Interview by Jessica Clingempeel | October 10, 2019
You have been pursuing music for awhile now and are ready to record and get your name out there. What kind of music are you planning to do, or will it be a mix of different genres?
Joanne: I’ve been recording since 2008, my current songs can be heard on YouTube, and for purchase on Apple iTunes and CDBaby. My genre has been rock but coming back after 6 years and a new producer, we are in the goth metal genre and will keep it that way.
You use the phoenix a lot in your music, with it being your first song, and also the name of your album. What does the phoenix symbolise to you?
Joanne: This is my first song after 6 years. The Phoenix is my favorite as it will be the album title as well. The Phoenix is a Greek mythological creature that arises from it’s own ashes. For me it symbolizes that I’m back, resurrected and better then ever and is a song basically on vengeance on whoever did me wrong, as can be heard on the clip.
Who are you working with to produce your album and are you signed to any label yet?
Joanne: I’m not signed yet, but I’m working with a very known producer who’s worked with big names in the industry. He’s brilliant and such a badass lol. His name is Mo from Firestarter Recording Studios.
Do you write your own lyrics and where do you draw your inspiration from?
Joanne: Yes I write my own lyrics. My inspiration comes through life, others and simply when my head is flooded with lyrics that’s when I write.
You are a huge fan of both rock singers, Tarja Turunen and Sharon den Adel. Have you thought about recording a cover song by one of them?
Joanne: OMG YES!!!!!! That would be awesome!!
Being of Greek heritage, can we expect any Greek lyrics in your music?
Joanne: I’m Greek and Italian, but I do have a Greek song written that was never recorded and I don’t know if I will as it’s a very personal song of someone passing away and how I learned things from them. So that one may stay “in the drawer” for now. I want to focus on my English songs. But stay tuned cause you never know!!
You are also into acting and have landed a role in the show Blacklist. Have you done anything else and/or are auditioning for any other roles?
Joanne: Besides the Blacklist I was on the Village which was cancelled after one season. Currently a script is being written for a possible movie based on a true story and I’m waiting for that script to be done to read it and see if we can pitch it to the right producers and directors and such. Fingers crossed!
Apart from the acting and singing you are also a mother of two boys. Do you find it difficult some days juggling everything or does it come easy for you?
Joanne: Basically both of my boys are in school all day so the days I’m off it’s easy. But when it comes to acting I have to be on set extremely early and don’t get home til late in the evening or night depends. That’s when it gets tough. But luckily I have my mother to come and take care of the boys if I have an acting job. So it works out.
Other than acting and music, what are some of your other hobbies?
Joanne: I love cars always have since a little girl so I’m really into that – I’m a gearhead lol, spending time with my family, reading, cooking, and watching certain shows I’m hooked on. That’s about as boring as I get lol
If you had to pick just one musician to do a duet with, who would you choose and why?
Joanne: Tarja because she’s always been one of my inspirations and when I met her she even told me not to give up so who knows what the future holds? Hopefully one day I can make my dream a reality.
What would you like to say to the readers?
Joanne: I’d like to say to my current fans thank you for supporting me and to the ones that don’t know me yet, I hope that they will take the chance to visit and “like” my page on Facebook (facebook.com/joannemarianiofficial) as well as Instagram joanne_mariani_official but more importantly to check out my music and please do buy my current songs, stay tuned for the finalized Phoenix song and I would appreciate their support. Thanks so much!!!!
First, thank you so much for interviewing with us. I absolutely love your EP. I’ve been looking for something like it for a long time. What was your inspiration for the EP itself? Did you go into writing it knowing what you wanted?
Thank you! I wrote the songs on Ode To The Dark over the course of two years without a specific collection in mind. I knew that writing was helping to get me through the dark mental place I was in dealing with OCD and anxiety. I thought they were biographical or based on other people’s stories I had heard but in actuality I was so deep in this dark place that I didn’t even realize until recently that the songs were about what I was going through mentally.
