Winter Storm USA
Please login or register! Smile

HomePortalFAQSearchRegisterLog in
Reply to topic
Share | 

 Tarja The Shadow Self Review

View previous topic View next topic Go down 

Gender : Male
Posts : 235
Location : Southern Ontario, Canada

PostSubject: Tarja The Shadow Self Review   Sat Aug 06, 2016 7:11 pm

Tarja The Shadow Self

A Full Review by Brian Kelman
Orchestrated Rock: that’s the label Tim Palmer used when referring to Colours In The Dark. That label is more applicable in the case of The Shadow Self. The Shadow Self is the heaviest, most aggressive, the most layered and has the most complex compositions to date with a consistently solid production by Tarja herself. Throughout Tarja's magnificent voice is central while the melody is fixed on the piano supported by heavy rhythm guitar grooves, thick bass, crisp percussion that contrast with the big symphonic background without compromising the melodic motifs, hooks and harmonies. Despite taking some unpredictable directions in her willingness to experiment and the blending together of apparent thematic and musical opposites-- light and shadow, rock/metal band and orchestra, rock/metal and classical music—the album is, with one exception, more coherent, coordinated and cohesive on The Shadow Self than on her previous albums. The Shadow Self represents Tarja at the height of her self-confidence and maturity as a solo artist.
The concept of The Shadow Self was ‘discovered’ by Tarja when she was watching some past interviews of Annie Lennox where she described the Jungian principle of ‘the shadow self’. According to Jung: in spite of its function as a reservoir for human darkness—or perhaps because of this—the shadow is the seat of creativity; for some the dark side of his/her being, his/her sinister shadow, represents the true spirit of life. With a shadow inside all of us The Shadow Self will resonate on some emotional level to all her avid listeners. Tarja extends an invitation to join her on her personal exploration of her inner shadow to reveal to the light the creativity inspired from it in the form of The Shadow Self.
Innocence is represented with a strong piano theme and brings Tarja’s background in classical music to the fore. The Chopin piano piece that accompanies the song is so intricate that only a classical pianist could perform it. Enter Izumi Kawakatsu, a long-time friend of Tarja’s from her German university days. The piano piece evoked thoughts of discord and disharmony that fit the worldly setting of the music video of Innocence. Without the video, however, the lyrics of the song prompted, for me, a different imagery. That imagery is of a spiritually esoteric nature and I find the piano piece creates a discordant listening experience. Even though Tarja’s vocal performance is stellar and I enjoy the other instrumentals, it is my least favourite on the album because I can’t seem to make the middle piano interlude fit my personal lyrical interpretation. For years Tarja has passed the interpretation of her songs on to her listeners and this is the first one that has for me clashed in some way musically. I guess it was bound to happen eventually.
Demons In You (featuring Arch Enemy’s Alissa White-Gluz) is a highly energetic song where Funk becomes Progressive Rock becomes Heavy Metal whip your hair around (if you have any) head banging mayhem in a fast progression. This is only a fraction of the whole lot that goes on in this song! It is an old song in terms of its composition but Tarja admits to having penned the lyrics the day before she recorded them. But something was always missing which kept it in the unfinished file. Enter Alissa White-Gluz. Not only does she feature her trademark harsh vocals to great effect (as she did with The Agonist and on her debut with Arch Enemy’s War Eternal--an album I highly recommend) but she also features her clean singing voice which sounds terrific in the duet. Vocally Alissa is able to demonstrate the dual nature, light and shadow, of the individual. Her harshness provides that missing edginess to a song about our inner demons and darker side. The harsh vocal presentation makes her sound like a demon should. The duet’s performance overall was the perfect finishing touch and allowed this song to see the light.
