Review Summary: This album, despite being destined to be a commercial hit in the USA, falls horrendously flat musically.
Imagine a band that once was great and received rave reviews from metal journalists. Imagine a band once praised for its inventivity and excellence at a certain genre. Imagine vocals so delicious you can taste the saliva dripping from all the mouthwatering fans just waiting to get another taste. And now imagine that band five years later, brimming with commercial success, but having foregone everything just mentioned for this commercial success.
That's what defines 2007's The Heart of Everything. Showcasing a terrific lack of originality, a far too obsessive adhesion to a cliched and obsolete formula, huge degrees of repetitiveness, bland and unimaginative lyrics, and unused musicianship that is becoming a cut below the norm, this album may be a commercial success, but it's also a musical disaster, setting forth the trend of declination from the beginning of their career.
The Heart of Everything was to become the next step on the road to stardom for these native Dutchies. Their debut Enter was an impressive slab of gothic/doom metal. The followup Mother Earth took the style to be more bombastic but added lush Celtic elements. The Silent Force expanded upon the symphonic metal elements of the band, propelling the band high into the mainstream, especially in their native homeland the Netherlands. (Make no mistake about it, these bands are everywhere on Dutch radio), but forsaking the elements that made their music so special. And now with this album the band plans to take even the USA by storm.
I bet the general populace in the USA is going to dig into this album like they dug into Christian mainstream rockers Evanescence. The band takes their cues heartily from the band, throwing in a guest vocalist for second song What Have You Done, and indeed, it sounds like Amy Lee with backup band, Volume II. As if that wasn't enough, the rest of the album is also centred around Sharon den Adel's voice, just like Evanescence concentrated on Lee's voice.
But, hint hint, Lee could play the piano as well. Sharon can't. It transforms such as All I Need and Forgiven into the ultimate definition of cheese. As Sharon croons in child terms about the strength of unconditional love, sane people will have decided that by now they crave something decidedly more mature and interesting, and the pop fans have realised that Celine Dion just is more catchy overall. All I Need has such cringeworthy vocal lines that it leads me to skip the track after thirty seconds to avoid an imminent headache; if you don't want to suffer the same fate, it's highly recommended you do too.
Now, salvation should come from the more uptempo songs, right? But that doesn't work if every song is a carbon copy of the next. The songwriting never deviates from verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus 2x structures, and when it does, like on Our Solemn Hour, the overdone vocal dramatics sound so tedious and cheesy you're going to have to ask the band why they ate so much Edammer during the recording.
The band also shows no variety musically: the bass can't be heard over the churning guitar riffs, which sound the same exactly every song (and there is like ONE guitar solo on the whole album, which is basically one note played over and over.) There are no nice drum fills to be found anywhere. The band is basically just a backing band trying to make this into Sharon's "woe is me" party. Unfortunately, this isn't Mrs den Adels solo band, this is Within Temptation, and you're expected to be able to do more than play three riffs, 4/4 rhythms, root notes, and overdone vocal lines.
Even the over-the-top symphonic orchestral arrangements can't save the album. Apparently the band decided to try to make up for their lack of musicianship by implanting huge orchestras to keep some sort of melodic sound. But the arrangements sound synthetic and forced, like they were put there just because they had to be, not because they actually sounded right, and are what you might call the fluff trying to make up for any attempted substance. This means the band are trying to be dishonest as well: please, if you can't play, don't try to attempt to sound ridiculously huge so it camouflages your shortcomings musically. Just be honest and play something down-to-earth, at least it renders you credible.
And that's the state of female-led metal bands anno 2007. As innovativity is slowly being drained from the tired and saturated genre, and bands like these are just the next big thing for the radio to play when you get tired of Evanescence, gems like Tristania and friends keep passing under the radar in favour of watered down commercialised bands marketed like a trend. The USA will love it and eat it up like the next commercial one-hit wonder, but I fear that the band's staying power and credibility has been used up after this latest failure, and if Within Temptation continue to pursue this musical direction, I think they'll soon find that all that glitters is not gold. Until then, pass this album by when you visit the cd shop and spend your money on bands that actually know how to make proper music.