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Slight sound change, same strong output - 85%

TrooperOfSteel, January 5th, 2012

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