Where did you get the idea for the title track ‘Ode to the Dark?’ It’s a beautiful song and the name definitely fits the style and haunting feel.
I had the initial idea for the title of ‘Ode To The Dark’ while on the Wacken Full Metal Cruise II. I was inspired by stories I heard from fans aboard the ship about how metal was more than music to them and instead it was who they were. One of the stories affected me and I could strongly relate so I used inspiration from that for the lyrics. The song took me two years to finish.
What was your favorite song to work on? I think my favorite song to record was ‘Marionette’ because I had to channel something very dark and evil. We turned off the lights while I was recording vocals and Marco [producer Coti-Zelati of Lacuna Coil] was laughing because he was talking to me through the glass but couldn’t see me since it was pitch black in the studio. That song is the heaviest in topic and tone for me and I had to go somewhere else in my mind to feel content with my performance.
Can we expect new music soon? I’m constantly writing and recording new material for different projects, collaborations and to pitch to TV/Film.
What about a tour or a live date somewhere? I miss touring and playing shows but lately I’ve been so inspired in the studio. I look forward to performing the new songs though!
I saw you in New York City with Lacuna Coilfor their 1.19 show. That seemed like such a big deal for you! And you were amazing. How did you feel about being able to perform with Cristina Scabbia?
It was a dream of an experience. I still can’t believe it was real. I have been a Lacuna Coil fan for over 15 years. During soundcheck when I heard Cristina’s voice come through my in-ears it hit me that I was on stage with one of my idols and I can’t even put into words how that felt!
You have an absolutely beautiful voice. Do you take lessons? I appreciate that! I am self-taught. I play everything by ear. I learned to sing with the help of a karaoke machine from my grandparents. While other seven-year-olds in the neighborhood were outside playing I was sitting behind a couch in my living room recording myself and then taking notes on what I liked and didn’t like about my voice. I took it very seriously!
I was looking at the song trailers on your website and they’re gorgeous. Do you think you’ll do something like that again in the future? (https://www.melissavanfleet.com/film) Thanks! Definitely. I collaborated with GHOSTWOOD on the trailers and he is brilliant. He helped bring my vision to life. Ideas are endlessly circulating in my mind and I’m now in the beginning stages of storyboarding a full-length music video.
Take this opportunity to talk about something you wish you could talk about in an interview if only someone would ask the right questions. Future expectations, personal feelings about your work, what you would like fans to know about you and your music…absolutely anything you want. We want to give artists a platform to be heard!
I am a very private person but lately I’ve been opening up more about mental health. It isn’t always comfortable to talk about and sharing your story can make you feel vulnerable and exposed but it is so important. There is often a correlation between pain and dark music for both fans and artists. Knowing that others are going through something similar when I am at my lowest point usually makes me feel like there is a light at the end of the tunnel and when people hear my lyrics I want them to know that they are not alone in their suffering.
Thank you so much for answering questions for us! I’m looking forward to what’s in store for you in the future. Ode to the Dark is just the beginning of something major – I can already tell!
Melissa VanFleet is a beautiful musician from Philadelphia with the kind of voice that makes you stop and listen. Her style of metal includes orchestra, piano and an Alternative Rock lineup that all around makes her very unique.
Raven: Miss VanFleet opens the EP with a slow melody that is also reflected in the other three songs the EP consists of. The emotions are real in this one – sadness leaks from every edge and imperfection, bringing the listener in and making damn sure they stay where they are until the message is taken in. With strong lyrics and haunting tones, a great blend of Alternative Rock using guitar pieces, this song stands out in the spotlight and demands the attention needed for the rest of the EP.
“Sometimes I feel I’d be better off dead.”
In our interview with Miss VanFleet, she speaks about music being a safe place from depression and mental illness. Lyrics in this song reflect that in ways only lyrics can.
“I can’t find my demons anymore – I’m pounding at their door.” The message is deep and relateable.
