Tarja – Colours in the Dark
Tarja – Colours In The Dark (2013)
Reviewed by Allyson Kenning
Following my interview with the woman herself in May, and being a long-time fan, this follow up to 2010’s What Lies Beneath was on my list of most-anticipated albums of 2013. Tarja said in that interview that the album art would be shocking, and it is. When it was released I was unsure about it, but assumed it would herald in a new phase for this artist because of how different it was, and I was right. Colours In The Dark, Tarja’s third solo album, I think, is her strongest release to date and it shows us a whole new side of this beloved singer.
We’ve had some teasers for Colours in the Dark, namely the single “Never Enough” (which had an accompanying video), which was a nice prologue to the album. The song, which is track four on the album, is a pretty straightforward piece with a catchy chorus and a more mainstream song structure. I do hesitate to use the term “mainstream” because of what it implies to the metal world – usually nothing good. But in this case, it works because my criticisms of Tarja’s previous works have been along the lines of “this is a little weird.” My perception of My Winter Storm and What Lies Beneath is that they had an awkwardness about them – a charming awkwardness, since I did like those CDs – but there were a lot of strange breaks in the music and sometimes the themes were confusing. With Colours in the Dark, there is a distinct smoothness and cohesiveness to the songs that wasn’t present before, and I have to say, I liked this a lot. It sounds more mature and more polished.
Starting things off on the CD, we have “Victim of Ritual”, which at first, with its staccatos and long pauses before the chorus, sounds like it might be hearkening back to What Lies Beneath. It begins with a sort of military-style drum intro, followed by an oboe melody before settling into a decently-paced groove. It’s a darker song, which is the other big change on this release: the lyrics are a little more sinister than we’re used to, and so is the sound.
Another positive change I found on this album was that I could actually understand what the songs were about from the lyrics. A great example of this is “500 Letters”, which, incidentally, is the next single, and Tarja is in the process of shooting a video for it right now. This song, to my reading at least, appears to be about a stalker. It’s creepy! You can find the lyrics here. The only song I didn’t get was “Mystique Voyage” which is sung mostly in Spanish.
In typical Tarja fashion, there is a cover on this album – “Darkness”, originally by Peter Gabriel. I have never heard the original so I can’t really comment on how it works. And there is also a guest vocalist, namely Justin Furstenfeld of rock band Blue October, who appears on the final, epic ending song, “Medusa”, which I liked a lot. This is a much less ballad-y CD than What Lies Beneath. Overall, Colours In The Dark is a faster paced effort, retaining the strong symphonic and bombastic elements we’ve seen from Tarja previously.
The only song I can honestly say didn’t work for me was “Lucid Dreamer”, which kind of had an odd, spacey mid-section in it, with some sound effects that made me really wonder what was going on. One of my friends described it as “artsy” and perhaps that is apt, but I just found it…odd.
So, on the whole, great album. Consistent in sound (heavy and dark), with lyrics that make sense to me, and of course that one of a kind voice that I have loved ever since I first heard it. The cohesion I mentioned earlier, and the consistency of the sound, really does show an evolution, and despite the more “mainstream” song structures, which were mainstream in a good way, in my opinion, I really think Tarja has delivered with Colours in the Dark.
4.0 // 5