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This is, without a doubt, the most unoriginal song I’ve ever heard. Granted, being someone pre-disposed to liking slight variations on already established styles, this in itself doesn’t necessarily mean I think it is not enjoyable or a quality work for what it is. Quite the contrary, this is a rather well conceived hybrid of two Evanescence singles circa 2003 and a good deal of Nightwish influenced atmospheric elements.
People mostly tend to focus on the similarities to the commercial whopper that was “Bring me to life”, but in terms of overall feel it is closer to “Going Under”, albeit with some superior elements. Unlike Paul McCoy, Keith Caputo is an accomplished singer who doesn’t look like a boyish foil to the front-singer. Within Temptation is also blessed with having two guitarists who know more than two kinds of chords.
The intro riff shows competence, especially considering the popish variation of gothic metal it is emulating, and works well to breathe life into what tends to be a dense texture of 3 chord grooves and piano textures. I wouldn’t call it guitar-driven per say, but it comes a hell of a lot closer to the droning chord hits on the song this one is compared to so much. Otherwise, “What have you done now” is a vocally driven song, drawing its power from Sharon Den Adel’s voice. Although there are strong tendencies towards an Amy Lee/Cristina Scabbia sound in most of the song sections, her voice still has its operatic quality when called for.
Although I’ll make few friends here saying this, I actually enjoyed this song quite a bit, as it shows a more competent metal approach to a popular style of gothic rock. Be that as it may, I do not recommend picking up this single because they essentially killed the song with all the unnecessary editing. I understand you need something that is under 4 minutes in order to win over the brainless masses, but unless you are a die-hard completist, just grab the full length album. It has the best version, which ironically is among the weaker tracks on the LP.
Holy shit, it's 2003 all over again! Part-hay!
Well now, so let us suppose Within Temptation have not actually "sold out" here, that they just happened to "naturally evolve" along the way into a more direct, simplistic direction...it still doesn't change that this song sounds a whole fuckload like that Evanescence lead single that rocketed the Arkansas goth rockers straight into stardom. It may not directly steal any riffs or melodies, but it does feature a guest male rapping performance just like the Evanescence song, and in the context of also having largely the same sound/production, pacing, goth-moody (no pun on former Evanescence guitarist's name intended) vibe, and overall commercial leanings, it's hard not to see the new WT single as a ripoff to at least some extent.
"Wake me up! I can't wake up!" - you know that recurring rapped part in the chorus of Bring Me to Life? The same idea is at work here: "What have you done now!" *insert angelic and divine female vocals* "What have you done now!" *further mallgothing* "What have you done, what have you done, what have you done...(repeat ad seemingly infinitum)" Yo homie, break it down! Also notice the short full-stop break right before the first chorus, and how it is interrupted by said rapped part, again in a very similar fashion to that of "Bring Me...". Let's have a look at the video by the way, where, towards the end, we find our guesting male vocalist trying to save the female lead singer from falling but ultimately being unsuccessful in doing so - HELLO-OOOOOH!
But wait a minute, what of those who were somehow never exposed to Evanescence (improbable as it may sound, especially among those who could have any interest in reading this review in the first place) and have no idea what I'm talking about? Fair enough, I'll be happy to describe the music more properly for you. So, ever hear of "mallcore"? Oh, you weren't there for any of that? Try this on for size, then: slow power chords or generic chugging played with zero flair and/or distinction and topped off with a guitar tone that makes Nickelback sound like the first Van Halen album in its crispness and pure vitality - oooooh, really wets your appetite, doesn't it? Quickly, hang your tongue out like a dog so you don't choke on your own drool! Too bad the guitars are about as forward in the mix here as the bass on that Metallica album, I'm sure you know which one I mean - but then again, since when was metal about guitars anyway? Silence, you! In any case, the vocals are definitely the main point here, along with that one orchestrated theme melody that had me frustrated for hours because I kept swearing up and down that I had heard it somewhere else! Automatically assuming it had to be on a power metal album, I checked through stuff like Dark Moor, Kamelot, The Dogma (stealth pimping of the best album of 2006) and Mob Rules before it dawned upon me that the band it reminded me of was actually Winger! "Hungry", after the second chorus, check it out. Pardon the gigantic digression there, especially seeing as it's way too far-fetched and probably not even similar enough as to suspect actual thievery, but the whole ordeal I went through in figuring out where I had heard this part before, I think is what somehow sparked my interest in reviewing this thing in the first place.