Atrophy: (Definition: Waste away, especially as a result of the degeneration of cells, or become vestigial during evolution.) Another song that starts slow and builds, Atrophy is the second song of Ode to the Dark. While beautiful and haunting, the chorus is a bit repetitive throughout the song. This, however, does not take away from the mood or the intent of the song. Miss VanFleet’s voice more than makes up for it, hosting an impressive vocal trick for the word ‘deteriorate.’
“Atrophy – I deteriorate.” Upon learning the definition of Atrophy, the song takes on higher meaning. It’s absolutely beautiful musically as well, with a nice focus on the guitar.
Marionette: With opening notes reminiscent of a music box, Marionette also kicks off with a slower melody. This doesn’t take away from the dark, fairytale-like essence that floats in and winds its way around the ears of the listener. The music picks up in rhythm with beautiful guitar work, and Miss VanFleet’s hypnotic voice singing a song of the unknown “She,” who, quite possibly, could be a different person or entity for everyone.
“She’s in the corner holding me down. She’s in the shadows dragging me around.”
Ode to the Dark: We end this beautiful EP with a ballad of pain dipped in beauty. The melody of this final song starts slowly and climbs at an enjoyably agonizing pace to its peak, finally reaching a heavier mood two minutes in. There are many emotions in this song, but not used in a jarring sense. In fact, the shifts and changes seem to be perfect, allowing the listener to follow along and feel the journey along with Miss VanFleet. “Sing me a requiem as I lay me down forevermore. I pray my soul to find a paradise it never felt before.”
As others I’ve seen, my main discord with Ode to the Dark was the “one size fits all” pattern of all four songs. There didn’t seem to be any other method than the slow build up to a heavier rock pattern. The addition of orchestra and piano were a great choice, however, and the EP is far from lackluster. And despite that one dislike, I still give it a full five stars.
Interview by Jessica Clingempeel with small contribution from Josh Becker 1/10/2019
Ailyn, thanks for taking the time to do this interview with us. How have things
been for you?
dear, thank you for taking your time to do this. Things are very good, thanks.
mentioned recently you were struggling with depression, and other issues. We at
Ethereal Metal know this all too well as we suffer with bipolar, depression,
etc. What helped you cope and get through the dark days and have you been able
to overcome your depression?
I think what helped me most was to keep working on music, having some guest
shows and having some time for myself away from all the last years drama. It’s
been quite hard to go through everything and it took me a lot of time, but
step by step I think I’m getting back to myself, or at least it’s what I always
try. As I have diabetes and it’s normal to get depression every now and then.
also have struggled with Type 1 Diabetes since the age of 7. As someone who has
seen the toll diabetes has taken on many family members, how do you keep
positive while having a very negative disease?
As far as I can remember I think I
took it in a positive way. When I was hospitalized I got a psychologist to
check out on me and he told my parents I was perfectly fine. My dad also had
diabetes, so he and my mom were very good explaining what happened to me and
how should I take care of myself. At home I was always treated as a “normal”
person. Especially my mom, she wanted me to learn how to grow up and be an independent
woman and how to survive on my own. She didn’t want me to be a spoiled child
and always tried to avoid having people around me influencing me in a negative
way. During my entire life I had to fight not just against my illness and the
complications it brings over the years, but against people who are telling me every
single time they can that “I can’t do “this”, or “that” because of my
illness"… Luckily my parents and my sister wasn’t like that, they always
supported me on every decision I made about my career. My mom always taught me
that being ill doesn’t make you less capable than the people who are actually healthy.
And it makes me sad to see there are so many people who still have this preconceived
ideas thinking ill people are not able to do a normal job. I don’t know if my positivism
is something I learned over the years or if I was actually born like that, but it
keeps me going no matter how difficult things can be. It makes me want to show myself
and others that it doesn’t matter what they think, I can do it!!! And it is why
I always fought very hard to be known as the person I am, not the girl "who
is ill”. My diabetes it’s something I have to live with, but it doesn’t
describe who I am.
mentioned you did some collaborations which includes Pierre le Pape of Melted
Space and Débler. What other bands have you been working and/or touring with?
