Within Temptation – The Unforgiving
Release date: March 29, 2011
Four years have passed, and two new children born into the Den Adel-Westerholt household since Within Temptation‘s last studio album, 2007’s The Heart Of Everything. Despite two live albums in the interim, fans have been beside themselves waiting for the follow-up which will finally be released later this month.
The Unforgiving is a concept album based on a comic book written specifically for the band and this project. After input from the band, the storyline, which revolves around protagonist Sinéad, was created by Steven O’Connell (BloodRayne and Dark 48) and illustrated by Romano Molenaar (Witchblade, Darkness and X-Men). The comic will be released in conjunction with the album.
I have waited along with all the band’s other fans, anxious to hear how they would match or eclipse their epic 2007 release, which had not one bad track on it. In fact, it’s among my top 10 of the decade. At my own peril I listened to the new record waiting for it to be an extension of The Heart of Everything. Certainly the album’s first two releases, the single “Faster” and “Where Is The Edge” are excellent and had me salivating for the rest.
Yet when I listened the first time through I found myself disappointed that it did not seem to live up to my grandiose expectations. And that was my own folly. As I threw it on for the second, third, and twentieth time, I discovered within the album’s dozen tracks that The Unforgiving is every bit the equal to the band’s past efforts. What sets this album apart from The Heart of Everything is stronger connection to the story it conveys and a heavy dose of 80’s rock in the mix.
The album was helmed by Swedish songwriter/producer Daniel Gibson who also worked on the songwriting with Den Adel and Westerholt.
The album opens with a 34 second spoken intro piece, “Why Not Me”, which is connected to the Mother Maiden character in the story.
The first song, “Shot In The Dark”, begins in the classic Within Temptation style we are all familiar with. However, as the song opens up, one can find elements of that 80’s sound that seems to be making a renaissance this decade. There will be a film clip, “Sinéad and Triplets” that accompanies this track.
The guitars get “In The Middle of The Night” off to a galloping start. Sharon den Adel does a magnificent job on this one, rotating vocally through the various peaks and valleys. There can be no question she is among the best hard rock/metal vocalists of this era, male or female. The entire album is rife with huge choruses and soaring melodies, and they are truly showcased here.
“Faster” was the second song the band put out, but released as the first single, the full video is attached to the Mother Maiden clip which came out in January. This song could have come out anytime in the 80’s and fit right in, but sounds equally vibrant now.
The next track, “Fire and Ice”, begins with a similar atmospheric style as the album intro before slipping into a haunting but melodic piece reminiscent of the band’s classic, “Frozen”.
“Iron” is pure, epic, old school Within Temptation, with great guitars and spiraling keyboards and vocals.
The album’s first released song was “Where is The Edge”, which has that quintessential Within Temptation sound. The song was used for the forthcoming film Me & Mr. Jones, by Dutch filmmaker Paul Ruven about the murder of Natalee Holloway by Joran van der Sloot. The movie tells the fictional story of an undercover journalist trying to solve the case. How the song lyrically relates to the album’s storyline is yet to be discovered.
The protagonist, “Sinéad”, gets her own track next, and the album is rounded out with four more songs including one of the best numbers on the album, “A Demon’s Fate”, which is a dynamic collision of 80’s rock and the modern WT sound.
Once again, Within Temptation have crafted a masterpiece, grand in scope and epic in sound and style. A brilliant mixture of darkness and poignant lightness, with a powerful atmosphere of haunting angst. There exist no weaknesses on this record, no filler tracks. My only dig is that it took so damn long to be released. If The Unforgiving doesn’t make numerous Top 10 lists this year then something is tragically amiss.