Review of Tarja’s ‘Dead Promises’ Single

Several people wanted to write a review on this single for the webzine so you will be reading several here. Mine is first, enjoy and be sure to listen to the song (video at bottom, along with a sample of the album version feat. Bjorn from Soilwork) and order this album. Out Aug. 30th, 2019!

All Photography © Tim Tronckoe
Review © Jessica Clingempeel | CEO of Ethereal Metal Webzine | Tarja's USA Admin 

Dead Promises, given the context of the lyrics, has no bearings on Tarja’s promise to deliver a heavier and darker album. This track promises to deliver and succeed! The beginning starts out heavy, gets heavier in the middle, and ends heavy. The instrumentation meshes well with the melodic and emotional context of Tarja’s voice, making this song an outstanding first taste of what I assume will be the album to beat this year.

Instead of focusing on the musical elements of this album, since we already have several reviews, I will focus on the lyrical context and what this song means to me. A little bit of a personal story if you will.

We have all been given a dead promise or two or a thousand. Countries have been given many from the “leaders”. We have all fallen victim to such promises. I was the victim for most of my life, since early childhood. I was given broken promises by my father almost every time I would see him. The promise of love, safety and protection, being there for me. All those promises were dead, were empty. I never saw much love, I never had protection, he was barely ever there, and with him I experienced all kinds of abuse, if not by the hands of him, then by the women and their grown children he would take me around.

I was given dead promises by my ex. The relationship was nothing but control, fights, etc. One-sided, always about him, I was last. These two are just small examples of what I endured in life. Those men were the reasonings for my disbelief in love, my struggles with any kind of relationships (friendship or intimate), and my trust and hatred for humanity that kept getting worse. I had put up a wall and thought nothing or no one would ever get close to and hurt me again as long as I was in charge and kept that wall up. It was just recently I have learned to love again. I met a man that I never thought existed. He has been kind, loving, and every promise so far has been kept and fulfilled. I tore my wall down and gave him the chance. If I hadn’t I would not have ever seen true love.

This song challenges everyone and is a lesson for those of us who have been lied to and hurt. We have all fallen victim to someone and/or something. We can either keep the walls we have built up or we can tear them down, forgive those who hurt us (for us), and trust again. Otherwise we will never know what love is, a good life, nor ever see our dreams become reality. As always, Tarja has hit a personal level for me. She has been my earthly saviour, apart from my mother, because if it were not for her and her music, I would be dead today. I was on the verge of suicide so many times, use to self-harm, pull hair out, scream, cry, hate the world, but it was her music that saved me. This is why I am so loyal to this woman. This new album, after only one song, proves to be another fit for me on a personal and emotional level. As always Tarja, thank you. *

Review © China Tosin | Contributor of Ethereal Metal Webzine  

In short: Very guitar-based, riff-based, with a very important bitter message that hit the hearts of those who habitually break promises or have their promises let down, Tarja’s out there to retribute!

This song’s message seems to be about empty promises in relationships or family conflicts that are not fulfilled and it keeps adding up the pain when the promises keep creating expectations of improvement but not much effort in achieving. However, it can likely to apply outside interpersonal context too, such as unfulfilled political hopes, corporate failure in compensating their services. The line “Dead promises, games you play will kill your dreams…” sends a strong message about those who give empty promises will actually be the ones hurting, too. The vocals are pretty minimal compared to Tarja’s other songs that are a bit more complex, but executed it well, kept it concise, catchy, and powerful.

The music is on the heavier and faster side of her discography, very guitar-based and riff-based. The lead riffs, the main heavy riffs, and choice of sound give the song a “bitter” and “dry” feeling which fits the message. No solo in heavier Tarja songs had not ever been a bad thing, as this song gives you a varied and harmonized version of the lead riff near the end.

The dynamics of the song are very well plotted, as there are parts that the lead riffs playing alone giving excitement and build up, things get heavy on the main riffs and chorus. In the verses are laid down with less distorted guitar picking and bass guitar on higher register makes the song fit the “dry” feeling. *

Review © Jade | Reviewer of Ethereal Metal Webzine

Dead Promises, the first track released to the public from Tarja Turunen’s new album “In The Raw”, is a thunderous song with plenty of guitar and a traditional hard-rock feel. In The Raw is definitely an album title this song belongs on – the music and lyrics combined make for a very naked song, aggressive and not even having to put up a fight to get to the front of the musical line and be noticed. Tarja stated that this new album was going to be darker and heavier than previous albums, and she definitely delivers here.

