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It goes without saying that Within Temptation aren't much of a "metal" band. Sure they fairly comfortably fit the category of gothic/doom metal on "Enter" but aside from that album the albums have pretty much always played out like a pop album. Though I do find some fun in albums like "The Heart of Everything" or "The Silent Force" once in a while, they seem very dry and predictable at times. Once the band realized how marketable they were, that took over the music to a certain degree and every album since this one has been on a steady decline. They jumped on the "quasi gothic band with female vocals" bandwagon right after this album, but I personally feel that "Mother Earth" despite having similar production and being similarly simple, is a very different and much better album than those that followed.
One of the main differences here is the atmosphere and melodies. This is the only album they've done that has some faint power metal elements and a notable celtic feel, which gives off a more upbeat and natural atmosphere. Also, when listening to songs like "Deceiver of Fools" you'll notice that melodically they don't conjure up comparisons to Evanescence the way this kind of song of theirs would on the following albums. That being the mid paced, non muted guitar riff song with the catchy chorus. Just compare the aforementioned song with a later tune like "Frozen" to see what I mean. The differences are there in the harmonies, the scales used, and the lyrics.
So while this is sometimes considered the commercial breakthrough of Within Temptation, it's not so Americanized as their most successful works. But enough of that, how does the music stand on it's own? Honestly, this is an album that is incredibly borderline great. In fact I sometimes call it as such because this is Within Temptation writing their most memorable melodies, most varied song structures (which isn't saying much really but still), and best arranged orchestration. It really jives well with new age fan inside of me, in no small part due to Sharon den Adel's voice. She's always been one of my favorite female vocalists in metal, and certainly my favorite in this particular subcategory. She has an ethereal mezzo soprano voice that especially on this album succeeds in conveying multiple emotions and transporting you to the world that the lyrics speak of in each song. It also helps that it is only her doing the vocals here, as Westerholt was nota very good growler. Some criticize Sharon's Kate Bush esque wailing that is found in "Dark Wings" and especially in "Caged" but I feel it works in those specific songs. It's a little unwelcome when it pops up in "The Promise" being that it is a more regal, flowing song that is not as open to that particular eccentricity.
Ivan de Graaf's drumming is a tad more colorful than most in this style, but still fairly predictable and straight. He does get some nice moments in "Ice Queen" and "Dark Wings" however. Of course since this is a very melody oriented album, the rhythm section doesn't really get to do much since pretty much all the focus is on Sharon. And really that's my main problem with the album. It doesn't bring it down too much, but while there are some solid riffs ("The Promise", "Dark Wings", and the title track come to mind) the guitars are complete modern rock, non muted strumming and the bass is mostly invisible. The only time an instrument besides Sharon's voice or Martijn's keyboards takes prominence is in "Dark Wings" where we get the sole guitar solo here courtesy of the great Arjen Anthony Lucassen. I wish there were more moments like that here, but the main elements (and the main focus) of the orchestration and vocals are so top notch I can look past it.
My favorite songs here are definitely "Dark Wings", "In Perfect Harmony", and "Ice Queen". The last of which is the most poppy song here, but has such a classic vocal performance and is so infectious and serene at the same time that I can't help but love it. Most of you reading this have already heard that song, but being the obsessive fan of vocal hooks that I am, I find I don't get tired of it.
"Dark Wings" is the most power metal song they have ever done, with a fairly soaring chorus and keyboard/guitar interplay that is reminiscent of Nightwish. The solo is pretty good, albeit too short but as a whole it's a classic of Within Temptation.
And then there is "In Perfect Harmony". While this is not the only ballad on the album ("Neverending Story" is another one that is particularly of note), it's probably the best. It goes through a decent number of changes, but still manages to feel like a pure new age song. With some of the greatest fairytale type melodies, and enchanting lyrics this song is a joy to listen to. Also, despite the fact I only discovered this album a few years ago this particular song is always rather nostalgic for me. It reminds me of my rural and forest filled childhood, not to mention many hours playing Zelda games and because of this, "In Perfect Harmony" is a song I hold especially close because it reminds of great times.
Overall, this is an album definitely worth your time. Ethereal, thought provoking, serene, dark, yet peaceful. These are all words I would use to describe it, and if you're ever in the mood for some great melodies and beautiful arrangements, seek out "Mother Earth".
With the release of their second album, "Mother Earth", Dutch gothic symphonic metal band evolves from a darker, ominous sound, to a more organic classical sound. Another difference that triggers the change in sound is that in between WT's debut and sophomore albums, the band decided to get rid of harsh vocals all together. This lack of harshness took away the foggy, mysterious image I always had in my mind when I listened to "Enter".
