Do you remember Within Temptation? Yes, I’m talking about that Dutch band that played passionate gothic metal on early releases likeEnter and The Dance, and then switched to magical and inspired symphonic metal on later albums like Mother Earth, The Silent Force? The band began to go downhill on the more radio-friendly, Americanized record The Heart Of Everything. Genre fans surely remember hits like “Restless”, “The Other Half (Of Me)”, “Mother Earth”, “Ice Queen”, “Stand My Ground”, “Angels”, “The Howling”, and “Our Solemn Hour”. Even the acoustic duet with Chris Jones on “Utopia” was still a good song, but a sign that the band was venturing more and more into an exchangeable, mainstream direction. On the boring and powerless conceptual output The Unforgiving, the band sounded like a silly copy of ABBA rather than of Therion. Within Temptation went on to release a couple of cover songs entitled The Q-Music Sessions, where they obviously covered their new heroes. But these aren’t Enigma, Enya, Kate Bush, or Loreena McKennitt anymore. Their new sound has nothing to do with Edenbridge, Epica, Nightwish, or Sirenia either. Maybe they are still comparable to modern Lacuna Coil, but that’s not a good reference at all. No, the artists and bands that were covered during these sessions are Bruno Mars, David Guetta, Enrique Iglesias, and One Republic.
Die-hard fans might claim that I’m a closed-minded metalhead now, and that the band simply headed for new terrain. I (obviously) don’t mind bands experimenting with new sounds at all. In fact, almost everything would have been fine with me. If Within Temptation was about to release a world music album with different folk influences? Brilliant, that would grab my interest. If Within Temptation decided to do a cover record of classical music and opera pieces? Fine, I’m listening to that kind of music, too. Within Temptation records a progressive rock album? Why not, I adore that genre. But I don’t adore David Guetta, Enrique Iglesias, and One Republic who, make dull, easily imitable mainstream pop music. I’m not an enemy of pop: Japanese pop music is quite fascinating to me. I like some of the classics as well, such as ABBA, Madonna, and Michael Jackson. I even enjoy some modern American pop, but the mainstream music Within Temptation is playing now is just mooning and faceless.
At least the vocals sound juvenile and fresh. Many of these new pop songs definitely have catchy hooks. They stay on your mind even if you don’t want them to. It’s like a dog’s poo under your boots, if you get what I mean. Two or three tracks are actually quite solid on here, and I grant them that, but that’s it.
The down-tuned guitars, the artificially flavored symphonic elements, the repetitive hooks, and the weird choice of guest artists are the nails in the band’s creative coffin. The most convincing guest musician is actually rapper Xzibit. He makes a pretty average song called “And We Run” a little bit exciting. On the other hand, his angry parts don’t fit with the graciously high-pitched princess vocals. Try to imagine a mixture of Dr. Alban and Kate Bush and you might have an appropriate idea. The duet with Tarja Turunen entitled “Paradise (What About Us?)” is solid but highly predictable as well. Killswitch Engage’s Howard Jones and a certain Dave Pirner are just plain awful, but maybe it’s because they perform on truly boring tracks. My guess is that all these guest musicians are just there to give us a chance to distinguish all the exchangeable tracks. It didn’t really work out, even though the record only includes ten tiny tracks and less than fifty minutes of playing time after more than three years of waiting.
The band included one metal-oriented track on the record. “Silver Moonlight”‘s riffs try desperately hard to sound heavy, but they just feel worn-out. The orchestral elements feel by-the-way and cheesy as well. The track even includes a short guitar solo, and a catchy chorus is supported by a few male growls. It seems that the band is really trying hard to show us that they haven’t forgotten where they came from, and this song does indeed remind me of the band’s early days. It’s not a bad track, and might even be the best and most diverse on this release, but it just doesn’t sound credible anymore. It feels as if Rihanna had invited Morbid Angel to perform with her on one track, or as if Céline Dion collaborated with Anonymus. Imagine a mixture of Helene Fischer and Crematory…I think you’ve got the idea by now.
In the end, it’s all quite simple. If you liked the band’s last outputs in The Unforgiving and The Q-Music Sessions, you will also dig this record. If you are a fan of contemporary Lacuna Coil, you will also adore this. If you liked the band’s earlier works, initial creativity, and metal albums, you will probably hate this. The last Eminem record was honestly more metal than this. That’s the sad truth. Really.