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Symphonic gothic metal band Within Temptation have accomplished quite a lot since forming in 1996. Not only have they got four full-length albums under their belts, but they have also released numerous DVD’s, an acoustic live album (‘An Acoustic Night at the Theatre’) and a live CD/DVD featuring a large set fully equipped with an orchestra (‘Black Symphony’). The band also has a fairly large fan base, which didn’t really take off and grow until their 3rd album ‘The Silent Force’. Now one of the most popular symphonic gothic metal bands around, Within Temptation have returned to release their 5th full-length CD, a concept album entitled ‘The Unforgiving’.
This new CD isn’t just your usual concept album; ‘The Unforgiving’ is based on an upcoming comic book series, written by Steven O’Connell (BloodRayne & Dark 48) and characters drawn by Romano Molenaar (X-Men, Witchblade, Darkness). The comic series will be released throughout 2011, while the prequel to the series has already been in circulation. A strange product to base a conceptual album on, I must say, but nevertheless interesting and most likely effective. That’s not all either, as Within Temptation will also release 3 short films that give further insight and info to the concept of ‘The Unforgiving’, obviously based on the comic series storyline. Added to the short films will be a performance of a particular track (video clip) from the album of which the film and storyline is based upon. So far the first short film, entitled “Mother Maiden” is available to be viewed on the internet.
Blowing in the wind of Within Temptation’s anticipated new album comes a noticeable change, with the band shifting to a less symphonic sound than what we are typically used to from previous releases. It means that ‘The Unforgiving’ is very much like a traditional gothic rock/metal album; bordering at times on a popish radio friendly feel. Some could compare this change of style to that of the recent shift by Lacuna Coil, but hath no fear dear readers as Within Temptation have retained their symphonic style, however to a lesser extent, but still enough for most fans to not really be bothered by it at all. Who knows, it possibly may even sound more attractive to some fans that are primarily into gothic rock/metal.
'The Unforgiving’, when you break it down, is quite diverse and covers a broad spectrum of gothic metal styles. There are three main divisions within – the popish gothic rock tracks which contains an 80’s retro feel, the harder edged symphonic gothic metal tracks and the hauntingly emotional and powerful ballads. The three gothic rock songs that are borderline radio friendly are also (funny enough) the three catchiest tracks on the CD; I speak of “Sinéad”, “Faster” and “Shot in the Dark”. With an abundance of synths and crunchy guitar chords, all 3 tracks are upbeat, energetic and driven by the extremely talented (and attractive) vocalist Sharon den Adel. Her voice is exquisite and angelic at the best of times and again here on these 3 tracks, she excels and really sells each track with passion and enthusiasm. Of the bunch, both “Faster” (which reminds me of Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game” from 1989) and “Shot in the Dark” are two of the best songs on the disc.
Of the five harder edged symphonic gothic metal tracks on the release, both “A Demon’s Fate” and “In the Middle of the Night” are at a high tempo and quite bombastic with added choirs, synths and crunchy guitar riffs; while “Where is the Edge” and “Murder” are both slower paced tracks that contain a dark and shadowy atmosphere. Then there is “Iron”, which is a combination of both symphonic gothic metal and retro goth rock. “Iron” is one of the better tracks on the album, due to its intense thundering melody and soaring vocals by Sharon den Adel, and so is “A Demon’s Fate” as it contains a memorable and catchy melody, with an effective amount of keys, guitars and overall heaviness. The last of the most impressive tracks on the CD is the final song “Stairway to the Skies”, a moving and exceptional symphonic ballad overflowing with emotion thanks to Sharon den Adel’s soulful vocals and overall a very fitting way to end this release.
Depending on which version of the album that has been released wherever you may be, there are a number of bonus tracks, including “I Don’t Wanna”, “The Last Dance”, “Empty Eyes” and “Utopia” (which there is a music video for). There’s even a bonus DVD, which is included on the Special Edition version that contains the three short films made for the album, plus the music videos associated with each film and a few other interesting tidbits.
As far as the new album goes, Within Temptation has shown that they are not afraid of mixing up their sound, or changing it to suit their own desires and needs as a band. A band evolves over time and along the way mixes and changes their sound to what they feel is right for them. So the sound they’ve produced here on ‘The Unforgiving’ is still very much Within Temptation, however there is as mentioned earlier, considerably less symphonic elements. There is still a hell of a lot to like about this album, but of course you cannot please everyone and there will be some who just won’t like these changes. For those who are still reading and not phased, ‘The Unforgiving’ is fresh, dramatic, exciting, catchy, dynamic and effective; overall an excellent and consistent release by Within Temptation. Where does it stack up against their other releases? That’s really up to the individual, but I would consider it to be one of their best thus far.
