Review of "The Best of Tarja" in Prague

Review by Jessica Clingempeel | 21.01.20 | © Photos & Videos belong to me, J.C.

Tarja had two special shows, one in Romania which was filmed for DVD, and one in Prague which I attended. She played the best of her solo career in new arrangements that would only be heard at these shows. I was looking forward to this show so much wondering what would be in store. Attending the soundcheck gave me a glimpse of what was to come that night and it made me even more anxious.

The show was about 2 hours long and included 16 talented and wonderful musicians. The setlist included songs from every album, some performed many times on stage and some rarities that were missed including Naiad. Tarja has always shown just how professional and dramatic she is at her shows, putting on the best and giving her all to her audience, even when sick or just about burnt out. This was no exception and of all the shows I have been to, this by far was the best.

Every musician gave a flawless performance and you could see that each of them had good chemistry. If there were any mistakes, I did not really notice nor did anyone else as the audience continued to get louder and give more love through each song. The only complaint I would have would be the lighting. The lighting was beautiful, but at times flashed so much that it was hard to see the stage and musicians and was, at times, hurting my eyes.

One of my favourite performances of the night was ‘You and I’ as it is one of my favourite songs by Tarja. Beautifully written and beautifully performed. Other favourites included Love to Hate, Diva, I Feel Immortal, and Tears in Rain which was performed alongside with Clèmentine of Visions of Atlantis. Clèmentine did such an amazing job and her voice matches Tarja’s perfect. Falling Awake was performed with Toni Turunen, Tarja’s younger brother. He has much range in his voice and you can tell music runs through this family’s blood. Naiad was another great performance where all joined in together including Chiara Tricarico. You can see the full setlist below.

You can tell a lot of work was put into these shows and into the new arrangements of these songs. Having seen photos from the show in Romania I cannot wait to have a copy of the DVD in my hands. I only wish the show in Prague was also recorded as the atmosphere of the audience was wonderful, the theatre was beautiful, and the show was just top notch. Maybe they will put some of the fan’s clips onto the DVD as a bonus. 😊

Setlist

Some videos/clips I took

Shadow Play
You and I
Demons in You
Diva
Falling Awake Clip

Tarja on In the Raw

Interview by Jessica Clingempeel | January 15, 2019

With each album, you have grown, gone bigger, and have gotten even better. Did you feel the challenges for this album were easier than previous times or harder?

Through the years I have realised that I have become more relaxed with my album productions. This has to do with the fact that I have already pretty many albums behind me and the work including it’s challenges are not unbearable tasks for me any longer. Of course I am always facing new challenges during songwriting and production, but I am not judging myself as hard as I used to do in the beginning of my career. Experience definitely helps and the confidence I have gained as well, but this didn’t happen overnight. 

The orchestration in this album is beautiful and I can see this entire album being performed with an actual orchestra. Have you had any thoughts of doing something like this?

I have been lucky to work with several symphonic orchestras in my career, so this could be a really nice idea to work on. Anyways, I don’t have any plans for it at the moment.

You had previously stated that this album is the most personal and that you went through some things, such as health-related issues, which led to this album. Would you care to discuss some of those moments and to help listeners understand you and your songs better?

Actually I prefer not to bring these issues to the light of day, yet. The music helped me to overcome some of them and understand myself better, so that’s why I wanted to write about these things on my album, but my personal life belongs to me. 

Was there any one song that you struggled with or did the lyric writing become easy once started?

The lyric writing has never been an easy process for me, nor it was that this time. I had all the doubts of the world around me when I started writing the lyrics, but once I got the first song down, I felt I was ready for the challenge. 

You, along with Alex Scholpp, were the main writers of In the Raw. Did you write with anyone else apart from Alex?

With Alex I wrote actually two songs on the album as I did with Mattias Lindblom. There are other writers involved who had been writing with me along the years. Those are Julian Barrett, Erik Nyholm, James Dooley, Johnny Lee Andrews and Bart Hendrickson.

Spirits of the Sea was dedicated to the crew of ARA San Juan. Have you received any comments from those close to them? Did you personally know any of the families?

No, I haven’t been in touch with the families nor I knew them personally. 