Yes, besides Melted Space and
Débler, I worked with bands like Serenity, Diabulus in Musica, Mago de Oz,
Sebastien, Secret Rule, Enemy of Reality, Vivaldi Metal Project and some others
I cannot mention until they announce it. On tour I’ve been as a guest with
Secret Rule, Melted Space and in a show with Mago de Oz, Débler and Leaves
Regarding your solo project, you have been busy writing lyrics. Is there a
certain theme to the lyrics, will it tell a personal story?
Well to begin with I might say right
now I’m actually writing for two different projects ;). Talking about my solo
album, at first I thought about making a concept album, but while I was writing
I realized I needed to write about my personal experiences. It was a very hard
at the beginning… After my mom passed in 2016 and everything it followed after I
felt so lost that I didn’t even know what to write or how express myself. I
felt myself frozen and empty, like there was nothing I could or want to share
with others. And then when I finally could start writing down my emotions I realized all the lyrics were very dark, sad and depressing that I decided I
needed to stop writing for a while until I felt ready to write about other
things too. Even though I think it’s ok to write about sad things, I don’t want to
make an entire album talking about the same when there are so many things to
write about it.
another interview, you mentioned that people may be disappointed as you may not
be going the symphonic metal route and that this project is under
experimentation as far as sound. Many in the metal community tend to like when
artists play around with music and not stick to one particular genre, Tarja is
a fine example of this. Is it safe to say this project will contain a variety
of metal elements and maybe even other genres?
Yes, I would think so. You know, if
it’s good I like to listen to any kind of music genre. So for this project my
idea is to do something mixing everything I like and see if it works. Since I
started singing until now I’ve been influenced from many different musicians so
I want to use everything I can.
Any thoughts on duets or guest musicians for this solo album?
have an idea about some guests I would like to invite for this project.
Actually one of the guest I thought about was Anders Fridén from In Flames, but
then I saw that Within Temptation were faster 😉
would be one of your most memorable highlights of your career?
I would say it was when I got
contacted from “Mago de Oz” to sing in their album “Finisterra Opera Rock” in their
song “Astaroth” and after that being able to join them on stage and perform
with them. I grow up knowing their name and their music, so for me to be
contacted from them was a big thing.
there any point of your career that you regret and/or wish you could do over?
Not really. Of course there’s some
“projects/jobs” I did in the past that makes me feel a bit
uncomfortable, sometimes I think about it, and I regret I put my energies on
it. But then I stop and think about it and realize that everything I did
(doesn’t matter how good or how bad the experience was) made me be who I am now
as an artist.
mentioned being a huge fan of video game soundtracks and anime, given the
chance would you ever consider working in the world of video games and/or
sure!! I love video games and anime music. And of course someday I would love to
sing a song for any video game, for example like Final Fantasy. Actually
there’s some anime (Spanish version) where I put my voice in it many years ago.
is your favourite anime to watch, game to play, and/or soundtracks to listen
I’m a bit old fashion, so my favourite
anime to watch is “Touch” (known as Bateadores in Spain) from Mitsuru Adachi.
For the game, right now I keep playing Diablo III. But many years ago I was
very into playing to the Final Fantasy or Metal Gear Solid. As for the
soundtracks, I like many of them, from video games, movies, animes, etc.
there any artists/bands you find yourself listening on repeat lately?
Yes, it comes depending on my mood.
If I like something I listen to it until I get tired of it and then I find
something else to listen until I get tired again and again. Right now I’m with
Machine Head – Bloodstone & Diamonds
someone starting out in the Industry, what advice do you have that you wish was
given to you?
