Within-Temptation-HydraI’ll admit to liking the early Within Temptation output like Mother Earth and The Silent Force. Sure, they were a dime-a-dozen, female-fronted gothic metal act with more gloss and slickness than the complete works of Glee, but the song-writing was consistently sharp and catchy without sounding too commercialized or fake and Sharon den Adel had big, captivating… vocals. Things started to drift for me by the time The Heart of Everything came along and though it had some good songs, it also felt more forced and AOR. I paid scant attention to 2011s The Unforgiven and didn’t really want to review this one, but hey, somebody had to do it and I wanna be somebody!

Hydra is more or less a continuation of the career path these Dutch goth-mongers have set for themselves and it’s full of slick, commercialized, gothic puffery with an increasingly minimal underpinning of metal. It also features a dizzying and often puzzling selection of guest vocalists, few of which actually help and one really hurts. The above average writing that once kept the band aloft in a sea of clones is still evident on some songs, but like their metal roots, it’s getting more thin, threadbare and elusive. In a nutshell, Hydra is a collection of shiny, vocal-driven goth-rock tunes with simplistic, underwhelming and essentially irrelevant guitars placed far in the back. Sometimes it works, more often it’s boring and as substantial as plastic dining ware. Naturally, it’ll sell a zillion albums.

Opener “Let Us Burn” is the 800 lb. gorilla of the set, with all the passion and urgency of their old material, filtered through the business sense of commercial radio. Sharon owns these kind of big, bombastic set pieces like few other singers can and she sounds great here, especially on the chorus which pops with power and poise. This one could have been on The Silent Force and it’s definitely a winner.

within-temptation_2014In a vertigo-inducing drop in quality, “Dangerous” reeks of a desperate attempt to attract the “modern metal” set with amped up, but horribly bland metalcore riffing, screamo keyboards and the dubious inclusion of Howard Jones (Killswitch Engage) on guest vocals. Can you say hackneyed sellout? Steel Druhm can. They recover with the mega-catchy, anthemic “And We Run” and Sharon sounds great on the simple, elegant chorus which is draped with modest symphonics. Then come the rap vocals from Xzibit (yeah, I never heard of him either) who sounds like a fifth-rate, post-SVU Ice T. These out-of-place and cringe-inducing raps completely torpedo the song and had me laughing whenever I could stop sneering, chortling and harrumphing (Mr. Bit rapping “I crush every motherfucking thing I touch” as Sharon coos and trills angelically in the background is destined to be a musical low point of 2014 and beyond). In a more sensible move, “Paradise” pairs Sharon with Tarja of Nightwish fame and the two song birds make quite a compelling duet on a formulaic, but memorable goth rocker. Sadly, they take the workable chorus and beat it so far into the ground through repetition, you’ll be sick of it after a few listens.

From there, Hydra goes into drift mode, with the sleepy but acceptable ballad “Edge of the World,” the semi-competent, Theatre of Tragedy-esque beauty-and-the-beast metal on “Silver Moonlight” and sub par goth rock of “Dog Days.” “The Whole World is Watching” features guest vocals by Dave Pirner (Soul Asylum), but he adds absolutely nothing to the generic balladry and they could have had almost any male vocalist outside of Danzig and Abbath sing his lines and achieved the same amount of meh.

Sharon_2014Though Sharon always sounds great and impresses with her power and range, the backing music is so flat and nondescript they might as well not even credit the band. It’s just a wash of simple, uninspired riffs, generic solos and dull back line play. Add to that an ever-increasing tendency to repeat a chorus until it hurts and make nonsensical guest selections and you have a band that sounds out of ideas, frantically trying to latch onto several trends at once, some of which have been over for years and are best left in the grave (no offense, your Ice-T-ness).

When diminishing returns clash with transparent attempts at crass commercialism, the metal fan feels the sads. If you love goth-rock and don’t care how unmetal it sounds, I suppose bits and pieces of this may hit the spot, but a lot of it is too dull to leave much of an impression. Shambolic album aside, I still love you, Sharon.


Rating: 2.0/5.0
Label: Roadrunner Records
Websites: within-temptation.com  |  facebook.com/wtofficial?ref=ts
Release Dates: EU: 2014.31.01  |  NA: 02.04.2014

 

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  • replica

    I’d buy it if I could hear her boobs.

  • Игорь Чернов

    Damn right Review

  • Dave

    Yo Dawg, I herd you like Goth rock, so I put some Goth in your rock so you can Goth while you rock.

  • Jón Aldará

    Couldn’t agree more. I have a buddy (a great metal aficionado whose opinions on music I highly respect) who still swears to this band and digs their new stuff. I loved Mother Earth and The Silent Force, but there is something indescribably bland and Evanescence-y to WT now that makes them sound like they belong on radio in the early ’00’s. Add to that the inclusion of Howard Jones and Xzibit, who both peaked pretty much in that aforementioned musical era, and you have something completely irrelevant for today’s music scene. It’s like if I started a band that aimed for that classic Staind-sound. It’s over, and it’s not going to have a resurgence anytime soon.

