While I thought Within Temptation's previous album The Unforgiving was quite impressive and entertaining, even a creative evolution for the band, many other reviewers were not so agreeable. Not neglecting their symphonic metal roots, the album did swerve from it for a more populist and accessible approach to songwriting. Many expected the symphonic stuff to simply continue. Well, I hope you're happy, because Hydra finds Within Temptation making a definite return to their symphonic roots. But expect some twists along the way as they still don't want to be stuck in that box.
Yes, the keyboard and guitar layers present the perfect symphonic bombastic layer on many songs like Silver Moonlight, Roses, and Paradise, the duet with Tarja. These are also pumped up with a strong rock groove, almost as thundering as they symphonic layer. Though not one of the twists, a song like Tell Me Why finds Within Temptation maxing out the heaviness rather than the symphonic in their metal. With the alternatively lighter, Edge of the World, they are my least favorite songs. Conversely, at the end, there's another duet, with Dave Pirner (Soul Asylum), on the delightful, catchy, and radio-friendly The Whole World Is Watching. Echoes of The Unforgiving.
Now to the twists. Within Temptation, wanting to think out of the box, injects some different musical personnel and elements into their familiar style. The first are some vocals from metalcore singer Howard Jones (ex-Killswitch Engage) in Dangerous. Although the song is heavy, like Tell Me Why, Jones basically sings clean, which kind of surprised me. The second twist comes from the rap music angle within And We Run, with noted rapper American rapper Xzibit contributing several, well, raps. I honestly don't find rap music all that interesting and, in this context, it simply comes across as strange, misplaced, an afterthought. It's like the band was sitting around in the studio after a long day of recording, a bit high on Jager, when somebody said, "Let's mess with the people some more, and add some rap music to our music." Heads nod.
I'm thinking that Hydra will turn some heads again. Some will like the obvious return to a larger symphonic presence, other may dismiss it as rather eclectic and unfocused. I like some of it, not all of it. Best picks: Silver Moonlight, The Whole World Is Watching, Paradise, and Roses.
Hydra finds Within Temptation making a definite return to its symphonic metal roots, with a twist or two along the way.
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