I don’t really know when I “discovered” music and I won’t bore you with the history of my musical tastes. I really just want to talk about this one band I’ve gotten really into lately because it’s hit me like a bit of a thunderbolt and I thought it would be nice to share that with my two or three regular readers.
So I come to you now to tell you a little bit about my getting into a band called Within Temptation. Go ahead and click on that link to read about them on Wikipedia because I’m not going to turn this blog into a biography. Fuck that. You want to know about them? There it is. Me? I just want to tell you that I have come to love this Dutch bunch quite dearly over the past 3 months or so.
It all started much earlier than that, though, when I was hanging out with some of my musician friends and their bands. Two of these bands, Libellula and Sweet Shadow have made it their business to perform the kind of goth/industrial/metal/I hate categorizing music genres music played by bands like Nightwish and Evanessence.
In particular, Sweet Shadow did a lovely job of covering Ice Queen, which was Within Temptation’s first big hit. (And you know this, because you already clicked on the Wikipedia link I provided) And that was the first time I ever heard a song by Within Temptation. That was a couple of years ago. But they did a great job and the song would always stick in my head at the end of a show.
Now, you must understand, this is not really my scene. I like all kinds of music, yes. But metal and symphonic metal and melodic metal and I hate categorizing music genres music has never really been my cup of tea. I have a hard time taking bands like that seriously because I can’t connect with songs about dragons and wizards – with lyrics inspired by the plot of Lord of the Rings. But my musician friends really started getting into this kind of music and playing it in their own sets… So, while hanging out with them, I had a chance to listen to all these European bands with hot chick singers. And one of them would always stand out from the pack. That was Within Temptation… Something about the sheer beauty and power of Sharon den Adel’s vocals stood out for me. I also liked their cover of Kate Bush’s Running Up That Hill. Appreciation for what I appreciate is something I appreciate dearly.
Anyway… After a while, I got curious.
A very good friend of mine, whose privacy I totally respect, happens to be a fan. Like… A big fan. Going-to-Chile-for-20 hours-on-a-bus to see them big. You know, like what I did for Watchmen. For the sake of coherence, I’ll give her a code name, so as to not soil her good name by having it appear in a shitty blog such as this: Let’s call her – Curly Fries.
So, Curly Fries suggested that if I were really interested in getting into the band, I should first listen to their 2004 album The Silent Force.
Boy, was she right.
It’s a great piece of work, this disc. Just one great, haunting, cinematic song after another. And, in these trying times, a sense of uplift that has really given my cockles reason to soar. They have often been compared to Evanessence (and if you hear songs like the very catchy hit, Stand My Ground, it’s easy to see why) but, my God, they are so much better. First of all, Sharon den Adel mops the floor and papers the walls with Amy Lee six ways to Sunday. But, there is a maturity and scope to this stuff too that the popular Christian rockers just can’t touch.
Case in point: Tracks 5 & 6 – Pale and Forsaken. Individually, they are beautiful, forceful pieces of music. Taken together, as one flows into the other, they make a kind of symphony… I don’t know if it was intentional but I know what I like. I like this very much. The combo of Memories and Angels can be equally effective… As seen here.
But, desperate commercial concessions notwithstanding, The Heart Of Everything is pretty much the equal of The Silent Force in both scope and energy. Daniel Gibson produced both albums and he gives the band a pristine finish that gets under your skin. Songs like the epic Our Solemn Hour and forceful power ballads like Frozen and All I Need really stick to the wall. The latter is accompanied by a slick video that owes more than a bit to Tarsem’s motion picture The Cell. Whether that’s a good or bad thing is for the masses to decide. But Sharon den Adel is certainly a looker if there ever was one, and the song does the job of being heartrending without getting too sappy. Even with a line like “Don’t break me down/For all I need/Make my heart a better place/Give me something I can believe” she sells it and the song works.
Their craft was confirmed for me, completely, as I viewed their 2008 concert film Black Symphony. The epic show at the Ahoy in Rotterdam, done in collaboration with Holland’s Metropole Orchestra, threatens at many intervals to just be a gaudy mess. But they pull it off considerably, giving each song an appropriately dramatic presentation. Only the Caputo collaboration (the aforementioned What Have You Done) disappoints. He was flown in all the way from New York to stand in the center of the stage, wearing a corny t-shirt, looking at Adel with deer-in-the-headlights eyes while holding his microphone like an ice cream cone. And his vocal contributions (so engaging in the studio version) are about as audible as a dog whistle. It’s a pathetic 5 minutes in an otherwise tremendous live show.
So… Yeah. I fucking love this band. I don’t know what it is. I find it easier to identify with women singers most of the time. All my favorite singers are women (with the exception of Morrissey – who may as well be one, I guess) and I connect with both their attitude and sensibilities. In my own work, I’d sooner emulate Aimee Mann than Michael Penn… And my stage presence (if any) and singing style owes more to, say, Dolores O’Riordan than it does to Bono… Don’t know the answer to this.
Many of my closest friends are women.
I guess I just really love women.
So, in Within Temptation, I present to you a powerful, beautiful woman, whose voice will rip the hinges off your ceiling. Assuming your ceiling has hinges, as mine doesn’t but I like the visual of a ceiling being ripped off its non-existent hinges. It’s symphonic/melodic/gothic/god I hate doing this shit metal. But she doesn’t sing about Gandalf and seraphims and dragons flying through the air, throwing lightning bolts at warlocks. She sings about life and emotion and the things that affect you and me in our day-to-day.
They haven’t made it big in the States. But, you know what? They hardly need it. European currency is as good as any. And I don’t want them to be this huge monstrosity devoid of personality. As is the case, when bands like this make it really huge in a place like the US. Even homegrown bands eventually go astray. Look what happened to Metallica.
So I say… You’re American and you’ve never heard of Within Temptation? That’s great. Let’s keep it that way.
But, if you’re interested, I say follow Curly Fries’ advice: Start with The Silent Force and follow it in quick succession with The Heart of Everything. Then, go back and “discover” their equally engaging 2002 album Mother Earth. Finally, sit down and watch the Black Symphony concert. Alone, or in the company of friends (as I did) – I’ll leave that up to you. And I’ll add some advice of my own… If you’re a cynic – and, let’s face it, most of us are – ignore their bombastic, over-the-top, special-effects laden, mini-movie videos. They’re slick as fuck all… And I like them just fine… But what really matters here is the spectacle of the production and composition of these very habit-forming songs. If you like it, you can thank me later. If you don’t, you can tell me to go fuck myself and – while I’m at it – Fuck you too, I gave it a shot.
Did I mention she’s a looker?
Eye candy helps.