ALBUM REVIEW: Within Temptation – RESIST 2019

Within Temptation has been one of my favourite bands for more than a decade – Sharon Den Adel was one of my first queer crushes, and they were the first band to really get me interested in metal. (It’s amazing what going from ‘Memories’ to ‘Enter’ will do for a slippery slope into symphonic soundtracks.)

Not surprisingly, then, they’re one of the few artists that I have kept up with. Often, artists I listen to a lot will release new material and I’ll find out years later. I did miss the release of this one by a few months, but that means that I’m listening to it for the first time untainted by reviews, bad or good.

MY FIRST IMPRESSIONS:

WT has always danced with genre limitations – their very first album was gothic metal complete with beauty-and-the-beast vocals and death metal growls, only to slide smoothly into Celtic and symphonic. This is, after all, the band that collaborated with Xzibit. However, this is the most metal they’ve sounded in a while. While The Unforgiving and Hydra were great, they were closer to hard rock than anything else. In sharp contrast, the guitars on RESIST are crunchier, the drums are louder, the vocals are rougher.

That’s not to say that RESIST is pure metal. Far from it. This time out, while returning to some of their roots, WT has used a lot more electronic sounds and instruments in building their songs. “The Reckoning” uses static and synth to round out its sound, and the blithely weird “Supernova” almost sounds like it belongs in a club. (That song specifically reminds me of the Unhum Remix of “On Whom The Moon Doth Shine” by Theatre of Tragedy; while ToT’s venture into electronica didn’t go nearly as well, that particular remix is another fantastic blend of metal and electronic affectations.)

The collaborations have also continued, although none of them are quite as jaw-dropping as the previous album. Jacoby Shaddix of Papa Roach, Anders Friden of In Flames, and Jasper Steverlinck of Arid all lend their voices to the album, and they all work pretty well. Friden is probably the best of them, his death-metal snarls on ‘Raise Your Banner’ really adding something to the song instead of serving as just an extra layer of vocals. I do miss how I felt when I first read the track listing of Hydra and saw Tarja, Howard Jones and Xzibit’s names, but different collaborations happen for different reasons.

I also enjoy the new maturity of sound on display. While the songs being similar lengths/tempos is a major downside, the lyrics, sounds and concepts are far less cheesy than previous WT efforts. Some of that is RESIST’s status as a concept album without it dedicating every song to it; a lot of it is a new resonance to the lyrics. (More on the lyrics in a bit.)

INSTRUMENTATION AND LYRICS:

Sharon Den Adel is a self-taught vocalist, and while I adore her swooping soprano (there hasn’t been enough of it on the last few albums) there have always been moments where her tendency to stick to what she’s comfortable doing have been obvious. On this album, however, I really notice how much her voice has grown and developed over the last two decades. Of course, there’s still some cheese; while ‘Holy Ground’ is my favourite song off the album, that first moment of Den Adel trying to sound more Rock than usual is a kicker.

In terms of instrumentation, unfortunately, at points the backing music gets a bit busy. A lot of this I’m willing to attribute to mixing, but while the ‘wall of sound’ works for a lot of RESIST, there are songs that could have benefited from more distinct instruments. ‘Raise Your Banner’ and ‘In Vain’ in particular suffered from a certain muddiness, only made more obvious by the inclusion of instrumental versions on the album (oops).

Lyrically, some songs are better than others, and there are still some awkward moments, but the consistent upward movement seen in previous albums is still there. One of my favourite lyrics is the chorus of ‘Holy Ground’:

Burying the truth with lies
Fed up how you justify
And now I hate it
And how I hate it
You’re so despicable
When you’re acting unreasonable
And I hate it
And I hate it
Your words like firing guns, bullets raining
The way you hurt me ’cause you never wanna face it
Your words like firing guns, bullets raining
Bullets raining, you never wanna face it

SONG FAVOURITES:

  1. ‘Holy Ground’, definitely. It reminds me a bit of ‘The Cross’ from The Heart of Everything but with a harder edge – the Terminator 2 Sarah Connor to the OG, one might say.
  2. ‘The Reckoning’ has an iconic opening, and the mix of den Adel and Shaddix’s vocals is pretty much perfect.
  3. ‘Supernova’ is weird, but the weird is what makes it work – it’s a dancey, electronic symphonic metal track, which is a new experience for me. And the lyrics are great, too!
  4. ‘Blood for Freedom’ is the hardest song on the album and it really gets the blood pumping.
  5. ‘Firelight’s lyrics get a little bit Adele at time, but the instrumentation in particular is unique – the kind of thing you expect from darkwave rather than symphonic metal.

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