The breakthrough album of Within Temptation, Mother Earth was the album to propel these men and a woman from my native homeland (the Netherlands) into the mainstream. They toured a lot for this album, and although it was released in 2000, it became known a lot later in other parts of the world, and getting a remaster as late as 2003 I think.
I consider this the best album from this band, mainly for the reason they really get their act together here; the original Within Temptation really sounded like what you might call an After Forever clone, heavy and with low grunting male vocals, get Enter if you want to hear that for yourself (I don't have Enter; I've listened to a couple of songs off there.) The Silent Force is an okay album, but it's received so much airplay that I can't stand listening to the album again; it's commercial as ***, these guys are known all over the Netherlands and Europe. They are slower here, dropped the annoying male vocals, didn't go totally poppy; in fact, this album is quite good, and really underrated by some people.
The thing with WT is though: their heavy songs don't actually sound heavy enough to merit a Metal classification IMO. When I listen to the title track I discern that they try to play heavy, but really can't; the guitars sound bland and distorted. They really shouldn't try to play that loud, especially because their slower songs are really the best thing since sliced bread. The song is still enjoyable, mainly because of the use of orchestra instruments, but it could have been so much better.
Now the good part of this album; when they ease up on the tempo, like on the Neverending Story and In Perfect Harmony (my two favourite tracks), and give it that folk touch, they really start to shine. Sharon den Adel's vocals really are illustrious on these kind of tracks; I have yet to see another woman live up to that kind of vocal performance (bar perhaps Tarja Turunen). In Perfect Harmony could have been the LOTR title track, and for good reason; it's slow, it's melodious, it doesn't feature any annoying heavy guitars, it's well orchestrated, it's plain awesome in fact.
Caged and The Promise are both annoying tracks that really drag on for way too long; I can only listen to them for two minutes before I want to skip. Deceiver Of Fools is the heavy epic of this album, and really their only excellent heavy song on this album; Mother Earth is cool but bland and repetitive, and Ice Queen sounds so recycled it's not funny anymore. They're both catchy as ***, and good sing-along tracks, but they're no musical Grade A material by any means.
Our Farewell is another good slow track following a standard ballad formula, with some heavier guitars at the end, which really work out well for the song. I quite like this track, and it's quite a refreshment from the heavy openers of the album. Intro + Dark Wings are basically filler material that sound quite okay but really are nothing interesting; they're like Ice Queen with slightly altered riffs.
Overall this album has its ups and downs, but the slow songs and Deceiver Of Fools make at least part of this album an enjoyable listen. There is some filler heavy material here, which really brings the album down; if they'd made some of the songs sound original they might have been really good.
Overall, if you're a metal purist, don't get this. This isn't metal. This is neo-folk stuff in my opinion, and for lovers of classical music as well. If you want to satisfy your headbanging tastes in this genre, go listen to Nightwish, Epica or After Forever. If you like slow and relaxed music, this album really has some songs to satisfy your taste. Just set the player programme to 3,6,7 and 10 and you'll be just fine.