The string parts sound like a rawer violin sound and Sharon's light mezzo-soprano vocals add do this natural, organic sound. Though this is probably "Within Temptation's least heavy album, the guitars have great catchy riffs, though they are very pushed back in the mix of keyboards, vocals, and drums. The guitars will also have an occasional heavy riff when everything else cuts out like in "Caged". The music is very beautiful and epic.
Returning to the idea that this is WT's least heavy album, the bass is usually never there. Not to mention that for most of the verses of every song on this album, I feel that all I can hear is vocals, keyboards, and drums. Even the drums are smothered a lot by other instruments. But that doesn't necessarily mean this album is bad.
"Mother Earth" is a very beautiful and epic album. This album is the same kind of epic that "Njord" is by "Leaves' Eyes", the epicness is subtle, but still there. The band doesn't go over the top with fast paced orchestration, what they do is have the orchestration soar and blend beauty with intensity, like in the seventh track "Deceiver of Fools". Sharon has this quieter bridge/chorus that she sings while almost everything else cuts out and lets her high pitched singing soar, and using dynamics to show intensity and restraint at the same time. It shows how much skill the band has, especially Sharon, her voice is always a highlight of every album.
"Mother Earth" is an album that is amazingly beautiful, epic, and full of great instrumentation. Though most of this instrumentation is orchestration, the sound is still pure and organic and intense. People usually call this WT's best album, though I disagree, It's still good.
Highlights: Mother Earth and Deceiver of Fools
"Mother Earth" is probably the first Within Temptation album most of us came across, most likely after the release of "Ice Queen". Doubtlessly, it is super catchy and fun to listen to...but in all seriousness, where has the metal gone? This sounds like Enya with a guitar in the background (pushed back a little too much in the mix).
From the first track, you'll know what's in store for you on this album. The title track opens up with a rather "childish" melody, so to speak. A tune which would sound perfectly fitting on a Disney movie. And it's not just that. The music is almost limited to a piano all the time. Guitar, bass and drums are pushed way back in the mix, sometimes not being heard at all. More or less, 75% of the album is just Sharon singing with a piano in the background. Something like this would be acceptable for a song or two on an album (ballads mostly), but in this case, it's the other way round - only 2 or 3 songs are slightly in the metal area.
Sharon's vocals, while pleasant on their debut, fall short on "Mother Earth". It's as though she's trying way too hard. For example, I have no idea what was the point of her voice on "Caged" sounding so harsh at one point, and so soft and serene at another. The thing is, Sharon Den Adel has an amazing voice, and on some tracks, it's as though she's trying to destroy that. Having said that, on tracks like "Ice Queen", "In Perfect Harmony" and "World of Make Believe", her voice sounds perfectly fine...heavenly even.
However, it's not all bad after all. The orchestrations are rather pleasant, especially on the opening sequence on "The Promise", which sounds similar to "Gatekeeper" on their debut (which is a very good thing). Too bad the vocals killed that song. The backing vocals are also something which strike my fancy. Though not very frequent like on "The Silent Force", they are quite enjoyable and "save" a couple of songs; namely "Caged" and "Dark Wings".
In conclusion, I won't recommend this album to anyone who likes metal. If you enjoy Enya or something of the sort, this could be right up your alley, but if you're expecting something like Tristania's "Beyond the Veil", look elsewhere. Nonetheless, there are a couple of tracks which are very enjoyable, despite their flaws. These are "Caged", "Deceiver of Fools", "Dark Wings" (easily the best song on this album) and "World of Make Believe". The rest are more or less terrible. If you have to buy this, I'd strongly suggest buying the edition with "World of Make Believe". Even though it's barely metal like most of the album, the opening music, orchestrations and catchy chorus make it one of the best tracks here.
As I really appreciated the very popular singles by Within Temptation like the inspiring and dreamy "Mother Earth" and the catchy and magic "Ice queen", I decided to buy the entire album.
I realized that this album was a rather calm album with a couple of ballads like "Our farewell", smooth folk tales like the highlight "Caged" where Sharon den adel sings in a surprisingly diversified and motivated way and a lot of instrumental passages or long instrumental introductions to the main songs. The problem is that those calm parts are inspiring when they are used in a well dosed but finally most of the album gets stucked into this peaceful tranquility. I have nothing against wuthering and soft albums if they are well executed, but the peaceful kitsch harmonies and the too high pitched and innocent voice make me feel bored as the pseudo-epic kitsch and way too long "The promise" begins until "In perfect harmony" fades out if I have not fallen asleep before by listening to this repeating Disney movie score kitsch. Sometimes the album really reminds me of Lorena McKennitt, Enya or the early works of Krypteria but a lot slower and less diversified.
