Within Temptation – The Silent Force
17/01/2005 § Leave a comment
I think a lot of us had given up any hope for Within Temptation, I know I certainly had. The fans were nearly insulted with years’ worth of re-releases and we had got just a little sick of Mother Earth. There was a time when I was convinced that the Dutch fivesome were going to the dogs and their flame would fizzle out over the next couple of years while the rest of us would sit around musing about the days of a band called Within Temptation who produced two wonderful albums but who got strangled by the bureaucracy of the music scene and the fact that they were trying to fill a niche that was getting filled up pretty quickly by other bands.
The Gothic Metal scene is now rising to the surface, becoming more mainstream, and is being redefined in the process, or at least people’s perceptions of it are. Evanescence broke the mould and clearly WT are going to be the next to attempt success with the bigger players. This is no more obvious that after hearing Stand My Ground, which has some nu-metal guitar riffing, an intentionally catchy chorus, Sharon singing in a more acceptable mainstream fashion and such a clichéd, simple song-structure that Sum 41 would be proud of them. And I think that WT would be the first to admit this.
Clearly the focus behind the band has changed, but this is not altogether a bad thing. After all, in the two albums that came before this there was a dash of musical development in there, albeit it not a sensational one. On Enter we saw Robert give his all on the death vocals which went beautifully with Sharon’s sultry voice. These disappeared on the annoyingly conceptual Mother Earth which was, apart from the fact that it felt a need to address the environment through a cod-Wiccan way, a very good piece of work and stood firmly and respectfully in the Gothic Metal scene along such greats as After Forever’s Decipher and Tristania’s World Of Glass. Now we see yet another development in the sound, but like last time, it’s not a great one. If any word could describe The Silent Force, it would be ‘bombastic’, and it’s not a word I like to use because it has ghetto overtones. It’s hard to believe that WT could produce music any more bombastic than the shunting, buffering battering-ram of sound that we were greeted with on Mother Earth. Still, Within Temptation have successfully gone one stage further and amazingly, we’re left not feeling too overwhelmed by the experience.
Once thing is for sure, The Silent Force is an avalanche of sound. I was a little discouraged by the fact that the first track was called Intro, which has ‘filler’ written all over it, but I was pleasantly surprised that this was in fact a choral number with some beautiful strings and Sharon singing over the top. Another cliché? Maybe, but you can’t deny when you hear it that it is a great start to the album, a very tasty appetizer before See Who I Am hits you square in the face with a wonderfully brusque, brash but stunning intro sequence. The guitars and orchestration are in full force here and the punchy backing demands your attention without letting your mind wonder. There’s something angry in the beauty behind the music, a thread of the devilish running through an otherwise angelic euphony. The next track, Gillian, is one of the best numbers that WT have produced. The music is so grand it could be used for a film, for a requiem, for a musical, for anything that commands powerful and stirring symphonics. Sharon may not be singing as her old self since there is none of that higher-register warbling that we came to love on Mother Earth and that made men and women swoon over her melodies, but no-one can deny that she is a good vocalist, in spite of the fact that she is clearly holding back her talents a little here, which is a shame since we know what she is capable of producing, so in this case the album feels like a tiny shuffle back.
Stand My Ground is one of the biggest attempts at a mainstream smash on the album, along with Angel, the title of which makes me feel a little sick, since if one word is overused in Gothic Metal it’s ‘angel’, I think that it should be banned from the genre for the next ten years to see if production at this end of the scene hits an all-time low, and it’s because of things like this that bands are in danger of being typecast more than they already are. It’s The Fear is also a little mainstream, but it becomes clear by the end of the album that any concerns about WT going into the wider market should now be fully accepted and we will all have to deal with it. WT will be moving on to please a wider and less fussy audience and we can either miss out on the good music like whiny traditionalists or cease to be so pragmatic and go along for the ride.
In spite of the fact that at the beginning of the album I thought that The Silent Force was going to be a sweet, fun-for-all-the-family Jolly Rancher of pussy metal, by the end I was completely stunned by its quality. Ballad-esque numbers such as Pale may be a little annoying, but someone out there is sure to like them and it’s all part of the WT package. The Silent Force is quite a remarkable album in its magnificence and I get the impression that making it was certainly no easy task. Every song has the WT grandeur to it and the refrains and melodies are beautifully heavy and addictive. I’m not sure if I would call this strictly metal, we’re veering into the territory of Gothic Nu-Metal and it will be interesting to see how other established bands choose to follow this and which bands are formed and inspired as a result.
The only problem, and quite a big one, is that The Silent Force, like Mother Earth, is the kind of album that you will play indefinitely for a couple of weeks and then hardly listen to again. It has little true essence, little endurance, it’s like amyl nitrate or ecstasy, a Gothic drug that gives you a huge hit but which you could still live without if you had to. Nevertheless, while you are under its influence, the rush it will give you is undeniably and unashamedly pleasurable.