By Ally Urban
Unbeknownst to me, Within Temptation —one of my favourite symphonic metal bands— released their seventh studio album on February 1.
I’ve been a fan of Within Temptation’s work ever since I delved into the metal genre back in 2015, beginning with Iron Maiden and Nightwish. Because I loved the both powerful and ethereal sounds of Nightwish’s music, I knew I had to look for bands that had a similar vibe.
I remember when I began listening to Epica— it all started when my friend Sonja sent me a link to one of their most popular songs, “Cry for the Moon”. Now that I think about it, I’m pretty sure that she also sent me a few links to some Within Temptation songs, one of which was “Jillian (I’d Give My Heart)”, a track off of their 2004 album, “The Silent Force”. This was the song that got me to fall in love with the band, and I’ve played them fairly often on my weekly radio show, prkl RadioMetalli, ever since.
Although most people who are in the metal scene either listen to or at least know of Within Temptation, there are some who have unknowingly listened to the band. On a rare occasion, metal songs are featured in films or tv shows— as is the case with the song “All I Need”, off of the album “The Heart of Everything”, which was featured in episode 19 of season 1 of “The Vampire Diaries”. In fact, my friend Melissa was playing the song once and because I was distracted at the time, I didn’t realise it right away. About halfway into the song, I made the comment that the vocalist’s voice reminded me strongly of Sharon Den Adel from Within Temptation— and that’s precisely when the lightbulb went off.
Anecdotes about my fondness for Within Temptation aside, let’s get down to the bottom of who they are. Vocalist Sharon Den Adel founded the band with guitarist Robert Westerholt back in 1996, which is the same year Nightwish released their debut album, “Angels Fall First”. Coincidence? I think not! Some of the best symphonic metal bands the world has seen literally arrived on the scene in the late 90’s.
Anyways, the band faced a few lineup changes throughout the years. Most notably, the replacement of keyboardist Martijn Westerholt with Martijn Spierenburg due to Westerholt’s contraction of infectious mononucleosis. Martijn Westerholt is in fact the brother of Robert Westerholt, as well as the founder of another Dutch symphonic metal band called Delain– also one of my top symphonic bands (p.s. they released a new album titled “Hunter’s Moon” on February 22!).
The rest of the current lineup is as follows: Ruud Jolie, lead guitar, Jeroen van Veen, bass, Mike Coolen, drums and Stefan Helleblad, rhythm and lead guitars.
All the members have worked tirelessly over the years to provide listeners with some of the most fantastic albums a symphonic metal band has to offer. This latest release, though, is truly something else.
During their first few released, the band exhibited a very classically influenced and distinctly “symphonic” sound, complete with various orchestral instruments and resounding backing choruses. Sharon’s vocal style also reflected a more operatic approach, which can be heard in Within Temptation’s earlier work.
As of the 2013 album “The Unforgiving”, I believe the band began to depart from their original sounds. Den Adel’s vocals became stronger, but less classical and operatic, which is not something to complain about, at least in my opinion. Some individuals, such as one of my friends, think the band has gone downhill since departing from their original sound. Despite this, I think Den Adel’s choice to embrace a generally less classical style suits her and the band’s sound. She is still fully capable of hitting high notes and embracing higher vocal ranges, though— much like Nightwish’s current Dutch vocalist, Floor Jansen, who also has a very versatile voice.
Not only this, but the overall instrumentation and vibe became gradually less symphonic throughout the last few years, which is seen especially in their sixth studio album, “Hydra”. I can’t find an exact word to describe the shift in Within Temptation’s musical dynamic, but their newest album especially reminds me of the pop-like yet heavy metal vibe Swedish band Amaranthe is known for.
To say the very least, Within Temptation’s current sound is quite different from their earlier sound, but I feel the band is still going in a really good direction; it just so happens that this direction isn’t part of the path they started out on.
The newest album —which is titled “Resist”— still has elements of epic “operatic” vocals and hints of symphonic instrumentation, but it feels much less heavy and far more electronic.
The first track on the album is titled “The Reckoning”, featuring Jacoby Shaddix. It’s a powerful song, and one of my favourites off of the album, though it lacks the aforementioned “symphonic-ness”. Other tracks I’m fond of are “Supernova”, “Holy Ground”, “Mercy Mirror” and “Trophy Hunter”.
Despite the change in the band’s music of late, Within Temptation has produced a truly fantastic album. I’m a firm believer that bands should experiment with their music however they wish, without getting condemned by audiences who expect a certain characteristic sound in each release. I’m not trying to bash bands who continue to stay in the same vein they started out in, but I applaud those who have decided to jump out of the box and explore other musical realms.
“Resist” is a very well produced album, and I hope other people will enjoy it just as much as I do.