Sunday, May 13, 2007

The return of Within Temptation

Before I get into the meat-and-potatoes of this review, I'll first share how I got into this great band.

My mother told me that all the rock and metal (read: Godsmack and Disturbed; before that, Metallica) had evolved from the blues, of which she was a big fan. I couldn't disagree, and as I listened more, I came to believe that. Until 2003...

I had finally given in, and bought the Evanescence album Fallen. I liked it alright, but it didn't really hold my interest long. Some of the songs were good, but they suffered from being overplayed on the radio, and those that weren't were so similar to the ones that were - after a couple months I was looking for something more.

A Russian guy I knew online just would not shut up about this band he liked, Nightwish. It was by mere chance that I discovered them, though. I was looking for homemade music videos on a filesharing network. I had DSL and a pretty big hard drive to fill. When I saw one that used Nightwish's song "The End of All Hope" from their Century Child album, I was hooked. I bought Century Child and loved every bit of it. I bought every one of their albums. Nightwish are not descended, musically, from the blues, but from classical. Their songs are each symphonies that use heavy metal instruments. The vocals can only be described as opera. This creates the most amazing sound I've heard, if a bit loud.

Nightwish remained one of my favorite bands - not because they were heavier than any popular American metal band, but because they made some of the most beautiful music I'd ever heard. I've been a fairly big fan of Enya since her album A Day Without Rain, and I'd always wondered how she'd do fronting a metal band. If the metal band were Iron Maiden, they'd sound a lot like Nightwish.

But I knew there had to be more. I listened to a lot of poor and mediocre music in the gothic rock and symphonic rock; for fairness I will name no names. These bands weren't bad, they just didn't do anything for me. My wife said it best with one, that it was background music, while Nightwish commands your attention; it's the main act. Finally I found one that just spoke to me. Within Temptation. I got their then-latest album Mother Earth. This was mid-to-late 2004. I remember thinking "so this is the new Nightwish".

I couldn't have been more wrong. Within Temptation proved to be somewhere between Evanescence and Nightwish. They had the general sound of Evanescence, but the quality and symphonic prowess of Nightwish, and some of Nightwish's power. But Within Temptation were more melodic, with a lot of nature themes. In fact, a couple songs were a little over-the-top. I did not like the album at first, but at work found myself wanting to hear it again. I liked it on the second listen.

A couple short months later I found out they had released a new album, The Silent Force. I loved it the first time I played it. They had mostly dropped the nature theme (which was probably exclusive to the Mother Earth album) and had a raw power which just sucked me in. I can say with assured confidence and no doubt that The Silent Force is the best album of 2004, at least the one which impressed me the most. I can't say anything bad about the album. This is the sound that lesser, diluted, and more popular bands such as Evanescence and Lacuna Coil are going for but do not quite hit.

Enya is Irish. Yuki Kajiura is Japanese. Nightwish are Finnish and Within Temptation are Dutch. I've since come to the conclusion that amazingly beautiful music mostly lies outside my home country's borders.

On with the story, now.

So I'm posting on a message board about music that would go with a book series I love (more on that in a future blog) and someone mentions a couple Within Temptation songs I don't recognize. I scratch my head for a moment, then it dawns on me. So I search Amazon (from within Firefox, of course) for Within Temptation, and sure enough they've put out an album almost 2 months ago. Because Within Temptation are virtually unknown in America, and I'm not a member of any forum dedicated to them, or mailing list of the same, I had no way of knowing.

Naturally, I bought it immediately: The Heart of Everything.

I have only heard THOE once. Well, all but the last track. I listened to it on the way to work and on the way home. As The Silent Force did, The Heart of Everything amazed me on the first listen. But unlike The Silent Force, no tracks really stood out, except for "What Have You Done?" and that's just because it features a male guest vocalist. It's going to stand out to everyone.

I love this album, naturally because of Within Temptation's past efforts, and I will endeavor over the next week or so to discover what makes The Heart of Everything special in its own right.

I really don't know how my wife feels about Within Temptation. It's obvious she doesn't like them as much as Nightwish. I can't say for sure as I do, but Nightwish have since broken up. The vocalist, the amazing Tarja Turunen, is confirmed released from the band. The rest of the band have promised to continue on, but I feel that Tarja made the band (although it was her bandmate
Tuomas Holopainen who penned most of the material) and therefore I have more faith in Tarja's upcoming solo album, 'My Winter Storm', than any future Nightwish material - but will of course check both out. Since Nightwish's fallout, I've began to hold Within Temptation in slightly higher regard. I will always love Nightwish's albums Century Child and Oceanborn, but let's face it - Once is the end of Nightwish as we know them.

Regardless of anyone's opinion of them, Within Temptation are one of my favorite bands. If you like beautiful music or any kind of gothic pop, rock, or metal, you'd be doing yourself a favor by checking out their albums. You can click on the album titles (the first time they're mentioned) and Amazon should have clips you can listen to. Also, anything you buy through my Amazon links gets me a little kick-back, so if you like it, you can thank me for hooking you up while you support a great band.

I do realize Within Temptation's albums are a tad bit more expensive. I look at it like this: you can get most music for about the same price in the store, online, etc. But you can also eat off the McDonalds dollar menu, or you can go to a place like Olive Garden. Both will fill you up and satisfy you somewhat, but one is much higher quality. Within Temptation isn't necessarily the best band out there, but they are of higher quality than their American counterparts. Plus, these CDs are imports - Nightwish is distributed domestically by Roadrunner. American support of Within Temptation should bring an American distributor and therefore lower prices. So it'll work itself out - should, anyway.

Thank you for reading. I know it's long, but if you read my blog, you'll come to expect that. When I read, I prefer long (600+ page) books. I write long posts/blogs and I write long letters. It is what it is, I suppose.


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