Sound — 7
Within Temptation first emerged from the hellfires of the gothic metal underground in 1996. In contrast to their later years which have been driven by bolstering symphonic metal, Within Temptation began their career by trying their hands at several varying metal subgenres; the Dutch metal band took the doom metal approach for their debut studio effort, 1997's "Enter." When it came to recording their next album three years later, Within Temptation merged into celtic metal territory for "Mother Earth." As far as discovering the focus for ones sound, it was "third time's the charm" for Within Temptation, who laid their claim on the symphonic metal genre for their 2004 studio effort, "The Silent Force."
Ever since the release of their third album, Within Temptation have remained dedicated to the symphonic metal genre. The band has since gone on to release multiple acclaimed efforts which sit amongst an ever increasing catalog. Within Temptation also have issued a handful of live albums throughout the years, their most recent being 2009's "An Acoustic Night at the Theatre," which showed the more-often-than-not raging group sitting down for an intermediate unplugged live session. While fans have become accustomed to ranging gaps within the group's discography, Within Temptation made the three year wait between their recently released studio album "Hydra" and 2011's "The Unforgiving" by issuing a covers compilation last year, which showed the band giving their own renditions of mainstream pop music.
Some of the songs from "The Q-Music Sessions" make an appearance as bonus tracks on Within Temptation's "Hydra," such as a cover of Imagine Dragons' "Radioactive" and Enrique Iglesias' "Dirty Dancer," both of which have since been heavily reimagined with gloomy guitar work and Sharon den Adel's ranging vocals. Moving on to the newly released material, "Hydra" shows Within Temptation progressing in the same direction as previously indicated on "The Unforgiving." No radical changes in musical style to be found here, and that's just how Within Temptation fans want it. This is a new collection of songs vividly decorated in the signature Within Temptation sound, kickstarted by the menacing guitar work of "Dangerous," which features a guest appearance by ex-Killswitch Engage vocalist Howard Jones, who takes command during the song's chorus. The prototypical synthesizers of the progressive metal genre welcome the listener to "Paradise," before punishing distortion joins the mix and returns us back into familiar territory. Similar to "Dangerous," Within Temptation shows the band joining forces with another guest musician, and this time it's former Nightwish singer Tarja Turunen who can be heard providing vocal harmonies with Adel. "Whole World Is Watching" brings yet another guest singer into the fold, Dave Pirner (Soul Asylum), who serves as a foundation for Adel's soaring vocals during the chorus on this lighter toned rocker. "Let Us Burn" is a guitar-driven anthem, and the first forty seconds shows the instrumental section of Within Temptation taking charge.
Lyrics — 8
Within Temptation lead vocalist Sharon den Adel's vocal range has only appeared to have strengthened throughout the band's nearly two decade long history, which allows Adel to create plenty of memorable vocal harmonies and captivating moments on lead. On "Let Us Burn," Adel showcases her singing abilities as she creates the majority of melodies on her own, singing of off herself while hitting some impressive highs. Adel's acapella vocal style has remained very much intact since Within Temptation's debut, which naturally attributes plenty of familiar qualities throughout this new studio effort. These same qualities are further enhanced when backed by the solid instrumental section which comprises the rest of Within Temptation, leading towards an ultimately applaudable, collective return-to-form.
Overall Impression — 8
With their sixth studio album "Hydra," Within Temptation execute a bold compilation of progressive metal which could easily stand toe-to-toe with the strongest of their previously released material. There isn't a weak track in the eighteen song bundle, something not too many groups can claim to have achieved. While it would have been more enjoyable for dedicated fans to have all previously released recordings comprise the album's "Bonus Tracks" division, for those Within Temptation fans who haven't been tightly observing every move the band has made over the past three years it is a hastily welcomed addition. Any symphonic metal fan should have no problem enjoying this new effort, as should established followers.