Turunen’s powerful vocals shine brightly on this track, but the missing element was a heavier, darker vocal – a growl, if you will. From my quick review of the Album Version preview of Dead Promises, this is solved with the addition of Björn “Speed” Strid of SOILWORK. While the single version is a fantastic preview, the album version seems like it’s going to have that one extra element needed to make a perfect heavy metal song. (Though it’s been proven over and over again that Tarja Turunen shines beautifully on her own.)

Overall, Dead Promises was a perfect peek into what’s to come. A crowd pleaser to say the least (as it won a Metal Hammer poll for best new music in metal for the week of its release by a LANDSLIDE), I can say this much: we’re all dying to see it live.

Review © Zach Brehany | Contributor of Ethereal Metal Webzine

If this new single shows us everything, it looks like her promise of a Winter Storm is about to be unleashed with fury, anger, and the darkest corner of herself as a person. We’ve seen this transformation of a classical singer with an exceptional voice to her now being a powerhouse or a vocalist. And yet, years later, we are drawn back into her spell.

The last hard rock album she put out, The Shadow Self, was all about the darker Tarja and the sides of her that are deranged, emotional, and hidden beneath scars of damage she as endured as a performer. If this song is any indication of what the album will entell, we are about to start seeing the wounds uncovered and bloody. 

“Dead Promises” lyrically are as deep as any other song she has put out (brings to mind the lyrics to “I Walk Alone”, “Dark Star”, “Never Enough”, and “Innocence”). They are all recollections of her past with people, theorizing that they deal with Nightwish. When looked at it from that angle, this is a natural progression of herself as an artist: she is moving on, but won’t forget what happened to her for her to be where she is at now. 
The song does create a strong sense of sorrow when you are left thinking about all the promises people have made but keep on breaking. The message, I believe, is that we need to move on from all of that. Those that have betrayed us will no longer be able to continue living their best life because they built there’s off of lying, betrayals, and promises that amount to nothing. We will always have to deal with people like that, but they are not our problem; we don’t have the right to give ourselves to those kinds of people because they will only hold us back. Tarja is moving on from the past and that is what she is telling us to do. 

The instrumentation for this track is what threw me off the most. It feels like she is also moving away from her usual pure orchestration that was what started her career with both her Christmas album “Breath From Heaven*” and “My Winter Storm” and going back to the hard rock elements from “What Lies Beneath” and “Colours in the Dark”. This song isn’t about sounding as sweeping and operatic, but more in your face and out in the open. It’s an interesting choice, but I am left wondering how the rest of the album will play out.

This is a good look into the album and a song I’m sure will be a fan favorite. We are seeing Tarja transform more into the queen of hard rock that we know her as and it seems there is no way to go back. She’s hear to sucker punch us into looking deeper in ourselves and we can only hope that emotionally we will handle what it is like to strip ourselves from what we see and embrace what we find in the raw.  *

Overall Rating: 4.5/5

Review of “from Spirits and Ghosts” by Tarja

Reviewed by Jade

With plenty of haunting music in her repertoire, it comes as no surprise that Tarja has taken classic religious material and turned it into an album for even the least festive soul. If you have worked retail every holiday season and cringe away at even the faintest hint of Christmas music, worry not. from Spirits and Ghosts: Score for a Dark Christmas won’t find children dancing up and down an aisle or cheery carolers running door to door. If you feel particularly sad or alone during the Christmas holiday, then this is a great album to keep yourself company with. And with James Dooley as the composer, listeners can expect all symphonic and no metal. A tactic which just works.

To kick the album off, we start with O Come, O Come, Emmanuel. We’re starting off gloomy right from the beginning (something we should expect with Dark Christmas in the title). The strength of this song is the slow beginning that rises up into a more melodic melody that never fails to lose the overall tone of the song. There are a couple of crescendos paired with Tarja’s voice that may lead some to forget that they aren’t listening to the original (which sounds totally different, but this version may sound more authentic to more modern-day lovers). Clocking at 4:56, it doesn’t feel too long, and it goes through a nice beginning/middle/end flow. A satisfying song.

Next, we have Together. If you’re sitting there wondering why you’ve never heard it before – you’re not alone. I did the same. This is actually an original song by Tarja herself, and it fits so well with the album that it could actually be mistaken as a classic rewritten if you’re not expecting an original song. We lose a bit of the gloom we started with in the first track and pick up a bit more melody, and Tarja’s vocals really lend to the intensity and passion behind the lyrics. The notes she hits in this song are impressive to say the least. At a 3:21 run time, Together doesn’t disappoint.

