ALBUM REVIEW: Within Temptation – Bleed Out


More so than many records, the eighth full length studio release from symphonic metal act Within Temptation serves as a perfect snapshot of current times. A combination of the ongoing recovery process from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and the way that modern presentations of popular music consistently change and mutate, by the time Bleed Out (Force Music Recordings) finds its way into your grubby little paws, seven of its eleven songs will already have been released into the world of Spotify and YouTube.


With the world having ground to a halt in March 2020, the popular Dutch act were forced to cancel all upcoming tour dates so, as a way of softening the blow, went ahead and released the tour’s promotional single “Entertain You” anyway. A sturdy cut with colourful flourishes and backing vocals from producer Daniel Gibson, the first song to be released ends up as the last song on the album and actually works better that way. 


Following, in November 2020, “The Purge” is one of a small handful of cuts to feature creative input from founder member Robert Westerholt, the song drawing some of the most powerful vocals on the record from his wife, singer Sharon den Adel.


One of Within Temptation’s greatest strengths lies in their choice of collaborations, so in mid 2021, with vocal contributions from Rudi Schwarzer and Christoph Wieczorek from German post-hardcore act Annisokay, the band premiered “Shed My Skin” on virtual concert The Aftermath before releasing it properly as their next single. After over a year away the band reappeared with the muscular “Don’t Pray For Me”, the song co-written by Westerholt, with Gibson again contributing backing vocals.


Coming more up to date and “Wireless” was released in May this year, the song boasting a slow, Djent-style riff and breakdown, the booming bottom end contrasting sharply with den Adel’s patented breathy and emotionally charged vocals. More recently, the title track and “Ritual” have been released to the general public, the former pursuing the Djent direction before settling into the standard chugging patterns over which den Adel operates so well, the latter a distinctive cut sprinkled with eighties style keyboards.


Of the previously unreleased songs, “We Go To War” opens the record with the sound of bells and softly chiming keys before the tones become more strident, adding choral backing vocals and a thunderous guitar crunch. As is standard, the guitars drop out to allow space for Sharon’s airy vocals before re-entering soon after, the song carried by a swirling undercurrent of keyboards and underlined with a middle section featuring piercing keys and the first of several excursions into djent territory.


Standout cut “Worth Dying For” is fast paced and packed with jagged keyboards, huge melodies and powerful orchestral backing, the song also notable for boasting the album’s one and only guitar solo from talented lead player Ruud Jolie. Another song which establishes itself with slow and curved bottom end notes “Cyanide Love” also adds varied vocal effects and possesses a distinctive and memorable chorus, while penultimate cut “Unbroken” might feel like it’s been written a hundred times before but still grabs the attention during its stirring chorus.


Despite bearing little resemblance to the act who broke onto the symphonic/gothic metal scene over twenty-five years ago, many long-term fans will continue to be impressed by the band’s longevity and continuing evolution, while for others this latest departure might feel like the last straw. The band’s partly growled, darker-edged Gothic melancholia has long since been replaced by more mainstream influences, the symphonic elements reduced to background colouring in favour of rapping, dance beats, and now djent and metalcore.


Still, even after three years of upheaval and uncertainty creating an unavoidable but understandable level of disjointedness, through strong musicianship and another assured performance from den Adel, Bleed Out is a further reminder that Within Temptation still have much to offer.


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7 / 10