Well maybe it sounds a bit brutal to
put it like this, but I wish someone had told me before in this “music world”
friendship doesn’t exist. Everyone is “nice” while you have something to offer
and when they think they can’t get anything from you, everyone runs away and
it’s like you never met them before. With this I don’t mean everyone is bad, in
all this years I met very nice people too. But you know, everyone wants to be
known, famous, everyone wants to have success on their careers and their dreams
and there’s a lot of rivalry. It’s also known that artists are known to be
egocentric (some are very egocentric, some others less). But being egocentric
doesn’t make you a bad person, the problem is that sometimes this ego can make
you do bad things you wouldn’t do in other circumstances. So I guess that would
be my advice. Enjoy and have fun but remember, at the end of the day your true
friends are those who have accompanied you through the good times and the bad
that you have been all over the world, what country has the best food?
Oh wow, this question it’s very
difficult to answer!!! I couldn’t choose just one country. I was very fond of
trying traditional food everywhere. Now I have to be careful as I have allergy
to gluten, so it’s not that fun anymore ;). But everywhere I went the food was
is it about Norway that keeps you from moving back home to Spain?
Norway is a very beautiful country,
I really love it here. I love my country too, I don’t forget my roots, but the
life quality I find here I don’t find it in Spain. I am a quiet person and
believe me it’s very quiet here and very safe. I can go out alone in the night
without fearing for my life. Of course you can never be sure that nothing will
happen to you, but I can go for a walk being 99% sure that I’ll be safe. Also,
I’ve been living in Norway for 8 years and I made my life here, so I’m not
going to push everything away and go back to Spain, because I like what I build
here. Maybe someday I will move back to Spain or maybe not, none can say.
you still visit friends and family in Spain often?
much as I would like, but yes I visit my sister every time I can. I try to go 2
times a year, but sometimes it’s not possible and then I just go once. I would also
love to go visit my friends. Every time I have plans to go to Spain we try to schedule
the holidays at the same time, but it’s not that easy so it’s been quite long
since I had the chance to see them.
you have the time, are you still taking singing lessons?
Lately I couldn’t take lessons and I
really miss it. But the periods I can’t take lessons I check for videos on
YouTube that might help me to learn new things. There’s some nice channels out
year, you performed the song Imaginary World with Italian metal band Secret
Rule- I have to say, you and Angela have great harmonies in that song, and your
voices mesh very well together. Are there plans to release any more music or
work on any more projects with them in future?
Thank you!!! Well for now there’s no
plan to work together in another project with them, but I would love to if
someday there’s another chance. They are great people and very fun to work
you are performing someone else’s work (like a guest on an album,) do you find
that you are limited in your range, or do you have free control on what notes
you want to sing?
That depends of with who you are
working with. Some bands tells me, “this is my song, just sing what I tell you
to”. And other bands say “here you have, fell free to change what you need to
change and do your thing”. Of course when you have to do exactly what you are
told sometimes you can feel a bit limited. I love when I can decide how to
sing, not because I think the melody I get isn’t nice, but because I can chose
the way I sound better which is nice for me and for the band itself as I can do
a better job.
your collaborations, such as with Secret Rule, did you have any input when it
came to lyrics or composition?
all the collaborations I always get the final result. I always get the music,
the lyrics and the vocal lines I have to sing. And as I mentioned before
sometimes I’m ask to sing it as it is and sometimes I’m able to change my
would your ideal band be in terms of vocals, guitar, bass, drums, etc.) Roy
Khan, perhaps? 🙂
Oh yes, you know me well, I do love
Roy Khan voice and singing!! But for this I would probably say Freddie Mercury,
Slash, Yoshiki Hayashi (both on drums and piano), John Paul Jones and Lindsey
Stirling. Wouldn’t that be amazing!?
I’m normally too literal-minded to understand the symbolism
of a music video. I have little in the way of an aesthetic sense. It would
seem, however, that Victim of Ritual has made an impression that transcends my usual
limitations. I interpreted Victim of Ritual as symbolic of modern rites of
intensification, whereas for Tarja it symbolizes rites of passage.