I have read elsewhere that the U.S. may be seeing you again with this album. I know you cannot tell much when it comes to touring but, are there any estimated dates at least?

We are currently and constantly working on the album tours worldwide, so I have my high hopes that I will do at least some shows in US with this album. Thank you for the patience.  

In January you will have two special concerts that will be recorded for a DVD. What was the idea behind doing this and also the guests that were selected to participate?

I am celebrating my 15th year as a solo artist this year, so I thought it could be a nice idea to have a great party with the musicians that have been working and supporting me through these incredible years. I am not planning to do a world tour with this project, but willing these concerts to remain as something very special and unique. There are no invited, guest musicians in these shows, but a complete line up of musicians who are performing all the songs in the show together with me. 

When will we see Outlanders come to life?

Hopefully soon! 🙂 I am recording the last bits and pieces after the best of concerts and my idea is to finish with the production during this spring time. So….I am pretty sure you will be able to hear soon what Torsten and I have been working with during millions of past years. 

—Just a few select questions from some of your USA fan club members—

Luis: How was the orchestral process like for In the Raw? Which orchestra/choir did you use this time or was it all digitally produced orchestral sounds?

There was no live orchestra involved this time on the album, but we used samples. Aren’t they sounding amazing? 🙂

Matt: Will My Winter Storm ever get an anniversary box set release?

We don’t have that release in our plans at the moment, even though it’s a nice idea. 

Shanell: Are there any songs on your list that you would love to do a cover of?

Covering a song is always a huge challenge, because I need to have a reason for doing it. Also in my productions I always want to respect the original song, but at the same time I need to feel the song as one of my own ones, so it is difficult to choose one particular song to cover. I am doing lots of cover songs in other projects of mine, when I sing with the symphonic orchestras for example, so I am not really missing the chance to cover songs for my albums necessarily. But saying all this, maybe you will hear me covering a song for my future record anyways! HA!

Kathleen: What inspires you to write songs? I would love to know what inspired ‘Oasis’ as it is my mother’s favourite song and still calms me today.

Many things are inspiring me to write music. For example my crazy life, things that I explore or experience during my journeys with music and people that I meet with their incredible stories. But also music itself inspires me. For Oasis one of the biggest inspirations was scores/ film music. I wanted to write a song that would make me feel peaceful and calm, no matter there is a storm outside. I am happy to hear that you and your mom can enjoy my song. 

In closing, are there any last words for your fans and readers?

I want to thank you for the love and support. I really hope to get to rock with you soon with my latest record! Thank you for keeping my storm strong. 

With love, Tarja

Review of Stitched Up Heart's Show in Cleveland

© Review, Photo, & Videos by Joshua Becker | December 9th, 2019

December 3, 2019
Stitched Up Heart Concert Review
Cleveland, Ohio House of Blues

Venue: The last concert I had, 3Teeth, I had some issues with the venue an my ticket and photo pass, to where I had to get the tour manager to interrupt what he was doing to get me settled. This time around, everything was already waiting for me.

Intro: I went to a concert at the Cleveland House of Blues on December 3rd to see Stitched Up Heart. What will follow are my experiences and overall impressions of the feature.

Start: For the first few songs I was in the photo pit, I was in awe. To start with, Mixi, from the very beginning, was already going out on stage full force and rousing the crowd.

Light Shows: The light shows at House of Blues always seem so stunning, but this feature was the best I have seen so far. There was this almost constant pulsating red light throughout the songs that further added to the
allure.

Fans: “Mixi”, not missing a beat started to interact with the group, pointing at people singing along in the audience, raising hands up to capture the crowd’s interest, twirling around on stage.

Outfit: “Mixi” had on these sequined black pants, and I could not ignore how sparkly and beautiful they were.

Overall: My overall impression of the show was I thoroughly enjoyed every aspect of Stitched Up Heart’s performance, and I want them to come back to Cleveland soon because I had an amazing time, and writing this review made those memories flood back.

Even though I am a reviewer, I still appreciate the shows for what they are. In fact, the songs they played, I actually looked up when I got home, and since, I am now a fan of them as well. How awesome is that?!