Originally written for www.themetalforge.com
There is a certain malleability to metal, appropriate primarily since many metal substances carry this trait in a material sense, but often taken for granted and often times dismissed as being too heavily bent towards eclectic influences. But regardless of dueling orthodoxies, it is pretty well established that the limits of the genre are drawn less by any conventional wisdom, but more so by those in the mind of the creator. Within Temptation sought to expand their own boundaries while walking a clear tightrope musically, trying to balance a fairly different direction with the symphonic underpinnings of their established sound.
"The Unforgiving" is an original venture, which in and of itself brings it into some prominence, but the lengths it goes to become apparent even before sampling the first song. Born out of a desire to create something programmatic, it is a concept album that is both a film and comic series soundtrack with a somewhat cryptic yet enticing storyline. But even more captivating to this commentator is the dismissive attitude the endeavor takes towards pop outlets such as MTV (which demand a certain simplicity and formulaic presentation) while embracing the songwriting brevity and order that tends to bring in the popular crowd. And if nothing else, it exposed the uselessness of Kerrang and other so-called rock media in analyzing something that doesn't model itself after the latest flavor of the month.
But the underlying question is, did Within Temptation throw caution to the wind and completely abandon their root? The answer being no, as the usual foray of symphonic trappings and middle of the road beats that dominated "The Silent Force" and "The Heart Of Everything" endures. But the melancholy fatalism and depressive goth tendencies are quite downplayed, leaving in their stead a much more animated creature that could all but be danced to. Even taking the most rudimentary rockers in "Shot In The Dark", "Faster" and "Sinead" grab the ears and implant fond, tuneful memories that are difficult to shake, underscored by Sharon Den Adel's versatile voice and ability to display emotional angst and solace with unfettered mastery. At times she reminds of voices from similar bands like Christina Scabbia, while at others she captures the angelic character of Sarah McLachlan and Tori Amos, though surrounding them with something much more inviting to the refined metal ear.
While the straightforward character of the musical presentation is noteworthy, equally as auspicious is the stronger edge to the overall scheme of things. "Iron" shows off the band's still present ability to put the guitars at the forefront and slam down a decent riff or two, while "In The Middle Of The Night" brings a halfway speed metal element into the equation, meshing together a crunchy Judas Priest/Primal Fear feel with the band's bombastic concert backdrop and Sharon's powerful pipes. Furthermore, Robert Westerholt takes an occasion on almost every song to step out of the shadows and pipe in a solid lead break, keeping things interesting and animated without becoming overly fancy.
It is pretty well established that like the 2 previous albums, this will not play as well for those looking for a return to this band's early Celtic/folksy roots, but all other attendees at the Within Temptation theater who either enjoyed both eras or the current one will be very pleased. This is not quite the charming display of brilliance that "Mother Earth" was, but it gives it a real run for its money, and in some ways is even more ambitious. The only thing that really holds this thing back is how ambitious it is, as many may not bother with the accompanying comic series that elucidates the story being told in the lyrics. It's a forgivable flaw for a band that dared to do something other than write the same album over again, a common practice for many.
I always knew and felt that Within Temptation were a creative and promising band with some good and innovating ideas. Even though I don't adore any of their albums, I think that every output they have released has a special and unique flow and a couple of addicting, inspiring and catchy songs. Now the band decided to work on a conceptual album based on a comic book. The interesting artwork, the great booklet and several well done short films complete the ambitious musical project and are really promising.
The sad thing is that the most important thing, the music itself, is rather ordinary and sounds like faceless radio rock music that could also come from Lacuna Coil or Evanescence. When the band released the soft and boring "Where Is The Edge" I thought that it was the ballad and commercial single approach of the upcoming record but it eventually represented the band's new style in a quite accurate way. The Dutch focus on keyboards samples, computer drums and some cheesy orchestrations as well as on catchy and easy choruses. The vocals sound though more grounded and confident than before but musically, this album is a downfall. Many potential hit singles can be found in the first half of the album such as "Shot In The Dark" or "Faster" that may easily hit the European discotheques and take them by storm. The band almost completely abandons its majestic and energetic symphonic metal style and is clearly influenced by the pop and rock music of the eighties. But they should not have gone living in the past because Within Temptation will never write hooks like ABBA. This release may easily be a shock and big challenge for any fan of the band.
It's only in the very end of the record that the Dutch go a little bit back to their roots but even then, they sound more like a poppy mixture of After Forever and Unheilig and can't fully convince even in better tracks like "Murder" and "Stairway To The Skies".