Before I begin that analysis it is important to know the
meaning of the word ritual. As a noun, a ritual is the performance of a
detailed method of procedure faithfully or regularly observed in a prescribed
form; or a state or condition characterized by the presence of established
agenda or routine. As an adjective it is being part of an established routine.
What is the purpose of rituals? Anthropologists tend to
focus on positive sacred rituals that reinforce social bonds within the group
and make crises less socially disruptive. They have classified several
different types of rituals, and among them are rites of passage and rites of
intensification. Rites of passage mark important stages in the lives of
individuals, such as birth, puberty, marriage, parenthood, social advancement,
occupational specialization and death. Rites of intensification serve to bind individuals
together and mark important stages and crises of the social group as a whole.
For anthropologists, they can include funerary ceremonies as well as
celebrating the summer and winter Solstice and the Equinox of autumn and
spring. An example of a spring ritual is the Hindu Festival of Holi.
Although we may not immediately recognize them as such,
rituals are an important part of the mundane modern world, too. For rites of
intensification, an event steeped in ritual, both modern and ancient, that has
meaning for whole world, is the relay of the Olympic Flame from Greece to the
host country (reintroduced in 1936) to the ceremonial lighting of the Olympic
Torch in the host stadium (reintroduced in 1928; its origins lie in ancient
Greece where a fire was kept burning throughout the celebration of the ancient
Olympics to commemorate the theft of fire from the Greek god Zeus by
Prometheus). Staying on the same theme, let us not forget the pregame ‘rituals’
that rabid sports fans conduct to make sure that their favourite team will
prevail in that day’s match. For rites of passage, the standardized means of
getting a drivers licence at the age of sixteen takes on the form of ritual.
The process by which Tarja warms up before her passage to the stage for a performance
can be one of ritual, too. I, too, have a ritual or routine that I follow on
work days. Doing the same things in the same order ensures that I don’t forget
anything and that I get there on time. Rituals, then, are not confined to
religion or to ancient and primitive cultures; they are all around us in the
Can we become a Victim of Ritual in the modern world? In a
word, “Yes.” The setting for Victim of Ritual epitomizes like no other the
ritual victimization of humanity through the repetitive, monotonous,
controlling industrial process that permeates all of society. It is symbolic of
the attempts by certain vested interests in society to subjugate individuals to
the mind numbing, soul crushing, life robbing, manipulating rituals that try to
control our actions, thoughts, and feelings. Modern rituals differ in that they
attempt to reinforce/break/create social bonds and make crises less/more
socially disruptive depending on the agenda espoused by the competing interests
involved. These forces can be the various elements of society, be it a society
based on communism, socialism or a liberal democracy, for example, and include
as some of its agents the entertainment, advertising and news media; the
government and its bureaucracy; the boss at work; and lastly, ourselves,
because we can get used to our familiar, safe, secure rut. Tarja’s song/video
Victim of Ritual is well chosen both visually and lyrically to illustrate the
breaking free of modern ritual and the establishment of new ones created on our
terms in an emotionally powerful way.
Aurally the drum taps a call to war. Battle will be joined
this day. Over the taps of the war drum come the melancholic oboe playing
Boléro. It is played periodically throughout and mirrors the action of the
video. It is the perfect choice given setting and theme of Victim of Ritual.
Ravel admitted that the rhythms of Boléro (in its entirety) were inspired by
the machines of his father’s factory and the berceuse (lullaby) sung to Ravel
by his mother at bedtime.
Visually, Victim of Ritual begins with an absence of colour,
or the colours severely washed out. The exceptions are the controlling safety
tape on the floor and pipes of the factory and Tarja, as an agent of change, is
framed by light. The painter, the musician, the assembly line worker are all
monotonously and unthinkingly working with black on white. Black takes all
colours and reflects none; white gives by reflecting all colours.
