As one of the most popular bands ever in the Netherlands, one would think that symphonic Goth metal troupe Within Temptation had something special. Unfortunately, as their newest LP, The Unforgiving, shows, they are anything but unique; full of histrionic—well, everything—and a keen sense of commerciality, the album is a disinteresting voyage into tightly arranged mediocrity. In essence, it’s as if a generic, simpler Dream Theatre imitation were fronted by Kelly Clarkson.
Formed in 1996 by guitarist Robert Westerholt and vocalist Sharon den Adel, the sextuplet has released five studio albums to date. To their credit, the group proves to be quite ambitious with The Unforgiving because they’ve simultaneously released a companion comic book and short films to help flesh out the album’s storyline. Even so, ambition isn’t synonymous with high quality, and at least in terms of the album, The Unforgiving is an easily forgettable journey.
The opening track, “Why Not Me,” couldn’t be any more clichéd; complete with dramatic strings, horns, and a pretentious English woman discussing key words like “curse,” “blessing,” “cross to bear,” “take a stand,” and “evil,” it’s a perfect textbook introduction. The first true song, “A Shot In The Dark,” like all of The Unforgiving, seems written for radio airplay and MTV coverage; it follows typical structure and offers nothing inventive. The chorus aims to convey a sense of destiny with affective, bombastic music and lyrics, but it’s too familiar and ordinary.
The rest of the album follows the same patterns, and I think that’s its main problem—
rather than flow like a conceptually connected album where each song features different dynamics, emotion, and purpose, every track carries the same level of abrupt urgency; they all feel equally forceful and single-esque. It’s as if Within Temptation picked twelve radio hits and left it at that. Albums (especially conceptual ones) should flow like a real story—the songs should capture individualized moments which differ from each other by varying intensity, sentiments, and styles. If every song feels the same, no song stands out.
The Unforgiving is a cookie-cutter symphonic metal album, plain and simple. The musicianship is good, the singing is very good, and the songs are quite accessible. However, there isn’t a mere second on the album that feels the least bit invigorating or fresh. Genre enthusiasts may love Within Temptation, but if you’re like me, The Unforgiving only serves to further exemplify how clichéd and unoriginal this type of music has become.
Check out the official music video for “Shot In The Dark” here!