April 2021 Feature Release – The Fallen Edition
So just like that we find that a new month is upon us which of course means that we’ll be nominating a brand new monthly feature release for each clan. This essentially means that we’re asking you to rate, review & discuss our chosen features for no other reason than because we enjoy the process & banter. We’re really looking forward to hearing your thoughts on our chosen releases so don’t be shy.
This month’s feature release for The Fallen has been nominated by Andi. It's the 1997 debut album from female-fronted Dutch outfit Within Temptation entitled "Enter" which sees the band experimenting with a gothic doom metal sound before heading in a more overtly symphonic direction on subsequent releases.
Thank you Daniel for accepting my Fallen feature release submission, here's my summary:
Enter Within Temptation with their dark debut Enter! It's much different from their later symphonic metal work, being a gothic metal album. The Lacuna Coil style of gothic metal? Nope, I'm talking about symphonic gothic doom metal following the "Beauty and the Beast" vocals inspired by Theatre of Tragedy. The songs are longer with inspired composition work and great atmosphere. The structures are not complex but are unpredictable with the instrumental sections being long and the vocals alternating between female singing and male growling. All of this instrumental space has paid off with the added mysterious atmosphere. The guitars play nice decent riffs that help the dark heavy atmosphere of songs. The keyboards are an important part of their symphonic sound, making it more complete. Throughout most of these 8 songs, you'll hear the angelic voice of Sharon den Adel, along with the death-doom growls of Robert Westerholt that you would rarely find in any of their later albums. Two songs stand out as a death-growls-only song sung by Westerholt and Orphanage vocalist George Oosthoek, and an instrumental. Enter captures the strong 90s gothic metal magic with haunting melody and dark atmosphere. Within Temptation might not have made a debut masterpiece, but the album really stands for its pure simple sincerity. Enter the dark portal....
Recommended songs: "Restless", "Enter", "Deep Within", "Gatekeeper", "Candles"
For fans of: Draconian, and the 90s eras of Theatre of Tragedy and Tristania
Ok, so it'll shock approximately no one that 1997's "Enter" debut from Dutch gothic doom metal exponents Within Temptation wasn't for me but perhaps not for the reasons that many of you might suspect. I did hear bits of Within Temptation back in their early days but never paid a lot of attention to them given that my taste in metal was on the polar opposite end of the metal spectrum & that's still essentially the case. I mean, despite the link to the gothic doom metal movement, "Enter" isn't all that far away from the band's later symphonic metal label given that around half of the tracklisting would likely qualify for that tag when examined in isolation. Sure, the strongest element at play & the most comfortable way to pigeonhole "Enter" is via the gothic metal subgenre but there sure is a lot of synth work going on around it. Also, any metal fan worth their studded battle vest would be remiss to overlook the fact that the majority of the riffage is based purely on 1990's death doom metal &, given the inclusion of cookie monster vocals in roughly half of the tracklisting, it's no surprise that "Enter" is often linked with doom metal.
Surprisingly, the female vocals of Sharon den Adel are the clear highlight of the album for me & I definitely prefer the sections where she takes centre-stage whilst accompanied by predominantly clean instrumentation. The more extreme end of Within Temptation's sound was still very much an evolving concept at the time & is far less convincing here. In fact, the musicianship on display is a significant stumbling block for me given that the instrumentalists were so clearly still learning their craft, particularly the guitarists who suffered from a poor production job & aren't exactly convincing with their re-enactments of these slow-paced & simple doom riffs. Keyboardist Martijn Westerholt also struggles for timing on occasion &, more often than not, his chosen synthesizers sound pretty dated too. This isn't an attractive look given my pre-existing repulsion towards synth-driven metal. And finally, the death growls of guitarist Robert Westerholt rank relatively poorly when compared with other half-decent cookie monster wannabes.
