Review of Tarja’s ‘In the Raw’

Review © Jessica Clingempeel | CEO Of Ethereal Metal Webzine | Tarja's USA Admin

I have been a fan of Tarja’s since she has been with “the band”. I have followed her then and throughout her entire solo career. I have had the privilege to review most of her albums. As a huge music lover, I tend to stay with those who move me the most. Tarja, and many others already know that her music has been an earthly savior to me. Without her music I would have succumbed to the abused past, depression, to the suicidal thoughts. Even then, not every song of Tarja’s have moved me to the point of tears. Every album has its treasure, but for an entire album to move me can be hard. In the Raw has done that. This entire album has moved me to tears, and with every listen that passion I have for these tracks grow stronger. No artist has ever done this to me, NONE!

The album starts off with Dead Promises which many have already heard as it was released as the first single. The album version however features Björn “Speed” Strid who gives his own sound to the song. While Tarja’s solo version is great, Björn made it even better. I also have to mention the song is at its best live. The rawness and the power is greatly seen on stage.

The second track, Goodbye Stranger, also features another collaboration with Cristina Scabbia of Lacuna Coil. This is a collaboration many fans have been wanting for years now and finally it has come to light. I don’t think this song would have worked without Cristina honestly. The melodies blend very well and each vocalist gives their own touch to the song.

The main track that won me over was the song You and I. It is a simple ballad accompanied by a piano, but the lyrics will pull at the heartstrings of the hardest metalhead. This song alone is what won me over without having even finished the album yet. Not everyone has that special someone, I never thought I would, but am blessed to now. Then it goes into the next track, flowing smoothly as if one full song, The Golden Chamber.

The Golden Chamber contains very few lyrics, which are in Finnish. The music and the humming of Tarja’s voice takes you to another world and even without many words tells a story. Tarja, being a huge fan of film music, integrated that into this song, and I think it could be used in a film.

I have to also give credit to everyone else who has worked on this album. The instrumentations are well blended and complement her voice well in this album. The orchestration is also very well done and put together. It would be interesting to hear just an all orchestral version of this album.

Without spoiling too much of this golden treasure I will end the review here. This album contains something for everyone, no matter what genre you are into. Some songs are heavy, some are not, but there are no flaws. That could be the fangirl in me talking though. Make your own opinion. Expect the unexpected.

Other album mentions: Tommy Karevik from Seventh Wonder/Kamelot and Carlinhos Brown.

Overall Rating: 5/5

Pre-order the album now at: https://tarja.tmstor.es/ Out August 30th, 2019.

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.  *

Photos © Tim Tronckoe 2018-2019
Review © Ryan Murray | Contributor of Ethereal Metal Webzine

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 back biting 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. *

Overall Rating: 4.5/5

Tarja Graces New York City

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© Photo: Eric Pefley

Review by Jessica Clingempeel
Admin of Winter Storm USA | Ethereal Metal Webzine
9/22/2018

September 9th, 2018 will be a night that will never be forgotten in New York City. It was a long wait for the return of one of the most influential female singers in the metal world today, but the wait was well worth it.

First, the opening band, Symfinity. Seann, the vocalist, came out to greet me as we were waiting outside, and he is an awesome guy. I had the pleasure of getting an interview with this band a few weeks prior to the show and every musician seem to be very humble and down-to-earth. This is a band that you need to check out and see live. So many musicians and instruments, one must wonder, how can they even keep up with everything though. Haha! Seriously though, don’t miss them and don’t be afraid to walk up to them and start a conversation, very nice people!

Symfinity performed several songs, including their new single “Dynamite”. My favourite, however, would have to be “Everything I know Explodes”. I could be biased though as this was one of the first songs I heard from this band and instantly loved.

After Symfinity, fans patiently waited for Tarja to grace the stage. The intro started, and people began packing into the venue like sardines desperate to get as close to the stage as possible. I am a 5’0, tiny woman, GIVE ME SOME SPACE PEOPLE! (haha) Easy to get lost here…moving on..