Without a doubt, this is an album to relax and dream and does a good job as a background music for romantic hours or longing autumn nights next to a window or fire place. Those who are expecting symphonic metal songs shall not be mislead by the two popular singles as this is rather an ethereal chillout album for hours and hours of meditation. But at least, this is a quite unique and natural approach to the genre and will surprise any fan of the later works of the band where big orchestrations and heavy guitars have taken the place of the softly instrumentalized songs. That's why I give a few points more than usual for the originality and uniqueness of this album even if it sometimes bores me to death.
Mother Earth was the album that originally started Within Temptation on the fast track of commercial success. Ice Queen, for whatever reason, managed to top charts around the same time and became an instant hit among the fanbase and any who heard it, and it seemed like these folks were the best thing to happen to gothic metal, based both on their following success and the opinions of virtually all fans. In reality, it was only a matter of time until the downward spiral into mediocrity and boredom were complete, but not before this album fought for it's dear life to show some last-ditch effort of talent and originality. Too bad it lost.
Like a good number of other bands in this area, vocals are the main point with Within Temptation. Sharon Den Adel has a truly unique style of singing: Her voice ranges in pitch from that of a maimed cat to sweet and motherly, coving no middle ground whatsoever. Think that bit sounds a bit harsh? Listen to the entirety of Mother Earth, Caged, Dark Wings, Deciever of Fools, or The Promise; over half the freakin' album. Not only do her quasi-operatic parts sound ridiculously bland, hovering just short of outright cracking, but it's almost as if she's trying to sound harsh and abrasive, especially on Dark Wings and Caged. Alas, I shouldn't knock her too much for it, for she utilizes this style of singing far better than most, and it still lends to being slightly pleasing to the ears, even despite the tediousness of her more grating vocal sections.
There isn't a whole lot to work with in the way of positives when it comes to the other instruments. Sharon's voice carries Mother Earth almost entirely, and when I believe the album itself would sound better if simply limited to her voice and a backing piano, that should raise some serious concern! There are two guitarists on here, but the guitars do so little themselves that it feels incredibly wasted and pointless. The best guitar work on this album isn't even done by the damned band members! The solo on Dark Wings is performed by none other than Arjen Lucassen of Aryeon. Instead, the two member guitarists are left playing extremely simple riffs at best, otherwise merely standing there and looking pretty, refusing to take any risks or put forth more than the absolute bare minimum of effort required. Perhaps there's two guitarists so they can alternate between songs? Now there's an idea!
Drums aren't much better, but at least they're doing something constant throughout. The drumming is, like their guitar brethren, elementary and basic; plodding along in a makeshift beat to Sharon's voice. I'm amazed the guy doesn't fall asleep during the album, because surely nobody could willingly drum so mundane and trivial throughout the album. Oh wait, In Perfect Harmony and Never Ending Story feature no drums whatsoever! Perfect opportunities for a power nap I suppose. I don't think I'm asking too much here; something in the way of interesting drum composition.
The keyboards and quasi-orchestral bits manage to rescue Mother Earth and save her from falling into the pits of utter failure, bringing it back to mere mediocrity, and only because I'm a complete sucker for the introductory sections of Deceiver of Fools and The Promise. I admit that I enjoy the clashing of gongs and the steady rising of keys, and I'm going out on a limb and stating that those are composed pretty well. Beyond that; however, the keys are really just another instrument added for the sake of needing a complete sound. Forget flashy, catchy, intense, or enthralling; none of those adjectives can be applied to Mother Earth's keys, which is an awful shame.
Composition? Variation? Every single instrument is either flat out bad or underwhelming, and these two words are supposed to not follow suit, like they could save Mother Earth? Composition is nothing but bland, though not outright terrible. I'll give credit to In Perfect Harmony and Deceiver of Fools; they're composed better than the other eight songs. About the only variation present is the difference between mediocre gothic rock songs and boring ballads, but they all wander about in aimless circles just the same.