No Bitter End appeared first on The Brightest Void. There have been a few changes on this version including a vocal intro and a different sounding solo in the middle. Otherwise the song sounds pretty much the same. Some at the time of The Brightest Void accused it of being too poppy of a sound because of the polished mix. I can see that but only up to a certain point in that the guitar track doesn’t quite have the edginess to it in that it reminds me of the way they were produced for My Winter Storm. Nevertheless, the song is carried along by a driving guitar riff, a catchy chorus and Tarja’s incredible vocals throughout. In the end this is a ‘pop-rock’ sound illusion that veers, in the end, more toward metal. Thanks to Alex ‘Riff Master’ Scholpp for creating this rocking riff (which inspired the rest of the song—the last to be written for both albums—to be built around it). Add it to the growing list of grooving heavy guitar riffs to rock out to with Tarja!
Love To Hate is a large atmospheric number. It has a Progressive Rock presentation along with big prominent piano and orchestral passages. Perhaps it isn’t surprising that it was written in the My Winter Storm era and has waited until now to be revealed with a beefed up accompaniment that reminds me of Deliverance off Colours In The Dark. The song’s subject is about negative people: people who cannot be happy for others because they cannot be happy for themselves and, in addition, make no effort to change their own circumstances to find their slice of happiness. They forever live in their own shadow and peer out at the world waiting to revel in another’s misery.
Supremacy is a Muse cover. Tarja didn’t make an exact carbon copy of the original; she put her own stamp on it as she usually does for her covers but at the same time respected the original. The guitars are heavier, there is lots of orchestration and they seem to mesh quite nicely. The vocals required quite a versatility and range: singing the lyric ‘supremacy’ has her hitting some wickedly high notes. Despite the challenging nature of the vocal presentation Tarja pulls it off nicely. But did you really expect anything less?
The Living End is the only ballad on the album. It is another song that was composed some years ago and only now has seen the light of The Shadow Self. It is a simple song in terms of its elements but very atmospheric with Tarja’s vocal harmonies, the acoustic guitar, piano, choir and, interestingly enough, bagpipes. Yes! Bagpipes! Tarja never thought she would ever include bagpipes in her music because she didn’t like the sound of them. However, after hearing Paul McCartney’s skillful use of them on Mull of Kintyre she decided to include a piper on this song. The piper is heard in the background and adds a splendid finishing touch of ambiance. I am, however, biased in this regard since my ancestors came from the Scottish Highlands. Nothing speaks to a Highlander’s heart than the drone of a bagpipe or a whole Regiment of bagpipes. Aye, lads and lasses, aye! As a result this is a spine tingler and is my favourite song on the album. I suppose it would be too much to ask for a video shot for the song on sight in the Highlands with Tarja on one hill and a piper in the background on another?
Diva was written in Antigua and is a big bombastic song with the inclusion of a big orchestra and choir arrangements. This song morphed into a movie score direction during its writing drawing its inspiration, claims Tarja, from the Pirates of the Caribbean movie franchise. Interesting it is that the first thing I thought of on my initial listen was the accusation of being a Diva in the letter that fired her. Then at the end of the song is the sound effects of a circus or carnival (and although I can’t make out exactly what they are saying but I think vodka is mentioned) my first thought was that it was a parody on the theme that is central to Imaginaerum. Since Pirates of The Caribbean is itself a parody and it inspired the song….and Tuomas had a Jack Sparrow doll lashed to the front of his keyboards at the End of An Era concert......But I’m probably off the deep end on this one.....Nudge nudge wink wink....
The first version of Eagle Eye was released on The Brightest Void. The two versions are different in that they were recorded with different players. Three in the first lineup, Chad Smith (drums), Kevin Chown (bass) and Alex Scholpp (guitar) are replaced by Mike Terrana (drums), Doug Wimbish (bass) and Julian Barrett (guitar). The differences between the two versions has to do with the differing interpretations and personal playing styles by the performers but they do not take anything away from the epic bigness of the song that’s hard to describe beyond ‘ethereal’ and ‘moving’. Toni Turunen has the same vocal part and so does Tarja with her sweeping vocals that reach the stars. I said in my The Brightest Void review that its version would be hard to top and it wasn’t. It wasn’t diminished either. I enjoy each equally for what they are.
