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Having become a big fan of Within Temptation, following my introduction to them by my daughter, I was eager to see how this band performed live - in particular the lead girl Sharon. Her almost operatic voice sounds amazing on Compact Disc so I wanted to see how she delivered her vocals live. I ordered The Silent Force Tour on DVD first as that is one of my favorite albums - due to the outstanding performance on this tour I was excited to receive Black Symphony as the accolades and reviews where impressive.
LET ME ACQUAINT YOU WITH THE BAND
Before we begin I will do a short introduction to this Dutch band. Formed in 1996 by Sharon den Adel and Robert Westerholt with the help of Jeroen van Veen. Other band members are Ruud Adrianus Jolie, Martijn Spierenburg, Mike Coolen. Drummer - Stephen van Haestregt left the band in 2010. Style of music Symphonic Rock. They have produced five albums to date and have won numerous awards. The website is http://www.within-temptation.com/ and is well worth a look - you will find out all about band members and tour dates on here.
What do you get? A quality piece of merchandise sealed for protection. Dense, rigid cardboard box with images that portray what lies within. The back of the box details what you can expect to find inside. Two DVD's and Two CD's! Opening the box like a book reveals on the left side an index of what is contained on the DVD's. On the right side there is a substantial booklet made of glossy paper and this contains information about the band members, acknowledgments and another overview of the DVD content. The remaining pages, plenty of them, have numerous, quality, photographs and images of the concert. I found this to be very exciting - I could not wait to get the DVD into the player! The right side of the box lists the CD songs - all of which are live from the concerts. Open up the box again, like turning the page of a book, and the discs are snug in jewel case fittings. If the concert is as professional as this presentation box I will be very happy - I normally find that attention to detail on the smallest component means that I can expect a genuinely high quality product. Was that what I experienced when I viewed this concert?
Here we go - settle back and enjoy! When the disc loads you have an intro of atmospheric sound and haunting images - I had surround sound home cinema on the Dolby Digital setting as that is what the Concert is recorded in. The quality of sound was absorbing and dramatic the images on screen mystical and clear as a bell. This reassured me that I was in for a treat and I selected the concert from the menu to begin.
The Black Symphony begins in black and white (no need to adjust your set this is correct). I wondered initially if maybe the DVD had a fault but soon discovered that it was all part of the effect. I can say that it was effective, although I was relieved to see the vibrant colour burst onto the screen moments into the DVD. The beginning of this epic concert is a pleasure and an experience - I was awestruck and felt so privileged to be witnessing the full orchestra and choir building up an emotive fusion of sound. This was a meticulously crafted symphony and it held my attention whilst at the same time sending shivers down my spine and goosebumps over my body. Black Symphony opened with a mystical and magical musical synthesis.
The stage was set and it was a large area. Full orchestra situated to the rear and above them a huge screen depicting a variety of images and videos. An area to the front of the stage reserved for the guitarists of the band and the drummer nestled into the orchestra. Sharon had plentiful room to perform at centre stage, to both sides and up walk ways on either side of the orchestra to sing high up amongst the choir. This obviously took some preparation and once again I felt reassured that this was going to be amazing!
Band members enter the stage to the crowds delight and I feel a ripple of excitement - you await Sharon. Before you see the leading lady you hear her voice and then she appears and looks stunning in dramatic costume. Her voice is incredible live! No miming here! At this time all of my senses are receptive - the image on screen is clear and the colours are rich - you could almost be there. The sound is splendid - all instruments audible and importantly Sharon's vocal range recorded beautifully, I did not notice any muffled sound. This is high standards all round!
As we progress through the performance Sharon will have her now famous 'dress changes' and this makes the show all the more interesting and delightful. The dresses add to the mood of whatever style of song is being executed.
The camera work and production is imaginative and a variety of angles are captured. The crowd are zoomed in and out on occasions and you can see just how large this arena is - this definitely added to the atmosphere of the DVD. The collosal screen to the rear of the stage has ethereal images displayed which added to the aesthetics and did not distract.
