Tarja + Temperance + Beneath The Embers @ KK’s Steel Mill, Wolverhampton – Thursday February 2nd 2023


It was a long wait but Tarja finally made it to Wolverhampton in support of In The Raw, her eighth studio album that was released back in August 2019. Finland’s premier vocalist was accompanied by an incredible band of musicians including the sensational Doug Wimbish on bass and her long time collaborator guitarist Alex Scholpp. For Wimbish this was another departure from his career with Living Color that has seen him work with artists as varied as Annie Lennox, Billy Idol, Depeche Mode and Steve Van Zandt. Completing the band were Max Lilja (cello), Christian Kretschmar (keyboards) and drummer Alex Holzwarth.

There were a couple of support acts who both succeeded in getting the crowd warmed up for the main event. Italian melodic metal outfit Temperance didn’t have the best preparation having lost both their drummer and female vocalist on the eve of the tour. Fortunately, they were able to enlist the help of two more than capable replacements in Marco Sacchetto and Lina Victoria. Their songs are characterised by rapid fire vocals shared between Lina, Marco Pastorino and Michele Guaitoli, powerful arrangements and catchy hooks and, considering this line-up have only played together a handful of times, this was a passionate and intense performance. Songs such as ‘Breaking the Rules of Heavy Metal’ and ‘Of Jupiter and Moons’ went over extremely well. Building a strong reputation as a band to watch, Colchester based Beneath The Embers opened the evening with a brutal onslaught of contemporary metal that saw thirty minutes speed by in the blink of an eye. Vocalist Lewis Rowland engaged with the audience from the time they hit the stage and even challenged one of the front row to a “thumb war” (which he duly won). We saw enough to be impressed by this five piece and they will be back in Wolverhampton on March 31st at the Giffard for their own headline show.

With each band member taking the stage one by one, the dramatic introduction to ‘Serene’ saw Tarja’s voice immediately soar around the venue and it was more than evident that the enforced break from touring has certainly not diminished her range and power. The Queen of operatic metal was in terrific form, the macabre ‘Anteroom of Death’ really moving the performance up a gear with its sinister overtures. In spite of Tarja’s dominating stage presence, the band were not simply there as backing musicians and she regularly interacted with each of them; all five were given a solo spot during an extended ‘Goodbye Stranger’ that saw Wimbish’s funky bass and Schlopp’s raw guitar trading licks. Tarja then returned with a nod to her past in the shape of the towering ‘Wishmaster’, as it turned out the only Nightwish song of the evening. It was then time for everyone to catch their breath as the vocalist was left alone on stage, sat at her keyboard front and centre for a beautiful rendition of ‘You And I’, arguably the stand out song from In The Raw. 

The show was presented with a production that made good use of visuals as a backdrop, notably during ‘Tears in Rain’ and ‘Victim of Ritual’, and you could easily imagine it being performed in an arena. Not that anyone was complaining at the opportunity to witness Tarja in the more intimate setting of KK’s Steel Mill of course, the crowd summoning the band back for a four song encore that included ‘I Walk Alone’ and ‘Until My Last Breath’. In the years since Tarja split with Nightwish she has released consistently strong albums and entered into some diverse collaborations. No one will have left the venue disappointed after what was an absorbing display of musical excellence and that incredible voice. Here’s hoping it’s not too long before Tarja returns to these shores and we can enjoy it all over again.

Set list:-

Demons in You
My Little Phoenix
Anteroom of Death
Goodbye Stranger
Silent Masquerade
The Golden Chamber (Loputon Yö) / You and I
Tears in Rain
Victim of Ritual

I Walk Alone
Dead Promises
Until My Last Breath