I reviewed Tarja’s Christmas album, From Spirits And Ghosts (Score For A Dark Christmas), back in 2017. (Spoiler alert: I really liked it.) I was intrigued to see that she has released another Christmas album this year. This time it has a much simpler title: Dark Christmas. Is it just going to be of the more of the same? Is it a bad thing if it is a bit “same-y”? Is it sufficiently different to make it worth having another dark, seasonal, offering from Tarja in my collection of Christmas music?
To tackle the first question first: it’s Traja; it’s another Christmas album… there will inevitably be similarities. Whether or not that is a problem partly depends on how much you like Tarja’s operatic, orchestral, over-the-top style. I do not have a problem with more of the same per se… as long as it was done with the some bravado – something that Tarja is not generally short of! I started listening, therefore, with a sense of anticipation. Where would she go this time? How far would she push it? Would there be a hint of jolly holly?
The second track, “Frosty The Snowman”, might be a reasonable place to look for “jolly”. What could be more jolly than a snowman, “…With a corn cob pipe and a button nose, and two eyes made out of coal”? Unless, that is, you are Tarja and you start to think how creepy “eyes made out of coal” sounds. Even the concept of a snowman coming to life is somewhat weird, especially if you are thinking of a Calvin and Hobbes style snowman! Certainly, there is a driving menace in opening of this track with stabbing strings to knock us off kilter. When Tarja’s vocals begin, and the children’s choir join with much tinkling and twinkling we might begin to relax but then the dark menace returns with a big horn section to really unsettle. I’m converted. Frosty is clearly a fearsome creature not to be trusted. I will never again be able to listen to this song without a frisson of fear!
Where else could you look for some shards of light? Surely, “All I Want For Christmas Is You”, a song written by the Queen of Christmas herself, will spread some Christmas joy. The problem is, from the off, the orchestration suggests a darker undertone to exactly what might happen if she does “get you” for Christmas! The most unsettling part though is the eerie spoken echo to the lyrics on second verse from voice of child. An outstanding guitar solo and children’s choir only add to the atmosphere (atmosfear?).
Since my search for light has proved fruitless, I thought I might as well embrace the darkness and listen the title track, “Dark Christmas”, a brand new song, written by Tarja. Ironically, despite the title, this is, probably, the least dark song on the album. Her soaring vocals sound fantastic and the strings are positively hypnotic. If you want a glimpse of Christmas starlight, this is as close as you are going to get.
At this point in the review, you are either thinking: “This sounds terrible. I will hate it.”, or: “This sounds awesome. I will love it.”. Given that I have already stated how much I liked her previous Christmas offering, it should come as no surprise that I am in team “awesome”. If you are on the fence, check out the current single, “Jingle Bells”, and see on what side you land on after this song pushes you off!
To go back then to my original three questions…
- Is it going to be of the more of the same? Yes… and no. I would say it was the same but more.
- Is it a bad thing if it is a bit “same-y”? See previous answer. As the old saying goes: if less is more, just think how much more “more” is!
- Is it sufficiently different to make it worth having another dark, seasonal, offering from Tarja in my collection of Christmas music? Unfortunately for my bank balance, I fear this is yet another Christmas album I will have to add to my collection!
- The First Noel
- Frosty The Snowman
- Holy Night
- Dark Christmas
- Jingle Bell Rock
- White Christmas
- All I Want For Christmas Is You
- Wonderful Christmastime
- Last Christmas
- Jingle Bells
- Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer
- Angels We Have Heard On High
If you need some dark over-the-top, orchestral, operatic awesomeness in your Christmas, look no further than this new release from Tarja.
Header image by Tim Tronckoe.
Dark Christmas was released on the 10th of November.