobody really listens to this album for anything other than the vocals, doing this would be like listening to Rhapsody for the lyrical content. It is generally a good album with many high points, songs like "boy and the Ghost" and "my Little Phoenix" is really inspired. If you're a fan of symphonic metal then this will probably appeal to you. If you aren't you probably made up your mind the moment you saw its female fronted.

The strength of the desired freedom - 97%

Daniel_2007_Pendulum, March 8th, 2008

Well, it's not a surprise that, after being fired from Nightwish, Tarja had decided to take another step with her solo career. Tarja was born for singing, that's her passion and her most amazing skill; she has even inspired and influenced many new singers and female vocalists of metal bands (for example, Simone Simons).

Many people still believe that, without Nightwish, Tarja is nobody, that her only mission in her life is to stay with the band; and they go around the world acting as if she was dead. Well, I have news for those people: she is not dead, she is alive like never before, finally free to do whatever she wants and ready to keep on successing with her music.

But now let's talk about the album, Tarja's first non-Christmas solo album: "My Winter Storm". The title is excellent, and fits perfectly with the image that Tarja has showed recently: the ABSOLUTE empress of the winter. Also the artwork is amazing: the front shows Tarja as "The Queen of Ice" and, through the booklet, her remaining original characters exclusively created for this album appear ("The Dead Boy", "The Doll" and "The Phoenix").

Well, it's time to talk about the music. As it was thought, Tarja's music isn't as heavy as Nightwish's music, but it's more varied. Each song is completely different from the other, particularly lyrically. The fact that Tarja had wanted a mixed album gives it the good points needed to outstand in the music world.

The album is well balanced between its heavy and fast songs and its slow and symphonic ballads. This balance could be foretold even before the release of the album with the first single, "I Walk Alone". This song contains the essence of the entire album, making it a good choice for the first single.

Eighteen songs are included in the regular edition of the album. From those, about more than the half are almost-perfect songs. The ones that I personally like the most are: "I Walk Alone", "The Reign", "Oasis", "Our Great Divide", "Sunset" "Die Alive", "Minor Heaven" and "Ciarán's Well".
But none of these songs can be compared with the masterpiece of the album, the greatest, darkest and saddest song Tarja has released so far: "Boy and The Ghost".

But unfortuandely there are many songs that don't reach the songs I've already mentioned, and I still don't know why, but I dislike them a little. These songs are: "Sing For Me", "Poison", "Damned and Divine" and "Calling Grace".

I've also listened to the deleted "scene" of the album, only featured on its UK Limited Edition: "The Seer". It can't be explained why it wasn't released in North America, it's a good song!

CONCLUSION: Tarja is the female solo artist the rock and symphonic genred have been asking for. She came back with everything, and she has obtained the success she wanted to earn by herself. "My Winter Storm" is an excellent solo album, and it's definitely one of the best albums of 2007. Doubtlessly, the scent of freedom covers every single note of every song in this album. Congratulations, Tarja!

You may just be in for a surprise... - 84%

SilentDreams, February 5th, 2008

Tarja's first solo album is one that surprised me greatly. Being a fan of Nightwish for a while I was (as many were) a bit shocked at the sudden split of Tarja and her band mates. But as a fan I decided to stick around and see what she could come up with. Anyone who is familiar with the constant murmurings of Tarja's dislike of metal might agree that they were not surprised when her first album was in fact a very classical Christmas album. This only furthered my own belief that her first "real" solo album would contain much of the same. Yet here I am typing a review of this album for the Encyclopedia Metallum.