I can't recommend Mother Earth to anybody within the metal culture. I suppose if fans of Within Temptations notorious American-based counter part (Whom I'll never name in this or any possible future reviews) would enjoy this, but that's probably it. Hell, the only reason I keep this album around still is for pure nostalgia (Although that's a personal story and has no bearing on this review). There isn't a single standout song here; only small bits of certain ones, such as Arjen's presence on Dark Wings. Conversely, there isn't a single outright atrocious song either; instead, all ten tracks exist on the same plane of dull and boring. Mother Earth showcases the epitome of mediocrity in gothic metal, and doesn't do anything to remotely help this already bastardized sub genre's image. But hey, Within Temptation is sitting on an income significantly greater than most metal bands, so surely they're doing something right, right? Fuck you, commercialism.
Oh wow, apparently there's a bassist? I call bullshit.
I’ll force myself to remain objective while reviewing this infamous album from one of the bands I most dislike, though I’m afraid it will be a somewhat difficult task. But after all I’ve now listened to metal for many years, I’ve listened to St. Anger, I’ve listened to Soundtrack to Escape From, I’ve listened to several shitty albums or bands I don’t even remember the name, so I’m supposed to know what the word bad really means. And it means, amongst others, Mother Earth.
This album would be atrocious for this simple reason alone: everything on it sounds so FAKE. Everything reeks of easiness, laziness, and above all money. Let’s just write what will please people the most, you know, and forget about all artistic integrity. I highly doubt Within Temptation had been one day endowed with any artistic sense to begin with, but when you see I-don’t-know-how-many different versions of this very album, the main goal of the band becomes quite clear. You can bash Nightwish’s Once as much as you like, but I’m not ashamed to admit I at least found Once punctually enjoyable. Nightwish have sold out? Indeed, they certainly have. But until recently they’d written decent, if not outstanding music. Within Temptation haven’t sold out and never will, for a good reason: they were commercial from the start. And they never wrote anything worthwhile.
The musicians’ level is without doubt abysmal. Miss Sharon den Adel alone would make anyone’s ears bleed. Her silly high-pitched voice is unbearable even when she’s singing right, but when she’s off-key it confines to torture. Who could really put up with more than 30 seconds of abortions like Caged or Dark Wings? When you can’t reach high notes just don’t try, please, please don’t try. But when your aim is to attract as much faggots as you wish with your appearance only, who really cares for your voice?
Coming to the other bandmembers, the picture isn’t really better. The bass? Can’t be heard, forget it. The drumming is basic at best. I just learned there were two guitarists, because honestly I’m barely able to hear only one. Why? BECAUSE OF THESE IGNOBLE ORCHESTRATIONS, of course.
That’s why I said this band was dishonest and fake. That you can’t write nor play proper music is one thing, but just don’t pretend you can. Drowning your three elementary power chords into a mess of orchestrations is like hiding a rotten fish under a load of sauce, you won’t fool anyone equipped of even a semblance of a brain. Eventually it’s almost all the unfortunate listener may hear, a puddle of unimaginative orchestrations topped by this 13-years-old-brainless-chick headache-inducing voice. Just try to distinguish the “metal” instruments into the semi-synthetic orchestral shit festival of The Promise or of the title track, I wish you good luck. Not that I dislike any symphonic band, being for instance an unconditional Therion fan, but at least Therion orchestrations, as rich as they are, still play a backing part for the most, while they play the main, sorry, the only part with Suckin’ Temptation and their followers. And I won’t tell anything about the respective musical quality of said orchestrations.
The decent to Hell wouldn’t be complete without mentioning those atrocious piano-driven ballads even sea-level-ballads master Tobias Sammet couldn’t have written. Neverending Story? The same four or five bars shamelessly repeated during not less than four minutes. Give a 4-years-old a piano and I’m ready to bet he could write it. Our Farewell? A tad better, as it can’t be worse, until the whiny strings appear and the song falls into incurable cheesiness, of the worst sort. And coming to the overlong, boring, repetitive as fuck and electronics-filled In Perfect Harmony, its only redeeming factor consists in it being the closing track, so you know you won’t have to bear more.
Are some songs escaping the massacre? Certainly not the intro, once again written in less time you need to take a shit, nor the radio-calibrated Ice Queen. So, Deceiver of Fools? Nothing really more than a failed attempt at a longer, more complex song, if one considers adding an almost a capella break in an otherwise standard verse/chorus pattern is writing a complex track. But I sometimes happen to find a certain charm to this song, who knows why, everyone has his little weaknesses.
