Within Temptation is:
Sharon den Adel - vocals
Robert Westerholt - rhythm guitar
Jeroen van Veen - bass
Ruud Jolie - lead guitar
Martijn Spierenburg - keyboards
Mike Coolen - drums
Within Temptation – Hydra
1. Let Us Burn
2. Dangerous [feat. Howard Jones]
3. And We Run [feat. Xzibit]
4. Paradise [feat. Tarja]
5. Edge of the World
6. Silver Moonlight
8. Dog Days
9. Tell Me Why
10. The Whole World is Watching [feat. Dave Pirner]
Running time: 49:16
Within Temptation is actually a band that I haven't listened to for a good five or six years. They first came to my attention prior to the release of 2006's The Heart of Everything. The album's lead single “What Have You Done” was receiving heavy rotation on various music channels at the time and I liked what I head; this really kick-starting the phase of my musical history where I listened to a lot of symphonic metal – the heavy-hitters such as Apocalyptica, Nightwish, Epica and of course Within Temptation. I pretty much dig anything with a powerful female vocal, which a lot of symphonic metal bands typically have. So upon discovering The Heart of Everything I delved deep into the band's back-catalogue and was frequently impressed by their sound. Undoubtedly the most impressive aspect of the band was the flawless vocal of Sharon den Adel, and I don't use the word “flawless” lightly. However by the time the band's next release surfaced (2011's The Unforgiving), I had pretty much stopped listening to the genre. Reading up on it, it was an album that seemed to divide fans but was almost universally praised by critics for its ambition.
That brings us to Hydra, the band's sixth studio album, named after the Greek mythological creature. For those who are in need of a brush up on their Greek mythology, Hydra was a reptilian multi-headed monster of the sea and the band named the album thus because they thought it represented the band's multi-dimensional performance on the record. Having giving previous album The Unforgiving a solitary listen prior to this record, it's clear that actually, they've reigned things back in a little bit in the last few years but that's not to say there isn't some daring and downright outlandish moments on this album. Opening track “Let Us Burn” is the quintessential symphonic metal track, powerful female vocals battling against a wall of sound comprising of driving guitars and a fantastic orchestral arrangement. It's quite the opening statement and difficult to top, but I'll be damned if Sharon den Adel doesn't try.
The band opted to enlist a number of guest vocalists for the album and they've all worked to varying levels of success. Howard Jones (formerly of Killswitch Engage) offers vocal work on the track “Dangerous” and while the song itself isn't much to write home about, the vocal juxtaposition works perfectly. Soul Asylum's Dave Pirner provides the guest vocal on album-closer “The World is Watching” and his more melancholy male vocal offsets den Adel's voice well on what is one of the album's stand out tracks as well as one of its more mellow moments. In what is a collaboration of perfect symmetry, former Nightwish frontwoman Tarja features on the album's lead single “Paradise” and it works exactly as well as you'd expect it two when two of the best vocalists of the genre team up. And then there's the eyebrow-raiser, and also the reason I chose to download the album – rapper Xzibit, of Pimp My Ride fame no less, guests on “And We Run.” Now we all know that on occasion, rap and metal are a match made in heaven, but this had me sceptical. As it turns out, “And We Run” is one of the album's best offerings. The track builds slowly with den Adel's vocal before Xzibit offers the bridge – it's not the best example of rap you've heard but it's just something different and it works really well. Xzibit then goes on to provide a fantastic second verse with Adel's vocal providing a towering back-drop before nailing it on the chorus again. It's a brilliant song, unquestionably.
The truth is, this is the perfect next step in the evolution of Within Temptation. There aren't as many orchestral elements as found in the band's debut Enter or its follow-up, and the bulk of the songs are very guitar-driven as we've come to expect. There isn't as much of the genre-bending as on the polarizing The Unforgiving, but the common thread throughout the album's running time is the phenomenal vocal of Sharon den Adel first and foremost, and the solid song-writing. Neither of these elements will be new to the band. If anything the band's sound has become tighter than ever before and they've learnt what works for them and what doesn't and made an album that is both musically impressive and far-reaching, and completely accessible. Narrow-minded fans of the genre will call it out for being too mainstream, but these are the fans who use “mainstream” and “shit” as synonyms for one another.
Within Temptation feat. Tarja - "Paradise"
The 411: Truth be told, there were two reasons I gave this album a chance. The first being, as previously mentioned, the curiosity of hearing Xzibit guest on a symphonic metal album. But even that wouldn't have been enough if it wasn't for the fact that it's January, and it's been very quiet on the new music front since before Christmas. In hindsight, however, I'm more than happy that I gave this album a chance because it's reminded me of how much of a fan of the genre I am. Vocally, there are no mis-steps from den Adel and the song-writing here is among some of the best of the band's near twenty-year career. Hydra doesn't exactly break new ground but it does reinforce the band's reputation as one of the titans of symphonic metal. The thing to remember about the greek mythological creature is that when you removed one of its heads, two would grow back in its place. Within Temptation was scorned by criticism of their previous album and have come back with Hydra, less of an album and more of a statement of dominance over all other bands battling in the symphonic metal arena.