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I can't remember... - 93%

GTog, March 14th, 2014

...why I have this album. After hearing their first couple of efforts years ago, I wrote off Within Temptation as piano-oriented non-metal that maybe got their "Celtic" influence from the Wikipedia entry on druids. The music struck me as dull, uninspired, pretentious, and holy shit The Unforgiving is none of those things.

This album is spectacular. I understand that long time fans are a bit put off by what is apparently a departure from their usual sound, but they departed to somewhere far better, like someone moving out of Detroit. You can hardly blame them. It's just that with watershed albums, which The Unforgiving surely is, you always end up with two camps of fans. There's the How Dare You Change crowd of existing fans who like what the band did on day 1 and just want them to do that forever, and there's the As Long As It's Good fans who just like the music and don't particularly care if it stylistically matches any previous output. I have been on both sides with one band or another, so I know how it goes.

The Unforgiving is keyboard heavy, mainly up-tempo rock that begs for a comparison to Nightwish, but not really. Right there that should quench all suspicion that the detractors are exaggerating about the mighty style shift. You wouldn't think this was even the same band that produced Enter and Mother Earth, but a quick check of their lineup shows that yep, mostly it's the same bunch.

The real giveaway of course if the phenom called Sharon den Adel. On every album, you can always tell it's her. The Unforgiving makes full use of her vocal style and 3+ octave range. She is powerful and passionate throughout, but particularly on "In the Middle of the Night". It and "Iron" are my two favorite tracks. The guitars are mixed low and are frankly nothing fancy anyway, leaving den Adel to carry the melody in almost every song. The compositions of Martijn Spierenburg add a strong wall of sound where required but are not as overblown as a certain Mr. Holopainen tends to be. It appropriately complements den Adel's lyrical voice on tracks like "Shot in the Dark" and "Empty Eyes". Don't know why that one isn't part of the main track list.

I backed off the fanboy 100% score because a) not every track is awesome, just most of them, and b) I'm not entirely sure the tracks are in the right order. It's a little bumpy, with no clear crescendo, but rather great songs evenly salted throughout.