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album, dvd and ep reviews and artist reflections
Contributions © Charlie Farrell 2001
album covers and band images © DSFA Records 1997-2001
dvd box set cover © Within Temptation BV 2002
photos of Sharon den Adel © Joseph Voncken 2001-2002
images and photos used with permission
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Last updated: 27 December 2002
The evolution of Musical Discoveries led to our editors' exploration of progressive metal-edged bands from Northern Europe leading to reviews of Nightwish (Finland) [more, in concert] and After Forever (Netherlands) during the 2000 calendar year. A rapidly evolving collection bands with similar textures and equally uniquely stunning female vocalists were recording music our audience was certain to enjoy.
Within Temptation is a Dutch progressive metal band fronted by the incredible vocal prowess of Sharon den Adel. Like Tarja Turunen (Nightwish) and Floor Jansen (After Forever), Sharon is a soprano. Her crystalline voice can be most favourably compared to multi-platinum contemporary crossover artist Emma Shapplin. Within Temptation were actually one of the first "similar-to" groups that we identified to explore further—it just took a while. Their intense popularity coupled with a busy touring and recording schedule has regrettably precluded Musical Discoveries from completing a long-awaited interview, but our readers should wait no longer. Read our reviews of the music below.
Our editorial staff discovered several other must-listen albums by bands performing in a similar vein. In addition to our coverage of Nightwish and After Forever, visitors will certainly want to visit reviews of these progressive metal-edged bands: Brave (USA), Centuria (Poland), Charisma (Germany), Edenbridge (Austria), Rain Fell Within (USA) and Trancendence (Canada).
Enthusiasts should pay specific attention to one of 2001's best albums; in addition to the Within Temptation recordings reviewed below, be sure to check out our feature covering the Arjen Lucassen and Astrid Vanderveen project Ambeon (Netherlands) and their must-listen album Fate Of A Dreamer. The album shares some of the symphonic and Celtic textures found on Within Temptation's latest album Mother Earth, but more on that later. Our reviews of the latest recordings by Ayreon (Netherlands) Universal Migrator and Ayreonauts Only have also been extremely positive.
In addition to Sharon den Adel (vocals), Within Temptation has most recently been comprised of Robert Westerholt (guitars), Jeroen van Veen (bass), Ivar de Graaf (drums), Marjin Westerholt (keyboards), Martjin Spierenburg (keyboards) and Michiel Papenhove (guitars) [recently departed, but still runs the band's website]. The band was founded by Robert and [his then girlfriend] Sharon. Former members of Robert's band The Circle, Jeroen and Michiel were added; Robert's brother Martjin joined to play keyboards and Dennis Leeflang was added as the drummer. Shortly after Within Temptation signed to DFSA, Ivar de Graaf took over as the band's drummer and despite time away during 1998, he remains with the band today.
Mother Earth is Within Temptation's second full-length album, following on from their debut Enter. The Dance EP issued the following year, marked a slight departure from their early style with a (slight) reduction in the use of the harsh Death Metal (grunting) vocals of guitarist Robert Westerholt and a move to a softer, more symphonic sound—a move which continues further on their latest album. With that said, let's get into the reviews.
During the gap in band activities that followed, the band concentrated on their studies and careers with only singer Sharon Den Adel making an appearance on disc, performing on Ayreon's Into The Electric Castle and working with the After Forever on Prisoner Of Desire. She also provides backing vocals throughout rock opera Avantasia (Century Media (USA) 8039-2, 2001) by Tobias Sammet which is otherwise dominated by male vocalists. In Timo Tolkki's Hymn To Life (Nuclear Blast (USA) NB 0614, 2002) (review) Sharon provides a spellbounding performance of the tender ballad "Are You The One." The band's Mother Earth album is the most significiant development, blending progressive and Celitc overtones to support Sharon's stunning vocals and leaving most of the harsh metal edges well behind.
Enter. Within Temptation's debut album (DFSA (Netherlands) 1007, 1997) was initially released as an eight track project. The subsequent Japanese release (Avalon, MICP-10029, 2000) includes a lovely classical rendition of "Restless" as a bonus track. The band's progressive roots are evident in the epic length of three of the numbers, vast tempo changes and complex metal arrangements. First and foremost a female vocals album, it blends harder, metal-edged bits on and off.
