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Within Temptation are a Dutch band formed in 1996. Since that time they've evolved from what is best described as a spiritual/Celtic rock band to now a more symphonic rock/metal band spanning across 1 underground album and 3 mainstream albums showcasing this wonderful array of styles, but always with their own distinctive stamp. As seems to be the case for many a band the line-up has undergone many changes over the years but the current line-up consists of Sharon den Adel (lead singer), Ruud Adrianus Jolie (main guitar), Jeroen van Veen (bass guitar), Martijn Spierenburg (keyboard) and Robert Westerholt (guitar / backing singer).
In November 2008, a year after the release of their studio album The Heart of Everything, the band embarked upon a Theatre Tour in the Netherlands and the album An Acoustic Night at the Theatre, released in October/November 2009, is made up of a collection of live recordings from this tour. With a lot of their music being very up-tempo and impassioned this album was a step in a completely different direction veering away from an often epic heavy guitar inclination to a much more harmonic and chilled instrumental style. They seem to have selected songs best suited to an acoustic twist by picking the more gentle songs of their repertoire, but with a few exceptions.
The album kicks off in style by starting from their roots with the slow building Towards the End, which was from their underground album Enter (1997).With some very mechanical passages reminiscent of the chilling Terminator soundtrack before launching into a very epic and slightly gothic outpouring, Sharon den Adel shows what a fantastic voice she has by singing effortlessly with note perfect precision.
The next offering is from their Silent Force (2004) album, Stand My Ground. This is a beautiful version of the original, which was already a very tuneful song, but by stripping away the heavy guitars and replacing them with the acoustic and more symphonic sound the song becomes just that bit more ethereal. Once again, with her voice laid bare Sharon den Adel gives another beautiful rendition by showing such great range and emotion that it is hard to feel unaffected by it.
Hopping over to Mother Earth (2000) we are next treated to the acoustic version of Caged, and for me this version is actually better than the original. The best part of the original for me was the real anger that Sharon den Adel was able to portray, but a few passages always sounded a bit confused to me. But I always loved the Celtic tones in this one and thankfully all the best bits remained on this new version plus much more! With the use of softer instruments the melody of the song flowed much more freely and much less frenetically than the original which for me made this song so much more elegant. Once again, Sharon den Adel's vocals were faultless, and incredibly for me sounded even better than the original with a ridiculous ability to shift through the registers with seamless ease.
Working their way through their albums we are now presented with the heart-breaking song All I Need from their Heart of Everything (2007) album. This song was their equivalent to a ballad and was already a very symphonic and slow-tempo song so is perfect for a fresh acoustic take. If anything a heavier emphasis lay on the instrumentals with a gorgeous violin intro, and the subtle twangs from the acoustic guitar. With little else to distinguish this song from the original, this version is simply breathtaking - once again I am stunned by the pure grace and exquisiteness of Sharon den Adel's vocals.
Sticking with the Heart of Everything we are next offered Frozen, another deeply moving ballad. Similarly, as with All I Need, there is very little to distinguish this acoustic version with the original - the harmonious instrumentals shine throughout, albeit at maybe at a slightly slower tempo and just a touch softer, but the essence of the original song is captured perfectly, with perhaps that extra spark coming from the intensity of the live atmosphere. No need to mention the vocals other than to say amazing as ever!
Back to Silent Force now, and once again the song selection is of one of their slower and more symphonic songs off that album with the extremely emotive and haunting Somewhere. It all starts off as expected, with beautiful instrumentals and the otherworldly vocals of Sharon den Adel before unexpectedly the new vocals of special guest Anneke van Giersbergen sneak in. Whilst being of a very different register to that of den Adel, the two are able to harmonise amazingly and this addition really adds some magic to the song.
With a return to the Heart of Everything, the song selection shifts to a much more heavy, up-tempo and gothic tune with The Cross. This song is slow building but hits us with a very angry chorus and the transition to acoustic is very fascinating with this new version. With a much more chilled feel to it by the use of softer instruments and a significant change in tempo from the original, somehow the emotion from the original remains and naturally this comes from the amazing expression that den Adel can achieve with her vocals.
Next up is another ballad from Silent Force, Pale, which had a very heavy symphonic base which of course made it a perfect choice to be done acoustically. This new version of Pale actually moved away from the violins of the original and softened the song with a keyboard and acoustic guitar which again makes for a much more chilled song and allows den Adel to showcase her sublime vocals once again. As the crescendo builds, the violins subtly appear in the background to produce yet another stunningly beautiful song.
