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Tarja TurunenSofia, Bucharest, Cluj Napoca, Budapest, Bratislava, Ziar Nad Hronom, Krakow, Wroclaw, Brno and Pardubice
17th to 29th October 2022
Tarja Turunen - RAW Tour 2022 - Support: Serpentyne and Abakas

For the first time in nearly three years I got to go touring again around Europe. This time around I took a WizzAir flight to Sofia to do the merchandise and photography for SERPENTYNE on the TARJA TURUNEN Raw Tour around Eastern Europe. Many photos were taken of the scenery too as I spent two weeks in a van traipsing around getting cramps, being in close quarters with other humans for five or six hours at a time and dealing with the stress of late nights and early mornings but where a routine established itself.

A lot of walking around and carrying stuff was done so I got leaner. The routine being that we turn up at the venues around 4pm, unload, I set up the merchandise stand, the band soundchecks. We have some food, chat a bit, listen to music etc before showtime around 7pm. When the night ends around 11pm we pack up and leave the venue around 12:30am / 1am to drive to our hotel where we get around five hours sleep and start the merry go round again around 8am that morning. The whole process is a stressful adventure sprinkled with irritation and fun but with the added bonus of three bands to watch to take the edge off the bad bits. So here goes, let’s dive in and tell you about the bands and their performances.

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Abakas

Abakas are Thomas Heien, Magus Erlend and Christopher Haugen and they hail from Norway. They formed in 2018 and come from Drammen in the south of the country. They put a lot of money into coming on this tour so didn’t bring any merchandise with them. They just drove all the way down in their camper van and car / caravan, with a bit of trouble in Croatia along the way where they had to deal with some “jesting” from the border guards and let the music do the talking. ABAKAS is Magnus Erlend (guitar), Thomas Kaktus Heien (bass guitar) and Christopher Haugan (drums). For more information: https://m.facebook.com/AbakasMusic

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Music & Performance
Music-wise their output is kind of proggy Rock with Metal veins running through it and the tracks they played were long form that padded out the 30-minute sets. Musically they have a CREAM / early BLACK SABBATH vibe to them, listening to their back catalogue as I hear Jim Morrison and Jimmy Page as well, and the energy is what you’d expect from a young band, strong but rough around the edges and the link choreography between songs was kind of organic and “see how it goes”. There’s also a nonchalant aura to them but the musicianship is of a high standard, the guitar riffing getting more confident as the tour progressed especially on ‘Far Away’ and ‘Lost In The Mirror Of Self Despair’. The bassist uses a Hohner bass a la Paul McCartney and the drummer exudes the energy of Ginger Baker high on amphetamines.

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As each show went by the crowds warmed to them more and by the time the tour neared its conclusion, they were gaining more confidence and garnering more fans, I think that with a bit of a polish they’ll go far.

Setlist
01. Come Closer
02. Another Day, Same Sun
03. Far Away
04. Lost In The Mirror Of Self Despair

Rating
Music: 7
Performance: 8
Light: 8
Sound: 7
Total: 7.5 / 10

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Serpentyne

SERPENTYNE I know well. I have been on tour with them before when they toured with TARJA way back in 2018. Their music used to be more folkish using more traditional instruments like hurdy gurdy, violins and bagpipes but recently their sound has become more Symphonic Metal in tone. They recruited a new drummer, Marco Biagini, to add a fuller sound with blast beats whilst moving previous drummer John Haithwaite over to the keyboards so he can paint in the textures. All the other elements remain the same. Nigel Middleton is still on bass and lee Wilmer still bends the six strings of his SERPENTYNE like touring and love the opportunities to spread their brand of Symphonic Metal to the far corners of the globe when given the chance. SERPENTYNE is Maggiebeth Sand (vocals), Lee Wilmer (lead guitars), John Haithwaite (keyboards), Nigel Middleton (bass guitar & backing vocals) and Marco Biagini (drums). https://www.serpentyne.com/

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Music & Performance
Well, what is for sure is the fact that SERPENTYNE love playing live and they love the stage. They thrive on it. Maggie Beth Sand is no shrinking violet on vocal duties, Nigel Middleton and John Haithwaite confidently workmanlike on bass and keyboards respectively whilst Lee Wilmer throws his guitar around as if its weight was non-existent so a miscalculated smack in the jaw is no bother. Compared to the last time I was on tour with them the set has become more refined, honed and choreographed giving the air of a more fluid experience. The setlist for the all the legs of the tour was a consistent mix of tracks from their most recent album ‘Angels Of The Night’ and from 2017s ‘The Serpents Kiss’; new material was also played as well to give the set a freshen up but I found the sound was hit and miss depending on the venues. In some the vocals were clear and bright and in others I could barely hear the vocals at all. For example, when they played set opener ‘Away From The World’ the vocal was inaudible but then became more so later in the track. The same goes for the bass, way back in the mix or too far forward.

