The reasons for Tarja Turunen's forced departure from Finnish power metal giants Nightwish remain unclear. The singer was unceremoniously dumped via an open letter, posted online, citing changes in her personality and business interests. Since then both parties have been surprisingly evasive about the subject, and many were hoping that Turunen would shed some light on the subject through her music. My Winter Storm, Tarja's first album of original material since the split, sees the singer lyrically defiant, but unwilling to deviate too much from the operatic metal style of her former posse. Now recording simply as Tarja, My Winter Storm topped the Finnish charts immediately upon its release, driven by the Mozart-inspired lead single "I Walk Alone." Overall, the album is softer and more reflective than her previous work, which tends to be the case when lead singers leave niche bands to pursue solo stardom, but the record is hampered by the compromise between her old and new styles. Clearly, Tarja wishes to branch out musically. She achieves this splendidly with "Oasis," a haunting symphonic opera track in her native tongue, the only composition credited solely to the singer. However, barring a couple of notable exceptions, including the single "Die Alive" and the thrashy "Ciar n's Well," the heavy metal aspect of My Winter Storm seems more of an afterthought than an integral element. They're straightforward pop rock songs with ill-fitting thrash riffs as a token gesture to fans, and as a result Tarja the singer never really gives herself a chance to shine. ~ Dave Donnelly
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