We Three Kings is the third track on this album. So far, this track feels the most genuine in terms of storytelling; we’re hearing a tale being told through the lyrics, and she’s making us believe that story. A more symphonic tone carries the listener through this song, and we still have a bit of a break from the dark gloom of the first track. The only major flaw in this song is that the lyrics have always been corny in just about every way possible. If you can look past that, however, fans of the original that appreciate symphonic music will be happy with this 3:54 track.

The more traditional Deck the Halls follows We Three Kings. Here we return to the dark and gloomy feel the album started with, vocals haunting the originally cheerful tune. In a few parts of the song, the listener may get confused and think they’re listening to Lost Northern Star off of Tarja’s solo album: the melody is very similar in some places, as is the way she begins a verse. However, this doesn’t much matter amongst the impact of this rendition of the famous track. At 2:44, it’s simple and straight to the point, and yet still delivers an entirely different atmosphere. Fun fact: Tarja’s daughter features on this track.

Fifth up is Pie Jesu, originally written by Andrew Lloyd Webber. The most impressive part of this song is that it’s in Latin, and Tarja nails every pronunciation. A beautiful piece clocking at 3:28, we can hear the plead in the way Tarja delivers the vocals. For those who don’t know the English translation, Google Pie Jesu by Andrew Lloyd Webber, and then compare your impression to Tarja’s cover. You might surprise yourself.

Another major classic – Amazing Grace. Such a dark atmosphere for such a strong song. At 4:42, it comes off very well rounded and goes through surprising transitions throughout the piece. The dark atmosphere softens up a bit; beauty settling over it and translating through to the listener. We’re treated to another beautiful crescendo midway through, lending to gorgeous vocals. It’s safe to say it does more than enough justice to the original.

O Tannenbaum is next up on the track list. This track manages to be somewhat cheery while still retaining the haunting feel of the album. For those who don’t know, O Tannenbaum is a German Christmas carol which those of us in the English-speaking countries know as O Christmas Tree. About halfway through this rendition, we almost feel like we’re heading into a fantasy adventure; the orchestra picks up its pace without ever hitting too high of a peak. Tarja’s voice in German is beautiful. Once again, her pronunciation is spot on. 3:37 of satisfaction.

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas seems to have a different edge than the rest of the album. The vocals and music don’t quite stay on melody with each other, though this is certainly a creepy version of this classic. In terms of strength, Tarja’s vocals are, as always, on point. The orchestra has the right idea, and the backup vocals are a nice touch – even if they do follow the theme of not quite matching up with the melody. The plus side? Things seem to smooth out about three minutes in. The melody starts to make sense, and Tarja’s vocals shine. So, all in all? Not a waste of 3:40.

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen. If you haven’t heard the original, this might be a little hard to keep up with. Tarja’s vocals in the beginning are quick and melodic, and a bit hard to understand if you don’t know what you’re listening for. As someone who hasn’t listened to the original, I can’t compare them as a reviewer. I can, however, say that this rendition definitely has another fantasy feel to it. Give it a listen. Even if the beginning is a bit quick, it smooths out and feels genuine.

Third from last is Feliz Navidad. This song is VERY DIFFICULT to cover and find a pleasing middle ground with. It’s a haunting version, but it doesn’t quite hit its stride. It doesn’t fail as a song at all – it’s listenable. It picks up a bit about halfway through, but overall it leaves a bit to be desired. Perhaps the run time could have been shortened – at 5:48, it stretched itself.

What Child is This makes up the penultimate track. While the music is certainly noticeable, Tarja’s vocals are more prominent here, and they fill the spaces beautifully. At 4:55, this makes up for the drop off Feliz Navidad incited.

The final track on this album is We Wish You a Merry Christmas. This started out the most cheerful of any track on here, then quickly plunged into the haunting atmosphere we’ve come to expect. Within thirty seconds, trembling starts when it sounds like this could be a demented track for a horror movie. That feeling remains through the song. If you don’t get chills and a sense of foreboding, you’re one lucky listener. This is a huge classic, and at 4:07, it works.

Overall, it seems like Tarja Turunen paired with the right people to produce this album. It’s definitely the darkest and most chilling Christmas album out there, and Tarja managed to make it work beautifully. Even the flaws are made up for by all the positives.

Another little fun fact for all of you: Tarja does all of her backup vocals. Meaning everything that sounds like a choir is her voice layered together. Talk about impressive – she could fool the best ear with that.

Overall Rating: 4/5.