The album's opening track is "Restless" which was released as a single backed with "Pearls Of Light" and the classical version at the time of Enter's release in April 1997. Moody orchestral arrangements during the track's intro are everso reminscent of After Forever's album Prisoner Of Desire. Thick metal-edged guitars dominate the latter part of the arrangement with vast solo excursions demonstrating the artists' virtuousity. Female vocal enthusiasts become hooked on Sharon's soaring and everso powerful high soprano lead from the outset.
Within Temptation's dark metal roots shine through in the title track and "Deep Within." In "Enter," heavy guitar riffs blend with Robert's dark metal vocals before Sharon's sweetly contrasting lead and lush keyboards enter the frenzy. Dramatic stylistic and significant tempo changes contribute to the interest of this complex piece. "Pearls Of Light" is presented in drastic contrast. The track begins as a gentle ballad with light intrumentation but develops into a more thickly arranged piece with guitars, keyboard and percussion supporting Sharon's powerful vocal lead.
"Gatekeeper," "Grace" and "Candles" blend Within Temptation's more aggressive metal-edged guitar with their obviously classically-influenced orchestral style. We especially enjoyed the striking tempo changes of the numbers liking the the grunting vocals less but patiently listening for Sharon's most delicately sung vocal parts.
The album comes out of darkness with "Blooded" a fast-paced orchestrally arranged metal instrumental. The guitar solo within the bridge is especially notable. Sharon's soaring vocals and a classically arranged piano part within "Candles" are simply stunning.
Our Japanese version includes the lovely classical version of "Restless," clearly illustrating the early artistic potential of the band. Sharon's soaring and evocatively sung lead vocal carries the tune and is supported only by the lightest of piano accompanyment although harmony choir parts from the keyboard add texture in between the verses.
The debut album by Within Temptation, despite its markedly harder edge than their later material, is a great introduction to Sharon den Adel and the fine musicianship of the band. Read further reviews, listen to soundbites and order the album from amazon.com here. Certainly worth a journey, this tremendous album, like other recordings by Within Temptation and Sharon den Adel, is a must listen!
The Dance (DSFA-1015). Released in 1998, five audio and one CD-ROM track comprise Within Temptation's follow-up EP to Enter. The CD-ROM portion, accessible only by computer, includes the classical version of "Restless" and other interesting multi-media segments. Broad electric guitar excursions join lush keyboards as Sharon's voice soars above the aggressive metal arrangement. The EP takes a heavy orchestral turn in the tracks that follow paving the way of the band's development towards Mother Earth,.
The lush orchestral arrangement in "Another Day" perfectly compliments the effects added to Sharon's calling vocal lead. While the band's metal roots clearly remain, powerful keyboards blend with guitar in harmonious melodies that work extremely well with Sharon's vocal power. A fast moving romp of heavy metal entitled "The Other Half Of Me" includes some very lush and orchestral keyboard arrangements. Significant tempo and style changes bring Sharon's voice right up front.
Two remixes conclude the EP. The track "Remix Restless" draws heavily from both the original version on Enter and the classical version offerred as a bonus track for the Japanese edition and included on this EP as a bonus. Dance-oriented percussion has been added and is only a slight distraction from the classical instrumentation, choir and Sharon's lovely lead. The EP's standout is the medley, "Remix Candles & Pearls of Light," a gentler and atmospherically rich—almost new agey—piece with soft choir, swirling electronic and piano instrumentation and Sharon's lovely vocalise excursions. Harder edges of the original versions were softented substantially this stunning and epic-length (9:03) remix.
The Dance is the first step of departure from Within Temptation's debut album Enter and will further entice listeners to appreciate the depth and range of Sharon den Adel's voice as well as the individual virtuousity of the band members. Read further reviews, listen to soundbites and order this stunning EP from amazon.com here. Certainly worth exploration, this small collection of next generation tracks from the band is a must listen!
Ice Queen. While at least two versions of the "Ice Queen" single have been made available in different European territories, the six-track version (DFSA 1026) is considered by many to be the most cherished. Common to the two track version (DFSA 1027) is the 3:48 radio edit of the title track.
The version pictured left features three live tracks recorded 11 February 2001 on the the Dutch national radio program "Leidse Kade Live" and early demos of studio tracks "Ice Queen" and "Caged."
The radio edit of "Ice Queen" is 30% shorter than the album version but is vocally just as strong with Sharon's voice soaring well above the rich instrumentation; percussion is notably more pronounced in the mix which appears to have been compressed for radio play as well.
