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It's All A Grand Illusion... - 85%

h_clairvoyant, December 27th, 2010

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.