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I was really excited about Tarja's second solo album when it first came out. I thought it was the greatest album she had put out, considering how My Winter Storm was a total flop. That album was all over the place. What Lies Beneath is well put together musically and the album isn't all over the place like the last one. Over all the album is well done.
Then why the low score?
Tarja is a pitiful songwriter. Her lyrics are bland and lack emotional depth in my opinion. The are only a few good tracks on What Lies Beneath: Anteroom of Death, Dark Star, Falling Awake, and Until My Last Breath. As you can see those songs are really the OMG! In your face ones. But there is still room for improvement.
Remember early Nightwish? I'm talking about Oceanborn and Angels Fall First and Wishmaster. Remember how she used the full power of her voice, how she sang in that soaring opera style? I want that back! Her songs would be ten times better if she sang in that powerful opera style. She has such an amazing voice and she doesn't use it's full potential. On occassion she let's her voice escape and adds some heady vibrato but it's this tone downed mostly vibrato less style. I hate it! I want that opera style back. She does it a few times in Anteroom of Death, Dark Star, Falling Awake and Until My Last Breath. But not in any of the ballads or the slower songs.
The ballads/slow songs on this album are horrible. I don't like them at all. I keep waiting for something exciting to happen to for some passionate emotion to suddenly appear in the lyrics. Nope! Never happens. Shame really. And they have such interest titles too.
I'm really disappointed with Tarja. She's such a talented vocalist, but fails as a songwriter, yet all these Tarjatards you find around the internet claim she's a goddess of metal? Please! Tarja is rather overrated and her two albums show it.
She was amazing in Nightwish, but without Toumas's command of the English language and his eye for songwriting, Tarja on her own is a flop.
Tarja has an amazing voice yet pitiful songwriting skills. Yet, I know I'll be amazed when her third album comes out and I just hope she finally finds a soul to put into her music. Which is doubtful.
Though, What Lies Beneath is a lot better than My Winter Storm, that's for sure.
Tarja stated in an interview that her second solo album, What Lies Beneath, was the first release she has ever done that truly allowed her to come into her own, to express herself and to do what she really wanted. She produced the album, wrote the bulk of the songs, and of course, commanded the music with her soaring voice. Listeners of the album can sense this; this release has a distinct something about it, however faint, that does make a bit special as a Tarja release.
Fans of Tarja will not be disappointed to find that the formula is generally the same: powerful mezzo-soprano vocals, bombastic symphonic backdrops, beautifully melancholic melodies, catchy, repetitive choruses. However, there is a sprinkling of fresh touches; the guitar work on What Lies Beneath is unmatched in any of her previous works (Nightwish included), and there is stretches of just plain BEAUTIFUL music. Guest musicians abound, the listener will find little surprises throughout the whole piece. There is a touch of pop-ness to it, but compared to recent Nightwish releases or releases of other Symphonic/Gothic Metal bands, this is an incredibly solid metal album.
With regards to the songs on the album, there are some that really are unique ideas and superbly done at that (here's looking at you, Anteroom of Death), but What Lies Beneath does suffer from several filler tracks. Tarja seems to be playing it safe with most of the tracks here, so it really isn't as "original" as it could have been; I guess that could be seen as either an upside or downside depending on who you asked.
Overall, Tarja's sophomore album is a solid one that could be enjoyed by the most of her fans and fans of the genre. It is easy to get into (albeit rather easy to get out off, too), with a small handful of breathtaking tracks scrambled in with some rather mediocre ones.
Tarja is the solo symphonic gothic metal band of Tarja Turunen from Finland and this is her third solo studio CD. Tarja is, of course, well-known as the former vocalist for the symphonic power metal band Nightwish, but she has taken a different musical direction on her solo efforts. Her first CD, ‘Henkäys Ikuisuudesta, was acoustic holiday / folk music sung in Finnish, but then she switched back to metal for her second CD, My Winter Storm, which she continues on What Lies Beneath. Although there are occasional power metal touches, both discs primarily feature a mix of heavy, crunchy upbeat pop metal songs and lush, gorgeous ballads. The song-writing on My Winter Storm was, frankly, surprisingly weak considering how long Tarja has been involved with terrific music, and her superb vocals were the only thing that made it listenable. What Lies Beneath could not be more different: a glance at the liner notes indicates that though the band has changed a little, the song-writers have changed a lot, and it really shows. The poppy songs are not only incredibly catchy with pervasive symphonic keys and strings, but each one seems to have a unique influence to set it apart from the rest; sometimes it’s a quirky recurring vocal line, sometimes a Finnish ethnic melody, sometimes a symphonic movie-score feel, sometimes a bluesy guitar solo, sometimes rocking epic power metal lead-guitar work, and sometimes even heavy, almost doomy, power metal riffs. The diversity is refreshing and incredibly engaging. The several ballads are all superb; they are heavy acoustic with prominent cello, and several have a rather melancholy feel that contrasts very nicely with the enthusiasm of the pop metal songs.