I enjoyed Sharon's interaction with other band members throughout the concert and also the duets that she performed with other artists - including Keith Caputo! The energy, emotion and essence of each song was conveyed both visually and vocally and the haunting sound from the orchestra along with the band instruments was sublime. Black Symphony is an emotive journey which included a medley of ballads in the middle accompanied by acoustic guitar and piano which create a gorgeous sound! The 'Somewhere' duet with Anneke Van Giersburgen was spellbinding and needless to say emotive - I got goosebumps again. One of my favorites of the concert! And full credit has to be awarded to Mr George Oosthoek who duets, in a fabulous 'gruff' voice, in the song 'The Other Half (Of Me)' - he really interacts with the audience and gets them rocking, I found him a highlight of the show and would describe him as 'exhilarating'! Top performer!
'Mother Earth' is a special song for me because this is the first Within Temptation track that I heard and I especially like the Celtic feel to the music. The drama has slowly been building since the end of the ballad section with more visual effects and smoke and puffs of fire. 'Mother Earth' gets off to a fantastic start both visually and musically with stunning vocals. Some of the note variation in this song differ from that on the recordings but it works and as usual is an incredible vocal performance from this girl - she can sing live no problem at all! It is a pleasure to listen to someone who can easily hit the notes.
Goosebump time again! 'All I Need' - just beautiful. A ballad that is being sung live and is note perfect in my opinion. Accompanied on centre stage by a lone guitarist, visually, this is beautiful. There is a blue tint to the images which makes it easy on the eye. The final song choice is 'Ice Queen' from the second album and I think a good choice. Atmospheric, big, dramatic and providing this epic concert with a sensational ending - just brilliant!
Sharon speaks in different languages to thank the crowd at the end and that includes Dutch, English, French and German.
EXTRA'S ON DVD 1
Go straight to song choice
English subtitle ON/OFF.
Interviews backstage, including the excited crowd outside before the concert.
Band members introduce themselves and discuss the group. All in the bands language Dutch so subtitles will need to be switched on for English translation.
~Countdown Black Symphony~
Starting at 10.45am you see all of the effort that has gone into the show that you see in its perfection. Props tested, Sound checks for the band, sound checks for the orchestra until finally it is time for the doors to swing open at 18.30pm! An amazing insight!
The band perform alone without orchestra - still an amazing performance and a great extra. Songs are mostly the same that are performed on Black Symphony so you may want to have a little gap in between viewing. Another huge screen on this stage set up too - really impressive.
English subtitle ON/OFF
What have you done
All I need
The making of ...
All I need
Experience the making of the videos - commentary is in English.
~World Tour Impressions~
Footage of being on the road by Within Temptation - commentary in English.
TMG Awards Benelux
The Dutch Pop Award Show
Photo shoot Erwin Olaf
CD 1 & CD 2
A high quality recording of the Black Symphony. I have loaded these songs onto my MP3 and they sound amazing. Twenty two songs in total in concert order. A fabulous addition to this concert DVD making it exceptional value for money!
5 STARS AND BEST SHOW ON EARTH FROM KERRANG!
It is easy to see why this group received this award from Kerrang. The effort that went into this performance was phenomenal. Prop's, orchestra, choir, visuals, special effects - including modified dancers! Just incredible. This was a visual and sound extravaganza that stimulated all senses and emotions. In answer to my question at the beginning - yes! Without a doubt this was quality in every way. Can Sharon produce vocals as good as her recordings - yes and I can tell you that I enjoyed some of the live performance vocals more! She is one talented girl! The whole ensemble gave their all in this concert and Sharon produced some powerful notes. Stunning!
BITS & BOBS
PRICE £16.99 FROM AMAZON AT TIME OF REVIEW
AVAILABILITY AMAZON, EBAY, MOST GOOD MUSIC STORES ONLINE
PRODUCTION - DOLBY DIGITAL, 5.1 SURROUND, 2.0 STEREO
SONG LIST TWENTY TWO
DURATION APPROXIMATELY 350 MINS
I have no hesitation in recommending this 'Symphonic Rock' epic masterpiece. For the price of approximately £16.99 you have the phenomena that is Black Symphony an incredible feast for all of the senses. If that wasn't enough there are lots of quality extra's - I would probably only watch the documentary's rarely but the music DVD's and extra concert are certainly welcome. The CD's are an impressive inclusion at the price and very much loved as I appreciate Sharon's live vocal performance. The concert is split in the middle by a touching ballad section which I thought was beautiful, heartwarming and allowed for a more dramatic build up to the end of the mammoth symphonic treat.
