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Within Temptation - The Heart Of Everything (Roadrunner Records)

By: Darren Cowan

Since its birth in 1996, Within Temptation has proven to be one of the Netherlands’ best-selling metal groups. The band has found a winning formula of mainstream-accessible hard rock combined with symphonic and gothic metal, all highlighted by Sharon den Adel’s angelic voice. Given the massive popularity of Finland’s Nightwish, it comes as no surprise that Within Temptation’s incorporation of operatic and symphonic elements led to equal acceptability. American audiences are beginning to warm up to the band as well. It recently finished a massive North American trek on the Hottest Chicks of Metal tour with other female-fronted bands like Lacuna Coil and In This Moment.

For those getting their first exposure to this band, especially American listeners, a comparison to Evanescence is inevitable. Nearly every aspect of “The Heart Of Everything” draws parallels to Amy Lee and company. Den Adel’s voice has the same timbre, range and soulfulness as Lee’s. The production is crystal clear, and the music consists of the same short, bouncy rhythms and orchestral aspects characterized by Evanescence.

Because of all these similarities, one could say Within Temptation is gaining success by jumping on Lee’s bandwagon, but it’s not entirely true. The group is possibly guilty of steering toward that style in the last few years, but the core of its sound was established long before Evanescence and in the developing stages before Within Temptation’s formation. (Guitarist Robert Westerholt and bassist Joroen Van Veen played in gothic metal band The Circle before forming Within Temptation with den Adel, Westerholt’s girlfriend.)

The mainstream-agreeable sound of “The Heart Of Everything” makes for a Billboard chart-climbing record, but difficult for a hardcore metal enthusiast to embrace. The sterile production, R&B-friendly vocals and nü metal rhythms definitely aren’t meant for hardcore headbanging ears. The lackluster performance on both versions of “What Have You Done” is mainstream drivel that disappoints because of the sub-par guest performance by Life Of Agony’s Keith Caputo. It’s a sad fact: Caputo may never again perform at the level found on “The River Runs Red.” All is not lost, though, for the tracks featuring operatic vocal performances and the sharp sounds of Ruud Jolie’s mandolin make for enjoyable listens. Haunting choir keys and a gothic-tinged mandolin on such songs as “Our Solemn Hour” and “Hand of Sorrow” help the album find a center point.

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