—I WALK ALONE: FROM RONNIE JAMES DIO TO TARJA AND BACK TO DIO—

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Review by Zach Brehany
9/18/18

As a child growing up, I remember that a very dear and special musician to me was Ronnie James Dio. It didn’t matter to me if he was in Rainbow, Black Sabbath, solo, or Heaven & Hell. If it was his voice, I was hooked. There was always something theatrical about his lyrics, his presence on stage, and a voice that sounds both like an angel and a demon.

Back when I was in music class, I ended up learning that as he was learning how to sing, he would you various opera singers from the past to be his inspiration, a main one being Mario Lanzo. With my knowledge of rock/ metal singers, it usually goes back to jazz and the blues. So, when I learned what inspired Dio’s musical styles, I was a bit in shock and flabbergasted. I was young and this was all new to me.

While looking into his theatrical techniques, I started looking deeper into hard rock and heavy metal. It was usually whoever Dio influenced. But then, one day when I was bored, I learned of Tarja from her performance in Nightwish’s End of an Era. That was my second musical love. I was just obsessed.

When Dio sadly passed away in 2008, I turned to symphonic metal more and more until I was listening to the top three queens of Symphonic Metal* (Tarja, Simone Simons, Sharon den Adel). During this time, I was starting to venture out into male vocal variations of this genre. The only one I really found that stuck with me was Kamelot’s Ghost Opera album. But then, I learned of someone.

The artist was named Jorn and as far as I was concerned, he could be the next Dio. He had that presence, that personality, even down to the most simple of vocal qualities. I felt reborn again. So, for a while I listened to him until I got to Tarja’s solo albums. After becoming as much as a fanatic as I am now, I decided to relive some nostalgia by listening to the bands I grew up with.

Jorn came up again due to the Dio connection and the amount of covers and tributes he has done for the man. But I decided to listen to one of his albums I completely forgot about: Spirit Black. One day I am going to want to write out my thoughts on the album, but the short version is that it is wonderful. Great sound, great lyrics, and great cover.

That cover I referenced was his take on Tarja’s I Walk Alone. That is the purpose of this editorial.

When the track started to play, I thought it sounded a bit familiar as if it was a ghost from my past. As the instrumental continued on, I started figuring out what was off. And then, Jorn’s majestic voice sung out: Put all of your angels on the edge… I started to laugh.

I was laughing so hard I had to step outside and indulge in a cigarette, something I rarely do now a days. After a few moments of calming down, I went back inside and in complete seriousness, I heard his cover from beginning to end.

Once the song was done and over with, I just had a smile on my face. It was like a breath of fresh air. There is no denying or even arguing how great the original one is. It is actually one of the songs that are in my ‘Great Symphonic Metal Songs’. But I feel like doing a right up on this cover because it pulls things into full circle back when I said everything I did about Ronnie Jame Dio.

But first, the thoughts on the cover. It is interesting hearing those lyrics in a different context. The change in performer in a song can alter the mood, the vibes, even the meaning can be changed. A great example of this to check out is Lana del Ray’s and Jessica Lange’s cover of Gods and Monsters. Both great, but for different meanings.

That is the vibe from this version. With Jorn’s voice and the lack of symphonic orchestration, what we have is a more darker, grittier version. Here, we get an image of a powerful man. Maybe a great leader, maybe a powerful boss, whoever knows. As the song progress, he gives off a vibe that he is probably at his local, cheap bar that has the usual crew of rednecks. The ones that sit in the same booth, whistling away at an old tune.

Jorn is thinking about his past. A great love that got away? A world he once had power and control in? Maybe just at a darker and deeper moment in his existence. As he blasts the lyrics out, you start to feel his inner rage, his inner turmoil boiling up until, he just doesn’t care anymore. What has been done is done and there is no use in going back.

With the original with Tarja, her version always gave off a feeling of regret and yet hope for a better time, and better life. But first, having to officially close the door on one chapter of her career. The original is one of the most hopeful songs I have ever heard and it stills gives me complete and wondrous faith.

They are both very different, yet they are still the same. Both of them have theatrics, both of them have a personality, it was just simply an enlightening experience. Though, to wrap up that original introduction, it’s funny how, in a way, opera had played a great deal into the history of rock music. With Lanzo being passed on to Dio, to classical opera performers influencing Tarja**, to Dio influencing a metal vocalist who became influenced by Tarja.

Like a lot of media, people to tend to forget that there is a history behind the art form. Some people think that the history of books started with The Bible, some think Star Wars was the start of treating film seriously. But if we all were to take a step back and navigate the roots of the people who inspire us, it could lead to some interesting creations and thought provoking questions about music, art, and how it can help change us and our view points on existence.

Overall Rating: 5/5

*For me personally, those are the three queens/ best of female symphonic metal.

**I am aware that Tarja has had a lot more influences, but I focused on the classical side as it pretrained to the conversation at hand.

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