Clips:

Review of 'The Chain' by Evanescence

Review by Ryan Murray | December 3, 2019

I’ve been a huge fan of Evanescence since late 2002, a few months before Fallen dropped.  I’ve had the privilege of seeing them a total of seven times now, and finally, at the most recent show with my wife, we were able to do the pre-show meet and greet for the first time ever!  Amy, Jen, Tim, Troy and Will were all so down to earth, made great eye contact and were very genuine.  I was able to share with Amy how “Imperfection” had a great impact on me after losing two family members to suicide.  She was so kind, shared her feelings and heart about where the song came from, said she was so sorry for my loss and gave me a really big hug.  

Ok, so on to “The Chain”!  I had actually never heard the original until just a few days ago when I went to listen to it to compare the two songs. The twist that Evanescence puts into this song is absolutely incredible!  They found a way to pay homage to a classic song, but in doing so, creating their very own dark and epic song in the process!  This song literally builds from beginning to end, and just when you think you’ve reached the peak, it just builds more and more!

The instrumentation on this song is incredible!  The atmosphere created just in the first few seconds before Amy’s vocals begin is eerie and dark.  The atmosphere gets a bit of a pulse around :12 seconds in with a bass drum kick coming in.  Some distorted guitars kick in and strings start to underlay this already ever building first verse.  Then we get to the chorus which has an awesome groove to it.  Amy’s vocals, as always, are strong and shine through.  There’s a slight hold back in intensity, but you can tell it’s for the purpose of having somewhere to go dynamically with the rest of the song.
The second verse has a heavier feel to it than the first with an industrial sounding groove.  Building into the next chorus the vocal intensity picks up, and Will follows suit with some tasteful but sick sounding drums!  Amy’s voice is really powerful by the end of this chorus.

Then the part I wasn’t expecting, which definitely gives this song an even more epic feel!  (I can’t say I’m surprised by it though!) The instrumental leading into the bridge and the bridge itself is amazing!  The strings in the instrumental really add to the overall sound and effect! Amy’s vocals throughout the bridge are really powerful, yet as always, showcase her amazing control.  

We all face inner conflict.  We all face times that we feel like we’re being pulled apart by things in our lives or situations we face.  To me, “The Chain” can stand for standing firm despite the conflicts in our lives, especially when we tackle things together in unity.

“And if you don’t love me now
You will never love me again
I can still hear you saying
You would never break the chain
You would never break the chain”

This to me says that we need to love one another through conflict.  In standing together, we can build a “chain” that is unbreakable.

Amy, Jen, Tim, Troy and Will have outdone themselves with this song.  From the arrangement, vocals and instrumentation, to the blend and balance of the different layers and the mixing, I have to give this track a 5 out of 5! If this song is any indication of the new material they’ve been working on during their creation/writing process, I absolutely can not wait to hear!  I’m very excited to see where they’ll take us with EV4!

If you haven’t heard “The Chain” yet, it’s available on all digital/streaming platforms!  

Review of 'Crossing Parallels' by Deep as Ocean

Review by Ryan Murray | December 1, 2019

While I’ve never heard of these guys, Deep As Ocean has got to be one of the best metal bands I’ve heard in a long time!  Deep As Ocean easily reminds me of great bands such as Breaking Benjamin, All That Remains, As I Lay Dying, Three Days Grace (w/ Adam Gontier) and others.  The clean vocals on the album strongly remind me of a cross between Adam Gontier (Ex: Three Days Grace, Currently Saint Asonia) and John Cooper (Skillet).

Crossing Parallels – A title track as an intro, I love it!  This 1:39 long intro starts out with an ethereal sound that give you the feeling of crossing into a different dimension.  A bit of a beat starts to kick in around :19 seconds and then the guitars and drums fill out the ethereal sounds and give this intro some more atmosphere.  This gives the listener a small idea as to where the album is going musically. The last :22 seconds pull it right back to the ethereal sound that we opened with, with a light guitar and synth pulse in the background.  

Hourglass – This song features Mattéo Gelsomino of Novelists and hits hard right away at :14 seconds in!  The guitars in this song are killer! To me, the title for this track is perfect! I feel this song is about how limited our time is. We only have so much time, and what we do with it really matters.  Life is choices, right?