  • Mikko Ojanen

    Everything between The Silent Force and The Unforgiving puts me to sleep in three seconds flat, but The Unforgiving is actually really good, which surprised the shit out of me. There’s a ton of energy on that album and plenty of ridiculously catchy pop-rock tunes.

    This whole questionable guest vocalist malarkey though…. yeah, sad affair. Paradise is a damn nice song though and I don’t even mind the repetition, but overall I’m not convinced in the least.

    Still love Sharon, though.

    EDIT: Unforgiving, not Unforgiven.

    • nunka

      The Unforgiving had a really irresistible 80’s pop energy to it. Was it metal? Barely. But personally I think it was WT’s best work, and yes, I’ve heard and enjoyed their first two albums. I don’t see the same downward spiral others do with this band.

      But, yeah, Hydra kind of sucks (and kind of doesn’t, in a few places). The guest vocals are particularly embarrassing. This one’s definitely a step down.

  • JWG

    I am definitely a fan of big, captivating ‘vocals’; but those are hardly in short supply elsewhere.

    I could probably stand to listen to the Tarja duet more than once though. It’s predictably mediocre, but not in an entirely off-putting way.

    • That’s what I look for in music: not entirely off-putting.

  • Hydra is a very big disappointment. I really liked the last couple of albums but this one sounds so tired and formulaic. The rapping is embarrassing and the fact there’s four guest vocalists is a clear sign of a band running out of ideas.

    There’s nothing interesting in the music – the guitar riffs sound like they could have just been triggered by a kick drum. The result is an album that sounds like euro-disco with a nod to metal. There’s the occasional solo – but they sound phoned in. As though the producer took the first take and said “that will do”.

    I liked the track with Tarja and I liked the track with the rapping on when the rapping wasn’t happening (so I liked it less the further it went along) but apart from that I have to say this record isn’t just disappointing, it’s plain bad.

    This will be the first Within Temptation album I don’t buy (I’ve listened to it several times via my Google All Access subscription). Ironically it looks like Hydra is going to be a huge hit here in the UK – the bands biggest launch – and they are about to play Wembley Arena. It’s a real shame it wasn’t doing so with better material. Compare this Hydra rubbish with the epic Black Symphony gig.

    • sickbroski

      “the fact there’s four guest vocalists is a clear sign of a band running out of ideas”

      Yet no one said the same about Angra.

  • Finn

    The Silent Force is “early Within Temptation” now?

    • sathriel

      Shhh, Mr. Druhm has his years, Enter might have slipped his memory.

      Seriously tho, the rpoduction on Enter might be subpar to its follow-ups but it is definitely most metal of their output. And a good album to boot.

      • I didn’t forget Enter, it just didn’t blow me away.

        • Finn

          I just don’t consider The Silent Force to be “early WT” in that it’s on that album that they found the sound they’ve been sticking with ever since, more or less.

  • lselilja

    Within Temtation went down from Mother Earth, it’s a shame that this is how they have ended up. So commercialized and glossy, no substance.

  • Sander

    What, nobody mentioned Enter? In my opinion, that’s still their best album. I should say though, that I haven’t heard anything after The Silent Force from them.

    • Feytalist

      Word. Enter was a great little album, especially considering it was their first. And I *have* heard the rest of their stuff. Mother Earth is still one of my favourites.

      Shame, though. Sharon has a beautiful voice.

    • Remo

      Enter is how I found Within Temptation, and I ended up being disappointed that none of their other albums were as good (though they do have some good easy-listening songs here and there, and I’ll gladly listen to them on low while driving). Enter kind of reminds me of Theatre of Tragedy when they had Liv.

  • Mike Eckman

    I guess it makes sense to review this immediately after Stomp 442. After all, they both have rapping! Awwww snap! Who knows maybe we’ll get some Insane Clown Possee as the trifecta! :)

  • Kalsten

    You should review the new Behemoth album. It is so great that I cannot believe it!

  • Borja

    Pretty good album…and for me the Rap song is amongst the best of it. I think Hydra has two parts, one where they show some unbelievable catchy songs with a very commercial feel to them, and a second part where they deliver songs that needs to be heard several times. Overall Hydra doesn´t surpass their previous album imo, but they can be pretty proud of this new installment.

  • Art Lumidraco

    as a big WT fan, i have to agree; Unforgiven wasnt exactly as good as Silent Force or Mother Earth, but i could save half of that album, Hydra on the other hand…almost put me to sleep, and it saddens me how most reviews represent it as the next big thing this year, when it clearly isnt…
    The album is so repetitive, it has too many duets that, besides Tarja’s, make no sense and add nothing to the songs.

  • Remo

    When this album first came out, I went on youtube to listen to it and I couldn’t listen to any of the songs all the way through except for Paradise. They were just so bad. Even Paradise is mediocre and far too repetitive, with its only saving grace imo being Tarja’s contribution.

  • Grymm

    That music video for “And We Run”… *WHISTLES HORRIBLY*

  • James Hampton

    This is a wonderful entry piece to their work for those who are entirely new to this genre of music, you can hear the range of work in these songs.

  • Tofu muncher

    Dangerous is pretty nice IMO