Tarja – Henkäys Ikuisuudesta (Breath From Eternity)

Walking In The Air

     This is not a metal album in any way. It is Tarja‘s first solo album after her tenure in Nightwish was revoked (she was unceremoniously and publicly dumped). The version I own is the original 2006 release. It was re-released in at the end of 2010 with a different track-listing.

    With the background Tarja has in classical singing, it is no surprise that she made an album geared more toward vocals and words than music. But then, let’s face the truth; without Nightwish, when you go to hear Tarja perform live, the music playing in the background is incidental. It is all about that beautiful voice.
     With the exception of the first song, “Kuin Henkäys Ikuisuutta“, this is a CD full of holiday/Christmas songs written and previously recorded by other musicians.
     I cannot say, but for one song, whether or not they have some personal meaning in Tarja‘s life. The song “You Would Have Loved This“, originally written and performed by American folk-singer, Cori Conners, is performed here as a reflection and tribute to Tarja‘s mother, who passed away in 2003. It is a very good, and moving version of the song.

     For anyone who is a fan of Tarja‘s, or a fan of excellent vocal abilities, both the original and new release of this album are must haves.

     My own mother was half Italian, half Ojibway (Chippewa) and I grew up listening to Opera like Enrico Caruso singing Ave Maria. Tarja performs the song on this album and upon first hearing it I stopped doing anything and listened and remembered my own mother.
     What I am getting at is Tarja‘s singing on this album is very beautiful. So beautiful I believe even angel’s stop and listen when it is being played. It is not metal but that is okay; it is still music sung by the true First Lady of Metal.

track listing for Henkäys Ikuisuudesta:
01:  Kuin Henkäys Ikuisuutta (The Breath of Eternity)
02: You Would Have Loved This (Cori Conners)
03: Happy New Year (ABBA cover)
04: En Etsi Valtaa, Loistoa (I Seek No Power, Glory)
05: Happy Christmas (War Is Over) (John Lennon)
06: Varpunen Jouluaamuna (A Sparrow On Christmas Morning)
07: Ave Maria (Hail Mary)
08: The Eyes Of A Child (Air Supply)
09: Mökit Nukkuu Lumiset (Cottages Sleep Under Snow)
10: Jo Joutuu Ilta (not sure about translation: It’s Already Evening)
11: Marian Poika (Mary’s Boy Child)
12: Magnificat: Quia Respexit (literal translation: Magnificent: He Regards Humility)*
13: Walking In The Air (Howard Blake)
14: Track listing for 2010 re-release
01: Kuin Henkäys Ikuisuutta
02: You Would Have Loved This
03:  Heinillä Härkien
04: En Etsi Valtaa, Loistoa
05: Varpunen Jouluaamuna
06: Ave Maria
07: Maa On Niin Kaunis
08:  Mökit Nukkuu Lumiset
09: Jo Joutuu Ilta
10: Magnificat: Quia respexit
11: Kun Joulu On
12: Arkihuolesi Kaikki Heitä
13: Walking In The Air
14: Jouluyö, Juhlayö (Silent Night)

     Again, it is a Christmas album. Tarja has stated she is Lutheran, as are many from Finland (Soumi). In December, Tarja does Christmas performances of these songs at churches in Finland. The shows are always sold out.

* Magnificat was written by Johann Sebastian Bach for orchestra, choir, and vocal soloists. The words are The Canticle of Mary from The Gospel of Luke.
The song is the second Aria from Magnificat entitled: Quia respexit humilitatem.

Tarja – My Winter Storm

     The second album (as described in the review of NightwishDark Passion Play) that I just didn’t want to like but did despite my greatest effort to despise it.

     I have read various reviews of My Winter Storm; be they written by Metal critics or by John Q. Public listeners, and, to a degree, I can agree with some aspects of the negative reviews – but I do not agree with the main one, that the album is not heavy enough.
     If you purchased the CD and chanced to look at the pictures that are part of the inlay card, you would see that there is no reason for this album to be musically heavy at all times because the content of the lyrics is heavy enough.
     Taking a learned lesson from Tuomas Holopainen, Tarja goes a little schizophrenic and a whole lot multiple personality on us. Not for real but in that she plays various characters, pieces of her, if you will, that make up the entire. Doing this brings a depth to the songs on this recording that many musicians would never, ever dare to go.
     Anger and love are strong emotions, Tarja digs deeper and gets to the bottom of them, the underlying feelings that make up the emotions and what she experienced that caused them. She does so by playing four seperate roles; The Dead BoyTuomas Holopainen‘s character that is him (I sometimes refer to this album as The Dead Girl album). The Doll – herself in the role she has been put (the other’s are referred to as toys, and she is too when speaking of herself in the third person – find out the history of Nightwish and you will understand). The Phoenix – Again, herself, but becoming. The Queen Of Ice – herself, but not in the truest sense (could be what she has been portrayed to have been; imagined – false, real – but exaggerated to fantastical proportions).