An alternative live radio version of "Ice Queen" accompanied by violins, cello and acoustic guitar as well as keyboards can be found on the Mother Earth Tour DVD box set (review). In it Sharon sings initially in a lower key and then moves up to her normal soprano at the conclusion of the track.
The live recordings are incredibly well produced, especially for a radio program. "Mother Earth" is performed true-to-studio form, albeit with percussion having a rougher edge with symphonic instrumentation, choir and flute perfectly suporting Sharon's powerful soprano lead. The whistle part that introduces "Caged" and orchestrally lush arrangement is again superbly influenced by the rawness of live percussion but without hiding any of Sharon's and the choir's vocal parts. The live version of "Ice Queen" is similarly performed; evocative vocals are most stimulating.
The EP's demo tracks are essential recordings for serious Within Temptation enthusiasts. The "Ice Queen" (4:30) demo is significantly more lush in its metal arrangement-thick guitars outweigh the symphonic instrumentals of the final studio version but never overcome the power of Sharon's stunning vocal lead. The demo of "Caged" is arranged identically, with thick guitars carrying the arrangement. We especially enjoyed the power of, and effects added to, Sharon's soaring voice in the recording.
Although released after the Mother Earth album reviewed below, most copies of the 6-track EP were scooped up by loyal Within Temptation fans, but some are likely still available through online sources. Certainly worth seeking out especially for the live and demo tracks, it is an essential element of any serious enthusiast's collection. [CD reviews: Russ Elliot]
Mother Earth. The second full length album by Within Temptation, available as a two-CD special edition (DFSA (Netherlands) DFSA 1022, 2001) is comprised of 10 tracks; the second CD contains various multimedia elements and a bonus track. The presence of arranger Rene Merkelbach and a small choir makes a tremendous difference to their sound which is less harsh, more polished and definitely more symphonic than before, while the harder, more metallic edge is not obscured completely.
Lush keyboards and a choir greet the listener before the guitars enter and raise the tempo and heaviness of the title track. Sharon's vocals soar above everything else during the chorus and one is immediately impressed by the way in which they have incorporated the choral sections with the heaviness of the band's sound. Similarly with "The Ice Queen," which was also issued as a single in Holland. A powerful, up-tempo tune with bags of orchestration and a catchy vocal line that's easy to memorise, this was a real tour-de-force when the band played live recently, though unlikely to make much of an impact on the dance-orientated Dutch charts.
After the powerful opening tunes, we see the other side of the band and a simple mix of piano and orchestra accompany Sharon on "Our Farewell." A light, plaintive number in stark contrast to much of their earlier material, it is unlikely to displease your mum, or your grandmother for that matter! The lighter mood continues as woodwind and orchestral samples introduce the theme of "Caged" though, once Sharon's voice has entered the fray, it is clear that it's is not a happy tune. Singing of her anguish as a woman led astray and deceived, Sharon's voice changes tone with mood and she displays quite a range to her singing.
A quiet synth intro is replaced by heavier guitars and orchestra before they suddenly give way and release the angelic voice of Sharon once again. "The Promise" is yet another heavily orchestrated number which has the guitar powerfully backing the orchestration on what turns out to be the longest tune on the disk. "Deceiver of Fools" is another long tune which begins quietly, but then alternates between heavier, faster-paced sections and quieter parts where Sharon's voice alone carries the melody. In fact her voice is either matched by one of the singers from the choir or double-tracked creating an interesting effect.
The brief instrumental number "Intro" leads to "Dark Wings" which sees a welcome return of heavy guitars to the sound. Following a short, almost middle-eastern sounding passage, Sharon's voice is once again heard clearly above the keys and up pops their friend Arjen Lucassen (Ayreon) to contribute a short guitar solo.
The other two numbers on the disk "Never-Ending Story" and "In Perfect Harmony" are written by the arranger Rene Merkelbach, who seems to be almost another member of the band. "Never-Ending Story" is a balladic number during which Sharon is backed by piano and a lovely combination of male and female voices. "In Perfect Harmony" joins Sharon's angelic vocalswith lightly arranged acoustic guitar and spacey keyboards. It is beautifully arranged and shows off Sharon's voice at its classical best, though the band have very little to do here.
The second disc also incorporates an excellent multimedia section - the brainchild of second guitarist Micahel Papenhove. This is a perfect introduction to the band and contains a band history, member profiles, a game and a video section too. Here you'll find performances of earlier material performed at the Dynamo and other festivals in Holland. The "Behind The Scenes" look at the recording of the album and the production of the artwork is especially interesting.
