Friday, March 27, 2015

Essential Within Temptation: The Singles

I've made it pretty obvious that the Dutch symphonic metal band Within Temptation is one of my all-time favorites. For nearly 20 years they've been releasing gorgeous music, and they've done something different with each and every album. To compile a list of their best must-listens would be very time consuming and stressful since there are so many. So, as I often do for my music lists, I limited the potentially selections strictly to singles. Even though I oftentimes consider the non-singles to be the best of artists - especially in this genre - Within Temptation has accumulated a wonderful set of them. They provide glimpses into the band's wider scope, and some are undoubtedly among the ranks of their best songs.

To celebrate such a fantastic band, I'm going to briefly count down their most essential singles.

"And We Run" ft. Xzibit
Kicking off the countdown is Within Temptation's only song to feature rap. Some fans really weren't into this track, and neither was I for the first fifteen-ish listens... But it's so powerful and uplifting. The simple piano line says so much, and the song crescendos beautifully. Xzibit and Within Temptation's vocalist Sharon den Adel couldn't sound more different, but the collaboration works. It just takes an open mind and a little extra time to fully appreciate it.

"Forgiven" is the tear-jerking ballad from The Heart of Everything used to promote the acclaimed Black Symphony CD/DVD release. It's incredibly emotional and highlights Sharon's beautiful high voice, accompanied by only piano and strings all the way through. Hearts are bound to clench at the last lines of the middle eight: "Everything turned out so wrong / Why did you leave me in silence?"

*I recommend hearing the full version rather than this radio edit. It flows much better.

The Unforgiving got some flack from metal elitists for its 'fun' side, and "Sinéad" was the most fun of all. There are even noticeable synths used throughout. The things is... It's amazing. Try to listen to it and not start dancing - TRY. Failure is inevitable. The strings are catchy as hell and even epic during the breakdown of the middle eight. Like "And We Run," "Sinéad" is one of those songs that proves Within Temptation can do whatever they want - it'll sound great regardless.

"All I Need"
Another ballad from The Heart of Everything, although "All I Need" is a power ballad. Weirdly enough, I didn't like this song very much the first thirty-ish times... But then one day I was watching the official music video and just started bawling like crazy. It took a while for the incident to occur, but it hit me all at once. Not only is it beautiful, but it rips the heart to shreds. The string line is quite prominent, especially right before the final chorus kicks in... That cello line gets me every time...

*I recommend hearing the full version rather than this radio edit. It flows much better because it keeps the entire bridge, which is where the emotional rollercoaster really begins.

"Running Up That Hill" [Kate Bush Cover]
Within Temptation has now covered enough songs to make an entire album from the Q-Music sessions, but for a while, "Running Up That Hill" was their only cover song. A fabulous transition between the Mother Earth era to the Silent Force era, this song highlights the more shrill aspect of den Adel's voice. It's very upbeat; that chorus is a pure jam session, and the orchestra is still very prominent. Even though it's heavy, there's a lightheartedness to it that makes it stand out in their discography.

"Ice Queen"
The classic. The one single you know for sure you'll hear at a Within Temptation concert. "Ice Queen" has a signature light-hearted feel and wonderful lyrics, making it easy for listeners to bob their heads and sing along. It certainly highlights Sharon's glorious upper range and there's something about the orchestration that induces chills.

The video: It seems like everyone on the face of the Internet hates it... but I love it. I'm surprised that it doesn't get more love. It was made about 10-15 years ago - of course the backgrounds are fake as hell. But it's all kind of pretty... Every band member has a different element. 


"Stand My Ground"
Everyone loves a song about standing up for themselves, but Within Temptation managed to make it more epic. The verses hint at adventure while the chorus - the best part of the song - is filled with determination and even a sense of resolution, but it just grows and grows so that by the time we get to the final chorus the instrumentation kicks in full force. It's not overly ambitious, but it still does one hell of a job of catching attention. 