     There is nothing wrong with this album musically. It is very personal. Whether she is singing about herself, someone else, or using a storyline (Lost Northern StarCiarán’s Well), the music reflects the lyrics, which are all over the place. Hence, the album is eclectic, reflecting the many moods that fell upon Tarja while writing the songs.
     Even the seeming out of place cover of Alice Cooper, Poison, is, in Tarja‘s voice, saying something that permeates most of the album, and, one read through the lyrics you come to understand that, like Nightwish‘ song, Bye Bye Beautiful, Tarja is singing her sadness and feelings of being betrayed to Tuomas. The song Boy And The Ghost is an example:

wake up, wake up:
there’s an angel in the snow
look up, look up:
it’s a frightened dead boy

     In the passage above, the 2nd line is a refernce to the Nightwish song Sacrament Of Wilderness, in which the lyrics describe Nightwish and its members oath to each other:

Naked in midwinter magic
Lies an angel in the snow

a sacrament by a campfire

     By comparing Tarja‘s lyric to that of Nightwish, you can see the cause of her sadness and why she may feel betrayed.

     My Winter Storm had three releases: a standard release (however, the U.K. and U.S. editions are different), limited release (has comes with a DVD of two versions of I Walk Alone video and a making of the video and making of the album), and a fan collector’s edition. Of these, the limited edition is the most comprehensive version to get and also the one you will most likely have to bid on on EBay, same goes for the fan edition.

track listing for My Winter Storm (U.S. Edition):
01: Ite, Missa Est
02: I Walk Alone
03: Lost Northern Star
04: Seeking For The Reign
05: The Reign
06: The Escape Of The Doll
07: My Little Phoenix
08: Boy And The Ghost
09: Sing For Me
10: Oasis
11: Poison
12: Our Great Divide
13: Sunset
14: Damned And Divine
15: Die Alive
16: Minor Heaven
17: Ciaran’s Well
18: Calling Grace
19: You Would Have Loved This (live)
20: Damned And Divine (live)

     Other songs released as singles and on the limited and/or fan edition:
Damned Vampire & Gothic Divine*
I Walk Alone (Artist version)*
I Walk Alone (In Extremo Remix)*
The Seer**
The Seer (Featuring Doro Pesch)***
Enough***

     I for one like the outpouring of emotion in the vocals and lyrics. That they are mostly about (in influence), and speaking to her old bandmates is of no consequence since the mood of the songs does not mask the emotion conveyed in the vocals. And, this should come as no shock to anyone, this is an album done by a lady who is known as The Voice Of Finland; the music is entirely incidental. Agree or disagree as you may, but, the vocal expression as an instrument is so much stronger than the instruments behind it.

* released on the Limited Edition.
** released on the U.K. Edition.
*** released on Fan Edition.

Nightwish – Dark Passion Play

     This was one of two albums I honestly say I wanted to dislike. Tarja was no longer in the band and new vocalist Anette Olzen has a voice better suited to Pop or Rock; it has a bubbly, almost perky, upbeat sound to it.
     That Anette sounded nothing like Tarja, nor did she try to (ala Blayze Bailey and Tim “Ripper” Owens, the two that took over vocals for Iron Maiden and Judas Priest) was a saving grace. Anette had some big shoes to fill and rather than try to fill them with ersatz sound, she worked her own sound into music that, lets face it, was written with Tarja‘s vocal style in mind. Old habits die hard, eh Tuomas?


     However, vocals aside, the music became fatter sounding. Whether from palm muting or track overlaying, the rhythm guitar playing, coupled with the bass, sounded chunkier that it had ever sounded on previous Nightwish releases. This lent the music a more ThrashMetal style edge while still holding onto the symphonic elements that are synonymous with Nightwish.
     Bassist and male vocalist, Marco Hietala, took a more prominent role in singing. Two songs on the album have Anette singing back-up to Marco‘s lead, while other songs have him singing lead alongside Anette rather than just back-up. He does sing backing vocals to.

     One other thing about the music… It is dark. However introspective the lyrics get, the music finds its niche surrounded in darkness. Even the slow, more ballad type songs, have this darkness within them. It is not GothicMetal. It is Nightwish just, as Chuck Schuldiner once said, “Let the metal flow”, writing what was inside them. There are many elements and aspects to the music and what is peculiar about this is their ex-vocalist, Tarja, the same thing can be said about her second solo release, My Winter Storm.

