Within Temptation – The Unforgiving

I didn’t review this album the first time I listened to it because I remember years ago, before the internet and how everything is leaked onto download sites, the anticipation of waiting for an album to come out that you knew was completed but the release date was still weeks away. Of course there is the video release over a month before the album comes out which prompts those not savvy to how the record company’s and bands market the new unreleased album, which, in turn, causes some people to head down to the CD store and attempt to purchase said unrealesed album only to be turned away with confusion on their face muttering that they had just heard the song on the radio or YouTube… (this happened in the store after I got out of the listening area. A young girl, maybe 13 years old, came in looking for a band – Egypt something or other – that she had been hearing on the radio. Low and behold the album’s release date is in May. She had “That Look” on her face).
Anticipation is kewl as hell, but whatever happened to announcing that the song was from “The Forthcoming Album” and its release date?

Onward to my review.

First, I have got to say that this is a highly listenable album. There are small snatches of the old Within Temptation sound, but for the most part, the band has taken a new direction musically mixing a little of the old with alot of the new.
Have I liked every song on each release? No. Even on THoE there was that one song that did nothing for me. The Unfogiving does not have that problem for me as each song has a different feel from the one before it. Some are pop-hard rock/metal sounding and some are a little heavier.
Bottom line… The Unforgiving is the band reinventing itself. You may or may not like it (as with any bands release) especially if you are “redneck” in your musical taste.

The Unforgiving has what little orchestration there is done by keyboard. There is no huge symphony backing the sound. No huge choir either. There is the chant-sounding background vocals for ambiance but it is not as huge as those used on previous releases.
The first notable change is the drumming. It is tried and true rock and roll beats. There is some double-bass kicking on faster songs but they are the exception and not the rule.

01: Why Not Me – A snippet of the intro heard on the vid-clip “Mother Maiden“.

02: Shot In The Dark – This song has good groove. It is a keyboard laden tune with a short guitar lead break and there is the underlying ambiance of gloom to the sound. Sharon‘s vocal style for the tune reminded me of Olivia Newton John.

03: In The Middle Of The Night – This is a rocker. There is a driving rhythm and fast tempo to the song. The loud chorus where Sharon is raising her voice (not quite a yell) fits perfectly with the pace of the song.

04: Faster – If you have not seen the video for this song then go to the bands site on YouTube. http://www.youtube.com/user/wtofficial?feature=artistob
The verse vocals are sang low and throaty, almost smokey sounding. It has another loud chorus after the spinning sound of “faster and faster and faster and faster“. Whenever Within Temptation does a lead break in a song, in my opinion, it makes the song that much better. My first impression of this song is that it would have fit nicely in the 1980’s music scene.
As the first heard release from The Unforgiving, it is definately not the best song on the album and that’s a good thing because the song is good.

05: Fire And Ice – Has a piano driven intro that stays with the song even after it switches to a power ballad with drums, strings, yet no lead break. Very reminiscent of their old sound.

06: Iron – The intro to this song just has a cool sounding riff that leads into another driving rhythm. A good rock song that has Mother Maiden speaking in the lead break sans guitar.

07: Where Is The Edge – Again the tempo of the song slows the album down. One thing you can say about Sharon is she is not afriad to use vocal effects to her advantage. The lead break has both keyboard and guitars playing. This song reminds me of Delain‘s Stay Forever.

08: Sinéad – Wow! Right after the keyboard intro comes techno beats like Armin van Buuren and Sharon Den Adel Falling In And Out Of Love. There is a orchestral keyboard break and lots of hi-hat. I am still wondering if the guitars were ran through a synth. Great song that surprised the hell out of me.

09: Lost – A Spanish inspired acoustic intro and outro. This is a rocking power ballad with a great chorus. The lead break begins acoustic and switches to electric guitar.

10: Murder – Begins with a deperate sounding violin intro that goes on throughout the song. Sharon is again utilizing a vocal affect. Very bass driven song with another loud chorus and an unusual scream/growl sound before the second verse.

