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The Heart Of Everything CD Cover
image © Within Temptation 2007

Within Temptation 2007
image © Within Temptation 2007

Sharon Den Adel
image © Joseph Voncken 2007

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(09 December 2007) Dutch Symphonic rock group Within Temptation return after 2005's The Silent Force with a new, hugely anticipated release entitled The Heart Of Everything (Roadrunner Records (UK), RR 8003-8, 2007) With third album The Silent Force, the band formed an album cited by many as their best yet, showcasing a powerful blend of orchestral, epic instrumentation carried via the soaring melodies of iconic vocalist Sharon Den Adel. The album was lauded with positive reviews, as Within Temptation's popularity exploded across the globe and the band cemented their place as one of the most renowned and respected acts within their genre.

So to album number four: The Heart Of Everything. Where the challenge arises in being able to follow up the huge impact and success of The Silent Force and prove Within Temptation are a band still at the peak of their powers. Yet, despite the promising platform the band had set themselves to build upon, The Heart Of Everything is not nearly the album it could, and should have been. Taken as a whole, the album is a solid slab of accessible, symphonic rock that contains all the elements Within Temptation thrive upon. The album is filled with waves of symphonic keyboard work and thick, distorted guitar riffs backed by a solid rhythm section of driving bass and confident drumming. Sharon's vocals rise above the epic instrumentation and hold a flowing, diverse quality throughout, as whispered passages mix with those letting Sharon showcase a more aggressive edge than usual as she puts in an impressive performance.

These qualities surely make for just what the fans expected and hoped for this new release? Most certainly, yes. But the crucial difficulty with The Heart Of Everything is a disappointing lack of adventure, progression, indeed freshness to the song structures and overall delivery of the album that merely frustrates, leaving the listener craving something less recycled and more inventive. Clearly, Within Temptation are a talented band with the ability to push forward, yet there is a lingering feeling of a regression left after a focused, honest listen in an album that should be far more memorable than it is.

The album starts strongly enough, a moving mixture of piano and floating vocal work introduces opener "The Howling" before crashing into choir work and heavy guitar riffage in a song that presents the best of the band. It's catchy, driving and has a huge, epic chorus thriving upon Sharon's longing vocals. Following up with single "What Have You Done" the deep, looming guest vocals of Keith Caputo conjure an exciting duel with those of the delicate Sharon. They join forces for a dramatic chorus, and the song is peppered with piano and keyboards in possibly the album's strongest moment.

Yet as the album progresses, songs being to fade into one another, sounding too much like the last as the real edge, excitement and energy found in the opening tracks disappears. "Our Solemn Hour" is built upon a unmoving, slow-paced choir chant in a song that doesn't seem to really go anywhere and whilst the powerful production shines through, the song-writing quality of the band sadly fails to. Title track "The Heart Of Everything" presents a pained, stretched vocal performance from Sharon that would be effective if the instrumentation didn't consist of the steady, constant riffing and drum work that the band have produced so often before, resulting in a chorus that passes by without the memorability or lasting power of the earlier tracks.

Hidden amongst the weaker moments of the album, though, is a little gem in the form of ballad "All I need". Introduced by gentle acoustic pluckings, joined by paper-thin drums and a sweeping performance from Sharon, it's a song which builds to a moving crescendo of cello, emotive vocal melodies and crashing guitar work in a moving example of the band at their most impacting.

It seems The Heart Of Everything was always going to be a huge album for Within Temptation. Pressure to build on the plaudits and success gained from The Silent Force meant that it was also going to be a difficult one. Will this album satisfy the fans? In a sense, yes. It's a pleasant listen, containing all the elements that you'd expect from the symphonic rock act. At times it is even a great listen, namely focusing on the promising opening two tracks. Yet the majority of the album seems to be filled with song-structures, melodies and instrumentation we've heard before, and indeed executed more memorably on previous albums. The risk of innovation, gamble of experimentation could have made this album something special, yet you can't help coming away feeling a little flat, a touch disappointed that the band seemed to have taken a safe, 'secure' route this time around and in doing so have taken a step back, rather than that essential step forward.--Jim Hall in Derby, England

(19 June 2007) The Heart Of Everything is Within Temptation's proper introduction to American audiences, however the band have a massive following overseas and have released three previous albums to critical acclaim.Their latest offering is their first for major label Roadrunner Records and will likely be seen as a pivotal album in the bandís already impressive career. Within Temptation's sound has been altered quite a lot on The Heart of Everything.

The most noticeable change long time fans will immediately hear is the hard rock orientation. Although elements of the band's orchestral gothic sound are not lost in an overall sense, much of this album is very straightforward sounding hard rock. This sound will inevitably end up drawing more Evanescence comparisons than need be, but Sharon Den Adel handles the vocal changes very well and, if nothing else, proves she is a very diverse vocalist.

"The Howling" opens the floodgates in a similar fashion to the band's previous albums. It's big and bombastic but exhibits much more of the aforementioned rock sound. It's almost as if it starts out traditionally and ends up establishing the band as an entirely new entity. "What Have You Done," the album's lead single, cements the fact that this is going to be a less beautiful and more angst-ridden album than expected. The song features Keith Caputo (Life of Agony) alongside Den Adel and, quite honestly they sound very good together.

It's not until the more operatic "Our Solemn Hour" hits that you begin to truly see the duality of The Heart of Everything. Vocally this is much more akin to the band's 2004 release, The Silent Force. "The Truth Beneath the Rose" is the only true nod to the band'ís past however, musically and vocally fully assuming the operatic sound that garnered the band a lot of attention over the last few years. The title track, although more stylistically blended, also offers some of the more predominant elements of the band's former work. The song has a very tribal feel to it during the verses, and Den Adel's vocals are much harsher than many would have thought her capable of being.

The Heart of Everything is an incredible risk on the part of Within Temptation. The Evanescence comparisons will either propel this album to heights unimagined or it will destroy it. Most of this album sounds very little like what the band's established fanbase is expecting to hear but there is more than enough reason here for them to give it a chance and hopefully they will. Once the initial shock is over, it is actually a very well-crafted album. Those who enjoy strong female vocals that are both beautiful and aggressive lain over a mix of hard rock and progressiveness may want to give this emotionally draining album a good listen.--Mark Fisher in Fairmont, West Virginia

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