Finnish soprano Tarja Turunen returns to the music scene with her third studio album What Lies Beneath. Most well-known as the former frontwoman of Finnish symphonic metal band Nightwish, after breaking with the band in 2005, Tarja has gone on to build a strong solo career that spans continents. After dipping her toe into the solo career waters with a Finnish Christmas album, Tarja released her first original studio album My Winter Storm (in English, of course) in 2007 followed by the sold-out Storm World Tour. Though the album brought mixed reactions from fans ranging from skepticism to an outpouring of support, Tarja has continued on with What Lies Beneath.
Continuing the tradition of symphonic metal mixed with soprano vocals, What Lies Beneath delivers an enjoyable collection of symphonic metal and lovely piano ballads, all driven by Tarja’s mature opera vocals. The album’s first single was “Falling Awake” released July 19. Though a strong show of the type of music Tarja has become known for, something about the basic beat of it, the pulse, reminded me far too much of “I Walk Alone” from My Winter Storm, so I would have liked to see something a little more unique.
Stand-out tracks include the exotic and haunting “Dark Star,” the vocally powerful “Until My Last Breath,” the catchy “Little Lies,” and the haunting “Underneath.” Unfortunately, some of the other tracks here don’t quite live up to the rest. Some, such as “Archive of Lost Dreams” and “Rivers of Lust,” blend into the other songs and feel repetitive on the album.
The most unexpected song on the album is North American exclusive “Montanas de Silencio,” a beautiful song entirely in Spanish. With an unforgettable orchestral sound and effectless lyrics that flow perfectly into one another, “Montanas de Silencio” is the most poetic song on the album.
What Lies Beneath also features an eclectic collection of guest artists. German cappella/metal band van Canto contributes phenominal choir vocals to “Anteroom of Death.” Lead singer Phil Labonte from the American metal band All That Remains lends his growly, gritty vocals to “Dark Star,” offering an unexpected counter to Tarja’s haunting vocals. American drummer Will Calhoun joins in on “Crimson Deep,” though the song turns out as more of a generic rock song than a unique blend of Calhoun and Tarja’s talents. Most notably, American musical genius Joe Satriani lends his hand to “Falling Awake,” though he seemed to be somewhat underutilized for my tastes.
Overall, What Lies Beneath is stronger and more mature than My Winter Storm, though the vocals sound somewhat overproduced and, at times, overdone. Despite this, the album offers an interesting mix of good quality metal, strong orchestral sections, powerful choir work and, of course, haunting lead vocals. Tarja’s voice sounds as wonderful as always, but at times it didn’t quite mix with the metal as well as I would have liked, but if you are fan of heavy vocal work, especially traditional opera or of Tarja, then this is the perfect album.