Tarja’s vocals are, as always, exquisitely smooth, beautiful and emotive. She normally sings with a soaring soprano style, switching to her dramatic operatic style on the choruses. She is far and away the best female singer in metal today and What Lies Beneath is one of her best efforts; she is filled with sincerity, confidence and enthusiasm, and it is clear she’s at last found her new niche after her departure from Nightwish. There are also several fine guest male vocalists, and many of the songs are backed by the excellent Slovak National Symphony Orchestra and Choir.
No doubt many of us greatly miss her singing with Nightwish; their heavy symphonic power metal was the perfect backdrop to her strong beautiful vocals, and her early solo efforts were not very encouraging. But What Lies Beneath finally establishes a new and exciting though quite different chapter in Tarja’s career, a chapter I eagerly look forward to following; even though I wish she still sang for Nightwish.
Originally reviewed at http://www.metalcdratings.com/
I will be short and direct about Tarja Turunen's latest solo effort, What Lies Beneath. And I'll start by telling all of her fans of Nightwish glory to forget about it: those days, that sound, that kind of intense, bombastic music, are NEVER coming back. They're gone forever. She didn't write those songs in the first place, and she doesn't seem to care about even trying to emulate that. So, get it out of the way and get over it.
Instead, she wrote what we can find here and on her previous effort. And what I said in my review for that one back then can be summed up in one word and is the same I have to say about this one now: BLAND.
If you want to sit down and listen to beautifully sung melodies with pretty depressing lyrics and wait for the song to pick up, for that chorus to blow you away or for that guitar solo to come ripping everything to bits, only to find out it never happens, this is the album for you once again.
The songs are well written, well sung and well played. The musicians are top notch and the production is just fine, much better than on the previous one. Tarja wouldn't sing a bad note even she tried, and the guest musicians are just amazing as well. Still, this just doesn't do it for me.
There are many great female singers out there, in many music genres, and the reason I don't listen to them is that I do not care for the type of music they sing, I don't find their work appealing, it just doesn't turn me on. After listening to both of Tarja's solo works, I've come to realize I feel the same way about her music.
It's not just that it lacks the speed or the power. The songs just aren't that great, that catchy, or even that mindblowingly beautiful to make What Lies Beneath anything special. If you're a huge fan of the lady, fine, you'll love it anyway. If you're a fan of bland music that goes nowhere, you'll enjoy it too. For me, though, aside from the opener 'Anteroom of Death' and the single 'Falling Awake', everything else is just lukewarm and uninspiring. Were it not for the better poroduction and some stellar guests, I would say this is just more of the same in comparison to 2007's My Winter Storm.
At least this time around Tarja was more clever and chose a better cover in Whitesnake's 'Still Of The Night', but the real smart move was to place it on the bonus CD. It still sounds a bit weird, but way better than Alice Cooper's 'Poison' on My Winter Storm.
So, I give What Lies Beneath 10 extra points for its better production and musicianship over My Winter Storm, but make it clear that it still misses some elements in order to truly explore Tarja's potential, one that we all know to be much greater than what has been so far presented to us in her solo albums.
Tarja Turunen has dispelled any notion that her dismissal from Nightwish (voluntary or otherwise) was a nail in the coffin for her career. After My Winter Storm in 2007, Tarja emerges like a phoenix once more with her latest opus What Lies Beneath, which will certainly show a nice progression from her first solo effort. Her resounding operatic vocals set the standard, initiating a literal onslaught of latecomers and wannabes that have flooded the scene. There is only one Tarja Turunen and again she proves it here.
