Album review: WITHIN TEMPTATION – Hydra

WITHIN TEMPTATION - Hydra

Dramatico [Release date 03.02.14]

With their last studio album The Unforgiving (2011), Dutch symphonic rockers Within Temptation looked as if they were about to step into the American mainstream and take it by storm with a set that included radio friendly killers like ‘Shot In The Heart’ and ‘Fire And Ice’.  It was a stonker of an album.

Fifteen weekly Belgian radio station Q-Music sessions then saw the band take a wide range of ‘popular’ tunes and give them the Within Temptation treatment also suggesting a more mainstream approach.

Songs like ‘Grenade’ (Bruno Mars) and ‘Crazy’ (Gnarls Barclay) were given spectacular makeovers, as were tracks like ‘Paradise’ (Coldplay) and ‘Little Lion Man’ (Mumford And Son) that didn’t make the spin-off album.  Not all fans appreciated the move, but I thought it worked rather well.

The band’s latest offering, Hydra, therefore comes as something of a surprise – and is something of a mixed bag – suggesting there’s still some internal uncertainty as regards direction.

Experimentation seems to be the order of the day with guest vocalists on four of the ten tracks – fellow symphonist Tarja Turunen (ex-Nightwish) on the first single ‘Paradise’ is no great surprise, nor is ex-American metalcore band Killswitch Engage’s Howard Jones on the follow up ‘Dangerous’ (and not as I first pondered, our own British Eighties new waver)

But rapper Xzibit on ‘And We Run’ comes a bit from left-field and I remain unconvinced rock and rap can be truly comfortable bedfellows (Walk This Way apart).  But the pick of the collaborations by a country mile is with Soul Asylum singer Dave Pirner on ‘The Whole Word Is Watching’ which closes out the album in some style.

As a generalisation, Hydra is far harder hitting than The Unforgiving with the powerful opener ‘Let It Burn’ reminding listeners of the band’s symphonic roots.  It’s still aimed at the American heartland, but has come to bear on pastures occupied by the likes of Linkin Park.  Whether that’s a reaction to the relative ear candy of the Q-Music sessions is hard to tell, although the band do expose their soft underbelly on a the more commercial numbers like ‘Edge Of The World’ and ‘Dog Days’.

Within Temptation clearly have the wherewithal to be all things to all rock fans, but for now they’re keeping their options open.  ****

Review by Pete Whalley


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