Track listing for original release of Dark Passion Play:
01: The Poet And The Pendulum
02: Bye Bye Beautiful
03: Amaranth
04: Cadence Of Her Last Breath
05: Master Passion Greed
06: Eva
07: Sahara
08: Whoever Brings The Night
09: For The Heart I Once Had
10: The Islander
11: Last Of The Wilds
12: Seven Days To The Wolves
13: Meadows Of Heaven

All special editions had instrumental/orchestral versions of all songs. They are a bit different.

Platinum Edition had the single b-sides on a third disc
01: Erämaan Viimeinen*
02: Escapist**
03: Meadows Of Heaven (Orchestral)
04: The Poet And The Pendulum (Demo)
05: Bye Bye Beautiful (DJ Orkidea Remix)

There were also different versions of the songs in the demo process that were released on singles and as digital only downloads:
Reach (Amaranth demo)
Escapist (Instrumental/ Orchestral version)
While Your Lips Are Still Red***

     It is not that the album grew on me, but that it was so different in sound while remaining familiar too.
     Some of the astrix noted songs are bonus track or extra recordings. All are very good and worth getting.

* – Erämaan Viimeinen is the song Last Of The Wilds with lyrics sang in Soumi (Finnish) by Jonsu, the vocalist for the band Indica. The music is a bit different from the original instrumental release.

** – Escapist was originally a bonus track on the Japanese release of Dark Passion Play.

*** – While Your Lips Are Still Red is not, technically, a Nightwish song. It was written by Holopainen and performed by Holopainen, Hietala, and Nevalainen (3/5 of the band) for the Finnish movie Lieksa!
     Later, the band released it on the live release Made In Honk Kong (And Various Other Places).
     The music for the song is very simple, cut and dried. Lyrically, it is… I sing this song (cover) because it is such a great song and the lyrics are moving (only reason I would sing music by another band).

     Some of the songs are directed at Tarja and/or her husband.

Nightwish – Angel’s Fall First

     While I do believe that Oceanborn is, musically, the best release by Nightwish, so to do I believe that Angel’s Fall First is a special album, especially in the day and age it was made.

     How many performers now days put out an album that sounds like a first album? Almost none.
     Angel’s Fall First has a lackluster production sound and the album is better for it.

          I mentioned before that I only listen to Mötley Crüe ‘s first release, Too Fast For Love, and the reason I still do is because of the raw sounding energy not hidden behind glossed over production. Angel’s Fall First has this energy.
     This is the epitome of a first album – thrown together from a bunch of demo’s, made with little or next to nothing cash for studio and production time, guitars that sound un”effect”ed… but for all that, it still sounds like they did the best they could do with what they had before them.
     Energy, youth, eagerness and naiveté. You can’t get that from a pop performers first release!

     Yes, Tuomas does state that he feels this is more of a demo, but Tuomas, why? Especially when most demo’s are not packaged and released as full length albums. So maybe it didn’t live up to your expectations years after it was released, and comparing it to later releases, yes, it seems unfinished, nevertheless, it is still a great album that is better for its imperfections.
     The music is gritty, grainy, and coarse and sometimes sounds like it is recorded using small practice amps, the vocals falter at times… It is still an unrealized ambitious and magical album. Production hinderances aside, it could have been Oceanborn.
    
I could praise this album to no end. For a first release, it is better than most.

Track listing for Angel’s Fall First:
01: Elvenpath
02: Beauty And The Beast
03: The Carpenter
04: Astral Romance
05: Angel’s Fall First
06: Tutankhamen
07: Nymphomaniac Fantasia
08: Know Why The Nightingale Sings
09: Lappi (Lapland)
        I.     Erämaajärvi
        II.   Witchdrums
        III. This Moment Is Eternity
        IV.  Etiäinen
10: A Return To The Sea*/**
11: Once Upon A Troubadour*
12: Nightwish (Demo)**
13: The Forever Moments (Demo)**
14: Etiäinen (Demo)**

     The sound is not a huge as their later releases as much of the album was recorded prior to the band being signed by Spinefarm Records. Essentially, it is comprised of demo recordings with a few songs recorded after being signed.

* – Denotes bonus tracks on early pressings.
** – Denotes bonus tracks on later pressings.

For whatever reason the song Once Upon A Troubadour was removed from later pressings.
I have never encountered the song Nightwish or The Forever Moments in any form other than the demo versions.

