without Internet Explorer,
in 1280 x 960 resolution
I listened to this album a year ago, when I was still new to metal, gothic and symphonic in particular, lured by the pretty interesting looking cover. And to be honest, it really captured my senses back then. Heck, I probably listened to the thing once per day.
Fast forward to a year later.
By then, I had dug deeper. I discovered other treasures like Tristania, After Forever, Theatre of Tragedy, and many others. They all set the scene nicely, letting me marvel at their angelic female vocals, powerful growling, and most of all, the dark, depressive atmosphere created by the instruments. But at some point, I rediscovered this album after sifting through my music collection. I didn’t remember a whole lot, really, and that made me want to listen to this again. I geared up all my courage, and started listening attentively, although I was supposed to be working on an extremely important project.
What a waste of forty-five minutes.
To be honest with you, I would have been far better off doing my work than deciding to even listen to this pile of general crap. The general musicianship is rather mediocre. Yes, you occasionally get a decent riff or two, but then it gets played over and over and over again (as in throughout the entire song), and it immediately loses its impact (to put it mildly). At its worst points, one or two riffs are played throughout the ENTIRE song. The keyboards, however, help manage to keep the entire thing floating, but nothing is particularly outstanding in that field, and it falls into the same generic, boring patterns. Bass is occasionally audible, but barely. Only a rabbit fitted with hearing aids could hear it even partially clearly. The drums? Don’t ask. My opinion is that something went wrong with the mixing (listen to the album to see what I mean), and nothing stands out there.
The vocalists’ performance doesn’t stand out either. Sharon den Adel’s vocal performance is decent and rather beautiful at times, but once again, her voice has nothing that makes it stand out from many other female vocalists, from Floor Jansen to Liv Kristine to Tarja Turunen, and yes, even Amy Lee in some way, for god’s sake. And don’t even get me started on the growling. Whoever performed those atrocious “growls” did not deserve to be given a recording contract. Variety? Alternation between growling and harsher screaming? Forget it. And, to add something else, this guy has an accent. Yes, I know that some other decent growlers have accents, but they are well concealed, or so insignificant that they are easily overlooked. Not here. The accents are so pronounced that someone with half an ear could hear it. And somehow, the growling makes him sound like an illiterate.
Next thing in the recipe of disaster: some of the cheesiest lyrics in lyrical history. I’ll paste some lyrics from “Grace” for your viewing pleasure:
“Cold are the bones of thy soldiers
Longing for home, their little paradise
I don't feel redemption on their side”
Fortunately, at times the lyrics are not as bad, such as the ones in “Restless” or “Candles.”
So what do you get for a general performance? Boring, repetitive songs with so little appeal that it’s almost sad. I would even be shedding tears, if it weren’t for the fact that they suddenly decided to make money off their career that the masses would suck up.
I will be generous, though, and point out a few good things. In my opinion, Within Temptation did a decent job with the atmosphere. The keyboards and vocals keep the entire thing afloat with the dark atmosphere they’re supposed to convey, and if it weren’t for those things, I would have immediately erased all traces of their existence by now. Also, I find the almost-but-not-quite epicness of “Candles” appealing. The guitars and keyboards work very well together here, the growls don’t kill the song, and if not for that boring repetitivety AGAIN, I would mark this song somewhere in the middle nineties. If the rest of the songs in this heap of trash were this good, I’d take some time to actually BUY this album, instead of downloading it. (Yes, I downloaded it.) The “good” songs had a few good points (they kept the melancholy atmosphere, all right), but all of them were ruined by overrepetitivety and awful vocalization, along with other factors.
So overall, this album is simply FAR too overrated. If you’re looking for decent gothic metal, I beg of you, don’t start with this: this is the epitome of bad music in general. If you will allow me, I would like to direct you towards Tristania’s first album for melancholy and general beauty. Also, have a look at After Forever, its cousin Epica, beauty and beast (singing and growling) pioneers Theatre of Tragedy, and many others. Anyone in the zone of this album, steer clear. It’s not worth it.