“Break free
How many voices’ left unspoken?
Break free
How many tears we’ve shed and left unheard?
Freedom has it’s costs, nothing is for granted
We don’t pull the reins, we are dragged down
Grain by grain we are becoming
The sandy bottom
Of the hourglass”

This chorus really speaks to me.  A few years ago, I faced a really toxic work environment.  I had a choice to make. I could let the voices destroy me and allow them to break me down, or I could chose to break free.  If we don’t take control of these situations, we get dragged down by them. I would no longer remain ‘unspoken’ and I chose to rise above and was able to break free.  

Knives & Flames – This song starts out aggressively vocally, and it’s a perfect fit for the meaning I take away from it.  For me, this song is about being betrayed and the feeling of betrayal. We all have faced that person who we’ve trusted for a long time.  That person that we’ve unguarded our hearts around and let our guard down. That person that we’ve trusted like family, only to have them stab us in the back.  Like fire, when we’re stabbed in the back by people we’ve entrusted our hearts to, (family, close friends, significant other, etc..) it burns.

“I’m tired of lying
And sayin’ everything is fine
I’m tired of lying
And sayin’ everything is fine
It’s like playing with fire
Until it burns inside
Trust has a cost
And I will be cold as a knife
I give up
pretending
I don’t know anything
I’ve forgiven
you once…”

I, as I’m sure many of us can relate to this.  Sometimes, we’re so hurt by things that we foolishly seek revenge.  But does revenge really solve anything? For me, this song is not only about the feeling of betrayal, but also what we chose to do with being betrayed.

Oblivion – This song starts off with clean vocals and screaming vocals at the same time.  After the vocal 4 measure intro with some underlying synth, the main riff kicks in, which kinda reminds me of Breaking Benjamin.  

We all make mistakes, but do we ever learn from them?  Sometimes we make the same mistakes over and over again without ever learning anything.  The writer of this songs seems to feel that we’re headed for our own demise, or “oblivion”, if we don’t learn from our mistakes.  It’s a pattern of self destructive behavior that needs to be broken.  

“Oblivion
How can we get there?
Have we not suffered enough?
We have never learned
from the faults of it all.”

We’ve all gotten to a point this point where we continuously suffer from the same mistakes over and over again, yet we’re sometimes too stubborn to want to fix anything and learn from our past decisions.

The Sinking Ship – This song has a more ethereal intro, but kicks into its main groove at about :17 seconds in. If this song isn’t a wake up call, I don’t know what is!  As a society, we’ve become complacent, apathetic and careless. I feel like although the song seems to call us ‘the sinking ship’, that it also talks about the ability to fight back against that downward spiral and to fight our way back.

“We are the sinking ship
I refuse to sink
Into this poisoned sea
At least I’m trying to swim.”

Whenever I feel myself falling into a pattern of complacency and apathy, I “refuse to sink”.  We need to first be aware that we’re falling into this pattern and need to care enough to want to rise above it.

Underwater – This song starts with its main riff right off the bat, and it’s catchy and right in your face.  About :20 seconds in the vocals start off aggressive, but has a great balance with clean vocals overlaying! This song, for me, is about the false sense of security we all can get from loneliness.  Sometimes when life gets too difficult, we tend to go into our shell of wanting to be alone, and we tend to shut people out, especially those who truly care for us.

“My enemy
Is my loneliness
It resides in me
It’s invisible
My enemy
A part of me
I can’t escape it…”

Our loneliness isn’t always visible, and it eats away at us from the inside out.  When we’re facing “the abyss”, we need to first realize that our enemy is loneliness, then we need to surround ourselves with those we love and trust to help redirect us.  For me, I also lean on my faith as a Christian when I’m facing difficulties that drag me down.  

Feels Like Nothing – Featuring Andy Pali of Sharks In Your Mouth, this song starts off with an ethereal sound with electric guitar and synth droning on Bb creating an awesome atmosphere.  The main riff kicks in at :18 seconds and doesn’t disappoint!  

The band says this song is influenced by the series “13 Reasons Why” and also the death of Chester Bennington.  

For me, this song encourages empathy towards those who suffer with mental illness and depression.  So many are quick to judge, but instead we need to be loving and understanding and to be there for those suffering.  We also need to understand that at times, people are so far down that they have a hard time receiving love and support.  