THANK YOU AND GOODBYE
Thanks for reading and I hope that you found the review interesting and enjoyable. Also published on CIAO under my username.
I shall not describe the band in too great a detail as I would presume most people contemplating buying this DVD would have heard of them and listened to their music before.
In brief Within Temptation are a dutch band (who sing in English) fronted by Sharon Den Adel. I would describe them as a metal band, but with influences from many areas and they often incorporate orchestras (they have in this DVD), monks chanting, celtic themes etc.
Black Symphony is the 3rd music DVD made by Within Temptation and is predated by Mother Earth live and The silent force tour.
This DVD comprises of 2 DVD's and 2 CD's of live music.
The case is made of thick (good quality) board which folds out to reveal all 4 discs and a booklet containing a large number of high quality photos from the concert which are lovely to look through.
The first DVD:
When you press play on the DVD it starts off with Sharon sitting on a chair (same image as cover) and leads in to a view through a church with a priest walking down the centre aisle while music plays in the background. This then turns into the menu with 4 options to choose from:
Concert - The Ahoy, Rotterdam, The Netherlands
Tracks (useful if you don't want to watch the whole concert)
Settings - screen ratios and subtitles
Extras - backstage report, documentary (in dutch so use the subtitles for this), countdown black symphony (filming of events on the day of the concert shown on the DVD)
Starts off in black and white, gradually turning into colour within a couple of minutes.
The concert itself starts with some quite powerful and emotive chanting and orchestra music (the orchestra and chanters are all placed in prominent view on the stage) and combined with some shots of the band backstage. Personally I feel this really helps to build up the atmosphere in an effective way that I have never seen used by other bands. The band themselves then come on the stage member by member, Sharon being the last to appear from a door in the middle of the stage, already singing.
Sharon's costumes are somewhat legendary - dresses that really catch the eye and are somewhat out of the ordinary and in this concert she doesn't fail to disappoint on that aspect (or indeed any) as there are a number of costume changes, all as good as each other.
It should be obvious to anyone watching this the amount of effort that went into bringing this concert, and indeed all of Within Temptation's concert's, together.
It's important to note that Sharon does not mime concerts so all singing is her own unmodified voice and it is incredibly impressive.
The concert itself stays at a consistent level throughout - fantastic singing and instrument playing with a variety of songs being played from throughout their whole career (although of course with more emphasis on their latest songs).
The concluding song of the concert is Ice Queen (off their Mother Earth album) and preceeding this Sharon does a short speech to the crowd which is partly in Dutch so you may wish to use the subtitles for this but it isn't really necessary and not being able to understand doesn't detract from the enjoyment of the concert as a whole. It is good to note that the energy of the concert has not dimmed throughout and on this last song is just as lively as ever, with vast quantities of white confetti being sprayed out over the crowd from the front of the stage.
At the end of this there is again a small speech in dutch and they bow to the audience.
The whole concert is well shot - crisp and clear images with a variety of angles.
The 2nd DVD:
Bonus concert - a similar concert to that on the first DVD but on a smaller scale. It's worth watching although I wouldn't recommend watching one concert straight after the other as their is some repitition of songs.
Settings - screen ratios and subtitles
Music Videos - What Have You Done, Frozen, The Howling and All I Need
The making of... - Has short making of videos for Frozen, The Howling and All I Need. These are well made, interesting and usefully (for us English people anyway) done in English.
World Tour impressions - US tour, Tokyo etc. Filming by the band in various parts of America and other countries. An interesting look behind the scenes - nice to see what the band get up to on tour when they're not on the stage.
(All in dutch - use subtitles)
TMF awards benelux - clip of Within Temptation acceoting an award and performing What Have You Done, All I Need
The dutch pop award show - hand held beind the scenes recording by the band and all the male members come onstage to accept an award wearing dresses.
Photoshoot Erwin Olaf - filming of the photoshoot for the CD ' The Heart of Everything'
Orchestra recordings - hand filming by the band and general filming of orchestra doing recordings in the studio for the album.
These are simply CD's of live versions of their songs. These clearly differ from the studio produced versions but as Sharon's voice is so good live, they are definately worth having and listening to.
A welcome addition to the DVD's for times when you're not able to watch a concert but still want to hear one!