Eyes are symbols of perception and perspective; threshold to
the heart; window on the soul….
Black eyes and hardly breathing When there’s no light You sacrifice Alone, a monster living You lost the fight before the fall
How did you end up in hell?
“Black eyes…” as dark as a Finnish Winter describe of the
plight of the victims of ritual. The light that illuminates the heart and soul
has been taken away and extinguished; life slowly strangled and suffocated as
they sacrifice their self for another’s benefit. It is truly a descent into a
living hell of lethargy, monotony, routine, and resignation to a life not of
Cold eyes, for every seeing They try to hide, in thin disguise Denied your soul from singing The darkest night, the night you died
How did you end up in hell?
“Cold eyes…” as
frigid as a Finnish Winter belong to the masked characters representing the
forces identified above and in whose interest ‘denied your soul from singing’.
These parasites revel in absorbing the light of our souls and hearts for their
own enrichment and your impoverishment. As long as they can keep useful pawns
in the ‘cold dark’, their reign is unchallenged and your place in a living hell
is secured. They have taken away your freedom and determine your life on their
Hysterical, tragical Victim of ritual Cynical, critical Victim of ritual
In the chorus, the victims of ritual are the visual focus
for ‘hysterical’ and ‘tragical’. The musician, painter and assembly worker are
hysterical. Not in the Freudian sense, but rather in the modern sense: a
psychological disorder that involves a dissociation or interruption in aspects
of consciousness, including identity. The reduction of individuals to an
unthinking ‘sameness’ is a tragical waste of the creative spirit that has
infused humanity throughout the ages. The masked characters are the visual
focus for ‘cynical’ and ‘critical’. A philosophy of contemptuous manipulation
and treatment of the victims of ritual is cynical to the core. To prevent
people from overcoming these psychological spells placed upon them and
following their hearts, be super critical of them. Most will wilt under the
constant flow of negativity and be manipulated into accepting their place as
being the only one for them.
She’s a killer, killer She’s a killer, killer
Tarja is a catalyst and introduces something
different—something colourful—to ‘kill’ the cynical spell that has been placed
on them. Light and some glare are associated visually with the victims as the
controlling spell of the ‘industrial’ ritual is being broken. But breaking out
of their mind numbing hysteria and defeating those that need to control them is
a hard fought battle requiring the active assistance of a strong support group
at a critical time so as to avoid a tragic return to the past. It can often
involve inner turmoil, doubt and pandemonium. Have you the strength to resist
society’s pressure to conform for their benefit, not your own? If you encounter
resistance or a setback, do you have within your heart the strength to see it
Pandemonium, where’s your heart from? Pandemonium, where’s your heart from?
The choice of enacting this scene with Holi Powder is again
well chosen. The Holi Festival celebrates the beginning of the new spring
season. Spring refers also to rebirth, rejuvenation, renewal, and growth. Like
the transition to spring from the dark Finnish Winter into the full light of
Summer, Tarja’s resurrection of the self symbolizes the individual’s and
group’s new found renaissance. The group’s final victory is reflected in the
change of their clothing to white and the introduction of more light and glare
in the background. The man dancing reflects his dream of being a dancer and his
new found freedom from his former daily ritual. The painter paints and the
musician plays according to their terms.
The story of Victim of Ritual is an inspirational one of
breaking free and minimizing the expectations and the control of those
identified above. By following our hearts, surrounding ourselves with
supportive people and having the heart and conviction to see it through no
matter the hardship the reward is the freedom to create new positive rituals in
order to live and work on our own terms within and in spite of the restrictive
ritual expectations that society places upon us. Not all modern rituals are
sinister. There are people worth following because of their inspirational
nature. Tarja Turunen is one of those people.
I’m hesitant to presume to know what the meaning that Victim
of Ritual has for Tarja. If asked, no doubt she’d smile secretively with a
knowing twinkle in her eye and suggest that the meaning the individual
listener/viewer derives from the song/video is what counts. Now that’s an
artist’s answer! Since ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’, I am now left to
hypothesize, theorize, or take my best guess.