Possibly one of their best known songs from recent times is What Have You Done from their Heart of Everything album, featuring Keith Caputo and thankfully on this acoustic album he returns. I was excited about hearing this one performed acoustically as the original version is a very heavy and very angry song. The male/female dual vocals actually making it quite an out of character song, and the gruff vocals of Keith Caputo would have sounded very odd with a gentle melody behind it so I was fascinated to see the transformation this song would undergo. The violins, as in the original, still take centre stage to dictate the angrier parts of this song, but the acoustic twist and Keith Caputo showing a much gentler side really does lessen the intensity of the song and makes it fit in perfectly with the rest of the album.
Now seemingly picking only from their more recent work, we are again treated to another pearl of a song in the form of their wondrously moving song Memories, from their Silent Force album. Again this song is the perfect choice to be given an acoustic revamping as it was already rich with fantastic symphonic instrumentals and a wonderfully haunting tempo, and the new version sounds just as stunning as the original with fabulous instrumentals and once again powerfully emotive vocals from den Adel.
The final pick from the Heart of Everything comes in the absolutely heart-rending song of Forgiven. This is probably one of their most heart-felt and depressive songs, with a beautiful piano framework, and utterly compelling vocals from den Adel which display an unbelievable range of emotions and I felt would have been one of the hardest songs to sing live. But my fears were utterly misplaced as this song is performed absolutely breathtakingly whilst sounding so close to the original.
The final song is a new song I'd never heard before so was a lovely little bonus. Named Utopia, this song features the male vocalist Chris Jones, and actually for me felt like a very different style to the rest of the album. Nonetheless, it is still a very beautiful song, and den Adel and Jones harmonise brilliantly. I guess, despite the depressive side to this song, the tempo is much quicker than anything else on the album, but despite this it is a very captivating song and well worthy of its place.
This is a brilliant album that captures the magic of Within Temptation by stripping their songs to their core and just revelling in the pure beauty of their art. The haunting tunes and outrageously stunning vocals of Sharon den Adel make for a truly moving album which whilst being far more chilled and slow paced than their usual work is still unmistakably Within Temptation.
For me the only thing that would have made it better was to include Ice Queen from their Mother Earth album, which was widely regarded as their breakthrough single as I just think that would have been absolutely amazing but you can't get everything you want in life as otherwise the Tories would never have got in power and Westlife would never have ever existed. As with most bands with multiple albums their most recent albums seems to get most of the focus and their earlier work gets a little lost, but this really deosn't take anything away from this album.
This album is ideal for any fans of Within Temptation or just anyone that loves symphonic rock. I bought this for my Granddad as he enjoys classical music and he absolutely loved it so it will even span the generations! It is quite simply an album filled with awesomeness - I cannot rate it highly enough.
Within Temptation are a dutch female fronted metal band.
'An acoustic night at the theatre' isn't exactly a new album in the sense that all the songs (with the exception of Utopia) come from their previous albums. This does not mean that it is a 'best of' album, it is what the title states - an album consisting of acoustic versions of a number of their songs, which were recorded live.
For those who are unfamiliar with Within Temptation, the singer is Sharon den Adel - she has a beautiful, but very high pitched voice. Some people are not a fan of quite how high her voice is, but personally I feel it makes her and the band stand out among others of the same genre. It's a matter of individual taste and something you'll have to hear for yourself.
Generally speaking most of the instrumentals in their music is on the heavy (metal) side which is where this album contrasts to their others. As such it may not appeal so much to some of their fans (although if you like their songs such as pale, memories, all I need etc. which are quite 'mellow' to begin with, then you are sure to like this). Futhermore as this album is alot lighter than their usual music, people who would not usually listen to this type of band, may find themselves being a fan of this type of music.
It's always hard to review music, especially for people who have never heard of the band before, as you can't really give a flavour of what the band is like. As such here is a link to one of their songs: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bhzJO34SCoc if you like this, then you will enjoy 'An Acoustic Night at the Theatre'.
The CD comes in a standard jewel case with a small booklet mainly comprising photos from their acoustic concert at which this album was recorded. The design is dark but elegant (see photo).
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Towards The End
2 Stand My Ground
4 All I Need
6 Somewhere (feat Anneke van Giersbergen)
7 The Cross
9 What Have You Done (feat Keith Caputo)
12 Utopia (feat Chris Jones)* Brand new studio recording.