Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Within Temptation Go Conceptual

As a big fan of Within Temptation the announcement that they would be releasing a new concept album in March 2011 was extremely exciting.  Tickets were bought for their UK tour date and anticipation and impatience ensued.

The Unforgiving is the bands fifth album release; a concept album based on a comic strip written by Steven O'Connell and illustrated by Romano Molenaar.  Although the band have previously been seen as gothic and symphonic metal, this new album will show the band taking a completely different approach to their music.  They have used the comic book concept to give them the courage and inspiration to change their sound and write what they believe are the best songs of their career.

Prequels for the comic book started to be released through the bands website in November 2010 and tell the story of a young woman called Sinead Harkin and the action she takes to protect her friend from a violent abuser. 

The album track 'Where is the Edge' was released on the 15th December 2010 and is not only the first release from the album but is also included on the soundtrack for the movie 'Me and Mr Jones'.  The track is particularly creepy and in conjunction with a video based on the movie, it leaves you with a distinct chill.  That said, I found the track to be a little softer and milder than I was expecting.  I really hope that this is more to do with the fact it was being used in a movie and that it doesn't represent the album as a whole.

In addition there are 3 short films which will provide further insight into the album concept.  The first of those films was released on January 31st entitled 'Mother Maiden'.  The film introduces Mother Maiden, a medium who recruits lost souls to be part of a task force for fighting evil.  Each recruit carries a specific guilt about something that they have done in their lives and Mother Maiden offers them the opportunity to redeem themselves.  She gives them missions to hunt down evil as penalty for their sins.   The film ends and goes straight into a band performance of the single 'Faster'.  A teaser after the band performance leaves you itching to view the next instalment.

'Faster' is a very catchy song that had my four year old dancing around the kitchen last night, singing along.  It is very easy listen to and has a very memorable repetitive chorus that will ensure this track's popularity and commercial success.

So, what do I make of all of this?  Well, I am not traditionally a graphic novel enthusiast and so some of the prequel hype has been a little wasted on me.  Updates have been provided by the band in many different forms using an impressive array of social media such as Twitter, Facebook, Spotify and their own website.  As a student of e-communications I can appreciate how effective these tools have been in generating the excitement it has amongst fans.

The story of 'The Unforgiving' is intriguing and this first short film is very cleverly put together.  Mother Maiden's voice is particularly blood-curdling and the dark scenes are quite chilling.   I am not sure about the sudden jump from this dark and terrifying setting to Within Temptation singing what sounds like another classic rock song however. There seems to be a sudden jump from the dark into the light. Perhaps that is the point?

I still can't put my finger on what the new musical style really is either.  So far it seems to sound like very classic pop rock which is particularly commercial.  I had hoped for a darker and harsher sound from their new material.  I feel the build up to the album's release so far has suggested that this is something we could expect.  I really hope we are being further led on by the band and that when the album is released they haven't sold out to commerciality completely.

'The Unforgiving' is released on the 25th March 2011.  The band have rescheduled their European tour now that Sharon is expecting her 3rd child and they have added some additional venues in the UK:

Tuesday 8th November - Birmingham O2 Academy
Wednesday 9th November - Manchester O2 Academy
Friday 11th November - London O2 Academy, Brixton

Musical direction concerns aside, I will be grabbing my copy of 'The Unforgiving' as soon as it is released and am heading for Manchester on the 9th November.  Within Temptation really have made incredible use of the Internet to create a massive buzz over their new material and I am very excited about what is to come from them this year.