To give you an idea of the quality I'll start with the highlights. The first would be Tarja's voice. As always her operatically trained vocals are just as strong as on any Nightwish track. Sometimes I feel her vocals are actually stronger. At times I hear more soul and passion in her voice than I'm used to hearing in past recordings. None of the songs seem to have had more than about 40% input from her but you wouldn't realize that by the vocals on songs like "Sing For Me" and "Minor Heaven". What makes her vocals (and the tracks in general) more stunning is the overall production quality. Everything is lush and crisp for the most part. Any slightly 'clumsy' elements one might fight ("Ciaran's Well is a good example) are the songs themselves, not the production. But that's not to say the songs aren't for the most part very good. They are, I mean sure Tarja has the voice and as I've said the production quality was apparent but the lyrics and overall instrumentals have to be good to make an album work. They are, so this album does work. I must admit that with so many song writers working on each song separately (only a few having worked on the majority) one would imagine this album doesn't piece together well but it does. Aside from "Poison" (which is an Alice Cooper cover, obviously not having any input by Tarja's songwriters) they all are cohesive and complementary. Also on this album which I enjoyed is that Tarja tries to add a little bit of a story. It's not very strong or solid but one can see it's there. She's used four main characters; the Doll, the Dead Boy, the Queen of Ice, and the Phoenix. Not especially original characters but she gives them all their own song. Most are easily recognized by their titles "My Little Phoenix", "Boy and the Ghost", "The Escape of the Doll" and one might assume the song for the Queen of Ice is "I Walk Alone" though no song is explicitly shown to be for this character.

In keeping with the highlights I'll list a few songs which are stand-out favourites for myself. The first being "Minor Heaven", a very powerful ballad which as said above Tarja really is able to emote. "Damned and Divine" is another fine track. It's slower paced track which has a very melodic quality I find quite catchy. Obviously the first single "I Walk Alone" is still fantastic. It was probably the best choice for a first single. Though while still good and in my favourites there is so much better. "My Little Phoenix" was quite a grower. At first it was OK but through a few repeated listens the song really clicked. Their is one riff before the chorus which is just amazing. Not that intricate I expect but it just fits very well and makes the song in my opinion.

Getting on to the negative. Surprisingly there isn't much to be found in the negative. I would say though that some songs feature instrumentation which sounds a little too stiff or robotic at times. As another reviewer stated it is in fact a live band but sometimes I felt as if it just as easily could've been samples. Another flaw would be the mostly unnecessary intros to many songs. They're nice and do fit with the music but none of them are over about 30 seconds in length. Personally I rather they just be added to the beginning of the song. My guessing is they were made separate to make the album seem a little longer. Though I really think it isn't needed. If one combined the intro tracks into the songs they fit with she'd still have 14 tracks. A decent number for any album. It also could be assumed that these were left separate to keep the feeling of a story going with the aforementioned characters. But as said above the story isn't that strong or solid. It's a nice touch and makes the music a little easier to recognize/connect with but it's not as important as one my assume by reading the track list.

I would like to add that the album is predominately mid-tempo. I don't mind this so much but I figure it should be added so people don't expect any "Wish I Had An Angel Pt.2". Trust me, it's not on this album.

Overall I think this is a good release that deserves a listen even by hardcore Holopainen fanatics. It's one of my most played albums of the last few weeks. And for those wondering how it compares to the new Nightwish album I picked up "Dark Passion Play" a few days ago to finally give it a listen and compare. I realized that it too is a OK album. Neither of them will ever make a stunning album without the other. But in listening to both albums I realized I much preferred this album. I can't believe I'm saying it but Tarja made the better record it's one that actually leaves you wanting repeated listenings.

She Walks Alone - 85%

winterheathen, January 29th, 2008

Only a few months after her former band released their mega hit Dark Passion Play, former Nightwish singer Tarja Turunen comes out with something of her own, her first official solo release excluding a Christmas album many years ago. It really isn't a metal album, though, but still a very intoxicating listen for lovers of her magnificent voice.

Its starts off with first single I Walk Alone after a brief and unnecessary intro. Anyone who's heard the song knows that its heavy, beautiful, and insanely catchy. Unfortunately, it is by far the best heavy tune to be found.


