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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".