How confusing. Those of you sitting twiddling your thumbs thinking you’ve got until August before you have to nip out to the shops to pick up the new Tarja album…. You’re wrong! Because here she is with what she calls a ‘prequel’ album to The Shadow Self, namely The Brightest Void.

And what a dazzling little disc it is too! Duets, cover versions, star collaborations, they’re all here and all go to make up one of the perkiest releases I can remember from the Finnish Ice Queen,
Tracks like the electro-propelled An Empty Dream and Witch Hunt are a delight to listen to, with Ms Turunen reminding most of the opposition (I say most, and I’ll explain why later), why she’s still top of the tree in the female metal vocalist stakes, whilst her duet with Hanoi Rocks’ Godlike frontman Michael Monroe is also a must-hear.

Elsewhere Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith weighs in on Eagle Eye, but perhaps the most interesting triumvirate of tracks are those which fill the last three spots on the album. The first, an intriguing reading of Paul McCartney’s House of Wax (from his 2007 album Memory Almost Full) works beautifully, as Tarja transforms the song into a brooding, stadium metal epic; Following track Goldfinger is glorious, pure and simple. Tarja Turunen takes on Shirley Bassey and wins with a spine tingling version of the classic James Bond theme tune, at once deliciously kitsch yet also devastatingly, coldly efficient, making the song her own against all the odds. However final track Paradise (What About Us) is a little more problematic.

I mentioned earlier that Turunen was ahead of most of the pack, and this final track proves that statement as our heroine is bested here by the peerless talent that is Within Temptation’s Sharon den Adel. I’m sure Sharon didn’t see her contribution as anything like a competition, it’s just that her beautiful, soulful gift of a voice totally owns the track, leaving Tarja sounding slightly stiff and brittle by comparison. It was a big risk getting another big voice involved, and though the track itself is a belter its success in terms of the album is moot.

Still, let’s not let that little glitch get in the way of what is, in all respects, one of the most enjoyable records Tarja has ever lent her undoubted talents to.

The Brightest Void is out now.