My Winter Storm's strengths lie within the mellower songs, particularly The Reign and Oasis, songs that are driven by Tarja's still remarkable voice and an enviable orchestral arrangement. Tracks like those make me wish that this was a non-metal album, and give me goosebumps. The heavier songs suffer from a lack of cohesiveness, each one seemingly written by a different group of people, and none who are is the same league as Tuomas Holopainen. They are also too "modern" sounding, for lack of a better word, more accessible than I would like. The worst is Ciarians Well, coming off as an uninspired combination of Nightwish, Dream Theater, and Evanescence. In the future, Tarja would benefit from having the same group of songwriters for every song. Also noteworthy is an awkward cover of Alice Cooper's classic Poison. Its more funny than good, and it really sticks out in the middle of the disc. It probably would have been served being a hidden track or the B-side of a single.

To sum up, Tarja is still good without Nightwish, and Nightwish is still good without Tarja, but without each other, there is something lacking. They had a chemistry, a magic, that each will be hard pressed to ever find again. Still, this is a very likable album, one that I wouldn't enjoy as much if sung by any one else other than Tarja. Her charm and personality are undeniable. I can only hope that her future solo efforts will continue to get better.

The queen of ice cometh! - 90%

blackoz, December 12th, 2007

Tarja Turunen is a beautiful woman with a beautiful voice. Even before she opens her mouth she is completely captivating: the penetrating eyes, the proud cheekbones, the perfect arc of the pursed lips, the finely chiseled jaw line and the statuesque presence. Here, commanding your attention on “My Winter Storm”, Tarja is the Queen of Ice, feathered in fallen snow and cloaked in crystal satin, and you get the disturbing feeling that her chillingly forbidding, frosty stare could freeze your delicate bits off at fifty paces.

Those disappointed with Tarja’s low-key Christmas album, “Henkäys Ikuisuudesta”, can take heart that the great singer is back on familiar ground. Grinding guitars and thunderous drums, big harmonies and Carl Orff choral stabs have all returned but don’t assume that this is just another Nightwish disc. From the opening orchestral breath, “My Winter Storm” is most definitely a Tarja solo album.

While Nightwish albums have always been well-crafted, the production here is truly stunning, giving Tarja’s voice a huge and holographic presence and a vast soundstage in which to stretch out. Listen on quality headphones and the effect is spine-chilling. Tarja is no longer simply fronting a powerful instrumental backline. The singer is now in total command. She has co-written most of the tracks and you can feel from the off that she is relaxed and in her element, loving the freedom of running the show. Her voice soars, beautifully controlled, warm and whimsical. True to form, despite her operatic inclinations, Tarja never overindulges in vibrato, applying just enough to shape and distinguish the notes she wants to emphasize. Any tendency to shout that she might have shown in Nightwish has gone completely. This is Tarja’s finest hour to date as a singer.

The material is worthy of her talents. There are orchestral ballads and powerful metal-driven rockers in equal measure, all solid compositions with no filler. The tracks follow a thematic sequence and the remarkable photos in the accompanying booklet give you an idea of the story, although you will have to become familiar with the lyrics to fully get the gist. This is not essential, certainly on first listens, because the album is such an aural treat that you’ll find yourself playing it right through several times without effort. It’s that good.

As a result I’m reluctant to single out individual tracks for recommendation. “I Walk Alone” has been lifted as the first single and at least a couple of other tunes qualify as successors. Nonetheless the album works best as a whole. Most songs segue into each other to enhance the storyline structure. For example, “Ite, Missa Est” and “The Escape of the Doll” are very short transition pieces – musical sorbet if you like – to set the mood for the following tracks, “I Walk Alone” and “My Little Phoenix” respectively. If pressed, though, I’d have to nominate the gorgeous and powerful “Boy and the Ghost” as a favourite ballad. When it comes to rockers there are plenty to choose a favourite from but it’s hard to go past “Poison”, an unashamed slice of glam metal tease. Keep your feet still during that one, I dare you.

Criticisms? While the string arrangements are rich and sensuous, the rock band instrumentation sounds a little robotic and sequenced. It’s a live band, according to the liner notes, but you might find yourself missing the old, more organic sounding Nightwish rhythm section.

This small quibble aside, “My Winter Storm” is pure enjoyment, a guilty pleasure for those who might like to see themselves as true metalheads, and an ideal Christmas-present-to-self for everyone else.