Within Temptation

The Unforgiving

Written by: TL on 01/05/2011 19:05:22

When talking about female fronted gothic-tinged metal bands (and there are many), the Dutch sixtet Within Temptation are second only to genre pioneers Nightwish in fame and reputation, having four LP's already in the bag, and a loyal and widespread fan base. It may be that their style of music could probably not be any more tragically un-hip at the moment, but this is unlikely to even cross the mind of a band that, as opposed to others that ply the same stylistic waters, have seemingly never been as occupied with having some sort of anchoring integrity, as they have been with writing the most potent songs they possibly can.

This approach has more or less made the band a prototypical 'big' metal band in the sense that they've produced some exceptionally potent and catchy songs in the likes of "Ice Queen", "Stand My Ground" and "It's The Fear", yet also a lot of less stellar, more predictable filler material, preventing each of their albums from coming together as a true masterpiece.

"The Unforgiving" then, could possibly be their fifth attempt at correcting this, and this time around, the band has done a "Coheed & Cambria", and teamed up with BloodRayne writer Steven O'Connell, to create a comic book to function as a conceptual backbone for the record. If you're not one to care for such things though, know that it doesn't really matter when it comes to appreciating the musical content, because Within Temptation are mostly up to the same symphonic metal tricks as usual. Only the technical and compositional skills have improved, while the aesthetic remains largely the same.

What this means is that you get straightforward heavy metal songs, drenched in gothic melodrama and theatrical backing music, and as a showcase of how to both maximize the potential of traditional song structures and apply chimes and strings with great effect, "The Unforgiving" is occasionally sublime. Add to this the fact that listening to Sharon Del Adel sing is at any moment a complete privilege, her delivery being both as powerful and refined as the best of her contemporaries, and it's hard to say that this is a band to write off simply because their style might not be very trendy at the moment.

Effectively, songs like "Shot In The Dark" and especially the up-beat "In The Middle Of The Night", are as excellent as any the band has written, and in general, the first half of the record holds up quite well under scrutiny, with even a slower song like "Fire And Ice" having some merit, while "Iron" is almost as good as the opening one-two punch. Unfortunately, the album suffers a steep drop in quality starting at track eight, "Sinéad", and continuing through to the closing "Stairway To The Skies", with all five songs sounding like the band on autopilot, and only having occasionally exhilarating moments (for instance the electronically distorted vocals of "Lost").

It's a bit of a shame, because the change is subtle, and perhaps maybe even imagined - it just simply feels like "The Unforgiving" is well on its way to being Within Temptation's most solid album yet, when suddenly, the band's predictability rears its ugly head, and hinders the rest of the record. Maybe there's simply a limit to how many songs one can enjoy, without some sort or rhythmic variation or instrumental subtlety, providing a break from the otherwise constantly bombastic pathos. Those are points I'd advise Within Temptation to consider, while I advise the rest of you to disregard your coolness factor and give a listen to this record for its fine first half. After all, in terms of production and compositions, this is still in the major league ball park, and it really is only a lack of variety that keeps it out of the Rockfreaks promised land.

Download: In The Middle Of The Night, Shot In The Dark, Iron,
For The Fans Of: Nightwish, Deadlock, Evanescence
Listen: myspace.com/withintemptation

Release Date 28.03.2011

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