Within Temptation — Hydra (2014)

sharon-hydra

The funniest review to date that I have read of Within Temptation’s Hydra is over at Angry Metal Guy, written by the acerbic and pseudonymous Steel Druhm. As proof of how intoxicating it is to make fun of a band popular and successful, here’s a taste of the beginning and end of this well-written, laugh-out-loud funny review:

I’ll admit to liking the early Within Temptation output like Mother Earth and The Silent Force. Sure, they were a dime-a-dozen, female-fronted gothic metal act with more gloss and slickness than the complete works of Glee, but the song-writing was consistently sharp and catchy without sounding too commercialized or fake and Sharon den Adel had big, captivating… vocals. Things started to drift for me by the time The Heart of Everything came along and though it had some good songs, it also felt more forced and AOR. I paid scant attention to 2011s The Unforgiven and didn’t really want to review this one, but hey, somebody had to do it and I wanna be somebody!

Hydra is more or less a continuation of the career path these Dutch goth-mongers have set for themselves and it’s full of slick, commercialized, gothic puffery with an increasingly minimal underpinning of metal. It also features a dizzying and often puzzling selection of guest vocalists, few of which actually help and one really hurts. The above average writing that once kept the band aloft in a sea of clones is still evident on some songs, but like their metal roots, it’s getting more thin, threadbare and elusive. In a nutshell, Hydra is a collection of shiny, vocal-driven goth-rock tunes with simplistic, underwhelming and essentially irrelevant guitars placed far in the back. Sometimes it works, more often it’s boring and as substantial as plastic dining ware. Naturally, it’ll sell a zillion albums.

Though Sharon always sounds great and impresses with her power and range, the backing music is so flat and nondescript they might as well not even credit the band. It’s just a wash of simple, uninspired riffs, generic solos and dull back line play. Add to that an ever-increasing tendency to repeat a chorus until it hurts and make nonsensical guest selections and you have a band that sounds out of ideas, frantically trying to latch onto several trends at once, some of which have been over for years and are best left in the grave …

When diminishing returns clash with transparent attempts at crass commercialism, the metal fan feels the sads. If you love goth-rock and don’t care how unmetal it sounds, I suppose bits and pieces of this may hit the spot, but a lot of it is too dull to leave much of an impression. Shambolic album aside, I still love you, Sharon.

LOL!

symphonic-metal

Now, don’t get me wrong, the Hydra album is actually pretty great. I like it a lot. You just have to be in the right mood for it, and you have to listen to it at the right time.

Nonetheless, I do think it is very important to hear the “Devil’s Advocate” case against whatever metallic guilty pleasure you may be enjoying. You yourself can weigh the pros against the cons. If you can hear what the Devil’s Advocate has to enumerate as the cons, then you can have a good laugh and, at the same time, enjoy everything that’s nevertheless still right with the music. If the Devil’s Advocate can’t kill off your enjoyment, then you know there is indeed something special to the album all the same.

For example, the Devil’s Advocate is quite right that Sharon can beat a chorus to death. (Take “Dog Days” on the new disc as a prime example; I think it’s the worst track.) But, then there are the many moments that simply work. For example, “Covered by Roses” is really terrific. And the bonus track covers are brilliant as well, like Sharon’s marvelous version of Lana Del Rey’s “Summertime Sadness”. As for the controversial inclusion of rapper Xzibit on “And We Run,” well, I’m sorry folks, but the rap nonsense is not any more stupid for me than the Cookie Monster vocals sprinkled here and there. Don’t take this metal too seriously and you can still have a bit of fun — pun intended.

So, bottom line, listen to the haters. Read what they might have to say, especially if it is funny.

But, be open to the music winning you over anyway. Turn it loud. Does it make you smile? Well then… I guess you’ll be able to be a Happy Metal Person.

sharon-smilesharon-horns

One thought on “Within Temptation — Hydra (2014)

  1. Pingback: “Carpe Diem” — Within Temptation | Progarchy: Pointing toward Proghalla

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