We write the Year of the Lord 2014. RockmusicRaider concocts her first ever review. And – much to our misfortune – it is a negative one to start this blog series with. Within Temptation is the name and Hydra is the game.
Since that time I dreaded the moment that this band would release a new one of their once famously crusty records. Just remember masterpieces like Enter, Mother Earth or The Silent Force. Those positively sparkled with creativity and a sense of adventure. Always different and so succulently refreshing that you could just not get enough of them. But then, by the time that The Unforgiving hit the stage, it became clear that things were about to change.
And not in a good way.
Theirs became the sound of fantasy games and poppy soundtracks for strange stories. Overbred bombastic eruptions of Symphonic Metal that often went over board in all their compressed splendor. A hybrid between game background music and some sort of ill-begotten Power Metal record.
So, why am I not surprised of what the deck crew found on Resist.
If anything, this new edition seamlessly latches on to the aforementioned Hydra with much more of the same. Only now, Within Temptation dug themselves even further into that hole that was already deep enough.
Judging by the comments I read, the band felt a calling for evolution, not revolution. An urge to ditch their former symphonic chains. And indeed, Resist does not include any orchestral passages to write home about.
It however grew almost cinematic on me over its ten tracks or so. Like it wanted to become the sound track of the next Starship Enterprise episode. One step up from its former incarnation without the strings, if you get my drift.
It is also noteworthy that Within Temptation needed some four years to come to terms with yet another album. Sharon den Adel claimed personal issues and writer’s block as one of the main reasons. Which led to a solo project called My Indigo with a self-titled album to go with it.
But there’s more.
I take from the many press clips that the band found itself at a cross-roads. Not wanting to continue down the the good ‘ol symphonic highway, they pretty much crashed and burned, without meaningful direction where to turn next. Which – apparently – almost led to the dissolution of the band after the release of Hydra.
And where does that land us?
First, we again got a felt gazillion of guest contributors, starting with track number one. Jacoby Shaddix (Papa Roach) makes his appearance on this one. This obsession with B-Side celebrities already started with the Heart of Everything. Mina Caputo (Life of Agony, formerly known as Keith) on What Have You Done Now, if my memory serves me right.
This morphed into a total rampage, a hell fest of a seeming endless stream of intermediaries. The best of which probably was Tarja Turunen on Hydra. And truly, after Shaddix on Resist, you’ll meet Anders Fridén of In Flames and Jasper Steverlinck of Arid to join the crowd.
These little signals of insecurity really ain’t doing Within Temptation any favors. It’s like telling the world that something is amiss. That somehow the band needs to spiff up their vocal powers with hired guns. Regularly so, not just occasionally. So, instead of going for a double ticket at the front, they aimlessly invite guests to the party. I just don’t get it.
But hey, an own brand to everyone who wants one, right?
True, their tune, starting with The Reckoning, sounds more technical and more refined than Hydra ever was. A tendency towards industrial sounds and elaborately crafted song structures. The artful arrangements of most of the tracks really shows off the professionalism and the savoir-faire of real pros at work. On top of it all, WT enrobed their new / old style in a somewhat darkly metallic shroud that does not hide its allure.
Yet, the outcome positively drips a ton of cheese on your sound machine. Resist serves us with a hydra of different styles. Firmly embedded in – Loki help me – pop at bombastic levels. Straight from an Avantasia in a parallel metal universe, where pop is the driving force behind Power Metal. Speaking of which, the somewhat uneasy similarities to outfits like Kamelot are sometimes undeniable.
To make matters worse, Resist finds itself clothed in a Pop Metal shroud, run by a bunch of stone masons. Because the bricks of this mighty wall of sound serve us with some sort of a primeval soup of synthetically bleached melodies. Those that lose half of the instruments in process.
For instance, Supernova got me all confused and flustered. No guitar at any felt level to be detected. Only to find the video with the band strumming theatrically away at their axes like there is no tomorrow. So they must be somewhere in the mix. And to my dismay, no decent solo can be found far and wide. So, why have guitars at all? That is the question of almost Shakespeare-ish proportions.
Then you got this track list, where some reasonable crunch suddenly meets pop. Songs like Mercy Mirror completely kill the flow this record ever might have had. Another nail in this particular coffin. In a way, we are still not and never sure what direction this record is really headed to.
So, let’s get to the point of this tirade.
Resist delivers a tune that surely will sound great once the mighty WT touring machine gets into motion. For whatever it is worth, the record is expertly crafted for profit maximization and live shows. And that is fine for any corporation. In other words, it will feed them greedy masses that today thrive on synthie sounds and pseudo latino tunes. And the fan base that will never leave that band for whatever reason.
So, there. Mainstream is happy, so we all are, right?
But not so fast. Change is good and Within Temptation needs to and should evolve. However, change cannot be a hybrid that exists on an uneasy truce of a band with a seeming lack of direction.
I have seen bands going through decisive, even radical changes of style and direction to great success. But those fully embarked on the refashioned brand. No feeling of a balancing act stopped kind of halfway through the action. With members going through the motions, because it feels like they have to.
In the end, a revolution with drastic change might have been better for this record. As it is now, Resist gets served on a mighty Pop Metal platter of almost Amaranthe-esque proportions.
And I am not sure, if that is really a good thing.