Review of Tarja’s “Act II”


Reviewed by Zach Brehany

Note: for the purposes of this review, I’m mostly going to be focusing on the Milan performance, given how that is the only concert presented on the digital, CD, and Vinyl editions. 

There is a moment in the Milan performance that shows across the audience during the acoustic performance of ‘I Walk Alone’ that has yet to leave my mind a little over 24 hours ago. It’s a scene involving some fans holding a banner which said “With You, We Don’t Walk Alone”. When I first saw that, I broke out in a smile. It was a nice touch to show that. But it really had hit me when I was done for the day and thinking back on what I had just watched and experience. In a way, it felt like we have come full circle on the first decade of Tarja’s solo career with this release.

It has been many years in waiting for this release and given how popular among fan Act I is, this has been a live album we have been begging for. When it came in the mail and I unloaded everything, I was filled with this feeling of comfort very few artists can display. Looking at all of the different covers for the releases, looking at the photos, the disks, and all sorts of other little goodies, there was a feeling of something comforting, powerful, elegant, and eternal had entered my life again.

The packaging was simple, but what got my hands down for best packaging would be the media book edition. Looking at the almost mini novella inside of the packaging, the photos from both fans and professionals are breathtaking. Judging by the stills, we can see Tarja is more in her element, she feels more natural. Maybe because of the history of Italy, with the culture being viewed as being perfumed with romance, she looks like she is right at home. From the cobbled streets to the gorgeous waterfall lion looming behind her, we are about to enter her world again and see things as they are meant.

Hearing first the vinyl and CD releases, there are some elements that I love and a few that kind of bug me a bit. Besides being crystal clear, I loved how this album doesn’t cut out the crowd cheering like it did with Act I. With live albums, the point of them is to being able to think back and be able to imagine yourself as part of the audience. That being said, we need audience reactions for that very reason. Including a good part of it on the audio formats is great. My other little issue isn’t massive, but more like a person preference. I honestly wish that one of the other three concerts were featured along with the Milan concert. It isn’t a big issue, but something that would have been nice.

The concert itself has left me puzzled with one thought only as ‘Hit Song’ began and before it cut to credits: this will either be one of the most artistic concerts I have ever seen or will be viewed as one of the worse. For me, I would hope that it is remembered and valued as an artistic achievements. With live concerts in a visual medium, it is a bit hard to push envelopes of what you can do. Not good enough editing and you would might as well be watching a music video. If it is too extreme and grand, then you forget the music and only get half of the experience. It’s a bit of a tricky situation. However, what we got here is something special.

From the start with ‘No Bitter End’ all the way to “Until My Last Breathe”, I do not feel like I was experiencing how a concert of hers might be like, but instead feeling like we are entering her mind, her conscious. With the inclusion of various music videos, digital effects, and footage for these songs, I was left feeling exhausted and a bit closer to Tarja as an artist. To watch the Milan footage is like entering her imagination and how she might see the world and her music. If I am correct by any chance, then what a hell of an imagination.

With the rest of the band, they were all wonderful as ever. They all seem confident, comfortable, and not afraid to have a little fun. They seem to be enjoying themselves and that works well for me. Though, seeing Timm Schreiner on drums did take a few moments to get used to. He is a fantastic drummer, being able to be powerful and carry the beats. Over time and seeing more of him performing, I am sure I’ll see him in his role a bit better. But for what I have seen, he does seem to be holding himself well with all of the other giants that feel like they are at home.

Thinking back on my experience with this concert, I am left with a feeling of completeness. There is a lot one can talk about with Tarja: analyzing her lyrics, instrumentation, influences, styles, deeper meaning, and entire library of information. Act II feels like we just got a chance to understand and feel how Tarja feels about not only her music, but the world of itself.

Overall Rating: 4.5/5

Interview with Tarja about Act II, Outlanders, and more!


Interviewed by Jessica Clingempeel

Act II has been in the works for a while now, but is finally
seeing the light of day July 27th. Were there any obstacles that got
in the way between recordings, production, etc.?

Not really. I worked on it for 5 months fully. Even
though the shows were recorded already some time ago, I didn’t have time to
concentrate into it before. The amount of material that needed my attention was
so huge, so it took me a long time.

You chose to film Act II in Milan at Teatro della Luna. What was the
reason for this location?

I wanted to discard all the additional stress that
always is around when you are filming and recording a DVD show. That’s why I
decided to make the recordings in a theatre that I knew in advance and where I
have performed before. Also the logistics were important in order to get the
film crew from Germany coming in easier. And for sure I love my Italian fans!