Nightwish – Over The Hills And Far Away

This EP would be bassist Sami Vänskä‘s last recording with Nightwish. Released in 2001, between 2000’s Wishmaster and 2002’s Century Child. 
     The two new songs written, 10th Man Down and Away are both great songs, one heavy and one mellower and Tarja’s vocals are sang in low octaves, but these two songs are overshadowed by the infectious and fast paced title track – the song having been originally written and performed by Gary Moore, Over The Hills… became the most popular tune and a staple in the bands live performances.

    The fourth song, a remake of Astral Romance from their debut or demo, Angel’s Fall First, has a better production (I still prefer the original) and instead of male vocals by Tuomas Holopainen, Tony Kakko of Sonata Arctica sings co-lead on this remake and backing vocals on Over The Hills… And again, Tappio Wilska sings co-lead on 10th Man Down.

Track listing for Over The Hills And Far Away:
01: Over The Hills And Far Away
02: 10th Man Down
03: Away
04: Astral Romance
(these next six songs were recorded live @ Pakkahuone)
05: The Kinslayer
06: She Is My Sin
07: Sacrament Of Wilderness
08: Walking In The Air Live
09: Beauty And The Beast
10: Wishmaster

The studio songs alone are worth spending the money on (not much either. It is an EP after all) while the live recordings are gravy.

Nightwish – End Of An Era

A few things about this DVD bug the ever-living-hell out of me.
 
The Editing – There is absolutely no possibility within the human realm that someone can get from one side of the stage all the way across to the other side of the keyboards in a single moment, the batting of an eye. BUT, it happens on this DVD an awful lot. There is also the angle of the cameras that make the band look as if they are moron’s, albeit talented moron’s. And, coinciding with the photo gallery, one could be easily led to believe that two concerts were actually held.

The Music – Seems a bit on the perfect side… I don’t go to a concert to hear exactly what is on the CD. If that were the case I would save my money and just stay home and listen to the CD. I know bands, even the best of them, make mistakes while playing live and vocalists never sound too damn good. WOW! This is almost too damn perfect. I would rather have all the imperfections of trueness than over-editing.

The Music – Yes, I repeated myself (read on).

Track/Set list for End Of An Era:
01: Dark Chest Of Wonders
02: Planet Hell
03: Ever Dream
04: The Kinslayer
05: Phantom Of The Opera
06: The Siren
07: Sleeping Sun
08: High Hopes
09: Bless The Child
10: Wishmaster
11: Slaying The Dreamer
12: Nemo
13: Kuolema Tekee Taiteilijan
14: Ghost Love Score
15: Stone People
16: Creek Mary’s Blood
17: Over The Hills And Far Away
18: Wish I Had An Angel

There is not one song from Oceanborn or Angel’s Fall First. Granted, it is their set and they can do what they want, however, aside from Tarja Turunen, all the other members know it was to be her swan-song performance with the band. There are three songs from Wishmaster, four songs from Century Child, and eight from Once, plus the odd songs High Hopes (Pink Floyd cover), Stone People, Sleeping Sun (not originally on a Nightwish album), and Over The Hills…
     Where are Elvenpath, Sacrament Of Wilderness, Beauty And The Beast… Yes, it would have been a long show but it was her last show with them and it would have been a treat to hear what those songs sounded like after originally being recorded years ahead of this concert. Would they be reinterpreted? Slowed down, sped up?
It was Once Upon A Tour but it was also her last show with them and I don’t believe Tarja will ever return since she stated so on her latest release in the song Falling Awake.
     So, we are left to hear these songs sung by Annette (who will not sound like Tarja – Kudos for that Annette) and by a band that cannot bring forth the same emotion/feeling that Nightwish does when performing these songs. Both situations can be summed up like this: It is like hearing Vince Neil’s band perform Mötley Crüe, or taking Colonel Sanders out of Kentucky Fried Chicken (you take away the Colonel and you are doing nothing but frying just another piece of chicken). Sorry guys and gals, I did say I was honest.
     If you only just now discovered Nightwish and their back catalog, you may feel like you missed one hell of a magical moment in music and metal since you are finding out after the fact. There are many bands now that are similar in direction to Nightwish, but there is only one Nightwish.

As for the DVD itself, the concert, it is what it is. The last show we are able to see a glimmer of the aforementioned magic with a very large crowd of people before we are left wondering what happened less than twenty-four hours later.