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One thing of note is that Marco Biagini’s drums add some dimensional oomph to the sound with the double kick. Other people will have a different interpretation of the sound and how they experienced it but this is my impression based on the current condition of my ears. Also, the crowds were a mish mash of enthusiasm depending on how familiar they already were with the band. At some venues, the one in Ziar Nad Hronom springs to mind, the crowd took a bit of warming up but by the time the set ended, they were well on board with SERPENYNE’s music. And, by the time we got to the final show in Pardubice the merchandise was steadily decreasing and all the levels for the set were nigh on perfect. A tour would not be a tour without technical issues, would it not? There were monitor problems and a few bum notes but I don’t think the crowd noticed them because they were too inconsequential.

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However, I do remember a member of the crowd whining about the sound though in Slovakia (or it might have been one of the Polish venues), he didn’t seem too pleased with the sound guys. Now I remember it was Ziar Nad Hronom. Anyway, four months off before SERPENTYNE is out with TARJA to do it all again.

Setlist
01. Away From The World
02. Spirits Of The Desert
03. Séance
04. Prophetess Of Dreams
05. Helen Of Troy
06. Angel Of The Night

Rating
Music: 8
Sound: 7
Performance: 8
Light: 8
Total: 7.8 / 10

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Tarja Turunen

TARJA TURUNEN has been singing since an early age. Her talent was noticed at the age of three years old when she sang ‘Enkeli Taivaan’ in the church hall in her home town of Kitee. From then onwards she sang in many musical projects at school, got bullied for being awesome and then went on to study at the Sibelius Academy in Kuopio Finland. After that she met her old class mate Tuomas Huolopainen who asked her to join his new “acoustic mood music” project which soon morphed into a nascent NIGHTWISH due to her voice being too dramatic for acoustic guitars. The dye was cast and the rest is history, as they say.

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She sung on the albums ‘Angels Fall First’, ‘Oceanborn’, ‘Wishmaster’ and ‘Over The Hills And Far Away’, to name a few, fitted in a stint of study at the Hochschule Für Music in Karlsruhe in Germany and then left NIGHTWISH to spread her wings solo. Since going solo, she has released around eight albums including the classical ‘Ave Maria - En Plein Air’ in 2015. The most recent is ‘In The Raw’ hence the name of the tour. The band consists of Tarja Turunen (vocals), Max Lilja (electric cello), Alex Sholpp (guitars), Christian Kretschmar (keyboards), Doug Wimbish (bass guitar - up to Slovakia), Ralph Botzenhart (bass guitar - Slovakia to tour’s end) and Alex Holzwarth (drums). http://tarjaturunen.com/

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Music & Performance
All of Tarja’s performances at all the venues on this tour have been full on energetic affairs with charisma flowing like honey flowing from an amphora. Taking to the stage in black flowing pants and gold top complimented by a golden sash for most of the dates, every set she performed with a charming wide-eyed projection that for the most part infected the audience who gave the energy back with interest. The same songs were performed in the same order with the same fluidity. As I just mentioned, for the most part the audience gave back what they got, especially in Budapest, in Poland and in Pardubice. In Slovakia the crowds were not as dense and I found the energy wanting.

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Favourite tracks for me were ‘Demon In You’ from the album ‘Act II’ with its burnt sugar guitar riffing from Alex Shlopp, lopping and lolling flow and head swing bass accompanied by that wide cavernous voice. ‘My Little Phoenix’ from the album ‘Luna Park Ride’ went down well with the crowd, this was a rocking track. But the bass styles of Doug Wimbish and Ralph Botzenhart give this track a different flavour. ‘Diva’ (‘The Shadow Self’) bombasts with a subtle Kate Bush feel to it. It’s almost martial and carnival. ‘Goodbye Stranger’ waxed lyrical about leaving your past behind, going where the sun “don’t shine at all” and “diving through the darkest thoughts unknown”. This had plenty of fist punching from the performer and crowd. NIGHTWISH fans even got a bone thrown at them with the inclusion of ‘Wishmaster’ from the album of the same name.

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Setlist
01. Serene
02. Demons In You
03. My Little Phoenix
04. Anteroom Of Death
05. Diva
06. Goodbye Stranger
07. Silent Masquerade
08. Wishmaster
09. The Golden Chamber
10. Undertaker
11. Victim Of Ritual
12. Innocent
13. I Walk Alone
14. Dead Promise
15. Until My Last Breath

Rating
Music: 8
Performance: 8
Sound: 7
Light: 9
Total: 8 / 10

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To sum up: This was a good tour, for the most part good crowds. The sound mix was hit and miss and the drunk guy in Pardubice was annoying and the person who used a 50 koruna note that was no longer in circulation to buy merch was a bastard. But hey…

All pictures by Claudia Black
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