No Bitter End begins, and screams filled the room as Tarja comes on and begins what is going to be one hell of a show. Though in the beginning there were some tech issues with the mic, Tarja handled it like a champ. Ok, it was cute. 😉 Considering this woman is a powerhouse, a microphone wasn’t even needed.

The setlist contained 15 songs, which includes songs from every solo album and a Nightwish medley.  Every set was a flawless performance, with the acoustic being breathtaking. A standout performance, of course, was ‘Diva’. Tarja comes out wearing, now dubbed the ‘Diva’ crown, that was given to her in Brazil. The entire performance was superb. Though I wish the setlist had included ‘Supremacy’ and ‘Too Many’ I wasn’t disappointed at all. The entire show was AMAZING. Every musician, including Symfinity, gave their all and were flawless. I don’t think anyone left the venue that night dissatisfied, and if they did, I did not notice it. All I saw was passion from the fans and from the musicians.

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© Photo: Jessica Clingempeel

Of course, the show was ended with the traditional bow and “HIT SONG”. Several people were waiting for that moment and Tarja headbanging through severe neck pain should prove she is passionate for music and for her fans. Please Tarja, look after yourself and as much as we love to see you head bang, no need to make yourself hurt and sick for us! We will love you no matter what. 😊

Hopefully there will be a return from Tarja soon (soon, soon, not Tarja’s usage of soon)  because my ass will definitely be on another eight-hour train ride from Virginia to New York, and standing another 4 to 5 hours in the chilly, rainy weather to be there. Yes, she is that worth it people! Being a fan for over 15 years should prove that.

For those who did not get the chance to meet Tarja yet, your time will come, and the wait will be worth it. Tarja is a very sweet woman and she tries to give time to everyone.

Mad props to Eleonora (she knows who she is.) The rudeness of some people and frustrations you have to put up with, you have balls! Thanks! Thanks to the rest of the crew and band for everything. ❤

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© Photo: Jessica Clingempeel
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© Video: Jessica Clingempeel

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

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Review by Zach Brehany
9/18/18

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Overall Rating: 5/5

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

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

Review of Tarja’s “Love to Hate” Act II Single

Photo © Tim Tronckoe

Reviewed by Jessica Clingempeel
6/27/2018

Love to Hate was presented as the first single of the upcoming release of Act II. We were first introduced to this song back in August of 2016 when the sixth studio album, “The Shadow Self”, was released. This performance was recorded not in Milan, which is the second chapter of Act II, but the Metropolis Studios in London. This special show was performed in front of 20 lucky winners who were given the chance to hear the album before release. This first single gives us a glimpse of the intimate concert and I can see why the London performance was added to Act II as the first chapter.

I have seen every live release of Tarja’s including those filmed by fans. Love to Hate has got to be one of the most powerful performances I have seen to date. The video was superb! The song, with its emotional lyrics and awesome guitar riffs, was flawless already, but the live performance made it perfection. Normally I prefer videos shot in color, which the London gig (taking from this one video) is not, but they made it work. It adds more emotion to the performance in my opinion. The camera angles were shot perfectly and every musician gets their moment in the spotlight. I don’t know who the camera person is or editors, but kudos to them as well for the magnificent job in putting this together.

If this is just a taste of what to expect from Act II then we are all in for a real treat. This is going to be an amazing and flawless experience.

Standout Mentions

  • Awesome riffs
  • Emotional lyrics
  • Powerful and emotional performance/vocals

Overall Rating: 5/5

Act II will be released on July 27th, 2018. You can purchase Act II in different formats, including special bundles here: https://tarja.tmstor.es/

Review of Tarja’s “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” Single

Review by Jessica Clingempeel
© Ethereal Metal Webzine
10/20/2017

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.

Overall Rating: 5/5