The Heart Of Everything
Within Temptation are a Dutch symphonic rock band who are the musical equivalent of marmite. If you are fan of the gothic metal genre or female fronted rock bands then this group will most definately be part of your music collection. If you hate the idea of a beautiful goddess that sings like an angel fronting a band then go seek help!
Sharon Den Adel is arguably the best singer on the planet bar none! Quite a bold statement maybe, but there are very few singers who are able to hit the operatic heights of symphonic rock and stll be capable of delivering a convincing pop song. I'm not a fan of operatic vocals, so bands like Nightwish have never been top of my list. Sharon does this so effortlessly without the ear pearcing harshness of many vocalists, and with a rich soothing tonal quality which has won the hearts of many die hard fans. Sharon is also one of the few singers that deliver the same quality of vocals during the bands live perforance as she does on album, whilst been an incredibly charismatic and engaging front for the band. Oh and did I mention... she's fit too!
Saying that, there has been a big shift in musical style with this album being heavier and less symphonic that previous offerings. The operatic vocals only play a minor part in songs like 'The Cross' and 'Our Solemn Hour' which have become firm fan favourites. This album was met with mixed feelings by long standing fans of previous albums such as 'Mother Earth' and more recently 'The Silent Force'. For me this album was a step in the right direction as it was 'The Heart Of Everything' that open me up to the bands previous offerings. I'm now a massive follower of this band and I've come to appreciate all their music style and the way their sound has evolved over the years.
And so to this album, 'The Heart Of Everything', which was responsible for turning me on to this band. Although I was a big fan of songs like 'Ice Queen', 'It's The Fear' and 'Angels', I always thought their albums had too many fillers. With such a great vocalist, and such obviously tallented musicians, if only they could focus on a harder hitting, less symphonic sound with catchier choruses this band could be huge. Well, the good news is they certainly delivered with this album. There isn't a bad song on the entire album, and for me this album represents a more commercially, more accessible album for the masses. I truly believe that this album should be in every rock / metal lovers collection, and once hooked you will be trawling through their back catalog and appreciating their quieter moments as there are some truly breathtaking songs to be discovered.
On first listening, it was songs like the single 'What Have You Done', 'The Cross' and 'The Howling' that stood out as pure anthemic rock classics. Contrast that with the lighter moments in songs like 'Forgiven' and 'All I Needed' and 'Frozen' and you have an album which just draws you in. I defy anyone to listen to 'Forgiven' and not feel emotional, either by the shear beauty of the vocals or by the heart felt content of the lyrics. In contrast, listen to 'The Cross' and tell me that isn't a masterpiece, both in terms of the unusual vocal arrangements and the raw power of the music.
If I had to pick a favourite track it would probably be 'The Cross'. The song starts with an incredibly high pitched operatic vocal line which I thought until I saw the group live was sampled. In fact the whole song is a contrast of overlayed vocals arangements and chanting over a very heavy guitar driven multi-layered chorus with a tasteful addition of orchestral backing. The song is a classic that just burries itself in your head, and is one of my all time favourite rock songs.
It would be impossible for me to review this album and not to single out the vocals on 'Forgiven'. For anyone that has an emotional bone in their body this song will bring it's own personal meaning when you listen to it. The song eplores the subject of unconditional love, with nothing more than Sharon's faultlessly delievered vocals, a piano, and the slow introduction of a full orchestra. This song could melt the hearts of the most hardened rock fan, lighters at the ready!
Whereas on previous albums I felt there were certain songs that carried the album, I really don't feel this is the case with 'The Heart Of Eveything', as the songs are so varied. One of the fans favourites 'Our Solumn Hour' is a mixture of gothic and operatic chanting over a catchy anthemic guitar driven chorus with recordings of Winsen Churchill playing in the background. The title track although not being one of the stand out tracks is a very well crafted song, with yet another ususual vocal style. Accentuating Sharon's ability to deliver a rich cutting low gravelly vocal line which contrasts the souring chorus this really shows her vocal range and abilities as a singer. The 'Final Destination' is another similar sounding track which sees Sharon showing off the lower register. Lots of heavy riffing and vocal filters present here, with an almost eiry gothic quality to the harmonies.
Probably the two weakest tracks for me are 'Hand Of Sorrow' (which is a song about sacrificing your own ambitions and dreams for a higher goal in life) and 'The Truth Beneath The Rose' (which explores the idea that belief is used to justify our sins), both of which focus too heavily on delivering a message which can be offputting at times.
So, who will this band appeal to? Certainly anyone into female fronted rock / metal bands and anyone with a passion for gothic rock. There have been may comparrisons to "dare I say it"... Evanescence, with fans constanly arguing over wether Amy Lee has a better voice than Sharon Den Adel. Now, I'm not here to preach but come on guys, Evenescence have some nice tunes, but there is only one stand out vocalist here. Saying that, there is defainately a cross over, as Within Temptations quieter moments could almost be written by Amy Lee. So if you are patiently waiting for the reformed Evanescence to realease a 3rd album, why not check out this album in the mean time.
Finally, this band are one of the best live bands I have whitnessed, and I've seen some of the best. The band are currently travelling the globe, seeking out a new audiences and new fans. If you ever get chance to see this band live you will understand why I hold this band in such high esteem.