11: A Demons Fate – Another violin intro with guitar that reminds me of the intro to Edguy‘s Sacrifice from their Rocket Ride album and Sharon singing high-pitched vowel/notes.
The song is another driving rhythm tune with fast singing and lotsa double bass kicking from the drums. It has a very melodic lead break from the guitars.

12: Stairway To The Skies – The guitars and drums stay in an almost trance-like mode and the instruments have excellent sync with one another. This would be a Gothic sounding song if it wasn’t so damn rock n’ roll. The chorus is long and the lead break is Sharon‘s voice as an instrument (I will touch on this phenomenon in a later review). There is, however, a melodic guitar lead outro.

There it is. I hope I don’t give away too much because you should hear the album for yourself and form your own opinion. It is a great album. Buy the damn thing! Don’t pirate it! This is what the people in the band do for a living. They have bills like the rest of us. I already preordered the edition with DVD included.

As far as conceptual albums go… Much like Queensrÿche‘s Operation: Mindcrime, all the songs together on this album are stronger next to one another than they are seprate. That is not to say they are not good alone, quite the opposite really. What I am saying is in union, they make a strong album where no song is better than the other. Yes, this is one of the most listenable albums I have heard in a long time.

Before I go I need to thank Budget CD’s And DVD’s in Missoula, Montana for allowing me to listen to the album for review and for keeping me up in all the metal music I love. Where the in hell else am I going to get Battlelore, Kiske/Somerville, Within Temptation, Epica, out of print CD’s and  concert DVD’s not released in the United States. You guys FUCKIN” ROCK!


Within Temptation – Black Symphony

Filmed at Ahoy Arena, Rotterdam with accompaniment by The Metropole Orchestra, and the Pa’dam Choir, Black Symphony, in my opinion, is the most ambitious coupling of a metal band and orchestra that has been done.

Metallica and Scorpions both did it years ago but aside from music, there was nothing else. No stage show, no break in the middle for acoustic sets, no guest performances, no video screen as long as the stage is, no pyrotechnics… aside from stage lighting there was nothing but music and two bands that seemed as if they were nervous and had no clue as to what they should do. And, neither of these bands had live symphonies playing on their studio releases either so it was all new to them.

The show, “Black Symphony’ starts out with an orchestral piece, the choir joining in as they make their entrance onto the upper stage. Backstage, the band waits for their queue looking more anxious to get out on stage and begin the show than they do nervous to be performing in such a setting.

As Slayer’s Reign In Blood is considered the epitome of Thrash Metal and Dream Theater’s Images & Words is considered the epitome of Progressive Metal, I have to consider this show and the ensuing CD and DVD the epitome of Symphonic Metal (except the American CD release. Only thirteen songs of the 21 performed? Roadrunner Records, you blew it.) Plus, this show was directly responsible for the live acoustic performance An Acoustic Night At The Theater.
Having just listened to a pre-screening of Within Temptation’s next release The Unforgiving I can say that the sound they had at this show and previous releases does not make an appearance.
I guess, with the spectacle that is Black Symphony, the band has to go in a different direction because the show was an apex of their career. Watch it and ask yourself how they would top this. It really is a brilliant show and why try to top it?
Then again, as far as I am concerned, Sharon, Robert, and the band itself can do whatever the hell they want in music. Look how far they have come with this DVD and its later show/release, An Acoustic Night At The Theater. I for one don’t want to hear a part 2 to any of their albums and the two aforementioned shows are a pinnacle if not classic releases.

The concert contains many of WT’s well-known songs with Anneke van Giersbergen (ex-vocalist of The Gathering and vocalist of Ague de Annique), Keith Caputo (Life Of Agony), and George Oosthoek (ex-vocalist of Orphanage) joining the band onstage to sing.
There is pyro and explosions – the intro to Hand Of Sorrow is off the chain with these, stilt angels during the song Angel, and the crowd itself is loud and very responsive. The décor for the stage screen is a work of art. Bottom line – if you are going to do a show like this, this is the way to do it.

