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 Tarja’s Christmas Show in Tampere

Review, Photos, & Videos by Jessica Clingempeel | December 17, 2019

If you are looking for a great Christmas experience, then catch one of Tarja’s Christmas shows. I have been wanting to catch one of Tarja’s classical/Christmas shows and finally this year I was able to mark that off my bucket list. I had tickets for her last two shows, plus a ticket to Raskasta Joulua at the Hartwall Arena where she was supposed to participate. Unfortunately, two shows were cancelled due to illness.

The Tampere show ended up being Tarja’s last show of her Finnish Christmas tour. She had been battling the flu for a while, and after Tampere she just could not go on. When watching her perform you would never know she was sick. She made those high notes seem effortless and the entire night was spectacular. She was dressed in a beautiful black gown and a smile stayed on her face the entire night.

Her setlist included many favourites from both of her Christmas albums from ‘O Come O Come Emmanuel’ to classic Finnish songs from her first Christmas album, Henkäys Ikuisuudesta and several Ave Marias. My favourite of the night had to be What Child is This. Tarja was accompanied by three other known musicians; Max Lilja (cello), Julian Barrett (guitars), and Guillermo De Medio (keyboards); who did an outstanding band solo of Little Drummer Boy.

The venue, Tampere Cathedral, was a beautiful church which made the atmosphere more magnificent. The church was also filled with fans, both local and international. The show sent chills down my spine as her voice filled the entire cathedral. I left that night in awe and wish it hadn’t ended. I was looking forward to the next night in Kuusankoski, but as said before, was cancelled understandably. I hope to catch more Christmas shows next year as it is an experience to not miss.

Below, exclusive videos by me. Please only share the youtube links or the webzine. Uploading anywhere else is prohibited.

A Review of Tarja’s 2019 Festival Shows

Review by Jessica Clingempeel | October 17, 2019

This year I attended three festivals that Tarja participated in. The first was Chania Rock Festival in Crete; the second was Z7 in Switzerland; and the last was with Evanescence in Trnava, Slovakia. Every show she played songs from her previous album ‘The Shadow Self’ and some oldies, along with Dead Promises from her, then, soon to be released album, ‘In the Raw’.

I will start with the show in Crete. This was my first time travelling to Greece, beautiful country, just too damn hot! The flight from Athens to Crete was delayed, but that was okay as I got to hang out with Kevin Chown, former bass player for Tarja, and my awesome boyfriend. We were on the same flight to Crete with Kev. The festival consisted of two nights with about five bands each. I was only there for Tarja and Demons & Wizards. Tarja performed the first night and was the last act to close the day with and what a way to end the day. Despite the heat and having chosen to wear all leather, she kicked ass and the audience gave much love to her and the band. At the end I went backstage where I met with Tarja and even she admitted wearing her outfit wasn’t the brightest idea and that it was “SO HOT”.

The bands prior to her set were not all bad. Uli John Roth was up right before her and while I enjoyed his guitar playing, he could choose a better singer, or just stick with solo guitar playing (Uli even watched Tarja’s entire set and after went to meet with her.) Tarja was definitely the highlight of the first night though. The second night ended with Demons & Wizards. You’re seeing that the big acts were the ones to end the nights. 😉 We watched their show from a higher spot on an old ruin. What a great view that was, not only of the band, but of the sea as well. I recommend this area to all future participants of this festival. Tarja and Demons & Wizards both get five out of five at this festival.

Honourable mentions: Carthagods, Rotting Christ, and Uli John Roth.

Next round, where I travelled solo, was Pratteln, Switzerland. Again, beautiful country, but very expensive. This is also where the trip ended up with me in the hospital having emergency surgery for an ovarian torsion. Kudos to the nurses and doctors who took care of me. They were very nice and very professional.

Serious Black was on first, not my favourite, but not all bad either. Do not put this band off, give them a listen first. Next up was Rage feat. Lingua Mortis Orchestra. They were a better act and I thoroughly enjoyed them. Finally, the main act I was there for, again, Tarja. The setlist was pretty much the same as Chania, but still a damn good show. It was more energetic, to me anyways, than the previous, that may have been due to it being less hot. Lol Another five star performance.

Last, but not least, the show with Evanescence in Slovakia. Thankfully the weather held up most of the day as rain was in the forecast. Another country I have never been to and another one that was enjoyed. First band on was Veridia. I did not care for this band, at all. To me, it felt like watching Britney Spears trying to sing metal. It just did not work, but a lot of people in the crowd seem to enjoy them and they are definitely energetic, but I will pass.

