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Dutch gothic metal sensation, Within Temptation have been keeping themselves busy of late, continuing on with their success from their last full-length album ‘The Heart of Everything”, by releasing a live double CD entitled ‘Black Symphony’.
This is not your average run-of-the-mill live album, oh no. These gothic metallers have joined forces with the Metropole Orchestra, a Dutch orchestra who is the world’s largest professional pop and jazz orchestra. This group of musicians performs everything from world music, film-scores, rock and pop tunes as well as high-octane jazz. The Metropole Orchestra has previously played alongside famous artists such as Andrea Bocelli, Joe Cocker, Elvis Costello, Chaka Khan and Steve Vai. Now this orchestra can add Within Temptation to their list.
Accompanying the Metropole Orchestra with Within Temptation in ‘Black Symphony’, is a huge choir and specials guests including Keith Caputo (Life of Agony), George Oosthoek (Orphanage) and Anneke van Giersbergen. As well as the double CD release, there is also a double disc DVD, filmed by 14 HD cameras and is a sheer delight to watch.
Getting back to the album, ‘Black Symphony’ covers basically everything from Within Temptation’s discography, including hits from ‘The Heart of Everything’, ‘The Silent Force’ and ‘Mother Earth’; while no tracks from the band’s debut CD ‘Enter’ appear on the album. However, one track on ‘Black Symphony’ called “The Other Half (Of Me)” was originally featured on an EP entitled ‘The Dance’ which was released back in 1997, after the debut album. In all, the 2-disc album features 22 tracks, including a 7 minute bombastic introduction to set the oncoming mood inside the Ahoy Arena in Rotterdam, Netherlands.
The first disc has 11 tracks (plus the intro), covering an array of songs from Within Temptation’s last two releases; while the second disc covers 10 tracks from both albums mentioned above, plus ‘Mother Earth’ and ‘The Dance’ EP. Obviously wanting to include many songs from their latest album, Within Temptation does heavily cover tracks from ‘The Heart of Everything’; in fact every song bar one (“Final Destination”) is on ‘Black Symphony’.
Listening to the album is something in itself, with a remarkable effort from all involved and this is one of the best band/orchestra collaborations I’ve heard in a long time. With the band already having emotional and strong songs, the addition of the orchestra adds a massive bombastic element, giving new life to these songs and producing a deeper feeling with even more emotion than the original songs already contained. The participation of the die hard fans is enormous, and you can really feel their excitement and appreciation of what they are seeing and hearing.
As for the band themselves, they give a great performance, particularly crowd favourite Sharon Den Adel. Sharon, who not only is a very talented vocalist in the studio, but also gives a stunning performance live. Her silky smooth angelic tones cry out throughout the Ahoy Arena, sending fuelled emotions scouring through your body. It was also great to have the guest vocalists come onstage to sing their parts of the songs, to the surprise and joy of the audience. The overall feeling is electric as the atmosphere inside the venue is sky high.
Overall, ‘Black Symphony’ is nothing short of brilliant, covering all their best tracks from the bulk of their discography and all are performed in grand style with the help of the soulful choirs and the Metropole Orchestra. This is a must for all Within Temptation fans and also fans of the gothic metal/rock genre.
Originally written for www.themetalforge.com
The so awaited DVD of one of the leading bands in the female fronted metal genre is not just a distant dream anymore. The “Black Symphony” concert release immediately turned into a legend and treasure not only for the devoted fans of the band, but also for people with love towards the symphonic music in general. There are two reasons for my statement - the two of the special concerts of Within Temptation for their latest album, “The Heart Of Everything”. Of course, the highlight is the show filmed in Rotterdam. And it’s not just an ordinary event, but a high professional work with the Dutch symphonic orchestra (Metropole Orchestra) and the gregorian Pa’Dam choir. In other words, it’s something worthy to be seen.
Everything is done with almost a maniac’s perfectionism when it comes to “Black Symphony”, but while the grandeur feeling is particularly everywhere, there’s also a great touch for every little detail - in a firm, straight technical way, the concert is filmed with a big number of HD cameras and thus crystal clear focus and picture; with a perfectly lighted stage and special lights and place for the orchestra and the choir; with a deep, clear sound engineering and huge video wall and screens, providing a direct visual contact with the band no matter the position.
A long symphonic overture marks the beginning of the silent waiting that can be easily sensed in the air of one of the biggest concert halls in The Netherlands on the night of Within Temptation’s gig. The melody slowly gets a theatrical and epic character, setting the anticipation on fire, and after the cacophony of sounds and mixes of violins, harp strings, trumpets and a resounding echo of an authentic gong fades away, the audience is in a hysterical state. The stage itself comes to life in a way one would call a wicked visual game of sorcery, and the public responds in a special way – numerous hands start to measure, announcing the tempo in the beginning of “Jillian”, which is being accompanied by one of the many light and pyro effects for the night. This is the precise background support, in my beliefs desired by every musician with a respect for himself, on which Sharon & co take over the stage in order to make the dreams of their infinite ocean of fans come true.
