Overall Score: 7.5/10 Vocals: 9/10 Consistency: 7/10 Memorable Songs: 8/10 Pros: Memorable songs | Very good use of guests | Sharon's Vocals Cons: Does not maintain the very high standards throughout
Over the last decade, Within Temptation have undergone something of a transformation. When they first hit mainstream attention in the UK with the release of The Silent Force in 2004, they were very much a symphonic metal act, with a sound somewhat more geared to give them success in the European mainland than in the likes of the UK and America. Over the last ten years they have streamlined their sound to increase mainstream appeal, while maintaining much of what made Within Temptation appeal to their long term fans in the first place. Their new album Hydra (named so because of the numerous musical styles the band now incorporate into their sound) sees them continue their journey of honing their sound with yet more success.
After the enjoyable opening of “Let Us Burn”, there are a trio of guest appearances. Former Killswitch Engage singer Howard Jones is the first of various cameo’s on the album, making an appearance on “Dangerous” which doesn’t leave a huge impact. Somewhat unexpectedly rapper Xzibit’s turn on “And We Run” packs far more impact than Howard’s on a very diverse song which shouldn’t work but does work extremely well, but the best guest appearance is left for one of Within Temptation’s frontwoman’s peers. Paradise (What About Us), which first surfaced on the E.P of the same name late last year sees Sharon going vocally toe-to-toe with former Nightwish singer Tarja and the result is one of the most memorable songs of early 2014. With a chorus that is tailor made to be sung by thousands of people in arenas across the world, metal with female vocals (that aren’t the Arch Enemy style) doesn’t get too much better than this.
Once the guests depart there are some very traditionally Within Temptation style songs; The wonderfully understated Edge Of The World and the faster Silver Moonlight are both worth drawing attention to, the latter with some excellent use of Robert Westerholt’s growled vocals thrown into the mix for good measure. The closing track, “The Whole World Is Watching”, featuring Dave Pirner of US alt rock band Soul Asylum is another softer song which works very well, especially when Sharon demonstrates her considerable range in the second half of the song and is a fine way to close out the album.
Throughout the album there are enormous hooks, even on the slower tempo songs; The appeal of Sharon den Adel’s voice is unmistakable, but the way Martijn Spierenburg synths and keyboard playing has been combined with Robert Westerholt and Ruud Jolie’s guitar work deserves equal praise. Overall, Hydra is a very enjoyable dose of what one could call “symphonic metal for the masses”. Within Temptation have reached arena level status in the UK with their first arena shows taking place in April and those shows will be much the brighter for having some songs from Hydra on the set list. This is a band that have already surpassed all expectations and with Hydra the sky really could be the limit for what they could achieve.
Hydra will be released on the 31st of January in the UK on Dramatico Records, 31st of January in Mainland Europe through BMG, and the 4th of February 2014 in the US on Nuclear Blast Records.