Review Summary: Acoustic versions of these songs are actually more effective than the originals.
What is Within Temptation
known for? They’re obviously known for having one of the prettier vocalists in the metal scene (even after two kids, go Sharon). They’re also known for extremely bombastic orchestral parts that generally dominate every song. For detractors of gothic rock they’re one of the main poster-children for everything that is wrong with the genre. Two things that they’re not known for is their guitar riffs and songwriting skills, so it was a bit of a shock to see them releasing a live acoustic album. It was shocking because a stripped down acoustic album is going to live or die based on the strength of the songwriting and guitar melodies (if guitars are used) – both of which are somewhat lacking to varying degrees on their studio albums. It was obviously an even bigger surprise, then, when it turned out that every track on this release worked better stripped down than it did on its original album.
Of course, “stripped down” is a relative term and there is still plenty going on in each song. The main thing this album has going for it is that most of the orchestral sections have been replaced by violin and piano. This reduction in orchestral elements allows the remaining components to more effectively compliment Sharon’s vocals and finally allows them to be a complimentary force instead of an overwhelming one. It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that the guitar plays as minimal a role here as it does on every other Within Temptation album. That’s not to say that the guitar isn’t present only that it is still mostly inconsequential. With the music playing a much more subtle role than it generally does, Sharon’s voice is placed front and center. Without having to compete with a wall of overblown orchestral parts, her voice is able to come across smoothly and easily steals the show. The album also benefits from a warm, full sound that keeps crowd noise to a minimum and provides an intimate atmosphere which highlights the songs perfectly. When guest vocalists including Anneke Van Giersbergen (Agua de Annique
, Ex-The Gathering
) and Keith Caputo (Life of Agony
) are added into the equation, the result is a surprisingly good album from a band that, by all accounts, should have failed miserably.
Despite all of these qualities, a person’s enjoyment of this album is still going to hinge on a few elements outside the realm of the music. Obviously, if someone is not into the band they’re probably not going to get much enjoyment from this album (although they may not hate it as much as previous releases). Also, with its subdued tempos it is an album that is going to require the right frame of mind before being played. If, on the other hand, the listener is a fan of the band and is ready for something mellow this will be the perfect album to put on. An Acoustic Night at the Theatre
proves that the band can write good songs and that sometimes less is more – a lesson we can only hope they remember while writing for their next studio release.