So it might sound like there's really not all that much going for "Enter" & that's true to an extent however I still find myself enjoying a good half of the eight tracks included & that enjoyment inevitably lines up with the tracks that utilize less of the synthesizers & death growls & more of Sharon's sweet vocal lines. There's no doubt that Within Temptation cross the line into being over-dramatic a little too often for my liking but when they hit on something with a little more maturity about it I find myself struggling to maintain my general feeling of apathy. One can tell that there are some good ideas in there somewhere but the band are still a little too green to know what to do with them. Then there are a couple of real shockers in "Gatekeeper" & "Blooded" which see me genuinely struggling to keep from offloading a cringe-faced look of revulsion.
Ultimately, there's little doubt that I'm not the target audience for a record like "Enter" but, at the same time, there are far too many flaws for it to overcome here & I can't see myself returning to the album any time soon.
P.S. Andi's three band links are exactly the three that I was gonna go for so well done with that mate.
Good review, Daniel! I've struggled a bit with the "Blooded" instumental as well, but "Gatekeeper" was one of my very earliest encounters with the epic slow melancholy of gothic doom at its fullest, along with many other songs in the album, hence my April Fallen feature release submission. I'm also looking forward to seeing what you think of the Dillinger Escape Plan April Revolution feature release, if that's what you're going for next...
Not gonna lie here, I never cared for the debut record from Within Temptation. It's the only album of theirs that incorporates a heavy doom metal sound before venturing into something that resembles more traditional symphonic metal. The word that I would to describe this album is "weak" because almost everything about it is lacking in force. The guitars sound gutted, there is practically little to no dominant bass throughout the entire album, the snare drum is weak, the symphonic elements are painfully lacking, and the harsh vocals from Robert Westerholt left a lot to be desired. The only true saving grace for Within Temptation was there vocalist Sharon den Adel who significantly helped make this album somewhat memorable in front of the terrible mixing. When this group became more focused in their symphonic elements, the mixing considerably improved. It's no surprise as to why this was the bands only venture in this style of metal.
Sorry, but enough is enough and I heard more than enough of Within Temptation and their ilk back in the early 2000s. This month I am afraid I'm gonna pass on listening to the Fallen featured release as I've already tried re-listening to one album that I despise (Inhuman Rampage) and I can't pull that trick off twice in a month - life's far too short for that! Needless to say, my memories of this (and the many others like it) are not good and not an experience I wish to repeat any time soon.
I've listened to quite a bit of Within Temptation thanks to stumbling upon them quite a few years ago thanks to my love of Nightwish at the time, but I never decided to go back and check out any of their albums prior to The Silent Force. In terms of female-fronted Symphonic Metal bands they've always seemed to have taken a backseat to their peers, especially since they weren't as operatic or theatrical as early Nightwish or as extreme and dense as Epica, opting for simple but effective songs that use symphonic elements as a backdrop rather than pushing them into the forefront. This is especially apparent with their debut release which is much more in line with Gothic and Doom Metal compared to any of their more modern albums with its moody piano, strings, and somber vocal performance from Sharon den Adel. Since Within Tempation have gone completely off the deep end with 2019 release Resist, Enter was honestly a breath of fresh air that gave me a nice perspective into a mediocre but interesting group that doesn't necessarily deserve to be brushed aside when talking about 2000's Symphonic Metal.
Overall I enjoyed this album. Even though it's a bit draggy and plodding, I definitely prefer the Gothic Within Temptation compared to pretty much anything else they've done, save for a couple standout songs on The Silent Force. The harsh vocals are admittedly a bit much; guitarist Robert Westerholt doesn't exactly have the most compelling technique in the world, but they work well enough within the brooding atmosphere of the album and provided a nice contrast to Adel's vocals. Her vocals are a bit shaky throughout though, partially due to poor writing on certain occasions, but also due to it being a bit too sing-songy for how Gothic this album sounds. Even though nothing really stands out about this album, I still think it's a solid piece of symphonic-heavy Gothic Metal with a nice atmosphere and some decent replayability. It also really helped to paint the full picture about the evolution of Within Tempation's sound leading up to The Silent Force and eventually into the downfalls of Hydra and Resist.
And hey, I think "Blooded" is a fine instrumental transition between "Grace" and "Candles".