Wednesday, September 22, 2010

What Lies Beneath review

What Lies Beneath (my very unprofessional and personal)

Over all, it is a much better album than My Winter Storm. The album hangs together much better, and Tarja’s voice in the words and music is much more Tarja and much less anyone else’s ideas of her. There are some elements that one can see carried over from MWS, this is really her. My one qualm about this album: there is no fast, really “metal” song on the level of, say, “Ciaran’s Well”, or “Wishmaster” etc… The album also backs up Tarja’s half joking, half serious comment “I’m a very Daaark person”. Very dark, and very beautiful.

Anteroom of Death
Two words. Epic and audacious. I am not a huge fan of the instruments warming up at the beginning; I think it looses some of the punch it would have packed. That is not to say it has lost its punch, however, because it is a fantastic song. The harpsichord threw me for a huge loop the first time I heard it, and I mean that in a good way. So many of the metal bands that do stuff like that are not quite up to snuff, but have a good idea with the harpsichord and kind of oh…gothic baroque for lack of a better term, and Tarja pulls it all together perfectly. Van Canto is absolutely brilliant in this as well, adding just the right level of controlled manic chaos. It seems so not Tarja, and at the same time, so very Tarja, if that makes sense. Also, the phrase “welcome to the anteroom of death” brilliant.

Until My Last Breath
This is, in my opinion, one of strongest of the songs on the album, at least in terms of the more hard-core songs. It has quite a catchy chorus and overall gives the impression of a very strong, solid song. It’s well balanced too, not too long, a good mix of chorus, verses and in between bits.

Dark Star
Dark Star is not at all a bad song, and I don’t dislike it, but I think it’s one of my least favorites. Not sure why. It’s got a very cool intro, and the guest artist is quite good. The chorus is catchy, but it’s rather repetitive. Perhaps that’s why. It’s a straightforward verse chorus verse chorus song. It feels a little generic. Again, not at all a bad song, I just don’t really love it. It almost reminds me too much of Evanescence… almost. Not quite. Because it’s Tarja, and she’s epic at all times.

This is where Tarja, as a songwriter really excels. The slow songs on What Lies Beneath are all excellent. This is no exception. It is fairly simple, but effective. The piano with other instruments holding sustained notes creates the perfect theatre for her voice, and the guitar and drums come in at just the right time to bump the song up to the next level and prevent it from getting boring. The melody line is simple but so beautiful, and the words are haunting.

Little Lies
I think this is my favorite faster song on the album. I like the bass line, and the chorus is strong and catchy (Tarja writes awfully catchy choruses). The chugging guitars are a plus too, and that cool bass line becomes a cool guitar line. The words are really amazing too. Little lies are so common and so insidious, and I think she really gets this across.

Rivers of Lust
Such a tragic song, and it is so very beautiful. The use of multiple layers of Tarja’s voice, the slow piano and the cello line at the beginning set up a haunting mood, and the words just knock you over and leave you emotionally drained. This is really a work of art. The drums are extremely effective in their very pulled back, almost military beat. The continued expansion and reduction of the instruments is also tremendously effective, and she layers things brilliantly. The choir is absolutely haunting in this song.

In For a Kill
It’s a fun song, I like the guitar part and I always enjoy when Tarja sings lower or higher than normal, and in this song she does both. Not knowing much about James Bond, it’s hard for me to get the reference, but it’s a pretty awesome song. A creepy, but awesome. I mean, how is “there is no halo, only the hunger, you’re in for a kill” not creepy?

Montanas De Silencio
This song is the “Oasis” on this album. Hauntingly beautiful, extremely minimalist, in another language, using Tarja’s voice like another instrument, a simple piano part and creating a mood. She really does create the feel of Mountains of Silence. There is a feeling of soaring over a beautiful, mountainous landscape that is lush and green.

Falling Awake
I like “Falling Awake” a lot. It has a good rhythmic guitar thing going, and again, that CATCHY chorus. Actually, the whole song is incredibly catchy. And I really like the idea of falling awake instead of falling asleep. A very cool idea. I don’t like this guitar solo as much as the one in the first version she put out, but I think that’s because that’s the one I got used to first, and in time I’ll get used to this one too.

The Archive of Lost Dreams
Of all the songs on the album, the concept of this one is my favorite. The idea that there is an Archive of Lost Dreams is haunting. I dream a good deal, but often I don’t remember the dreams, and so for me this song gets me at a more personal level. I’m not a huge fan of the opening with just her voice, but it very quickly gets wonderful. The text is often followed by simple “ah’s” and sweeping instrumentation. Again, you get the fairly uncomplicated piano part and some beautiful sustained strings. The structure of this song is much more varied than, say, “Falling Awake” and is really just beautiful in a haunting and sad way.

Crimson Deep
I really like the intro for this song, and it continues very strongly. I think over time, this song will grow on me and I’ll end up liking it a lot more than I do. But at this point it’s kind of on the same level of “In for a Kill” or “Dark Star”. I like it, but it’s not my favorite. It doesn’t move me at all in any way. I do like the chorus though, and the vocal progression and the chorus at the end is really good.

We Are
I am not sure where I stand on this song. I like the last half of it much more than the first half. It’s nice to see that the Angels Fall First/Oceanborn voice isn’t gone; she just doesn’t use it very much. I wish she would use it more.

This is my absolute favorite song on the entire album. I think she should have ended the regular edition with this song. She creates a mood, writes a super catchy chorus, sings like a siren and … oh the song is just brilliant! I’ll let the play count tell you. I’ve listened to the album itself eleven times and “Anteroom of Death” twenty-nine times. I’ve listened to Naiad fifty-five times. I can’t describe it well enough. But here’s a try. She really captures that underwater, floating, expansive feel that you see in documentaries about whales where you get those eerily beautiful parts where the whales are singing. It’s really like that, especially at the beginning and at the break in the middle. It also is the bearer of the line “What lies beneath”, which of course is the title and concept of the whole album. Just go listen to it. If you listen to nothing else from this album, listen to “Anteroom of Death” and “Naiad”.

Still of the Night
Really not the stuff I’m used to hearing Tarja do. She uses a very different sound for most of the song, and it’s quite effective. Not knowing the Whitesnake original, I like it a lot, Tony makes a guest appearance on this one, and is quite good as well. It is definitely a step up from her cover of “Poison” and she’s got this really epic instrumental and vocalization section that is my favorite part of the whole song. The chorus does some epic work on this song too.

WHY ISN’T “I FEEL IMMORTAL” ON THIS ALBUM? That’s my only question.

There are some faults to the album, it runs the extreme risk of being very much of a similar pace all the way through in terms of the tempo of the songs. The there isn’t a really fast song, and most of them have a cruising speed of medium to slow. However, the individual songs are different enough that they don’t get boring or monotonous at all. Tarja’s talent as a writer definitely lies in those directions.
However, given that this is her first album where she has written most or all of the songs all the way through, I think we can reasonably expect things to get better from here on. And given the quality of this album, I think that means very epic things in the future.

There it is, folks. My very badly written review of Tarja Turunen’s “What Lies Beneath”