Dutch Symphonic Metal band Within Temptation have been one of the most famous bands in the genre ever since the release of their 1997 debut Enter. The release of their 6th album Hydra sees them continue in the vein of 2011’s The Unforgiving, with their bombastic, catchy metal songs, while also displaying something of an experimental edge with guest appearances on four of the tracks, with artists as varied as ex-Nightwish singer Tarja Turunen, and rapper Xzibit. It’s also a lot more symphonic than The Unforgiving, with choirs and orchestra really adding to the music. The end result is another great bombastic and powerfully catchy symphonic rock album, with a lot of variation.
It’s clear from the outset that Sharon’s singing has improved immensely since The Unforgiving, where her voice was a little weak – she puts in a fantastic performance on this album, her best yet on a Within Temptation release. The guitar work is at its best too, with catchy riffs and epic solos throughout the album. The opener “Let Us Burn” is an excellent catchy track, with a fantastic riff and catchy chorus, it’s an epic which is sure to be a future crowd favourite. “Dangerous” features Killswitch Engage Singer Howard Jones, and is another bombastic heavy song, however, his overly clean vocals seems a little out of place, but the song still works well. The same can be said of “And We Run” featuring rapper Xzbit. It’s extremely rare that rap works in a metal setting, and this really doesn’t change anything, it still sounds odd, and doesn’t really add a whole lot to the song. It works quite well, but not without raising a few eyebrows.
All is not lost on the guest vocalist slots though, and one of the best tracks of the album is definitely the brilliant “Paradise (What about us?)” Featuring Tarja. It contains simply everything that makes Within Temptation so great, it’s catchy, bombastic, heavy, symphonic and contains fantastic vocals from both Sharon and Tarja. Its one of their best tracks to date. The album gives a change of pace in slower tracks “Edge of the World” and “Dog Days” with the former seeing Sharon’s voice beautifully take centre stage alongside excellent symphonic melodies, and the latter being absolutely excellent, providing the best symphonic sections on the album albeit a lazy chorus “1,2,3,4 what are you waiting for?” which mars an otherwise fantastic track.
The album even sees the return of Robert Westerholt’s death growls, missing ever since the debut album, 1997’s Enter, on the excellent up-tempo track Silver Moonlight, and the equally brilliant Tell me Why, these two sounding perhaps the most complete tracks on the album, the latter being the longest and the heaviest track. Closing track “The Whole World is Watching” features another guest in Dave Pirner, who has a soft tone to his voice, which fits well alongside Sharon’s voice. It’s one of the album’s softer and more upbeat songs, with excellent symphonic sections and lyrics; its a good way to end the album.
Overall, this album is Within Temptation at their very best, it’s perhaps their most complete effort to date. It shows them perfecting their trademark style of catchy, bombastic symphonic metal, while still showing their willingness to experiment with varied guest vocalists. Most of the tracks have the potential to be excellent live, and will be sure to be played on their upcoming World Tour. There are a few minor flaws, where the guest vocalists don’t fit all that well, and the pretty bad chorus of “Dog Days”, but overall the rest of the album is so good that this can be ignored. Within Temptation fans will love the album, and any fans of Symphonic Metal in general should find a lot to enjoy in this release.
Listen to Paradise (What about us?): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dy6MpsDPKts