It is easy to equate Tarja’s struggles with her former band,
in her solo career, with critics and an indifferent record label to scenes in
Victim of Ritual. Many will consider the video, and especially the fight scene
against four adversaries, to symbolize her struggles with Nightwish and her
eventual firing. The subsequent resurrection scene symbolizes the beginning of
her solo career with the support of her loyal fans and the aid of some very talented
musicians. Tarja approached her solo career, though, with hesitant steps and
relied on the advice of others that compromised in some ways her musical
‘vision’. Some critics have been especially ‘cold’ in their evaluations of her
music. I recall one in particular that reviewed What Lies Beneath unfavourably
because it wasn’t Nightwish. To judge something solely in terms of what it is
not is to me intellectually bankrupt. It is amazing how many people can’t
comprehend nor separate the fact that she was pushed to the forefront to be
voice and face of the band to vocally interpret a musical formula not her own.
The final days with Universal must have seemed frustratingly bleak indeed when
What Lies Beneath was not given the same support that My Winter Storm received.
Victim of Ritual ultimately reflects Tarja having the
‘heart’ and conviction to overcome the obstacles before her to achieve a
renaissance in her musical career several times over. First, she had the
brilliance to surround herself with talented musicians who have confidence in
her and her musical direction. Tarja has recently commented that the critics
are finally coming to an understanding of her musical vision. They may finally
be realizing their folly of expecting Tarja to be something she isn’t. We shall
see, but it is a promising revelation. Her new label, EarMusic, is totally
supportive of Tarja’s classical and rock/metal projects and in this new
atmosphere she is ‘coming out of her box’ from a creative stand point. Finally,
Victim of Ritual shows that Tarja will continue to deeply touch the lives of
her listeners in an inspirational way.
Tarja Turunen has been on the cutting edge of musical
innovation from the day she said “Yes” to join a certain ‘mood music
project’ at the end of 1996. Victim of Ritual in sound, arrangement, and
message proclaims to the world that this will continue. With Victim of Ritual
leading off the album and presumably setting the stage for the remaining
tracks, I expect that Colours In The Dark will push back the limits of her
musical vision of the fusion of classical and rock/metal music. It will
symbolize Tarja’s freedom from the restrictive formula or ritual of the past
and reflect her growing confidence in herself and her music. For Colours In The
Dark, Tarja the familiar will be well represented too. The many years of
musical study in some of the finest musical academies in Europe and learning
the practical side of the music business through recording and performing with
Nightwish and as a solo artist have left an indelible imprint upon Tarja into
the present. If Victim of Ritual is used as a guide, Colours In The Dark will
be a welcome addition in the evolution of an artist who continues to mature in
a positive direction—both personally and professionally.
Do you want your Christmas to have a dark flare? Tarja Turunen’s first single from her upcoming Christmas album will give you just that. ‘O Come, O Come, Emmanuel’ is a classic, and in typical Tarja fashion, gets its own twist. I honestly believe Tarja chose the right song as the first single to represent the album in its entirety. And if this first song is this good, how is the rest of the album going to compare and how can the other songs compete with this one?
“O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” is hauntingly beautiful and it has had me listening to it repeatedly. Not many songs can move a person like that, especially holiday songs. You do not have to be a religious person to love this version because Tarja’s voice lures you in. There are no jingles that you find in many traditional Christmas songs, there is no upbeat tempos, and no unicorns and rainbows, but somehow you still feel yourself smiling.
Not long after the premiere of the single we got the video representing the song. Tarja is dressed as a character that seems to represent light, and at the end another character appears and is darker. It leaves you with a cliffhanger and thinking what is to come next. I have been on the edge of my seat since the album was announced and I simply cannot wait any longer. Tarja, you are killing us all, but we will all die happy.