Thursday 20 July 2023

Within Temptation - Wireless (2023)

Country: The Netherlands
Style: Symphonic Metal
Rating: 6/10
Release Date: 19 May 2023
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Talking of mixing pop and goth and metal and a whole bunch of other genres, the most successful example of that that I've reviewed here at Apocalypse Later is probably Within Temptation's 2019 album, Resist. It felt like a gamechanger to me at the time, taking their symphonic metal roots to new frontiers. Now, that was an age ago, pre-COVID, and I haven't heard its tentacles in much that I've reviewed since, but maybe I'm not paying enough attention. It could easily be said that there's some of that album in Arogya's sound and there's certainly plenty of it here too.

I wondered if I should actually review this, for reasons that I'll get to, but decided to because I like the opening title track a lot. It marries the light and heavy incredibly well, with a crunch that's not far off industrial strength bludgeoning the backdrop while Sharon den Adel delivers effortless pop melodies with a rock voice. She's a fascinating singer, because she can shift between tones or even styles just like that and she takes some interesting decisions about how to do that here. I've called out her Celtic lilt before and it's very much in evidence on this EP, but it's also kept in reserve for a moment where it's needed.

It's even more overt on Don't Pray for Me, the other new song here, with all sorts of Celtic lilts and harmonies, den Adel cutting off words for effect just like Dolores O'Riordan. There's also a neatly folky echo effect at points and there's a recurrent sample to keep the song trendy. It does quite a lot and the overall effect is solid. I wouldn't call this one as strong a song as Wireless, which is why this isn't called the Don't Pray for Me EP but it's a decent song nonetheless, with a good emphasis play. Again, den Adel is the best aspect of the song, taking it in all sorts of different directions but always coming back to the point.

So far so good, right? Well, there are downsides. If I'm readingly correctly, there are three guitars in the band nowadays, not just Robert Westerholt, who's a founder member, but also Ruud Jolie, who joined in 2001 and new fish Stefan Helleblad, who arrived in 2011 alongside the new drummer Mike Coolen. However, it's next to impossible to distinguish between them. They each merge into a single guitar sound that seems to be there primarily as texture. There are no solos and what might approach them is the work of keyboardist Martijn Spierenburg and whoever's providing a violin, a sound that may well more keyboards.

And I technically lied when I said that these were new songs. They weren't on Resist and I obviously can't speak to whether they'll be on the next album, whenever it arrives. However, I felt that Shed My Skin was a bit cheap because it combined one new track with two prior singles, bulking up with instrumental versions of all three, and this, while seeming to be more expansive, echoes that and doubles down. Both Wireless and Don't Pray for Me were released as standalone singles and what pads out the EP to five tracks are the three songs from the Shed My Skin EP. Again, all these show up in instrumental versions too.

That means that four of the five songs on offer here were standalone singles, three of them were on the Shed My Skin EP and the same three also showed up on The Aftermath EP in live versions. Nothing's actually new. I have to add that Within Temptation have released two other new songs since Resist, but they are nowhere to be seen here, so this doesn't even do a solid job of collation. I'm starting to get quite a sinking feeling that the next album is going to have nothing new on it, because every track will be previously available in multiple different releases, singles and EPs and whatever.

So I think I'm going to swear off looking at Within Temptation EPs. Let's just say that this one's an improvement on Shed My Skin because the best two tracks here are the ones that weren't on that and the worst, Entertain You, hasn't got any better since then. However, that means that each of the five songs is less than its predecessor and that's quite a downward spiral. It starts excellently with Wireless but ends poorly with Entertain You and that journey down is inexorable. I'm also not sure how to describe this because symphonic metal doesn't apply any more.

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