Review Summary: Hydra is a solid enough continuation of Within Temptation’s brand of operatic goth-inspired metal.
Within Temptation have carved out a steady space in the world of female fronted metal acts, with sounds instantly recognizable in terms of Evanescence, Lacuna Coil, and Nightwish (as well as a few others), Within Temptation have grown, releasing solid albums one after the other. Understandably, the band’s musical formula will differ little as the member’s careers grow longer but the basic stereotypes give a better life to Hydra
’s overall design. By now, Within Temptation are well-versed, practiced and their sixth release continues the momentum that’s rather impartial to the album’s own guest musicians. Within Temptation remain above the deluge of similar acts.
What’s surprising is as much as this is a typical Within Temptation album; there is a growth and exploration. The band avoid re-hashing too much of their older material, despite how formulaic the tracks may represent themselves to be. The songs structures are less “hook-y” and focus on a streamlined level of catchiness tying the guest musicians into an integral theme. For the album, it really matters not whether ex-Killswitch Engage vocalist Howard Jones adds a clean male harmony to ‘Dangerous’, Sharon den Adel’s operatic cleans fill the space perfectly – a contrast instead should have been made with Jones’ harsh screams, giving a different vocal shaping and utilizing a capable musician to achieve a more engaging track – in turn, this would have taken Hydra
to completely new heights, even the Tarja Turunen (ex-Nightwish) track doesn’t add any extra elements that would promote the guest musicians’ contributions, it’s merely another operatic female vocal section. Sure enough, the Xzibit featured track is an unexpected curve ball, but how much does an emotive female fronted metal band need the ramblings of a rapper to convey its themes? The answer lies in how well the rapped, cursing verse of Xzibit match in with Adel’s hanging lyrical passages. Within Temptation do push on the boundaries of their own music and explore different techniques to add interest to their music, but they don’t exactly need the other artists to drop in on the band’s sixth studio release.
Highlights emerge as the album progresses. Tracks like ‘Tell Me Why’ and ‘Silver Moonlight’ convey some real emotion backed by some of the group’s strongest instrumental efforts to date. Twists and turns engage Sharon’s vocals pushing her above the minimalistic nothingness created by pauses and rests within the instrumental efforts. This is stylistic contrast used to the best effect possible. Not a lot of modern acts know when to simply shut up and allow the center point the limelight. Take the album opener for example: ‘Let Us Burn’ starts the album as you would expect; minor guitar leads and building guitar riffs hugged by both bass and drum kit. The track itself leads a crescendo into the rest of the record. The hook line dominates the chorus lines which create an instantly catchy sing a long theme; it’s not exactly a showcase of brand new song-writing techniques, rather a demonstration that old tricks can still work well - Within Temptation have a great musical sensibility.
For those who weren't exactly chuffed with the band’s other five studio releases, there’s a fair chance that Hydra
will not change your mind. As for the band’s 2014 release, Hydra
is exactly the Greek translation of its name-sake, showing an reformation of Within Temptation’s previous nuances, matured and shape-shifting into something individual for a band long considered a passable “copy act”. With their debut record long behind them, Within Temptation are destined to grow, one step at a time with a brand of music truly theirs. It’s not going to be spectacular by any means, but it does a whole lot better than average and more importantly gives better life to the group.