The bonus track on the second disc is "World of Make Believe." A light, pleasant, folly-styled number it, needless to say, also features lashings of orchestration.
Overall this is a great album with standout features including lush orchestrations and of course Sharon den Adel's gorgeous voice. In fact, in some ways, it showcases Sharon's voice and downplays the bands involvement. While a stylistic departure from their earlier work, it shows a maturing in composition and a willingness to develop alongside a refusal to be pidgeon-holed. Though certainly less heavy than previously expected, the result is still very satisfying and sounds tremendous when played live (for those lucky enough to have seen them in concert!).
Our Farewell. The "Our Farewell" (DSFA (Netherlands) 1023, 2002) single includes a radio edit of the tenderly sung ballad and the album version of the "Dark Wings" rocker. The album version of "Our Farewell" is included for completeness however it is the longer and sweetly sung acoustic version that makes the rare single a true collector's item.
With other bands—perhaps spurred on by the success of Nightwish—experimenting with operatic and symphonic elements in metal, Within Temptation have made a big stride forward with Mother Earth. If you haven't noticed the great vocal talent of Sharon den Adel before then this would be an excellent place to start. [album review: Charlie Farrell]
Within Temptation toured extensively following the release of Mother Earth and took further time to reflect on their new found huge success. An additional single entitled "Our Farewell" emerged and an all new video of "Mother Earth" was recorded. This video and additional live footage formed the basis of a mini-DVD which was released in early 2002.
Interview. Funny when our fans wear wedding dresses ... Hit--"Ice Queen"--or not, Within Temptation stays a hard band. A few weeks ago they performed at Ozzfest in Nijmegen, tomorrow at Wâldrock in Burgum. "This way single buyers get in touch with other sorts of music," says their lead singer.
Singer Sharon den Adel is happy that her group is still welcome at such metalfestivals. "We are performing at more regular festivals nowdays, like Lowlands. It doesn't matter much to us where we play, it only matters if our show is good."
Within Temptation is and stays a hard band, success or not. The success wasn't expected by the group anymore, because the melodic "Ice Queen" was a rather old song. "The CD that it is taken from is already one year old, so it was rather bizzare for us too. What we like about it is that because of our fans we've gotten this far. They harrased the video-channel "The Box" with requests for that clip, and because of that there was a market for the single."
The atmospheric, almost fairytale metal that Within Temptation performs is often called Gothic. Sharon can find herself in that name, but the music of her band has more influences. "Soundtracks for example, or celtic music. The music of Braveheart for example, or Sleepy Hollow: beautiful music we think it is, and it fits with the atmosphere of these films. Such a sort of atmosphere we would like to put down on the stage too, not only with the music, but also with the decoration of the stage. Or my dresses. No, I don't make them myself, I wish I could! I find it very funny that some of our fans turn up at concerts wearing wedding dresses or evening gowns," the lead singer adds.
"We are big fans of the fantasy-genre: fairytales for big people," Sharon says. "Books like The Lord of the Rings we love. From these books we get a lot of inspiration. You travel to worlds that don't exist, and a lot of things are made up around it. We love that. Thats the way we work with our songs too."
Tolkien-like is the atmosphere of the new video "Mother Earth" too, recorded in Sweden, and it looks more professional than the somewhat primitive video of "Ice Queen", who brought hit-status to the group however. "Absolutely, that was a very nice video. Maybe not of the best quality, but with a very nice concept that realy fits us. A very spontaneous film, which appealed to people."
Also, it's not the way that people who became a fan after "Ice Queen" don't like the harder works of the group. "Our older CD is in the charts again, and that one is a lot harder. I think that that hit is a nice introduction to the rest of our work. That way, single-buyers come into contact with other music and other nice bands."
How other bands do is indeed a concern to WT. The members of Orphanage played on a record of WT and Sharon sang on an album of After Forever. "We help each other a little. There's no hatred or whatever in this little world of ours, and that's the way it should be. There's just more space for this sort of bands. Since our success record-companies are realy looking for these sorts of groups. So it's nice, if other people get a chance because of that."
