Review Summary: Still relevant? Well yeah. Kind of.
Within Temptation have always had a very special place in the Dutch music scene. Singlehandedly bringing the goth-rock movement into the mainstream with their sophomore record ‘Mother Earth’ in the year 2000 (quickly followed by Evanescence’s debut three years later), they have since had a soft spot in this little country. Until this day they are pretty much the only (hard)rock band to get airtime on the radio (albeit few and far between), and mostly because they are seen as the Dutch pride, something our country has in abundance when it comes to DJs (Hardwell, Tiesto, Armin van Buuren, Afrojack etc.) but sorely lacks in rock music.
let us not forget though, that after this initial blowup in popularity, they quickly fell out of the picture in terms of exposure. Their lead single from The Silent Force, Stand My Ground
, didn’t do as well as the previous number one hits Mother Earth
and Ice Queen
. Three years later, What Have You Done
did a little bit better, but by now the initial goth-rock hype had blown over. It became clear that from this point on, their real mainstream success had had its high point and would go nowhere but downwards. ‘And some things, that should not have been forgotten, where lost. History became legend, legend became myth, and for four long years, the band passed out of all knowledge. Until, when chance came, it created a new record’.
This record was 2011’s ‘The Unforgiven’. A bold concept piece that saw Within Temptation with renewed vigor. It sounded like the band was creating the music that they wanted to create for the first time: catchy, up-tempo anthems, retaining their personal sound but with more of a devil-may-care attitude. It was a big hit with their new target audience (switching from full on mainstream to long-time fans and the average rock enthusiast). How do you follow up on what many fans call your magnum opus though？ Well, Within Temptation opted to not even try, instead segueing into ‘Hydra’, a record that focused more on its collaborations with other artists. It wasn’t a big hit, but it did fine by its own rights.
The big question that rises after all this time: Is Within Temptation still relevant？ Do they still have something to say in the world of mainstream rock？ After listening to their new record ‘Resist’, my answer is: Well, yeah. Kind of.
Resist sees Within Temptation at their most poppy they’ve ever been. This is mainly due to two factors. Firstly, electronics have taken more of a foreground on ‘Resist’. This is plain from the very first second of the album, opening with a big synth lead, but continues throughout the album. Secondly, the production. Within Temptation have never been a metal band, but on this the guitars have been dialed down further, becoming more of the juice to fill up the frequencies and less the highlight that gives the music its punch, as on previous outings. That is not to say that I dislike the production, it’s very slick and does what it sets out to do, namely being radio-friendly rock music.
The songs themselves are also just that, radio-friendly, super anthemy rock songs that are catchy as all hell but don’t ever go into new or untrodden territory. The quality of the songwriting, especially on the first half of the album, is actually really good though. Without knowing which songs they chose as their singles, I could not tell from listening to the record. The first six songs all sounded like they could’ve been the lead single from ‘Resist’, which is tenement to the quality and catchiness of the songs present. Songs like The Reckoning
, Endless War
are laden with hooks and are singalong material before the song is even finished.
It is a difficult art to figure out what made previous records work and even more difficult to build on that. With ‘Resist’, Within Temptation put together the two things that (apparently) worked best on their last two records:
1. A concept record to give cohesion to the songs, and
2. The collaboration with other artists.
Although the first is a little forgettable and feels like something added on top to create a cohesive live experience, the second actually works out pretty well. Although Sharon van Adel is her own force to be reckoned with and exceptionally consistent, her voice tends to get on the tedious side after a while. The addition of Jacoby Shaddix, Anders Friden and Jasper Steverlinck works to break this somewhat, and adds more dynamics to the songs (even though they are not up to snuff in the vocal department in comparison to van Adel).
With 10 songs averaging 4,5 minutes per song, the album flies by without any filler material. The flow would’ve been excellent, but has a big problem. Every single song on Resist is either a big mid-tempo anthem or a ballad/slower piece. This makes the individual songs very enjoyable, but listened to as a single entity it makes the second half of the album blend together. It could have really done with a big fast banger like In The Middle of the Night
from ‘The Unforgiven’ to spice things up a little in the second half of the record.
For people that have enjoyed music from Within Temptation previously, there is little to dislike here. It’s still super catchy, quality mainstream rock material. People that already dislike their bombastic, poppy approach will loathe this just as much as their other records, so this will definitely not win over any haters. Yet it knows what it sets out to do and does so convincingly, without any bumps or stumbles.