"Angels" has long been a fan favorite: Sharon owns the high notes like nobody's business, the lyrics are relatable as they're about deception and betrayal, and that post-chorus and middle eight are so intense and beautiful. It's definitely a song that builds, and even though it isn't particularly bombastic, it's still cinematic, and with a moment like this, it's hard to deny that it's fantastic: "This world may have failed you / It doesn't give you reason why / You could have chosen a different path in life."

"The Howling"
This single provides a glimpse of Within Temptation's horror side. It's heavy while being intensely catchy - even the backing vocals! It's definitely a bit of a departure from den Adel's head voice-driven repertoire in The Silent Force (although that aspect of her voice will never disappear) and shows off what she can do with a rougher chest foice Unfortunately the radio edit takes away from some of the symphonic elements, but it's truly a great combination of guitars and strings and virtually impossible to sit still while it plays.


"What Have You Done" ft. Keith Caputo
Before Within Temptation decided to include several duets on their latest album Hydra, "What Have You Done" was the only recorded one they had. The chorus is full of long notes and raw emotion, and the melody is unforgettable. Caputo's voice works quite well here, and in the extended version, Sharon puts her operatic vocals to fantastic use and makes the song absolutely epic. Within Temptation makes a lot of great songs about various topics, but this has to be their ultimate break up song.

*I recommend listening to the extended version since it includes a couple of its best parts.

Within Temptation has written a number of beautiful ballads throughout their career, but none quite like "Memories." Sharon's voice is so light and heavenly, just like the remarkable string arrangement. But it's really the ending that has the power to blow people away, when the electric instruments come in. Suddenly, the song has a new sense of desperation in that moment, and it lingers until the end when the violin cuts the band off. The music video is perfect.


Within Temptation's very first single, taken from their debut, Enter. Enter is the most different from all of Within Temptation's albums, and even though "Restless" doesn't include the growls that characterize much of the album, it certainly sets itself apart from other singles in terms of both structure and feel. This piano-led single is eerie, repetitive, and utterly beautiful - it certainly demonstrates the atmosphere of its unique album.


"Paradise (What About Us?)" ft. Tarja
The symphonic metal corner of the Internet exploded when this collaboration - this mind-blowing, bound-to-shake-the-Earth collaboration - was announced a little over a year ago. Within Temptation and ex-Nightwish singer Tarja Turunen certainly proved to be the powerhouse everyone expected. It's a catchy, adrenaline-filled masterclass with its urgent string line and amazing combination of vocalists. This single also produced what is arguably Within Temptation's best music video to date.

"Jillian (I’d Give My Heart)"
So... "Jillian (I'd Give My Heart)" is sort of a single; it was used for the promotion of The Silent Force Tour DVD, so I'm counting it. This song is undoubtedly one of their best pieces: It's so bombastic! The verses are very mellow with its string-led instrumentation and Sharon singing peacefully, but that chorus is a symphonic explosion: "I'd give my heart / Give my soul / I turn it back, it's my fault." By the time the key changes (creating perhaps the most effective key change ever fathomed) and Sharon is calling Jillian's name in the middle eight, chills are just inevitable. To this day it blows my mind.

"Mother Earth"
Is it surprising? Probably not. "Mother Earth" isn't just one of Within Temptation's greatest songs: It is symphonic metal classic. The riffs are intense even though the song is so free-flowing and easy to move to, the orchestration is beautiful, and Sharon's voice soars. This has to be the greatest salute to nature ever created with those perfect lyrics: "She rules until the end of time / She gives and she takes / She rules until the end of time / She goes her way." It's a simple life fact: "Mother Earth" is a masterpiece.

The video: While this music video has some seriously awkward shots of Sharon flinging her arms in front of lightning, it has a few perfect moments - particularly the end, because even though the band is jamming outdoors, there are strobe lights, eyes are glowing red, and the lightning is synchronized. Can't get much more metal than that, eh?

No comments:

Post a Comment