Because of the unexpected success and everything that comes with it, working on a new recording has been put a little to the background. "A little interview here, a radiosession there: it's all very time-consuming. After the festival season we'll concentrate on new songs and we hope to have finnished a new recording somewhere next year. We'll see if there's a hit on it or not, that's not our biggest concern. We make music we like, and if there's not a hit, then so be it. We don't want to do any consessions." [interview: Jacob Haagsma]
Mother Earth DVD. The "Mother Earth" (DSFA (Netherlands) 1030, 2002) mini-DVD (PAL format only) contains the newly shot promotional video. Professionally produced in every respect it does the band proud and will delight new and established WT enthusiasts. But it is the bonus material that makes the DVD a must own!
The second section of the DVD includes four tracks recorded live in concert. Here you'll see Sharon and the rest of the band perform well known tracks from the Mother Earth album including "Mother Earth," "Ice Queen," "Restless" and "Caged." The live performance material is dynamic, well produced and will inspire a sense of urgency to see the band on stage yourself.
A 30-minute segment on the 'making of' and the tour includes numerous out-takes and interviews with all of the band members. It is entirely in Dutch but will be enjoyable--simply due to the band members' incredible enthusiasm and wonderful footage of their lead singer--for everyone including those that don't speak or understand the language. [DVD review: Russ Elliot]
Mother Earth Tour DVD / Live CD Box Set. The Mother Earth Tour (BMG (Netherlands) 74321 981899, 2002) DVD/CD box set (PAL format only), released initially only in the band's home territory is comprised of two full-length DVDs and an in-concert CD of live tracks. Like their first DVD, this one is professionally produced and will delight new and established WT enthusiasts who either have been to or are unable to get to one of the band's live performances. Concert footage from Roch Werchter, Pukkelpop and Lowlands 2002 fills the first DVD. The "Mother Earth," "Ice Queen" and "The Dance" music videos are also included.
Video work is top notch and sound quality is absolutely unsurpassed--the band's live sound is true to their albums with dynamic stage performances that accompany the music. Sharon's on-stage personna perfectly supports the evocative messages within their music. While attending a Within Temptation show will have a lasting effect with a certain half-life, owners of this box set can watch full tracks from these concerts over and over. No need to get there early either. The best seat is in your home theatre. Sharon Den Adel fans will be impressed with the videographers' attention to her live performance.
The special features on the second DVD include an extensive section of backstage material filmed at Pinkpop, Mexico, Broerenkerk, Tivoli, De Melkweg, Ozzfest, Rock Werchter, Parkpop Gelredome, Pukkelpop and Lowlands. Making-of sections include photo and studio sessions for the cover artwork, a documentary about "Mother Earth Video" and further credits. A broad variety of interviews in Dutch at radio stations and other live settings is also included. Unfortunately Sharon and Within Temptation's stunning cover of Tori Amos' "Crucify" on Belgium television was not included in the box set. Video segments of the band receiving gold and platinum awards for the Mother Earth album documents their huge success.
The 2MXL "Ice Queen" acoustic version (available only on this DVD) is absolutely the highlight of this DVD. Sharon sings initially in a lower key but reaches her typical soprano by the end of the track. The bonus live material recorded at Broerenkerk Zwolle with full choir is equally stunning and unique. These live performances of "Deciever Of Fools" and "Mother Earth"--unlike versions recorded at the other shows on the DVD--do not use the backing tracks. The unique combination of heavy metal guitars, symphonic keyboards and choir is superb.
A special bonus included in the box is the live CD. It includes the twelve tracks tracks from the first DVD and effectively captures the band's in-concert sound in a stereo mix. The live CD's tracks include: "Deceiver Of Fools," "Caged," "Mother Earth," "Enter," "Our Farewell," "The Dance," "The Promise," "Dark Wings," "Restless," "Deep Within," "Never-Ending Story" and "Ice Queen." "Deep Within" features a guest (grunting) male vocalist while "Our Farewell" includes a guest soprano female vocalist joining Sharon.
The DVD/CD Box Set also includes a 16-page booklet full of lovely photographs and lyrics for all the tracks performed. While the set is presently only available in The Netherlands, it is being imported to other territories. Worth a trans-Atlantic journey, the DVDs are a must see and the audio work a must listen!. It is absolutely a superb and well-priced package. [DVD review: Russ Elliot]
Certainly one of the best albums our editorial staff and correspondents have heard, Mother Earth is a fantastic introduction to Within Temptation and Sharon den Adel. Read further reviews, listen to soundbites and order the album from amazon.com here. Worth a trans-Atlantic journey, the music of Within Temptation and the singing of Sharon den Adel is a must-listen!
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