In the bonus material, we do get to see the documentary “A Day Before Tomorrow” that does show animosity in spades – everything from sideways glances to barbed remarks to uncomfortable silences broken up by meager attempts at civil conversation.
     I think one of the more poignant moments in the documentary is at a festival like show in South America where the band is gathered to take a picture. Before this, Tarja is seen warming up her voice and the band enters her dressing area, she playfully begins to banter back and forth with Jukka who returns her banter with about as much emotion of a dead body on a battlefield.
     The next scene is the band prepping to go onstage. Marco is warming up with a few yells, group hug, and then nerve’s. The players head up the stairs for their intro with the camera following them until whoever is manning the camera abruptly stops and pans back down to where Tarja is left alone. The shot does not last long but it speaks more words than the band knows. It is a solitary, fearful display of uncertainness that seems to permeate the entire documentary and all of the band members who hide it behind anger, false-smiles (smile pretty the cameras on) and silence.
     Throughout the documentary is Nightwish’s very own Yoko Oh-No; Tarja’s husband Marcello Cabuli. My gawd, when they are all in the same room together the silence is deafening. It should be noted that whenever he is alone with the band members Marcello does make attempts to defuse the situation, some so damn goofy even they cannot help but laugh, but when Tarja returns the silence and downcast eyes begin anew.

The documentary also has pop-ups with questions answered by band members. What stands out is that Tarja has the most rock-star answers for the questions though she seems the least rock-star type.
     Another thing is the lack of Tarja’s presence when you feel she should be there standing besides the other band members but she mysteriously is there later in the shot. Is she there? Is she not there? What?
     The documentary does not reveal what really tore the band apart, just the slow build-up to an imploding end that no one within the band did a damn thing to stop.

The bonus material is small but the impact of it is huge. The concert is good aside from the editing that insults the watcher’s intelligence. I would rather see the entire performance without the cuts, mistakes be damned!

Nightwish – End Of Innocence

End Of Innocence, released in 2002, is not the typical band DVD. There are videos, concert performances, photograph galleries in the “Extra” option and there is an “Extra of the Extra’s” option. The main choice is a documentary, or interview, with Tuomas Holopainen, Jukka Nevalainen, Tapio Wilska (yes, he is not in the band but he has done guest vocals and is a friend and apparent drinking buddy as you see on this DVD).
The DVD has many humorous moments: the boat motor that won’t start, Tuomas musing over the lyric “The scent of a woman was not mine…” as being not something a man would write, Jukka still wondering about the oak leave pictures and still not getting the reason for them, Tapio thinking something was wrong with Tuomas on the release of Century Child because the lyrics seemed so sad…

The island they are on, owned by Tuomas’s family, is also the same place Nightwish came into being; the place immortalized in Sacrament Of Wilderness from Oceanborn. There is a small dwelling on the island where much of the interview takes place, the sky is overcast and from the chosen attire worn by the people the weather is growing cooler. Along with the booze and the intimate setting, the pace of the documentary is slow and mellow, and relaxed: just three friends taking a day out to reflect and muse.

There are outtakes from backstage, in the studio while making Century Child, on the tour bus, at hotel’s; the band and crew playing pranks on each other and other bands, Tuomas in the state of F.U.B.A.R. and being led to his hotel room where he is lain on his bed. The crew, having noticed something peculiar with Marco Hietala, put a camera on an amplifier and recorded just a single concert and what he was doing (I’m not going to say but the look on his face when he notices the camera is priceless), and what a concert sounds like behind the drums while playing.
The interview is informative, introspective, and a bit nostalgic to the point of sadness as the discussion goes back and forth from the earlier times of the band to the recorded present. It is this intimacy that makes End Of Innocence compelling, so much so that the extra content seems piddling by comparison.

This DVD is still in circulation in the United States and can be purchased, counting whatever retailer you patronize has a distributor that carries releases not widely known (my CD store here in Missoula, Montana does, yeah me! Got me Kiske/Somerville, but the owner carries a wide selection of metal music from Europe).

Listing for End Of Innocence:

01: “The Whole Story” Documentary/interview

Extra:

01: Videos: Over The Hills And Far Away
                   End Of All Hope

02: Photo Gallery
03: Interview with Mtv Brazil
04: Live performance in Oslo, Norway (4th of July, 2003)
      01: Sleeping Sun
      02: Wild Child (W.A.S.P. cover)
      03: Beauty And The Beast
      04: She’s My Sin
      05: Slaying The Dreamer

05: The Extra Of The Extra’s

Live performance at Summer Breeze Festival 2002
      01: End Of All Hope
      02: Dead To The World
      03: 10th Man Down
      04: Slaying The Dreamer
      05: Over The Hills And Far Away
      06: Sleeping Sun

Supposedly, there is a hidden outtake of Tarja singing an Acapella version of Sleepwalker. I have never been able to unlock this.

End Of Innocence is worth the money you will spend on it. If you attempt to download it you will not get anything but the documentary if pirating. If you like Nightwish buy the damn thing and support the band (that goes for any band you like. If they don’t make money how can they continue making music?)