The worst part of the story is this band has given gothic metal a bad name. Listen, this isn’t gothic metal, this is pitiful orchestral music. Where is the dark beauty, where is the depressive atmosphere? This music doesn’t convey any emotion to begin with; it’s desperately flat, as flat as the Earth of our ancestors. It’s a perfect musical vacuum, which even fails in sounding catchy. If you want to listen to genuine gothic music, just dig some goth metal like Type O Negative, gothic doom like Draconian, gothic/darkwave a la Sopor Aeternus, or even the goth rock pioneers of The Sisters of Mercy – anything but this pile of dishonest crap.
Highlights: if I really had to find one, I’d say Deceiver of Fools
Picture the scene: an ethereal enchantress stands in a forest. A lake sits calmly at her feet, shimmering by the moonlight. Perhaps a wolf howls in the background or there is a slight breeze, otherwise, everything is still and silent. You get the idea. It could be a moment from ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ (not the bit where the guy has a donkey’s head, mind). This image just about encapsulates - if anything possibly could - Within Temptation’s fourth release. ‘Mother Earth’ was originally released in 2000, however the 2003 version includes two extra tracks as well as two live tracks.
Title track and opener ‘Mother Earth’ is, to be blunt, stunning. A beautiful orchestral intro complete with choir begins the track before the powerful drumming and guitar riffs explode onto the stage. Sharon den Ardel’s vocals steal the spotlight, a recurrent feature. The soprano sings with grace and innocence whilst retaining a sense of force and incredible intensity. Clocking in at just over five minutes, ‘Mother Earth’ really whets the appetite without going over the top (which, let’s face it, is easy to do when you’re prancing about with lace, eyeliner, chandeliers, orchestras and a miserable expression).
‘Ice Queen’ is of very similar ilk, but employs a far more prominent string arrangement and murky lyrical content (‘Whenever she is raging, She takes all life away, Haven’t you seen? The ruins of our world’). Meanwhile ‘Our Farewell’ is painfully poignant, which is reflected in every aspect of the track. Equally painful is the cheesy 80s-style guitar solo in the bridge preceding the highly predictable modulation. Never straying far from their tried and tested formula, Within Temptation did not quite manage to produce a fully varied collection of songs in this album. Undeniably however, den Ardel’s voice is superb with a Quatro-esque charm; and the remaining five band members are far from untalented "goffik" plonkers.
The latter half of the album takes a dark turn. ‘Never-Ending Story’ is a piano led ode, bittersweet and heartfelt with gorgeously earnest vocal harmonisations. ‘Deceiver Of Fools’ is colossal by comparison - epic and grand throughout, littered with triplet rhythms, and simply huge in every possible way. Closing track ‘In Perfect Harmony’ is a simplistic delight with flute and acoustic guitar, gently swelling as it progresses.
An emotive and thoughtful collection of musical ideas over ridden by lavish vocal expression, this isn’t one for those who want a quick fix of merriment. Within Temptation offer a majestic, exquisite and seductive album - an offer that you shouldn’t turn down.
I had been trying my hardest to get this album. Finally I got a good deal on it from a friend online. Factory sealed in all. Just perfect. I had not heard a single song, but was captured by the lyrics, themes, and the vocals of Sharon. After the first song, I knew I had made a worthy purchase.
Apparently the band is huge because when i talked about them on the Fear Factory forums I had some Dutch guys screaming how they cannot stand them because of radio overkill. Whether they are big or not has nothing to do with it, I live in America, home of the unmetal. Hearing something like Within Temptation is just utterly unique and captivating.
So the first song, also a huge hit, "Mother Earth". The song starts off with an orchestration and even some flute playing. This builds up to the huge symphontic overture that hits you. The vocals do not actual enter into well over a minute, but when they do, it is something to just amazed at. Sharon's voice is not only a soprano, but has an unique tone to it. It sounds a bit like Sarah Brightman on her later stuff. The point is, I have not heard a voice like this in metal. Yes we have heard sopranos, but nothing of this sort.
"Caged" is another song that delievers Sharon's voice with full power. This is one of the slower songs, but is not a ballad of any sorts. The chorus has an emotion to it that is reminds me of "In Motion #1" by The Gathering. Although the latter is a ballad, this is not. If you know how the emotions are on that track, you will understand this. There are not many songs like this in metal or even in rock. The emotional power is what drives Within Temptation more than anything else. This is what I love about "Mother Earth". After Forever has the vocals and so does Nightwish, but Within Temptatio bases the whole sound on emotions. This is what makes the vocals, drums, synths, and everything else comes together.
This is truly a magnificant album and I recommend it to everyone. Forget those Lacuna Coil mainstream crap, this is the real deal. This is pure emotional fury with musicianship most goth bands pray for in their wet dreams. Check this out, it just blew me away on a single listen.