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Within Temptation: Hydra

Following up an album classed as to this point career defining is never going to be easy, causing some acts to decide to take a complete left turn, reinventing themselves and confusing many as they do so. Others go down the carbon copy route and feel the wrath of the critics who accuse them of running out of ideas.

There's little denying that The Unforgiving, the 2011 album which suddenly seemed to catapult the Dutch band Within Temptation into mainstream Rock circles, was one such album. The band's history stretches back to 1996 and four releases appeared between then and The Unforgiving, bringing the band to the forefront of the Symphonic Metal scene. However the offering from three years ago added a whole new slice of melody, a decidedly more 80s Melodic Rock sheen, yet somehow it was still Within Temptation; more importantly it was fantastic. Now, the follow up, Hydra, finds the band talking of "reawakenings" and "reinvention" - should we be worried....?

The simple answer is no, with, as is often the case, the people closest to what is going on promising and believing something which isn't quite so clear from the outside. Yes there are a few new elements, and yes, thankfully Hydra isn't The Unforgiving II. Yet if you've heard that album there could be no mistaking this new offering for anyone other than Within Temptation and in truth that can only be a good thing.

So, the new (or in some cases returned) aspects appear in the shape of a few guests, rapping and Death Metal growls - so really nothing that hasn't been done before to some extent by both WT and others. "Let Us Burn" starts things off, atmospheric intro in place, before singer Sharon Den Adel's beautiful rich tones begin things proper. It is a builder, a slow journey to full on bombast and something this band has always done so well and continue to here. From there the guest wheel begins to spin, ex-Killswitch Engage frontman Howard Jones bouncing his vocals off Adel's to great effect on "Dangerous" and in fairness offering a change of tack for WT. Musically, the kick drums gallop and the guitars lay down a thick riff but it is the almost 80s Pop synths in the background which really change what's happening here and offer a superb melodic release. Rapper Xzibit shows up for "And We Run", testing his wares against one of the most Symphonic Metal tracks on the album and while he fits the scene well, if (like me) rap really doesn't float your boat, there's little here to change that view; even if he does provide a performance very sympathetic to his surrounds. Next it is the turn of Ex-Nightwish singer Tarja, adding her soaring tones to the lead single from the album "Paradise (What About Us)", combining the style that made The Unforgiving so irresistible, to a deeper gruffer riff ala, well Nightwish. It's a great song.

Thankfully the next five tracks are pure WT, no guests; "Edge Of The World" slow, beautiful, edgy and unsettling, "Silver Moonlight" soaring, majestic and threateningly melodic; the latter track also featuring Death growls from Robert Westerholt, a trick he hasn't pulled off for many an album and a welcome revisiting. "Covered By Roses" then eases off the aggression, while still being no shrinking violet, while "Dog Days" relaxes further, allowing one of the best vocals from Adel on this album, before "Tell Me Why" offers up the one and only mid-paced boiler, strings swirling, vocals soaring, beats hammering.

That leaves Soul Asylum man Dave Pirner to appear on the final track "Whole World Is Watching", which he does superbly and surprisingly melodically. He almost, but not quite, sounds like Bryan Adams! The song however is the most obviously Poppy, a light theme infused by a superb duet and uplifting theme which closes things on a real high.

They may not really have reinvented themselves here (did we really want them to?), but what Within Temptation have done is create a superb album that will continue to build their reputation as simply one of the best bands around right now. Put simply, it's job done.


Track Listing
1. Let Us Burn
2. Dangerous
3. And We Run
4. Paradise (What About Us?)
5. Edge Of The World
6. Silver Moonlight
7. Covered By Roses
8. Dog Days
9. Tell Us Why
10. Whole World Is Watching

Added: February 1st 2014
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Score:
Related Link: Within Temptation Online
Hits: 3233
Language: english

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» SoT Staff Roundtable Reviews:

Within Temptation: Hydra
Posted by Pete Pardo, SoT Staff Writer on 2014-02-01 12:31:18
My Score:

Within Temptation have been pretty consistent throughout their career, delivering quality symphonic metal time and time again, with the gorgeous lead vocals of Sharon Den Adel always leading the charge, and that formula has not changed one bit here on their latest release Hydra. Yes, much of the sweeping orchestrations were tamed a bit to allow for more commercial flavors to come into play with their last album The Unforgiving, and that trend continues here, but it's still immediately recognizable as Within Temptation. As accessible as most of this album is, there's still those elements that have kept fans coming back for more and broadening their horizons with legions of new followers. "Let Us Burn" is just a great, soaring slice of symphonic metal, and the ultra-addicting "Dangerous" features a killer duet between Sharon and ex-Killswitch Engage vocalist Howard Jones, in what could potentially be a huge breakout hit. The band churns out some melodic, symphonic pop with "And We Run" (although I could have done without the out of place rapping courtesy of Xzibit), and Sharon teams with ex-Nightwish singer Tarja on the delicious "Paradise (What About Us?)", a fist pumping anthem if ever there was one, and a must hear for Nightwish fans. Other highlights include the raging symphonic progressive metal of "Silver Moonlight", with Den Adel soaring to the heavens and supported by some sinister death metal growls, and the chugging, heavy "Tell Me Why".

Honestly, there's really not a weak track in the bunch, as Hydra once again confirms just how talented a band Within Temptation really is. Gorgeous vocals, alluring symphonic metal arrangements, and instantly memorable songs...it's a formula that just keeps on working.



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