Formed in 1996 by Sharon Den Adel and her partner Robert Westerholt, Within Temptation became one of the biggest bands in symphonic metal and now describe themselves as “Europe’s biggest symphonic rock band”. The band have never been content to stick to one style and their sound has constantly evolved, from their gothic doom roots in 1997’s Enter to the concept-heavy rock of 2011’s The Unforgiving. In 2012, they celebrated their 15th anniversary in the music business with a massive orchestral concert, Elements, and underwent a change in record label. Now they’re back with Hydra, an album that promises to show the 'many heads' of WT. But have they pulled it off?
- Sharon den Adel - lead vocals
- Robert Westerholt - guitars, growls on tracks 6 & 9
- Ruud Jolie - guitars
- Stefan Helleblad - guitars
- Martijn Spierenburg - keyboards
- Jeroen van Veen - bass guitar
- Mike Coolen - drums
- Let Us Burn
- Dangerous feat. Howard Jones
- And We Run feat. Xzibit
- Paradise (What About Us?) feat. Tarja
- Edge Of The World
- Silver Moonlight
- Covered By Roses
- Dog Days
- Tell Me Why
- Whole World Is Watching feat. Dave Pirner
The album kicks off with Let Us Burn, the demo of which was already released as part of the Paradise EP. It’s acquired a swirling opening build-up and a tighter production, but it’s much the same song and it’s a good start to the album – a fairly straight-forward rock song with a hint of that old WT magic. Dangerous brings more excitement to the proceedings – it’s the first of many collaborations on the album, with ex-Killswitch Engage front man Howard Jones on guest vocals. It’s a fast and energetic song devoted to life on the edge. And We Run is a bit more of a gamble, as rapper Xzibit shows up for what is probably the first ever symphonic metal/rap collaboration (we don’t talk about the time Tuomas Holopainen almost made Marco Hietala rap on Nemo…) This will be a love-it-or-hate-it track, but it’s certainly a brave experiment and they have done their best to blend the two genres. At 3.49 minutes though, it’s unusually short, and feels like it could have gone on longer.
Then there's Paradise (What About Us?), the album’s highly popular and much anticipated lead single, a massive duet between Sharon and Tarja Turunen. The result is epic (not least due to the fantastic sci-fi themed video) and this is likely to be the song that traditional symphonic metal fans will most enjoy. Things slow down a little with Edge of the World, a beautiful ballad that is a little reminiscent of Fire and Ice from the previous album, similarly starting off quietly and more reserved before swelling into an orchestral and rock-tinged body, and ending with some lovely soft vocals from Sharon.
Silver Moonlight was also on the EP and features the return of Robert’s harsh vocals, which have unfortunately been reduced from the demo but do sound better overall. This is a classic-sounding WT track, and even with all the extra polish it will still remind you of the old days. Covered By Roses is much more modern, but with a catchy chorus and truly beautiful lyrics it is likely to capture your heart. Another EP song is up next, Dog Days, and it’s undergone a lot of lyrical changes since the demo, and is now less repetitive and more meaningful. There’s also the great addition of Sharon singing passionately over the ending.
Tell Me Why is probably the most metal song on the album. At 6 minutes it’s one of the band’s longest songs, and it really shows that WT are better when they give themselves more room to build up. It’s beautifully dark and heartfelt. After this epic song, The Whole World Is Watching (featuring Dave Pirner, or Piotr Rogucki on the Polish version) feels a bit of a let-down. It’s a sweet and uplifting duet with a positive message, but it’s not particularly strong and it cuts off very abruptly leaving you unsatisfied. It’s certainly not a bad song by any means, but perhaps Tell Me Why would have been a better way to round off the album.
Hydra is quite short at 10 songs, that are also not particularly long. It would have been nice to have a few more. The bonus CD does feature 4 of the band’s pop covers (already released on the QMusic Sessions so not worth getting if you already own that album) and some 'evolution' tracks – basically clips of the track from original demo to finished product – that are worth one listen. There are also some demo bonus tracks available on the Whole World Is Watching single.
Overall, fans of WT’s newer material will love this album. People who prefer their earlier work will have to search a bit harder to find something to like, but there are certainly aspects of the old WT still remaining. One thing’s for sure, though – the accessibility and high standards of this album are causing it to sell like hot cakes already. Watch out world: Within Temptation are coming…
Highlights: Tell Me Why, Covered by Roses, Paradise (What About Us?), Silver Moonlight, Dangerous
Author: Sophie Cleverly-EdwardsRead the full story