Within Temptation – The Unforgiving (2011) – Review

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OK, I get it! Nothing is ever easy and change is a constant, as there is no such thing as a steady state in physical music creation. And it needs some courage to do the change-over that these guys have done. Like in radical and absolute. Nothing much left of Metal and Gothic or Symphonic, whilst there are some attempts to get back on track.

The 2011 album The Unforgiving from Within Temptation is a totally new direction from what was before. Some of my co-reviewers compared the record to Nightwish, but there is no Nightwish ingenuity in there, folks. Instead, this sounds like a mix between Delain and Fleetwood Mac. And sometimes it seems they drifted over to the Robbie Williams style of good old mainstream dullness for some of that. Perhaps less the chest hair effect. 

The shocking truth is not that they did a change, but that the change was so radical. The Unforgiving – sadly – rushed into the poppy field. Heavy on keyboards and synthesizers, reminding me of the development The Rasmus went through. And unfortunately so for the latter, I might add. And sometimes even including some House Music elements. Jeez, guys! This is supposed to be Gothic and Symphonic Metal. Or is it, really? Sometimes this sounds like they just had an injection of Amaranthe juice to jack them up.

And don’t get me wrong: Within Temptation already changed track in the past. For example, the shift from Mother Earth to The Silent Force was simply remarkable. But also remarkably well executed. Kind of seamlessly leading on to the next stepping stone of progress this band is moving towards.

But never mind. 

We need to forget past glories and look at what is really there. And – at that angle – the outcome is actually not all that bad. But it is just plain rock of the mainstream kind. Perhaps a bit faster-paced than most, but still. 

And we need to give them credit, too.

The Unforgiving is actually a concept album of sorts, based on a comic book series written by Steven O’Connell (BloodRayne & Dark 48) with comic artist Romano Molenaar (Witchblade, Darkness, and X-men) doing the drawing work. Basically a good idea. Or is it? 

The album is well-engineered, sometimes almost too well done. As usual, the soul and savior of the piece is Sharon den Adel with her stellar voice that she is able to modulate so well in different ways.

Shot in the Dark, In the Middle of the Night (the one with House elements in it) and Faster are all of the same vein. Kind of fast-paced, poppy, and heavily synthesized creations, with some attempts to reach metal status. You’ll also find some symphonic elements, but only scarcely so. And pumping up the treble in the hope this may make it sound like metal ain’t making it so. 

The tasty ballad Fire and Ice is a neat interlude. And I like this track most because it is more closely related to the old Within Temptation style than the rest. It is this fire and soul thing that is so sorely missing on the rest of this mighty tracklist. The Unforgiving on a roll for once.

A lot of people have lauded Iron to be the centerpiece of this album. A whiff of Power Metal, perhaps? In truth one could qualify it like that if it were issued by a pop band. In terms of rockiness, it would probably qualify. Yet, this will just not do either. The centerpiece, my ass. Yeah, it does sit at the center of the tracklist. Mid-point, if you will.

Following that one, still remarkable in a geeky way, are Sinéad and Lost, the latter of which adds on to the aforementioned ballad. Now, reviewing this in 2014, I of course already know about the follow-up album Hydra, of which I am even less fond. So, this album is kind of a precursor of worse things to come from this band. A pity, folks, but this is the way it is!

I can only hope that future records will find their way back to Gothic and Symphonic Metal stardom. And that Within Temptation will get some spice back into their tune. 

I like it crunchy, surprising, and – above all – metal-laden. This style is amusing for a while, and it can get addictive in a certain way. But it – for sure – will risk boring you to death with too much pop after a while.

And this will just not do.

Record Rating: 5/10 | Label: Roadrunner | Web: Official Site
Release date: 25 March 2011

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