Tarja was not the main act for tonight, as Evanescence was, however Tarja was definitely the highlight. I am not saying this because I am a huge Tarja fan, but because it is fact. I have also been a huge Evanescence fan (early era). This was the greatest show of the year by Tarja, for me. It marked the last show for The Shadow Self tour and sadly was also the end of a chapter for one member, Kevin Chown. He will be greatly missed, but you can still see him play with Bach as he begins his next chapter.

Every member in Tarja’s band puts their whole heart into their performance. There were some sound issues, but they kept giving the crowd their all despite the fact. I got the chance to see Julian Barrett perform for the first time as well alongside Tarja as he was filling in for Alex. Damn good guitarist.

Evanescence did not disappoint either as Amy Lee went back to her roots and what made the band, THE BAND. The setlist was full of oldies and played just as the albums were recorded. I have to give them five stars as well, but I did not stay for the full set. We left early as Kevin Chown invited me back to his hotel to hang for a bit, along with the rest of the band. Tarja had already turned devices off at this point and went to sleep. The band are very cool people, we had a chat about different foods which started with Christian (keyboard) asking me if I tried Haggis yet since I was visiting Scotland for six months (lol), hockey, and just life in general.

Tarja shows are always amazing to watch, very energetic, and you can tell the support and love the band have for one another. I definitely recommend everyone to attend one, or many, of her concerts. You will not be disappointed. Not only, but every show I got to meet some friends for the first time and other wonderful people. Stay tune for my review of Tarja’s Christmas concerts in Finland.

Dork mention: I love how Tarja notices my short ass in the crowd every time and she will smile, point, and wave to me. 🙂

All photos are my property. Please credit when sharing.
© Jessica Clingempeel

Interview with Joanne Mariani

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!!!!

Review of Tarja’s ‘In the Raw’ Singles

Review by Ryan Murray | Aug. 15, 2019

Dead Promises

Dead promises – we all hate them. But what can they teach us? In Tarja’s new song “Dead Promises”, Tarja’s departure from symphonic metal is obvious within the first 30 seconds of this amazing track. (The heaviness kinda brings me back to Ciaran’s Well from My Winter Storm) The intro is lead guitar based. It makes me wonder if Tarja had some influence from Stratovarius during the “Nordic Symphony”. Anyway, at about :17 seconds in, the first power chord hits, and gives you an idea of what this song is made of. Just wait for it. Then the main riff, with drums, kicks in at about :46 seconds, which is where I’d imagine the pit will break out? 🙂

Tarja’s melodies in this song are extremely catchy, no surprise there. What I find most intriguing though is, for a lack of better words, the “rawness” of Tarja’s emotions throughout the melodies. I’ve been a huge fan of Tarja since about 2001, but I’ve never heard such raw emotion coming from her as I have in this song, both lyrically and melodically. This album is said to dive into the raw state of Tarja’s emotion, bringing us into a very personal place lyrically. This song doesn’t disappoint in that regard.

This song truly demonstrates Tarja’s writing ability to hook the listener within just seconds of the song. Driving/heavy guitars, grooving and pulse pounding drums and yet, subtle verses. Tarja’s vocal versatility shines in “Dead Promises”; from her light yet driving “ahh ahh ahhhh”’s during the intro and in between verses, to her more laid back voice during the verses “I’ve seen the walls collapsing, breaking down countless times”, to her belting out “Dead Promises” in the choruses.

“Dead promises
Games you play will kill your dreams
Promises mean everything
Life won’t look back for you”


This line in particular means a lot to me. I’ve had someone in my life that I’ve known since I was 9 years old. This person always made promises that they’d be there to support me, and would always be there to help me grow. Then the backbiting and the dead promises started. This person did everything they could to break me down, and eventually, killed a dream for me. I however then look to the line in the second verse “Why can’t you see that your powers will weaken and fall? Oh why, you seem to forget what you make us recall.” This person only had power over me because I allowed them to. Thankfully, I got myself out of that toxic situation and have made new dreams that are becoming reality.

For me, this song reminds us of what empty promises have taught us throughout our lives. We can chose to be a victim, or a victor. We can’t let those who hurt us with empty promises define who we are, and they only define who we are if we give them the power to do so.