This is a commercial concept album without any edges. I miss melodic and emotional guitar solos. I miss smooth and introspective passages. I miss majestic and epic orchestral tracks. I miss in fact everything I liked about this band. Instead of growing on me, the album gets weaker every time I listen to it. In the beginning, the somewhat original lyrical concept and the bonus videos made a great impression and turned my attention away from the weak song writing but as I now only focus on the music; I have to realize that this is by far the band's weakest release. Even the bonus tracks are faceless, commercial and redundant. I really have no problem with bands changing their style and trying out something smoother and more commercial but Within Temptation lose their identity in here and simply don't have the class and image of their successful pop idols. I am still surprised that this album didn't get a lower rating on the archives but it may be only a question of time if there are still some folks out there that care about this band after the release of this assimilated sucker and a four year long wait for nothing. The few points I give are for the catchy choruses, the lyrics, the artwork and the videos but one might consider that some of those things are done by authors and movie makers and not even by the band itself which is the reason why those sidekicks can't rate this record up by much.
"Within Temptation" finally released "The Unforgiving" four years after the release of "The Heart of Everything". I wrote a review for said album in which I explained the evolution of "Within Temptation"; this band has gone from a darker symphonic metal to a heavy, symphonic, elctronic metal or hard rock with some pop influinces. The sound on this album is quite hard to describe. The guitars are brought up more now and play catchy and memorable riffs that stay with you, these are backed by a mix of symphonic keyboards or electronic keyboards. Sharon's vocals are a more hard rock belt rather than her past semi-operatic vocals she used to use for all of their albums, which is good because the vocals would not fit the music if she sang like she always did. But sometimes I listen to this album and I feel the vocals sound just a little bit fake and that the music is smothering them.
This is a concept album, but I don't really care about the concept, I get it, and it's a good story, but I care more about the music than anything else. The concept doesn't show up in the songs as much as the music videos and short films that the band have filmed exept for a few spoken parts here and there in the character Mother Maiden's voice. But I do love the comic idea, I just wish that all the albums came with the comic to help go deeper and understand the concept more and give more story. Anyways back to the music.
"Within Temptation" still knows how to make it dramatic and theatrical, the intro to "Faster" sounds like a song on a preview for an action movie, and the intro to "Murder" sounds like a song that would be on a preview for a thriller movie. Even in Sinead" the one song on this album that sounds like it would be played at a dance party has a symphonic theatrical incline that makes you feel like that you're still listening to "Within Temptation" no matter how different it is.
The guitars are standing out more in this album, and the riffs they play are fun to listen to, especialy in the intro for "Iron" and "In the Middle of the Night" are catchy and they make me want to get up and jump around. Not to mention the solos, because there are solos. The solos are rare in "Within Temptation's" music, or at least they used to be. Now in this album there are powerful solos in at least half the songs. The vocal lines are great, they're somrthing that you can always remember and enjoyable. Mostly the songs are exciting and energetic and highly memorable, but there are also a few ballads, "fire and Ice", "Lost", and "Stairway to the Skies". These tracks are beautiful and a bit calm to take a breath from the driving music or end the album.
In conclusion, this is an album that is completely different from all those that came before it. It's an almost-masterpiece, but not all the songs are "blow you away amazing songs" so it comes a little short from a 100. But amazing none the less.
Highlights: In The Middle of the Night, Faster, Iron, Where Is the Edge, Lost, and A Demon's Fate
I apologise for the very low rating, but I truly feel extremely disappointed with this album. This is a totally unforgiving release from all perspectives!
I have been following Within Temptation from their excellent "Mother Earth" release. The band always had this unique symphonic rock/metal touch in their music and Sharon den Adel's amazingly beautiful and crystal clear vocals.
On this new release the band choose to throw away their sound and their unique approach to vocals as well. The best way to describe the music on the album is mainstream pop-rock bordering on glam-rock. I seriously got the feeling that I was listening to a rockier version of Avril Lavigne (no joke). Most songs sound the same, the songwriting is uninspired, there are electro elements scattered around and surprisingly most of the vocals sound like your above average pop-rock female singer. There are some catchy moments and some good guitar riffs at parts, but this is overall a very safe and radio friendly album which fully justifies the 'sell-out' accusations. As a side note this is definitely not a "metal" album.
The only noteworthy tracks (for me) are "Shot In The Dark" and the single "Faster". The first is a mid tempo ballad like track. It features a quire like intro, a few electro elements, mid range vocals, a brief guitar solo and a somewhat catchy chorus. "Faster" is a mid to slow tempo pop rock track with more guitar riffs and some modern sound effects. The chorus is a little more up tempo with keyboard backings and some more intense vocals by Sharon. Even though these 2 are the standout songs, they still pale in comparison to older fan favourites like 'Stand My Ground' and 'Ice Queen'.
The band's previous release "The Heart Of Everything" was also a step down, when compared to their masterpieces "Mother Earth" and "The Silent Force", but it still contained some very good songs, amazing vocals and preserved the band's sound/identity. This album is just disappointing from all perspectives. A shame...
