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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.