Album Review: Within Temptation – Resist
There are moments in life that can change its entire course. For Dutch symphonic metallers Within Temptation, that transformative period almost resulted in their demise, as question marks loomed large. However, seventh album Resist distils that time of trauma, healing and new beginnings into 47 dazzling minutes. It won’t be the easiest ride for those who dislike change, but history will mark out Resist as the album that saved this band.
Two decades into a career that appeared to be tracing a pristine upward trajectory, and with last album (2014’s Hydra) achieving career-high chart positions, Within Temptation’s lofty status as one of Europe’s biggest metal bands was suddenly threatened by burnout, writer’s block and personal issues. Singer Sharon den Adel and her husband, guitarist Robert Westerholt, had reached an impasse. Although Robert had ceased touring with the band to look after the couple’s children, Sharon was increasingly troubled by her long stints away from home, and by the illness and subsequent loss of her father. The band had become a leviathan, a monster too big to handle.
Sharon instead poured her conflicted emotions into a solo project, My Indigo, last April. Thankfully, this purifying process revived her creative fires, and Resist is the result. It’s a combative call-to-arms, the antithesis not only of My Indigo’s quiet reflection, but of Within Temptation’s tree-hugging roots, more ‘new rage’ than New Age. Without making dramatic U-turns, the band have reinforced their sound with electronics – featuring synths and guitars in pyrotechnic duels, killer songs illuminated by enormous, flash-bomb hooks. Its central theme is the battle for sanity in a complex online world, but the real unifying factor is the sound and spirit: all 10 songs belong together, breathe together, and thrive when heard as a whole.
Opener The Reckoning’s riff, surely the heaviest this band have ever written, prepares you for what’s to come, while the anthemic Raise Your Banner epitomises the album’s belligerent spirit. The pair are boosted by vocal contributions from Papa Roach’s Jacoby Shaddix and In Flames’ Anders Fridén respectively, both offering shadowy contrast to Sharon’s radiant note-hitting. Meanwhile, Supernova’s lush chorus is as huge as its title suggests, while its stablemate in track Mad World rushes towards a cathartic pay-off.
With everything twisting and turning so brilliantly, there’s no room for a mid-album sag, or low-gear dip in energy. Holy Ground shifts through semi-synthetic layers, emerging into a transcendent chorus, while the heavy-hearted In Vain addresses the sudden emptiness of loss, and Firelight (a song originally written for My Indigo) is developed into an outstandingly beautiful mood piece. Even better is Mercy Mirror, a roof-raising power ballad and one of the most immediately enchanting songs Within Temptation have ever written. Final track Trophy Hunter is, sadly, not quite the climax the album deserves, but it does cleverly revisit the record’s various motifs to achieve a resolution.
Rather than making huge stylistic leaps in their mission to shake themselves back into life, what Within Temptation have created with Resist doesn’t feel jarring or off-kilter. It’s a variation on a theme, an essential realignment of this fantastic band’s energy. The result is a superb, invigorated record that invites you to wake up, as they have done, in a brave, bold and beautiful new world.
WORDS: Steve Beebee