Released: 2011, Roadrunner Records
Considering I had this on my list of best metal albums of 2011, it is only fitting that Metal Rules actually has a review of this, granted a late review. Within Temptation has been at the front of the symphonic female fronted genre for awhile now, despite numerous lineup changes, cancelled tours and a lack of new material. The band released two stop gap live albums during the interim between 2007’s THE HEART OF EVERYTHING and the 2011 release THE UNFORGIVING. Usually, the release of live albums is a sign of either contract obligations or directionless purpose which makes the quality of THE UNFORGIVING unexpected and welcome. The band began working on the album in 2009, and it is clear that all that time was well spent.
THE UNFORGIVING is a new direction for the band and a new image, being Within Temptation’s first concept album. The band is at its most accessible, as the first single from the album, “Faster” illustrates with its pop-like qualities driven by hard rock rhythmic guitar chugs. Singer Sharon Den Adel continues to be much more than just an attractive center piece, her vocals and melody lines adding strength and accessibility that I felt Tarja’s bombastic style always lacked. The real strength of the album is the songwriting, each tune a carefully crafted and integral part of the album and plot that eschews complexity for simplicity and hooks. The story also manages to flow smoothly without confusion or the feeling conveyed on some concept albums that some of the songs were forced to fit and really did not complement the album as a whole. Another fine quality is that the album manages to be uplifting while containing undercurrents of darkness, a perfect blend of the happy and melancholy.
Choice cuts “Where Is The Edge?” and “In The Middle Of The Night” is perfect examples of where the heavy meets the accessible, and where Sharon exercises those gorgeous pipes. Adding meaning and clarity to the songs is the amazing production job by Daniel Gibson and the tasteful keyboard duties of Martijn Spierenburg. The rhythm section is also a key positive of the album and all though the haters will no doubt continue to bash this band and style of music, if you are a fan and happened to miss this on release be sure to grab it now. This is as fine as the genre gets.