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Album Reviews : Within Temptation – Hydra

By on March 30, 2014

File:Within Temptation-Hydra.jpgIt must be said that Within Temptation are an amazing band. They’ve produced some incredible albums and songs over the years, and Sharon den Adel’s vocals are magical, and if you’re like me, you can’t help but smile listening to their material. Hydra is the latest entry from the Dutch symphonic metal maestros, and to put it plain, it’s majestic.

Where on some albums you listen to the guest vocals can feel forced in and unnecessary, on Hydra it’s the complete opposite. The guest vocals on display here only serve to heighten what was already an epic and beautiful experience. I was completely enchanted by the aural fervour swelling over me while I listened to this album. Excuse the poetic wankery there, but it felt valid in the moment.

I can’t say enough about this album. I haven’t listened to a symphonic/melodic metal album that has gotten me this excited since, well, not since Nightwish’s Wishmaster – which is a long ways back and houses in my opinion what still is one of the best symphonic metal songs ever produced, “Dead Boy’s Poem”. I’m left in awe at just how good and versatile Within Temptation is on this record. They shine in full force with Hydra displaying every band member’s strengths in marvellous fashion. And aside from the fact the production level on this album is very high, that isn’t even the best part of it. The band feels so in sync with one another here and the musicianship and vocalisation used is some of the finest currently in the scene.

Opening on a great note with “Let Us Burn”, you’re immediately drawn into this album and it holds that benevolent grasp over you throughout. Opting for a varied musical experience this time round, as guitarist Robert Westerholt said about the concept, ‘“Hydra” is a perfect title for our new album, because like the monster itself, the record represents the many different sides of our music.’ Within Temptation have certainly delivered on that concept with guest spots featuring unexpected but interesting candidates for this style of metal. Knocking out much of their guest spots in the first few songs, Howard Jones (of Killswitch Engage and Blood Has Been Shed fame) fits in nicely in track “Dangerous”, his vocals expertly complementing Sharon’s. The next track was what immediately grabbed my attention though. The guest vocals for the song “And We Run” is provided by rapper Xzibit. Pimp My Ride anyone? Yeah, that Xzibit. Chiming in around the midway point what may sound like a strange idea in theory – combining West Coast hip hop/rap with symphonic metal – actually works surprisingly well here. Within Temptation approached it smart with this one. Giving Sharon a beautifully composed chorus, complemented by an epic orchestral arrangement, Xzibit fits in nicely with the mould of the band, his vocals weaving their way around Sharon’s own as well as Mike Coolen’s drum patterns without one or the other ever overpowering the next. The result is a stunning and incredibly well arranged song that really surprised me on first listen, and is actually an awesome track! Albeit, it does end rather abruptly.

Next up is the song Within Temptation released as their first single, “Paradise (What About Us?)”, performed alongside the always amazing Tarja Turunen. This song is brilliant for the fact it combines both the strengths of Within Temptation and Tarja’s eponymous project. The result, you ask? A magnificent exercise in symphonic metal majesty that lifts you up and carries you through sonic, orchestral fields so gorgeously arranged they’re mindboggling. There’s something magical about when you take two vocalists as wonderful and musically gifted as Sharon and Tarja and put them on the same track. Honestly, if Ailyn of Sirenia and Simone Simons of Epica had also been present here, I think my mind would quite literally have blown from an acute case of epicness-overload.

Lastly is the closer of the album. Featuring Dave Pirner of alternative rock group Soul Asylum, “Whole World Is Watching” is a wonderful track that incorporates alternative rock with symphonic metal producing something quite unlike anything else I’ve heard in recent years. It’s a great closer for the album and ends the album on an equally high note.

Again, I can’t say enough about Hydra. There isn’t a dull moment throughout this whole release, and I’d go so far as to say it’s one of the best albums Within Temptation has recorded in recent memory. The album only seems to grow from strength to strength with each track. There’s just such power and variance behind each of these songs and it’s intriguing – both as a listener and fan of this style of metal – to witness what they have created with this album.

Hydra is a breathtaking experience and one largely separate from anything else I’ve seen or heard in the metal world today. Whether you’re already a fan of this style of metal or not versed in it in the slightest, this is regardless a record I highly recommend to anyone. And if you pick up the special edition, you’ll be spoiled with covers from the likes of Imagine Dragons, and interestingly, Enrique Iglesias, alongside a series of remixes of tracks from Hydra labelled as ‘Evolution Tracks’. There’s something special here that can be garnered by everyone through listening to this release. I know it’s still early days too, but Hydra has definitely jumped high up my list for the ‘Best of 2014’.

Bravo, Within Temptation. That’s all I can say.

Band: Within Temptation
Album: Hydra
Year: 2014
Genre: Symphonic Metal
Label: Nuclear Blast Records
Origin: Netherlands
www.within-temptation.com

Tracklisting:

1. Let Us Burn
2. Dangerous (feat. Howard Jones)
3. And We Run (feat. Xzibit)
4. Paradise (What About Us?) (feat. Tarja)
5. Edge of the World
6. Silver Moonlight
7. Covered By Roses
8. Dog Days
9. Tell Me Why
10. Whole World Is Watching (feat. Dave Pirner)

Special Edition Bonus Tracks
11. Radioactive (Imagine Dragons cover)
12. Summertime Sadness (Lana Del Ray cover)
13. Let Her Go (Passenger cover)
14. Dirty Dancer (Enrique Iglesias cover)
15. And We Run
16. Silver Moonlight
17. Covered By Roses
18. Tell Me Why

About

Jonathon is an aspiring fantasy/sci-fi novelist and music journalist. Thanks to the influence of the music he grew up with, he has always possessed a keen interest in metal and rock. He is also a huge fan of mythology, legend, and folklore from all across the world. You should follow him on Twitter.