This album is what progressive gothic metal should be: fun, stylish music that takes itself not too seriously, but harbors enough thought and vibrant padding to set it above the rest. The number of imitators of this woman is both astounding and sickening, but she proves there’s only one lady of the manor on tracks like “Anteroom of Death”, which will leave you feeling as if “Bohemian Rhapsody” has just been redone and “I Feel Immortal” which pulls out a Kari Rueslatten-era 3rd and the Mortal feel so perfectly centered. While not trying to show off her range to inappropriate plateaus, Tarja lifts the spirit and the expectations with every passing track. She is a perfectionist when it applies to her output and What Lies Beneath haunts the dimmest recesses of your soul should you allow for such pleasantries.
With such careful crafting and fluidity to this music, What Lies Beneath catapults the gothic rock scene back to prominence and glory in the wake of a million bands attempting to dilute it with transparent, plastic efforts. There’s nothing really overly reminiscent of her Nightwish days simply due to the lack of the bombastic nature of Wishmaster, but evident in tracks like “In for a Kill” is the same glorious power that spawned so many pretenders and set this Finnish lady of seemingly demure stature so high over the realm that she appears more as a goddess than a typical goth-metal vocalist. If one cannot be swayed and subdued by her magical voice that manages to run the spectrum between traditional heavy metal and sincere power ballad with disturbing ease then one simply must not get it.
In just under an hour, What Lies Beneath ascends to the very height of cautious perfection; Tarja simply delivers some of her most powerful vocals ever on this release and manages to tap into the emotional epicenter of the melodic metal scene just perfectly. “Little Lies” is one of my favorites in a near-flawless album due in large part to its simplistic jaunt through symphonic hard edged metal. What can’t be stressed enough is that in a grand infinity of female singers simply lacking the talent and range, Miss Turunen decimates the rest in one fell swoop of that amazing sound she calls a voice, completely and unapologetically.
(Originally written for www.MetalPsalter.com)
It’s been a few long, saddened years for Mrs. Turunen back when NIGHTWISH officially and effectively caved in on itself. After plentiful years and albums showcasing some of the best female vocals to front a metal band in recent times (hell, some of the best femmetal vocals EVER), NIGHTWISH started stagnating to the point of developing a musical case of jungle rot and shat out the inexcusably tepid “Once”. Then came the accusations, the word wars, and poor Tarja was kicked to the curb. It was quite hard on her (she described her firing from the band as a “divorce”), but after taking some time to rest on their laurels and let the emotional wounds heal up, she picked herself up and went solo, releasing records under her name and rubbing elbows with some pretty big Finnish greats. And while the first few albums were a bit rough around the edges, they thankfully centered on her amazing voice, so that in and of itself made up for the simplistic arrangements.
So here I sit with her latest offering, wondering if Tarja still can knock us for a loop…
Like the earlier recorded works, the central musical scheme of things is based mostly on the vocals, but this time around the actual instrumental backdrop have a louder proverbial voice and is a bit more noticeable. The thing that struck me as a bit odd with Tarja’s solo work is that they have a decidedly symphonic metallic vibe; I figured that after all that has befallen her, she’d’ve shied away from that sort of sound…but I guess old habits die hard, and this time around the final product produces more concrete ideas than the last couple of NIGHTWISH attempts. “Dark Passion Play” this is not, thank the All Father, and instead the heavy guitar and bass riffs and shattering percussion are offset by epic choirs, symphonic/piano interludes, a strong classical feel, and some head-bouncing pop/electronic elements with Tarja returning to the multi-layered, operatic roots that made her earlier forays of wishing for the night as awesome as they were, giving us some of her most powerful singing to date. There is a potent beauty to this disc, a potential guilty pleasure to any who get off on Euro-metal, with lots of heart that comes from one who puts her all into her craft, and thankfully we’re allowed to join in on this ride. And yes, some of the material is quite familiar, even a bit predictable, to all who have been paying attention to Finland the past ten or so years, but in this regard the strong songwriting and overall performance makes up for it all on my end. This shines the brightest on songs like “Anteroom of Death”, “Dark Star”, and “Rivers of Lust”, which take traditional song arrangements and mold them into something easier to get into without resorting to shoving riffs down your throat. More often than not it works better in that regard.
All in all, Tarja’s newest solo work is a fantastic piece of work that could very well make one forget the emaciated husk that has become her old stomping ground. This probably won’t be the first thing to pop in for the horns-raisin’ throngs, which is a shame, but for those who want substance versus baseless noodling, you can’t go wrong with this.