At the very beginning it comes pretty clear that the band is in an amazing and energetic state – regarding the higher requirements for this typical majestic events, the musicians are having real fun and keep a solid contact with the audience. The chosen set list includes all the songs from their last album, there are also unquestioned classics and some surprises like “Swan Song”, played live for the first time in the career of the band. The blast of contrast captions, color blurs and sharp picture effects is most impressive; Many times clips with special plots directed exactly for the concert are being projected on the wall screen on the psychedelic performance of “The Cross”, the fresh hit “Our Solemn Hour” and the dramatical “The Truth Beneath The Rose”. Four of the ballads are combined in one musical structure, during which the time stops and the beautiful, clean voice of Sharon resounds by the walls of the hall under a piano accompaniment handled by the keyboardist of the band, Martijn Spierenburg. There are also several guest musicians like Keith Caputo, providing “What Have You Done” with his vocals, the grunter George Oosthoek on the aggressive “The Other Half (Of Me)”. If I can give any negative opinion, it’ll go to Anneke van Giersbergen’s part, which doesn’t fit neither the idea nor the actual sound of the beautiful “Somewhere”. In the same eye of the storm the stage turns effectively into a visual spectacle with help of masked, winged actors during the sound of the marvelous “Angels”, while later on the eternal “Ice Queen” proclaims the end of this unforgettable event, precisely in the meaning of the words “grand finale”.
Exactly “temptations” of the sort make me to greet the tradition of Within Temptation from the past few years, dealing with their DVD releases after each new album. It’s because of this concert, which if I had attended, it would become necessary for someone to get me out in his hands and try a hundred times harder to bring me back to my senses. Jokes aside, a silent bow before the band is that which is left, because it’s the same feeling that “Black Symphony” brought to me even through the monitor. That means the goal is accomplished, because one must not, and in cases like this actually just can’t stay impartial to the event, in which exactly are rooted both strength and aim of a concert release.
Live albums are often difficult to review. On the one hand, the live setting can allow a band the opportunity to stretch out and be more adventurous than the studio can. After all, the majority of the average concert features songs which are already confirmed favourites (whether covers or originals), so there's no risk that a certain track won't sell. On the other, the concert setting can be very limiting, forcing the multitracked vocal to be performed by one voice, revealing that fantastic drum part to be unrepeatable on cue and of course to feature far too much audience noise in preference to the music on offer. The proverbial jury is still out here as to whether the old standard of having the punters sing along to all the big hits is a good idea.
Within Temptation's live album features all of these issues in droves. As a result, it's the kind of live album that fans of Sharon den Adel and her friends will lap up, while those of us for whom a bit of Within Temptation goes a long way will probably be thinking it's gone a bit too far by the end of the first disc.
To begin with, WT are slightly adventurous here, as the concert was recorded in conjunction with an orchestra. Metal and orchestras have had a somewhat conflicted relationship, as anyone who's ever listened to "S&M" will be able to vouch, but the orchestra seems to work in well here. After all, most of WT's songs do feature a quasi-orchestral atmosphere courtesy of a keyboard and some synthesising, and simply playing it that way live would sound a bit thin. Thus, the orchestra makes sense and in fact sounds rather sprightly playing along with the band. Everyone seems well-rehearsed, which I could imagine would be rather tricky to achieve in this sort of situation.
Similarly, the tracklist features no surprises at all. I can't claim an acquaintance with all of WT's catalogue, but every song I'm familiar with makes an appearance. The reactions from the audience - which is constantly cheering, clapping along and providing extra vocal accompaniment - suggests that the ones I'm not familiar with are probably just as well-known among the aficionados. The opportunity to pull out a cover or two is passed up, which may smack a bit of conservatism, but a concert is after all an opportunity to give the people what they want, and clearly this audience wants their favourites.
On the downside, however, is the length of proceedings here. I don't believe that there's been much in the way of additional solos added to any of the songs on offer here, but there's 2hrs+ of concert on offer. While there would be many champing at the bit to experience that and more, I find that the songs tend to blur into one pretty quickly. Even the duet of "What Have You Done Now?", featuring some new vocals courtesy of Keith Caputo, doesn't stand out well enough from the rest of the pack. Yes, Sharon's voice is quite pleasant to listen to - even if she's not one of the best in the field, she's far from the worst - but the melodies and lyrics tend to become the same in general. Gothic metal doesn't tend to promote solos by the band members, and as a result there's much less in any given song to "hang one's hat on", if I can put it that way.
There are live albums which serve as fantastic documents of a band's sound - and one or two I could name in other genres of music than metal which have made me a fan of the band in question - but this ultimately feels too generic for that. As I've said, I'm not the kind of person who'd pay to go and see Within Temptation in concert in the first place, so it may be that the album will always be a lost cause for me. Nonetheless, I can only review what I hear, and for me this is rather bland over its entire length. For those who would pay for the concert experience but haven't yet had that opportunity, I'm sure this is a great sample of what you'll hear when you get the chance.