Saturday, July 13, 2024

Tarja – Rocking Heels: Live at Metal Church

Tarja Turunen fronted Nightwish for nine years, and a combination of her unique-sounding voice (nobody in rock was singing like her at that time) alongside Nightwish’s take on metal helped to instigate a new twist on the metal genre, symphonic metal. Since leaving the band in 2005 (she was ejected or she left, stories divide here) she’s built up a stellar career with a range of solo rock albums as well as engaging in some interesting side projects. Her music transgresses boundaries and genres and, alongside Sharon den Adel, she’s become one of the primo females in symphonic metal.

The electrifying performance of Rocking Heels was captured during a vibrant session at Wacken church, right before the 2016 festival. In an intimate setting, merely 300 fortunate fans were granted access to witness this extraordinary event through a selective draw. Seated on authentic pews within the sacred walls of a genuine church, she delivered an exclusive experience that will forever remain unparalleled. With her distinctive touch, she breathed new life into metal anthems from beloved artists like Metallica, Megadeth, and even Nightwish – leaving an indelible mark on both those lucky attendees and now us as well. The format doesn’t vary much right the way through the album. It’s Tarja’s powerful voice singing solo and accompanied, not by guitars, bass, synths and drums, but only by a piano, cello and violin and, whatever you think of Tarja’s voice, credit her for offering an original take on some top-notch rock tunes.

A prime example of this is her take on Metallica’s ‘The Unforgiven‘. You’ll probably know this track as a power ballad from the Black Album, with some pulsating guitar work from Kirk Hammett but, here, Tarja gives it a whole new reimagining and, instead, the middle eight consists of a cello duelling alongside a violin. Similarly with Linkin Park’s track ‘Numb,’ as she captures the vibe of an already powerful masterwork and gives an operatic twist to a song many fans regard as a classic. She also covers ‘Sleeping Sun’ from Nightwish’s 1998 album Oceanborn, and her impassioned vocals do justice to one of Nightwish’s better earlier songs.

Tracks such as Megadeth’s ‘Trust’ and Joe Satriani’s ‘Always With Me, Always With You,’ both of which feature some insistent guitar work, are both given operatic makeovers – with the former slightly more up-tempo and with a violin solo replacing the guitar on the latter track. 

Her best work on this album though, for this reviewer, is done on her own songs of which she does two originals ‘The Living End’ from Shadow Self and ‘I Walk Alone,’ from My Winter Storm – as well as a cover of a classic, Paolo Tosti’s Ave Maria, to which she gives a powerful rendition of.

Tarja’s voice is an acquired taste, and it isn’t to everyone’s liking but, on this album, she’s remarkably restrained and she stays true to whatever song she’s covering. She’s to be commended for attempting something very different, and largely succeeding.

Laurence Todd
Laurence Todd
Took early retirement after many years as a teacher in order to write books as well as about music. A long-time music obsessive, has wide and eclectic tastes but particularly likes prog rock and rock in general. Enjoys going to gigs and discovering new acts.

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Tarja Turunen fronted Nightwish for nine years, and a combination of her unique-sounding voice (nobody in rock was singing like her at that time) alongside Nightwish’s take on metal helped to instigate a new twist on the metal genre, symphonic metal. Since leaving the...Tarja - Rocking Heels: Live at Metal Church