There was a point during my third or fourth listen to the new Within Temptation album “Hydra” that my mind started imagining what a Disney movie would sound like soundtracked by the band, or at least what a Disney Princess would sound like voiced by Sharon Den Adel. Now I’m not entirely sure if it’s because I was in the middle of an obsession with current Disney movie “Frozen” or if it is due to cinematic widescreen sound the band has presented on this album, either way it was an interesting thing to ponder.
I’m going to just flat out say it, “Hydra” is the best thing that Within Temptation have put their collective name to, an album that fully realises everything the band has been building to and building upon since the release of “Mother Earth.” It’s an album full of scope, hooks and drenched in the right amount of theatrics that it elevates the songs, without sounding pompous. However, as much as this is the definitive Within Temptation album they haven’t done it alone, and they have enlisted the help of some friends, with guest stars appearing on the album in the form of former Killswitch Engage & current Devil You Know frontman Howard Jones, ex Nightwish songstress Tarja, Soul Asylum Singer Dave Pirner and lastly rapper Xzibit, (yes, you read that right).
Interestingly, it’s the collaboration with Xzibit that is one of the better ones on the album, and I think that’s because he doesn’t oversell it. Xzibit works a verse in that fits the story of the song and flows extremely well with what the band has created, it creates a stand out moment that helps to drive the song forward in a tasteful way and is an unexpected highlight. Howard Jones appears on the album’s single ‘Dangerous,’ and much like with the appearance of Xzibit, he uses his particular skill set to provide a vocal counterpoint to Sharon, one that helps to flesh out and bring some emotional resonance to the song in question. The song itself sounds like a typical Within Temptation single, but by having a male vocalist with the range of Howard helps to really pin the song down and give it some punch.
The one guest spot I was least looking forward to was that of Tarja, as generally speaking I’m not a fan of her overly operatic vocal style, I find it a bit grating. However, here, she really reigns it in and both her and Sharon deliver some great lines together, with neither lady overshadowing the other, on what is in my opinion one of the best tracks on the album, as well as one of the catchiest and heaviest as well. It’s one of the songs that I’ve revisited the most since having the album.
Elsewhere though, on the tracks where the band goes it alone, you get to some real gems in Hydra’s crown, like ‘Silver Moonlight’ which is an exceptional track that is full of riffs, full of bounce and features a male vocal that can only be described as sounding like a pissed of Smaug after finding a thieving Hobbit trying to rob his riches. Which again is a nice surprise because you really hear that aggression from this band, but when they unleash something like that, it really kicks. ‘Covered by Roses’ is another stormer, and I think the one that may have started me on the Disney tangent, as it sounds very much like it would fit into a Disney movie. Take from that what you will, but I can see it becoming a staple of the live set for this tour and beyond.
I willingly admit that I am a Within Temptation fan and after being disappointed with the bands last album “The Unforgiving” I approached “Hydra” with some trepidation as I didn’t know what the band had in store for us. After living with this album for a few weeks, I think it would be physically impossible for me to be any more in love with it, this is it, the perfect blend of everything Within Temptation have done up until this point as well as a pretty telling sign of how far they are willing to push things in the future, everything has been refined, harnessed and taken into a wonderful spellbinding new direction without compromising any of the elements that have brought them this far.
This is Within Temptation at their very best and showcasing just how great of a band they actually are,a true triumph in every sense of the word. Stunning stuff!