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Comforting magic for relaxed hours - 90%

kluseba, December 16th, 2016
Written based on this version: 2009, CD, Roadrunner Records

A couple of years ago, almost every metal band I listened to back then decided that it would be a brilliant idea to release an acoustic album. Eluveitie did it and disappointed me. Elvenking did it and disappointed me. Even one of my very favorite bands with In Extremo couldn't really convince me. What about Within Temptation?

''An Acoustic Night at the Theatre'' is actually one of the very best albums of its kind. The smooth instrumentation is really gorgeous. Enchanting acoustic guitars, emotional violins, mournful cellos and soft piano sounds dominate this album. Everything else is focused on the vocalist who sings in an angelic, concentrated and inspired way. The opening ''Caged'' combines these elements perfectly and sounds like the opening song of a movie based upon a melancholic fairy tale. This harmonious new age song stands for the band's captivating magic of the early and middle years. Sharon den Adel delivers one of the best performances of her career on this release. Her vocals really carry a song like ''Pale'' and develop a deeply comforting intimate atmosphere.

In order to spice things up on this relaxed output, three guest vocalists have been invited. Anneke van Giersbergen who had just parted ways with The Gathering gives a soulful performance on ''Somewhere'' and harmonizes with Sharon den Adel instead of contrasting her. Keith Caputo's part in ''What Have You Done'' sounds much smoother than the studio version and assimilates to the overall atmosphere of the concert. Chris Jones joins the band for the final song which is a new single and campfire ballad called ''Utopia''. The song has a slight country rock feeling and convinces with enchanting melodies and soulful vocal performances by both singers and turns out being one of Within Temptation's most inspired songs of the last ten years. This track is actually one of the highlights of the album.

It's also interesting that the band performs some rare songs instead of playing safe and adapting its most successful singles to this format. ''Towards the End'' is a perfect example since this forgotten pearl had only been included on the ''Stand My Ground'' EP so far. The track opens with atmospheric choirs, a few sound effects and mechanic drumming before Sharon den Adel adds a lot of soul to this track that could fit perfectly on the soundtrack of an atmospheric historic role-playing game. The introspective piano ballad ''Forgiven'' also truly unfolds its potential in this intimate format and the crowd falls silent in admiration only to cheer the band energetically at the end.

To keep it short, ''An Acoustic Night at the Theatre'' might actually the best release in Within Temptation's extended discography until now. The record develops a comforting atmosphere and adds a healthy dose of soulful magic to twelve perfectly chosen tracks in a perfect running time just below one hour. Obviously, this release doesn't have anything to do with metal but if you like inspired classical music or soundtracks as well as soft new age music, you will adore this outstanding release that beats both the group's early gothic metal releases and the band's later contemporary pop albums with alibi rock guitars.