Album review: Within Temptation – Bleed Out

Dutch metal troupe Within Temptation take a turn for the heavy (in every sense) and make their best album in over a decade.

Album review: Within Temptation – Bleed Out
Nick Ruskell

It would be gratifying enough that, though comfortably one of the biggest metal bands in Europe, Within Temptation have taken the creative risk on Bleed Out to wind up at what is by some way the heaviest music they have ever made. Though clearly identifiable as the Dutch sympho-metallers by their distinct fingerprint, it’s also a record that frequently pulls out down-tunes, djent-y riffs, and at times lugs things along at a doomy, funereal tempo. You’ve never heard a Within Temptation turning their magisterial hand to something quite like this before.

But Bleed Out also finds them taking a far more blunt, dark, direct and urgent lyrical stance than you’ve heard from them before. Where previously messages about stuff had been heavily wrapped in poetic metaphor and talked in broad strokes about love, humanity and nature, here there are on-the-nose songs about war, division, Ukraine and human rights. Coming as it does in the week that war is flaring in the Middle East, it’s prescient. There’s also a cheeky, “kinky” song about seduction and empowerment inspired by 1996 movie From Dusk Til Dawn, but even this feels like a more direct and forceful side to the band.

Not that they’ve turned into GWAR, of course. The spine of Within Temptation – those huge, dramatic walls of dark, glacial, classy neoclassical pomp, Sharon Den Adel’s incredible voice, a big dose of theatricality – are all present and correct, but there’s more going on as well. Opener We Go To War is all staccato guitar and double-bass drumming around its typically huge chorus, Worth Dying For rides in on a peculiar, skipping rhythm that recalls Meshuggah (with nicer singing), and Cyanide Love’s chunky riff is allowed to hang doomily in the air, creating a powerful sense of dread. On Wireless and, in particular, the title-trqck, there are electronic moments among the big, fat guitars that wouldn’t shame Bring Me The Horizon or Architects. That they can do all this while still sounding unmistakably Within Temptation is testament to perfectly they've carried it all off.

As Sharon told Kerrang! recently, the messaging is important, and deep. And in times of strife, a music that calls for unity is a welcome and comforting thing. But even were you not to know what these songs were about, as a Within Temptation fan, you should feel rewarded not just that they’ve made possibly their best record since 2007’s The Heart Of Everything, but that after so long they still have something new to say, both musically and otherwise.

Verdict: 4/5

For fans of: Evanescence, Nightwish, Bring Me The Horizon

Bleed Out is released on October 20 via Force Music

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