(origianally written for: http://www.amazon.com)
After an amazing LP and a stunning live album, Within Temptation return with "The Unforgiving" and unfortunately I am having a hard time forgiving some of the questionable changes (mistakes) the band has made to their sound since "The Heart of Everything".
Poor Sharon sounds as though she is being constrained by the music; her voice simply doesn't seem to soar like it usually does. It doesn't create a Gothic atmosphere. It doesn't have the power of the operatic vocals found on other releases. It is just plain and pop sounding. The music is unfocused, generic, and ultimately forgettable. Gone are the Gothic nuances and orchestral bombast found on previous Within Temptation releases. In their place we find generic euro-pop metal. The guitars crank out unmemorable riffs that are nothing spectacular and the bass is not quite here. Of course, this genre never had the best drummers and this band is no exception. You won't find anything awe-inspiring musically here except maybe a few melodic riffs here and there.
However, when the concept works ("Faster" and "Shot In The Dark" are both solid tracks) it is a wonderful thing to listen to. However, a re-spin of "Frozen" or "All I Need" will convince you that Within Temptation are capable of far greater achievements than this. Unfortunately, this trend seems to be continuing with the recent forgettable efforts from Tristania, Nightwish, and The Gathering while Lacuna Coil has left the genre entirely. It's a shame that Within Temptation could have used their successful formula of Den Adel's God (Satan?)-blessed majestic and beautiful voice, Westerholt's counterpoint, and fine musicianship to reach the top, but they fall short here. This is partly because of the over-polished production which makes this sound like a pop album (well parts of it actually are pop).
Overall, not an awful album and certainly completely listenable and even brilliant at times, but this is far from essential and is quite unmemorable, generic, and definitely not new..
Highlights: "Faster", "All I Need" and "Shot In The Dark".
As a fan of this band's first four albums, I was honestly a little worried when Within Temptation previewed the first couple songs from The Unforgiving. Unlike most people, however, "Where Is The Edge?" didn't hit me as hard as "Faster" did— I thought the former fell somewhere along the lines of their earlier "Jillian (I'd Give My Heart)" in terms of sound, but "Faster" certainly sounded like different territory. Although Within Temptation managed to make both major aspects of their sound— metal and symphonic, that is— heavier and fuller, but still equal, for The Heart Of Everything; "Faster" seemed to indicate that The Unforgiving would choose a side. The symphonic elements were moved to the back and the song itself had more of a poppy beat to it, and it reminded me of something off of Lacuna Coil's Shallow Life... coincidentally, also the "new sound" fifth album by a band Within Temptation is often compared to.
Actually, as it turns out, the change of focus was a good thing. "Faster" continued to grow on me as a song while I listened to the other tracks, and although the orchestration was noticeably sparse compared to the earlier albums, it worked. It fit very well and was used very tastefully, even by Within Temptation's standards— as far as I'm concerned, they've always taken good care to make sure it's well incorporated, unlike bands like Nightwish who have lost their touch in the recent years. Songs like "Sinéad" and "Murder" are about as orchestra-heavy as the album gets, whereas most of the album is relatively reserved. But wherever the orchestra shows up, it has a distinctly epic and cinematic sound.
The other benefit from the sound change was more focus on the actual band members. On earlier albums, the band's actual presence (that is, without guest musicians for the symphonic parts) tended to focus almost exclusively on Sharon— not that she isn't a marvelous vocalist, of course, but the band consistent of six talents rather than just one. We actually have guitar solos now— in about half the songs on the album; in fact; including "Shot In The Dark," "Faster," "Iron," "Lost" and "A Demon's Fate"— where the only song with one before now was in "Dark Wings," by guest musician Arjen Lucassen. "A Demon's Fate" is probably the fastest song the band has ever written, and is both beautiful and complex, as well as instantly memorable. Chances are it's already replaced "Hand Of Sorrow" as my personal favorite.
And now, the best part: The songwriting itself has improved quite a bit for The Unforgiving. Going for a concept album was a smart choice, and each song seems to have its own story to tell rather than just a different angle of the same story. Within Temptation even took a few risks by breaking songwriting trends for this one, including both the aforementioned solos and the nature of the closer. The last three albums all ended on a Sharon-Martĳn-orchestra song, but The Unforgiving ends with "Stairway To The Skies," a power ballad which involves the entire band and manages to be more calming and uplifting rather than just a tender tear-jerker like "Forgiven" or "Somewhere." Sharon and the boys worked long and hard on this one, and managed to show that some change can be good. And with the band's newest album being their best-written and most enjoyable effort yet, Within Temptation is definitely in great shape.