Review : TARJA – "What Lies Beneath"

TarjaWhat Lies Beneath
Release Date: 2010Sep14 (US)
Label: The End Records
Rating: 2/5

Tarja Turunen’s reputation precedes her. The acrimonious dismissal from Finland’s most successful band, Nightwish, fast became public knowledge, particularly considering the open letter from the band has been available online for nearly five years now. It was mentioned that she contributed nothing beyond vocals and image while in Nightwish, but she began composing (well, co-writing anyway) for her solo career. This is her second release of original material, which makes me further appreciate the abilities of one Tuomas Holopainen.

Tarja truly wants to be part of beautiful music creation—that much is clear. But no amount of “natural” studio sounds (which commence the album) or “laid back making-of” videos like that for “Falling Awake” can mask this overbuilt bore. It becomes even more painful hearing Satriani sleep-solo on that particular track, or Living Colour‘s Will Calhoun drum through the motions in the last pair of tunes. A better contributor is ex-Apocalyptica cellist Max Lilja, who lends his talents three times, including the intriguing “Dark Star” (complimented by Phil Labonte of All That Remains) and classically-inspired “Anteroom of Death” (with Van Canto performing an a cappella midsection). But this intrigue does not come from the music.

No, it was Tarja’s lyrics that perked up my ears. When Nightwish released Dark Passion Play back in 2007, I reflexively reacted with an “Oh no they didn’t!” about songs like the pointed “Bye Bye Beautiful” (to Tarja) and scathing “Master Passion Greed” (to manager/husband Marcelo Cabuli). If “Anteroom of Death” does not directly reference the gambling allusions initiated by her former band, then the coincidence is remarkable. Additionally, it seems that—between reports of wedding ring absence at live performances and suggestive songs like “Little Lies” and “Rivers of Lust”—there may trouble in the diva’s paradise, both personally and professionally. Still not convinced? Here is the Spanish translation of the exclusive U.S. track, “Montañas de Silencio” (“Mountain of Silence”): “Fly as high as you can. No one below. No one is behind. Always starts when you are alone. Love, fear. Sit and meet in solitude. Wind. You and him and nobody else.” Draw your own conclusions from the evidence given, but that is certainly meant for him.

What does all of this mean to the listeners? Hard to tell. It still seems unclear if the woman wants to keep recording with session musicians, rejoin Nightwish, or pursue a career outside of heavy music. Frankly, of the three, I hope for the latter. Tarja has a beautiful voice, but if she continues this path without a talented band in and of themselves, her releases will grow increasingly bloated with filler.

FCC OK
Try: 3, 5, 9

01. Anteroom Of Death (feat. Van Canto)
02. Until My Last Breath
03. Dark Star (feat. Phil Labonte)
04. Underneath
05. Little Lies
06. Rivers Of Lust
07. In For A Kill
08. Montañas de Silencio (exclusive U.S. track)
09. Falling Awake (feat. Joe Satriani)
10. The Archive Of Lost Dreams (feat. Will Calhoun)
11. Crimson Deep (feat. Will Calhoun)

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4 thoughts on “Review : TARJA – "What Lies Beneath"

  1. This is one of the weakest quality reveiws I have read lately.
    First of all, it does not debate anything musically.
    Second, the hints about lyrics are malicious and parralel with reality.
    “Rivers of lust” as an is entirely about child abuse and “Montañas de Silencio” is about a nightmare.
    Lastly, romantic garbage and picanteries in the singer’s personal life (like wearing or not her wedding ring) have nothing to do with a professional.

    • Actually, most of this review—particularly the second paragraph—is about music creation. There are many writing styles on this site, and not all explicitly describe music; some do.

      I will concede to your second point, regarding my accuracy. You’re probably correct about the “Rivers of Lust” lyrics. Reading again, I’m surprised I misinterpreted them.

      However, when you become a public figure and so much of your personal life is broadcast, it can be difficult to separate from what is created professionally. You may think this review leans too far in the ‘personal’ direction, and you might be right, but these are still *people* with *lives* that do parallel their music.

    • But a good musical reviewer must know to separate music from personal musicians’ lifes, and only relate to them when it’s strictly necessary and only in some certain cases. This review is just biased.

    • Define “bias” in this context please, because I think you are mistaken. This review provides a bit of backstory, my reaction to the album musically, speculative thoughts on lyrics, and a logical conclusion which reinforces my main points. How does “bias” come into play here?

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