If this song is any indication as to what the rest of “In the Raw” holds, I absolutely can’t wait. I always find a true connection to music that is honest and raw; music that pours out emotion and doesn’t hold back. Tarja always pushes the boundaries with her music and tries new things, and because of that her music is always evolving. *

Railroads

As a fan of Tarja since I discovered Nightwish in 2001, I have always had a deep appreciation for all of her music, and have always been able to find a personal connection to her lyrics; and “Railroads” is no exception! This song, to me, has a beautiful opening. (It’s actually hard not to envision an older railroad crossing just before the vocals come in.)

The first few lines alone I connect to right away.

“Hard to believe in, strikes like a bad sin.
Live without meaning is no life at all.
Dreaming victorious, death to be glorious.
Conquering new worlds further than before.”


Everyone longs to find meaning in their lives and it’s hard to believe in life without one. For some, it’s a career. For many, it’s family and their loved ones. For others, it’s faith. For me, it was my new found faith as a Christian that gave my life meaning.

Throughout my middle school/high school years, I went through a really bad depression. We had a lot of financial worries throughout those years and things were really difficult emotionally, financially and socially. I dealt with a lot of emotional bullying, which turned physical at times as well. Back in 2008, a close friend introduced to me to the Church that I’m going to still to this day, and my life has completely changed for the better. I have a much better career path now, an amazing Wife who I met at Church, and have found true happiness and joy in my life.

When the chorus kicks in “Come show me the love that fills your heart. You’ll see this moment will redeem the past, and shine tomorrow railroads with your light.” the music builds with more intense strings and chugging guitars. After the second chorus, there’s an instrumental interlude for about :38 seconds where the strings intensify even more and pull to the front of the melody from the chorus. I’ve always been a sucker for strings with hard rock, and this section is just great!

For me, the chorus is really the hook of this song. The very moment that we discover the meaning of our lives, we find a love and a drive that fills our hearts. For me, when I turned to my faith as a Christian, that exact moment in time redeemed my past. In this moment, whatever your purpose is, once you identify it, you become a light for all of those around you who may still be in the dark. You’re able to help others who have been in your same situation because you’ve been through it and came out on the other side victorious.

Thank you Tarja, yet again, for your constant inspiration. Thank you for sharing something so beautiful, yet something so raw. I can’t wait to hear the rest of this album!

Tears in Rain

We all have faced challenges and difficulties in our lives, but what defines us is how we come out on the other end. We can all relate to Tarja’s newest single “Tears in Rain”, as we’ve all faced something that has completely changed us.

The intro to this song is in your face drums and guitar, with some synth in the background. Once the verse hits, it almost has an 80’s feel, and I love it! The verses are light but groovy, and the chorus is extremely catchy. “We are gone. Nothing of us remains, like tears in rain. Who we are, all of it washed away like tears in rain.”

The bridge, however, has got to be my favorite part of the song, especially the first few words. For me personally, it speaks to victory over difficulties. “I will write another storyline. The circle of love will shine…”

When I was about 22, someone I trusted and considered a part of my family (not blood family) did something awful to me. This one moment in my life changed me. I didn’t know who I could trust anymore. When I hear the opening lines “Dominos fall in a house that’s empty. Still of the silence is deafening. Not even a trace, our existence erased by this quiet game.”, I think of that moment. Everything around me came crashing down hard and fast. I was broken. I couldn’t feel anything anymore. Just “…like tears in rain”, the “familial bond” was washed away forever. The trust was broken and could never be gained again.

“How could the memories be so real? We move on, but the time won’t heal. So I give what I get, just before I forget how our fates were sealed”. For years after, the memories were so vivid in my mind. I would have nightmares, on repeat, of that one moment in time. As time moved on, I felt like I wasn’t healing. In fact, only getting worse. I would talk to family and friends about it, but it kept eating at me. I had a choice to make at that point. Either I could let this one moment define the rest of my life, or I could move on, learn from it and forgive. (Forgive doesn’t mean that I’d ever trust this person again, only that I’d release myself from the bondage of hating this person for the rest of my life). I decided to forgive. The moment I did, I was able to “write a new storyline.” The memories slowly began to subside and the nightmares went away. To this day, I am able to see this person, and at least be civil with them. While I have forgiven this person that changed me forever, I won’t ever be able to trust them again.

“Tears in Rain” is becoming my favorite track so far from “In The Raw”. Tarja’s deep dive into herself for this album is very evident. This is shaping up to be my favorite album of hers in quite some time, pretty equal with MWS and WLB. As always Tarja, thank you for sharing your heart with us, and for always staying true to who you are as a person and as a musician. Thank you for laying it all out, and exposing your inner heart on these three songs, and I can’t wait to hear the rest of the album!