Within Temptation – The Heart of Everything
Roadrunner Records (7/24/07)
Within Temptationâ€˜s fourth full-length album, The Heart of Everything, is supposed to be the band’s big North American coming-out party. At least, I’m sure that’s what Roadrunner Records would have liked. The truth is, there’s not a big North American market for this specific brand of metal.
For many years, European metal bands with an operatic tinge have thrived overseas (Nightwish, Within Temptation, Leaves Eyes), as these bands are earning huge numbers with each new album. But mainstream North America has been slow on the upswing.
Make no mistakeâ€”these bands are doing something very unique on the metal scene. The operatic nature of the vocals gives the bands’ sound a whole new dimension, with the voice being used as another instrument as opposed to the main attraction with the instruments backing.
Perhaps the biggest misstep with The Heart of Everything was using “What Have You Done” as the lead-off single. Sure, it’s probably the strongest track on the album, with front woman Sharon Den Adel trading vocals with guest vocalist Keith Caputo (he of Life of Agony fame). But this track is far from the norm for the album. Anyone expecting the next Evanescence would be sorely mistaken (not that that’s a bad thing). Rather, check out “Hand of Sorrow”, a track that opens with a full orchestra before the drums and guitar kick in. Adel’s vocals sound like they belong in Phantom of the Opera instead of fronting a metal band. But that’s the point.
So what does the band do right? The orchestration is lush, the riffs are weighty and intense and Adel can really wail. On the title-track, she really carries the procession, soaring above the metallic interplay between guitarists Robert Westerholt and Ruud Jolie (with some solid soloing from Westerholt). And the demonic muttering adds a nice subtle touch, too. Or a song like “Howling”, with assaulting riffs that groove around the rhythm section with authority, is a perfectly acceptable metal anthem. The band can even add an edge to slower tracks. “Frozen” would come across as a typical power ballad, if not for the thunderous bridges around the chorus and the chunky guitar-play.
The negatives are few. “Our Solemn Hour” has enough of a hook, but the Latin chanting seems to hinder any full development on the song. Unless you’re really into the subgenre, the latter songs really start to blend together, with Adel relying too much on the â€œbeautiful singingâ€ part of her performance. And then, just to rub it in, a second version of “What Have You Done” (and extended version, no less) closes the album. The first version was obviously mixed to be a rocking single, while the later is more in-step with what the band does (on a side note, this might not be the perfect Within Temptation song, but it is a killer track, and Caputo sounds fantastic mixing it up with the band).
The Heart of Everything is a great album for what it is, and few bands pull off the mix of metal and orchestration this well. This is definitely the band’s best offering to date, but it still remains to be seen whether this brand of metal can find a larger audience outside of Europe. For anyone that likes beauty in their metal, Within Temptation will fail to disappoint. Even for those not of the metal persuasion, there’s something to like.