Undertaker is a song of contrasts. It was done in collaboration with Icelandic movie composer Atli Örvarsson whom Tarja met at a My Winter Storm sessions in Los Angeles. With his permission, she took a one minute piece originally composed for an Italian car commercial (that fell through) and turned it into the basis of the song—much to the surprise of Atli. The story, about an Undertaker, is lyrically morbid, spooky, and of course dark. The song’s harmonies and presentation by contrast are airy, light and very melodic. It’s a great number to sing or hum along to as long as you don’t think too hard on the subject being explored. It also features a great guitar solo by Alex.
Calling From The Wild is about nature under siege in the modern world. It is the first time that Tarja had lyrics before the music. The presentation has little or no orchestration and is a slow progression from atmospheric rock intro to heavy riff laden metal guitar with Tarja’s trademark ‘operatic’ vocals being front and centre. All the while it is the melody that carries it along, vocally and instrumentally, that turns this song into a juggernaut.
Too Many is a big Progressive Rock song. It finishes off the official part of the album on a positive note. It hints at the promise that something good is coming. It is both fragile and powerful. Repetitive vocal passages, sometimes powerfully ‘operatic’ in the fore ground while others are softly fragile and melodic in the background create a hypnotic ambiance. Bet you can’t resist singing along. These passages are once again reinforced with the big orchestra passages and the heavy guitars and drums. It is a great official finale to The Shadow Self.
When the song ends (at 7:48) don’t hit stop on your player. At the 10:54 mark a bonus hidden ‘track’ explodes into the senses where Heavy Metal morphs into Euro Dance in a spoof entitled “This Is A Hit Song”. The parody is funny and not to be taken serious….It is a fun way to wrap up the album in an unofficial way and perhaps make a couple of statements: 1) quality is not measured by pop hits so make fun of them; and 2) that even though many issues dealt with in the songs are serious music is still meant to be fun and enjoyable.
Accept the invitation to explore Tarja’s shadow self and by extension learn to explore your own. The Shadow Self is proof of Tarja’s evolving maturity as a person and as an artist. The Shadow Self sounds like the most polished of her albums but is it her heaviest? The heaviest and the most aggressive, but I don’t think it really matters since quality isn’t dependent on heaviness or aggression. Thematically all her albums share a creative dark place and The Shadow Self seems to share common ground with What Lies Beneath although it’s expressed in different terms. The Shadow Self differs in that it comes across as more personal--from a place of ego and pride. All of Tarja’s albums are different production wise in that My Winter Storm is very progressive, What Lies Beneath is rawer and edgier and Colours In The Dark is a step in the process of orchestrated rock/metal that is more realized on The Shadow Self. Comparisons aside, on its own merits, The Shadow Self will be considered another excellent addition to Tarja’s expanding catalogue.
© 2016
5 Classic
4.5-4.9 Excellent
4.0-4.4 Very Good
3.5-3.9 Good
3.0-3.4 So So
2.0-2.9 Poor
1.0-1.9 Bad
0-0.9 Crap


Last edited by beekay on Wed Sep 28, 2016 6:38 am; edited 4 times in total
Back to top Go down

Posts : 39
Location : West Melbourne, Florida

PostSubject: Re: Tarja The Shadow Self Review   Fri Aug 12, 2016 10:44 pm

I just received my copy of TSS, so far my favorite song is Love to Hate, I just love how the piano mixes with the different guitar sounds and Tarja's soaring vocals. My second favorite is Calling from the Wild, also the hidden track is a fun mix of metal and dance. I was also suprised that Mike Terrana contributed on half the drum tracks because he hasn't toured with Tarja since 2014.
Back to top Go down
Tarja The Shadow Self Review
View previous topic View next topic Back to top 
Page 1 of 1
 Similar topics
» New REINXEED review at Angelic Warlord
» Mehida - "Blood & Water" review
» GOLDEN RESURRECTION review at Angelic Warlord
» DJ Shadow and Quannum live on Breezeblock
» Shadow Of Your Love

Permissions in this forum:You can reply to topics in this forum
Winter Storm USA :: Webzine :: Reviews-
Reply to topic