As mentioned In a previous article by me, Sharon den Adel sings twenty-one songs at this show and though each song is not just like the studio album, she goes the distance when many vocalists would say it was too much for them to do. When joined onstage by the other vocalists, the band is humble but with Sharon’s stage presence (and she has huge presence), they cannot outshine her although she is letting them shine. The same can be said for the band. The orchestra is onstage with them but it is Within Temptations stage.

Set list for Black Symphony:
1: Ouverture
2: Jillian (I’d Give My Heart)
03: The howling
04: Stand My Ground
05: The Cross
06: What Have You Done
07: Hand Of Sorrow
08: The Heart Of Everything
09: Forgiven
10: Somewhere
11: The Swan Song
12: Memories
13: Our Solemn Hour
14: The Other Half (Of Me)
15: Frozen
16: The Promise
17: Angels
18: Mother Earth
19: The Truth Beneath The Rose
20: Deceiver Of Fools
21: All I Need
22: Ice Queen

There are also many extras on the DVD including, interviews with the orchestra conductor, the band, and some fans, a short documentary, and what went on the day of the show (pre-production).
On the European version there is another DVD included that has another live show, Music videos from The Heart Of Everything, behind the scenes of the music videos, and video that the band recorded while on tour. Plus, there is video of WT performing at various award shows and in the studio while the orchestra is recording THoE. If you have a DVD player that is PAL capable, get the European version of this DVD.

Within Temptation – The Heart Of Everything

You know what’s funny? Almost three years after its release this album took off in the U.S. because of one small use of the song All I Need in the television show The Vampire Diaries.
What is even more strange is that the CD store that I frequent had to ask me why Within Temptation CD’s began flying off the shelves. Stranger than that even is I knew why and I have never watched an episode of The vampire Diaries because I do not watch television and had never heard of the show until WT‘s song was featured on it. Weird? I know.

The Heart Of Everything is Within Temptation‘s 5th studio release (counting the E.P. The Dance); the bands 4th full length album.
I have listened to WT since Mother Earth (2nd) and the band has been moving towards a less symphonic sound and to a more guitar oriented sound with each release. They do claim that they wanted to achieve a balancing, if you will, between the symphony and the band and that they did that with this release.
All critiquing aside, out of the 11 songs presented (I am not counting a certain song actually released on The Silent Force. And, I am counting What Have You Done only once) there are nine songs that I never tire of listening to.
This is/was a major breakthrough release for the band as it saw them chart in the U.S., achieving #103 on Billboard 200, #16 on Billboard Hard Rock, and #1 on Billboard Heatseekers. Although they have not broken the 100 yet, there next release, from what I have heard of it, might break this band in a big way in the U.S. and that is hard to do unless you started on Disney or Idol/esque type shows.

My only gripe about THoE is the lack of lead guitar playing. What there is of it is buried under rhythym or doesn’t climax. But, Robert Westerholt (guitar) and Sharon Den Adel (vocals) are very good at songwriting and their vision, to borrow a lyric from Jon Bon Jovi, is so big any blind man could see.

Sharon Den Adel is a self trained vocalist and her style is fearless (see the DVD Black Symphony. Seriously, one concert and she sang over 20 songs). In my opinion, this lady has no problem being touted with the likes of Tarja Turunen, Floor Jansen, Simone Simons, and Liv Kristine Espenæs Krull; all extremely talented metal vocalists.

The Heart Of Everything track listing (Roadrunner Records release):

01: The Howling
02: What Have You Done (featuring Keith Caputo) (U.S. single edit)
03: Frozen
04: Our Solemn Hour
05: The Heart Of Everything
06: Hand Of Sorrow
07: The Cross
08: Final Destination
09: All I Need
10: Stand My Ground (previously released on TSF)
11: The Truth Beneth The Rose
12: Forgiven
13: What Have You Done (extended version)

Also, if you do not know this band you can check on YouTube.