“How can I love myself?
I was too blind to see all the love I got from y’all” 

We also need to understand that at times, people are so far down that they are blinded to the love and support they are receiving.

“I felt alone and maybe the only one
When I tied the noose
Too late”

This line really hits hard for me.  I lost my God-Mother to suicide by hanging and to this day, I have mixed emotions.  On one hand I still feel anger and hurt, but on the other, I try to put myself into her shoes.  I still to this day try to understand what she was facing that she felt that helpless and desperate.

Floating Anchor – This track is definitely one of my favorites on this album!  It starts off a bit differently with what sounds like muted guitars, but quickly kicks into high gear at :6 seconds with the main riff and vocals.  

In this journey we call life, we all need to find our purpose and we look for meaning in our lives in different places. A lot of times though we struggle with things in life, and feel like we have no where to turn.  As a Christian, this song actually really speaks to me, because I feel that my faith in God is my anchor. 

“Find a way to feel alive
Your best reason to survive
Fight the war you have inside
No matter how long you have to try
If you don’t try you will never succeed
Standing still is a passive acceptance
Of the defeat, so pick your guns up
Aim what you want and take your best shot…”

For me, this part really speaks to me.  When I was younger, I went through a lot of verbal abuse in school, as well as some physical bullying.  I went through life angry and alone. I was even angry at God for the longest time. In 2008, everything changed for me.  The anchor that was holding me down, the fear of rejection, became my salvation when I realized that my salvation was found in God.  He took all of the fear, shame and rejection that I had felt for so long and changed my perspective on life.

Black Rose – And here we are at the end of the album and what an end it is!  This track, for me, is a not so typical love song. Not only is the song saying that a loved one is a light in difficult times, it’s also saying that you have to put work into the relationship to keep it alive. Even when facing difficulties, we need to stay alive and focused on putting work into the relationship to keep it working. 

This song actually has mostly clean vocals and some nice synth grooves throughout.  Another favorite for sure!

“A rose with no thorns
Is incomplete
It’s like something missing
As well as our love
I feel it stings
Reminds us we’re alive
You’re the light that
Illuminates my eyes
You’re the light that
never ends to shine…”

“Black Rose” is a perfect title for this song.  Just like a rose with no thorns is incomplete, a life without some strife doesn’t exist.  The lines above remind us that love stings at times, but it reminds us that we’re alive. Just because we face hard times in love, doesn’t mean that we still don’t need each other.  

Deep As Ocean has created an awesome work in “Crossing Parallels”!  This album is a great blend of power, harsh vocals, clean vocals and melodies.  I HIGHLY recommend this album for any fans of bands such as Breaking Benjamin, As I Lay Dying, All That Remains, Three Days Grace and others alike. I give this album 4.9 out of 5.0 stars!  

“Crossing Parallels” is set to release December 13th, 2019, so be sure to check it out!

Official Band Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/deepasocean/

Review of 3Teeth live in Cleveland, OH

Review by Joshua Becker | November 19th, 2019

This was a concert about a band called 3Teeth seen in Cleveland, Ohio, on November 7th, and for those who may not know, 3Teeth is an up and coming Industrial Metal band from Los Angeles, California. Seeing them live was absolutely bad-ass!

Unfortunately, I don’t have much to comment on because the venue had some issue unbeknownst to the management and me, where I didn’t get my ticket and photo pass for over an hour, and I missed almost all of 3Teeth. 😦

Fortunately, I was able to hear about 2 songs of them and get into the pit before the next set. With that being said, what I saw was great! The light shows were superb, and the guys rocked so hard on the stage, and in my opinion, they sounded better live than they did on the album version.

What I saw of the set, I still would give it a 5 out of 5! I hope to check them out again if they ever come back to Cleveland!

Also, checked out what major names in metal are saying about 3Teeth:

“State-of-the-art sensory overload with take-no-prisoners level aggression”- Rolling Stone

“Another 10/10 banger from the modern carriers of the industrial-rock torch.” – Revolver

“These guys really nail the aesthetic and visuals of what a cool industrial band should be like. And, the music kills too – so that’s always great.” – Metal Injection

“The reimagined version of the song [Foster the People — Pumped Up Kicks], gives the track a grittier feel, while also putting a little more focus on the song’s gun-centric lyrics.” – Loudwire”