So now to the part I imagine you all have been waiting for, namely the one where I explain exactly how my solid rating of 70% is supposed to fit in with the overtly negative tone of this review up until this point. Well, if you can bring yourself to look past the blatant unmetalness, the commercialism, the emo flirtings and the plain fact that this song has about the artistic value of that horrendous Mötley Crüe "comeback" single a couple of years ago, or Ashlee Simpson in general...this song is not fucking bad for what it is. Female-fronted Gothic Metal isn't really my thing, but this song I actually find very catchy and listenable, much like I do enjoy some of Evanescence's stuff from time to time. For one, it's considerably better than your average Lacuna Coil single - less monotone, has more life to it, feels much more developed as a song and the male vocals don't sound like complete shit. Here, both the male and female vocal performances are extremely strong and to be noted is also the production, which is absolutely impeccable. Guitars may sound bland, but it's still a very full and rich sound overall; the symphonic elements are quite tastefully intermixed and the drums carry a sweet catchy punch that helps in establishing a good sense of flow. If the whole upcoming album is this good I might actually go purchase myself a copy of it to add some diversity to my collection, in which case it would likely become my guilty pleasure of 2007, like Bullet For My Valentine was in 2006.
However, this is a METAL website we're on, and the fact remains that what we have here is truly an affront to our scene and everything it stands for and I fully respect anyone giving this single a big fat zero for that reason alone. Yes, a good song is still a good song and all, but sellouts as blatant as this usually turn out a whole lot less pretty and can certainly not be seen as a good thing. It's imperative that serious music fans always hold a negative attitude towards artists compromising their musical integrity like this, and even with my relatively high rating, I do believe I have addressed this issue well enough here. In closing, I'd like to quote the title of stefan86's review for WT's earlier single Stand My Ground, which read "Evanescence called, they want their song back" - well if that's too much to ask, can they at least have their fucking VIDEO back?
After listening to both single and "rock mix" version of 'What Have You Done' I was certain in one point at least – the one thing that the songs had in common with Within Temptation I knew were Sharon's vocals. On the other hand, she was far from sounding as great as usual. Instead of giving enough space to emphasize her unusual and beautiful voice, we have just one, well, significant part where she sings alone. After that she is always being followed by the guest singer's backing vocals.
The second thing reminding me of WT in this song is the 02:38 moment, but only because it is similar to (if not the same as) the "I just have to know'/While I still have time" part of 'A Dangerous Mind'.
Then the lyrics. They are another point I found really bad. Without any deeper meaning, consistence or dimension, it seems like they're just words sung one after another without... well, anything. The rhymes are just... lame. For me, good lyrics are those written not only to support the music.
'What Have You Done' reminds me of the newest Lacuna Coil, unfortunately. Keith Caputo's "What have you done?" repeated uncountable times during the song becomes unbelievably irritating, like Andrea Ferro's vocals on LC's newest release.
In addition, I didn't find the song catchy at all.
Call me an optimist, but maybe 'What Have You Done' sounds like it does only because it had to fit into Keith Caputo's style/way of singing. The epic feeling that WT songs used to carry, the meaningful lyrics, the stunning vocals, beautifully supporting the great music... I believe this is not over. We'll see.
As I'm writing this, I'm listening to the new WT single for the 5th time. I didn't like it the first time, mostly because of Keith Caputo's vocals, but after listening to it 5 times I enjoy it quite a lot and I had to raise my score quite significantly from the 50% that I would have given it after listening to it for the first time.
WT's last album, The Silent Force, received very mixed reviews. Those who liked it (I did) enjoyed its huge orchestral arrangements and Sharon den Adel's soaring voice, while a lot of people thought that it was too commercial and had too many similarities with Evanescence. This new single won't change that.
"What Have You Done" follows the same pattern as most of the songs on The Silent Force. A huge symphonic intro, a quite simple verse, at times with nothing but drums and vocals, and a bombastic chorus with sweeping orchestrations. What sets the song apart from the songs on TSF is the fact that there's a guy singing on this one. Keith Caputo from Life of Agony performs a duet with Sharon. I'm not familiar with his band but I was shocked to hear how great the duet between him and Sharon sounds. His monotonous shouting of "What have you done, What have you done now..." during the choruses is pretty annoying, but he sounds great in the verses, and so does Sharon. Jesus Christ, what a voice! With Tarja Turunen going pop and Elisa Martin making 3rd rate heavy metal with Dreamaker, Sharon is the premiere female vocalist in metal at the moment. I can't praise her enough.
The similarities with Evanescence are even more striking here, because the orchestrations aren't as over the top as they were on TSF, and because of Caputo's vocals. The song definitely has hit potential, and I would be very happy if every metal song with hit potential was as good as this one.
By using words such as "Evanescence" and "hit potential" I have probably scared away a majority of my readers. Those of you who are still reading can buy this single and look forward to the new album with high expectations. With "What Have You Done", Within Temptations has definitely written a above average metal single.