How did the atmosphere and the audience differ from that of
Act I?

The theatre itself is not an old opera theatre
like in Act I is, but more modern one and the audience is not Argentinean
audience, but Italian. Those are very important factors creating the atmosphere
on this show. Cultural differences affect us. Argentinean audience is known as
being very passionate when it comes in showing their emotions and devotion to
the artists, whereas Italian audience is enjoying the concerts by watching
every little detail and showing their respect and adoration in different ways.

Apart from the main show in Italy, there will also be a
recording from the show at Metropolis Studios in London. This show was more
intimate being that it was not big and The Shadow Self hadn’t been released
yet.  Were you at all nervous about how
the audience would react to your songs?

We played the songs from The Shadow Self-album live
for the first time in this tiny studio for handful of hardcore fans, media and
label people. It was an extraordinary exciting moment for all of us involved, the
fans included. The intimacy of this event made us really enjoy the fact that we
were capable of facing the challenge. I personally loved the performance,
because I could see the reactions of my fans so close by. I didn’t know how
they would react in my new creations, but it was beautiful to see their
expressions. I was not nervous about how they would react, because at the end
of the day, I was happy with my new album and work. After the concert I could
talk with them and get their feedback immediately.

Tim Tronckoe has been doing tremendous photoshoots with you
in recent years. Does he choose all the shooting locations and poses, or is it
a team effort?

I decide the locations and themes usually and we
go through together all the possibilities what to do and what we are seeking
for. About the posing itself, I am pretty used to be in front of the camera
already after all these years, but there is a huge difference in working with
such talented persons like Tim is. Your work gets enjoyable and easier when you
get to share it with a person that is very dedicated to it.  

You had fans choose the covers for each edition of Act II.
Did the chosen covers come close to what you had in mind?

Pretty much! I was very happy to see the results
of this selection. My fans have a good taste! 

How will Act II differ from Act I, apart from location,
setlist, etc. lol. 😊

In Act II you will see older, more confident and
not pregnant me! J
You can realize that I am having a great time with my band nowadays. The
musicians truly support and share my passion with music, so the work has gotten
easier in every way. There are only good people now around me and that fact is
very important to me. It is as important as the musicianship they have. I
produced the video in an artistic way, so you could feel like being in the
concert yourself when watching the concert at your place. I tried to recreate
the emotions and feelings that happened during the concert, so that the
experience at home would be the same and as enjoyable.  

Besides interviews, will we see any off-stage footage?

In the mediabook edition, you have interviews of
me and my band mates, enormous amount of pictures taken by my fans etc.

There will be a couple of release shows in the U.S. for Act
II and many of your fans, including myself, are ecstatic to see you. How does
it feel to be able to perform for us again after so many years?

I am super excited to return to US after all these
years. Thank you for being patient with me! It has been very difficult for me
to tour in US as a solo artist, but now it seems my dream is getting real. I am
really wishing to have a great time there with my fans and band. Totally great!

You mentioned that you have been working on a new album, but
what is to come of “Outlanders”?

Ha! Outlanders is still in the making…I have
plenty of projects in “the air” as you can see. J As I am not in a hurry with it, I need to
find a suitable place and time for Outlanders release. When the time is right,
you will get to hear more about it for sure. The music in this project is just
very beautiful!

Regarding the new album, are there any thoughts of any
collaborations, if so anyone in mind or anyone you would love to work with? Any
details in general of the album?

I have already written plenty of songs for the new
album and I am happy that I have found confidence in the process of writing
them. I feel the album will follow the natural path that The Shadow Self-album
opened, just hopefully will be a better album! More than that I cannot tell you
yet. Only that I hope to release the album some time at the end of next year.
Certainly would be nice to collaborate with someone on an album, but I don’t
have concrete plans yet.

Recently you did a few shows for Noche Escandinava III. How
did it feel to reunite and perform alongside Marjut and Juha again?

We had a blast! It was so wonderful to meet again and
share the stage with my long time friends. We laughed a lot every day because
we had so many memories from the University times to share. I really hope to
make another round one day with these guys.

Who chose the setlist, especially “Miau” in particular? The
cats were adorable! 😉

We all decided our solo pieces and then discussed
about the possible duets. This Rossini duet is wonderful, entertaining piece of
music. We just wanted to make the audience laugh a bit.

Will there be a live DVD and/or CD for Noche Escandinava III?

It is not in my plans.

Any last words for your fans?

I really want to thank you for the support, love
and patience.
We shall meet very soon on my tour is US! Can’t
really wait.

Order ACT II now!
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