Thursday, July 14, 2011

Within Temptation - The Heart Of Everything (2007)


Before there was the spectacle of "The Unforgiving," Dutch gothic metallers Within Temptation were a band trying to stand apart from the rest. The vocals of Sharon den Adel had evolved into a force, equal parts sultry and powerful. After numerous albums and tours, the band finally broke through. With the release of their 2007 album, "The Heart Of Everything," they earned the commercial success that they deserved. But they also stayed true to their sound, their dream, and their talents.

"The Howling" is a statement of intent. The guitars are crushing, the drums are booming, and all of the symphonic elements are present. They layer den Adel's vocals into a beautifully harmony, providing her own backing. The keys provide all of the strings necessary, giving the impression of a large orchestra. The quiet bridge section is splendid, allowing the subtle vocal talents to shine through without clouding. The album's first single, "What Have You Done" features Life Of Agony frontman Keith Caputo in a daring, and successful duet. The moments where both singers share duties, playing off one another, are captivating. It was as if they had been singing together for years, building to this moment. Call it a ballad if you choose, but the heavy music provided might argue that point.

The symphony returns in full force for "Frozen," an inspired, emotionally heavy track. You can feel every ounce of sorrow with each perfectly sung lyric. But there is not a sacrifice of beauty for pain, and the contrast of heartfelt words combined with a sonic wall becomes so much to bear. While the guitars remain simple, they are consistent, and never fail to keep the tone. The operatic "Our Solemn Hour" sees den Adel at her finest, delivering in so many ways, from the standard clean singing to the effects laden falsetto. Strings take the lead, with smashing drum fills tying together chorus and verse. The melodies flow in ways rarely heard in gothic metal albums. The depth of sound created is impressive. A short, but daring guitar solo finds its place, leading the track to its blasting finish.

The heavier side comes out in the chugging, pounding title track. Even the vocals gain some grit, though they never lose their delicate glory. The piano and string combo that introduces "Hand Of Sorrow" is as life affirming as an instrumental can be. This is the one time that a Nightwish comparison would be fair, if not for the glaring vocal disparity. Guitars chug away, while drums provide a constant tempo, throwing in snare heavy rolls to keep your head moving. The flow from song to song is impeccable, from the massive sonic assault of "The Cross" and "Final Destination" to the beautiful acoustic "All I Need." Surrounded by the dulcet tones of strings and keyboards, den Adel's voice is even more breathtaking, with each breath that she takes seemingly taking one from you. Things build to a boil, and distortion kicks in, but she manages to light the darkest cloud.

The strength presented in "Stand My Ground" makes it ripe for the next metal anthem. Songs like this have given life to the female fronted bands of the world. Lyrically powerful and musically aggressive, the track is one that so many can identify with, and find peace with. The seven minute epic "Truth Beneath The Rose" is an operatic gem, from the fitting use of strings to the layered chanting vocals. It could be torn straight from the pages of Broadway, with the band ripping through verse and chorus with surgical precision. Again, there is nothing outrageous, nothing outside of solid musicianship. The album ends with a piano and string accompanied ballad in "Forgiven." It provides you with one last taste of what Within Tempatation do best; pull on your heart strings.

Everything falls into place for Within Temptation. The ease the band displays is awe-inspiring, with every note, every syllable, every thought pouring out effortlessly. Each song is crafted with such strength and character, and executed to perfection. From the sterling vocals of den Adel, to the crystal clarity of the production, "The Heart Of Everything" embodies all of the good that the genre has to offer. And Within Temptation deserve every ounce of praise that it garners them.


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