Exclusive preview: Tarja – What Lies Beneath

The former Nightwish soprano singer-songwriter Tarja Turunen is all set to unleash her second solo effort on the world. At a special media preview, we were able to hear ‘What Lies Beneath‘ from start to finish. Here’s a track-by-track preview of the album.

THE SONGS:

1) Anteroom Of Death (w/ Van Canto): ‘It gets very loud very suddenly’, we were warned. And boy does it do just that. After a deafening silence you get an explosion of guitars whose shockwaves alone will send you into orbit. After that nerve-wracking opening, the song settles into a quiet verse-heavy chorus pattern, and every time the song gets heavy the pace of the riffing goes up a few notches. The whole song has a very vaudevillian feel to it, especially with Van Canto’s amazing a capella. Already, we have a winner.

2) Until My Last Breath: This song opens with keyboards and electronics before a thundering drum pattern takes centre-stage. There really isn’t much fault to find with this song – the riff is one of the most aggressive on the whole album and best heard with the volume cranked up, the chorus is instantly memorable and the solo is nothing if not amazing. Another highlight of the album, and we’re only two tracks in!

3) I Feel Immortal: The first ballad of the album, it focuses heavily on the keyboards and almost completely ignores the guitars, as you would expect. The lyrics are sufficiently cheesy for such territory and while there is no doubt Tarja has an amazing voice, this song does wear a bit thin after the first minute-and-a-half.

4) In For A Kill: This is Tarja’s reimagining of the James Bond theme! Immediately engaging, the chug-chug riffing and spy-thriller tone make for a thoroughly enjoyable listen. It’s not quite in the same league as ‘Until My Last Breath’, but is very headbangable and will definitely get the adrenaline pumping. There’s even a symphonic string section after the second chorus that gives the whole song an epic feel.

5) Underneath: The second ballad on ‘What Lies Beneath’, Tarja once again takes centre-stage with her excellent vocal range. ‘You cannot take away what’s underneath’, she croons over a piano riff. The whole track is a bit of a downer though, because it kills all the momentum that ‘In For A Kill’ had just built up. Aside from that, it’s a great song.

6) Little Lies: Although not 100 per cent sure, we reckon this one has been tuned down to D, because it sure feels heavier than anything we’ve heard so far. The riff here, undoubtedly, is the star of the show. More thrash metal than anything else, it’s a great heavy song that also stays melodic and accessible. The bass, too, sounds spectacular here. Another song to hear over and over again.

7) Rivers Of Lust: Another ballad? Seriously? Aside from being a vehicle for Tarja’s voice, there isn’t much happening here. A quiet drumbeat plays at the back with a symphonic bass and horn section giving it a majestic feel. Ho-hum.

8) Dark Star (w/ Phil Labonte): Now this is what we need more of! An awesome cello riff breaks into equally pulsating chugging guitars. The whole song has a fist-pumping, balls-to-the-wall feel. Phil Labonte backs Tarja for the most part but has a few awesome screams and solo bits. The whole song is very rock n’ roll and strikes a great balance between the three world of heavy rock, classical music and memorable, hummable tunes.

9) Falling Awake (W/ Joe Satriani): This song has already been released as a single, but that version has Jason Hook of Five Finger Death Punch making a guest appearance. Fans of Joe Satriani will love this song because the guitar work is impeccably Satriani-esque. The virtuoso leaves his mark all over the song and his style is instantly recognisable, but he has also changed his playing to fit the tone of the song. The song itself is an obvious single – heavy and ballsy but very melodic and radio-friendly.

10) The Archive Of Lost Dreams: You’ve probably guessed from the name of the song that it’s another ballad. Enough said.

11) Crimson Deep (W/ Will Calhoun): When you have a Grammy-award winning drummer guesting on your song, it’s no surprise the drum work is absolutely on the money. What is surprising is the acoustic section that comes in two-thirds of the way through the song, not least because it is preceded by a slow-paced bruiser of a guitar riff up until then. It’s a kooky left turn but thoroughly enjoyable and will definitely get a few fists pumping.

THOUGHTS AND IMPRESSIONS

‘What Lies Beneath’ is a fairly strong album, though it’s hard to call it ground-breaking or brilliant. At its best, it can be an extremely engaging listen, but there seems to be too much filler in the form of ballads. They always come in at the most inopportune moment and kill any momentum that had been built up until then, which makes for an uneven listen. And with four of them, one has to wonder if nearly one-third of the album had to be a ballad. Then again, this is the first time Tarja has done all the production herself, as well as co-writing the whole album. As she said herself, it was a huge step up and a learning experience.

The guest appearances work really well and each guest adds something different and unique to the album. Guitarist Alex Scholpp and drummer Mike Terrana also deserve special mention for very strong performances throughout the album. Tarja also said she will have a new bassist on tour replacing Doug Wimbish but would say no more on the topic, so watch this space.

There will also be a special edition that will include a cover of ‘Still Of The Night’ by Whitesnake, which should be an interesting prospect given that Tarja says she’s added a symphony to it.

HIGHLIGHTS

Anteroom Of Death, Until My Last Breath, In For A Kill, Little Lies

Rating – 7

     

About Abhijeet Ahluwalia

Abhijeet Ahluwalia – I’m a freelance journalist who goes back and forth between London and Bombay. A huge metalhead, but I have an eclectic taste, from reggae to punk. Oh, and Manchester United are the greatest team in the world. Follow me on Twitter or drop me a line via Email.

3 Responses to “Exclusive preview: Tarja – What Lies Beneath”

  1. great review, thanks for it! i’m more and more eager to have this in my player!

  2. Well, for me ballads are never a filler and I enjoy them quite a lot, and well, about the order of the songs, that really doesn’t affect me since I’ll just load them to my ipod and shuffle through the entire thing haha!

    thanks a lot for the review, I am really anxious to hear the whole thing! It seems it will be truly awesome.

  3. Saying the ballads are only fillers isn’t something i would do. Tarja’s voice was always trained for classical music, and it’s only natural that her album has some ballads, according to her original wants. But the rest was really good, i adored it. Didn’t like the highlights session, felt like a filler for me, considering you already expressed how much you loved those songs above =)