The second element of my "trinity" of symphonic metal hails from the Netherlands, which is home to a fair number of good symphonic-metal bands. Unlike Nightwish, they approached it from a gothic-metal background, but, like Nightwish, they've taken their art in a bit of an unusual concept-album direction. They're Within Temptation, they're the biggest band to come out of the Netherlands, and the fact that there's a couple at the center of the band should help ensure that they're around for a long time.
More below the fold.
Within Temptation were founded in 1996 by longtime couple Robert Westerholt, formerly guitarist for The Circle, and Sharon den Adel, mezzo-soprano vocalist and veteran performer. (den Adel previously worked as a fashion designer, and still uses these talents to design both her costumes and the band's merchandise. The fact that there's a Facebook group entitled "I Want Sharon den Adel's Dresses" should attest to her talent.) Westerholt recruited former bandmates Jeroen van Veen on bass and Michael Papenhove on guitar, and with Martijn Westerholt on keyboards and Dennis Leeflang (later Ivar de Graaf) on drums, the initial lineup was complete, and they were signed by DSFA Records shortly thereafter.
Their first album, Enter (1997) was heavily gothic in tone, drawing influence from doom metal and employing "death grunt" vocals in a "beauty and the beast" style, but it propelled the band to recognition in their native country, and for the next couple of years, they toured, as well as recording the 1998 EP The Dance which further refined their style. They took a bit of a sabbatical the following year, among other things, building their own studio.
In 2000, they returned to touring, and released their second album, Mother Earth. This started their move away from the "gothic" sound and towards a more "symphonic" style, with den Adel's ethereal vocals and production quality emphasized. The second single from the album is what started their rise to international fame:
(This is now their "signature song," and their typical concert closer.)
Sadly, this was followed by some lineup shuffling the following year; Stephen van Haestregt replaced de Graaf on drums, Ruud Jolie was brought in as another guitarist, and, notably, Martijn Westerholt contracted mononucleosis and had to bow out, replaced by Martijn Spierenburg. (Martijn Westerholt would later go on to found Delain, so he landed on his feet.) The band rode the success of Mother Earth for awhile, rereleasing it on GUN Records across a wider swath of Europe and winning a couple of major awards, the Silver Harp and the Edison Award.
Their success was multiplied further by the release of The Silent Force in 2004, which instantly hit #1 in the Netherlands, charted well across Europe, and spawned four singles, including this one, which is probably one of their most-recognized songs:
Another single off the album really highlights den Adel's ethereal vocals...and her pimped-out dresses:
Following this, they began touring Europe, headlining the Bloodstock festival in the UK and even doing a show in Dubai. They won the Dutch Pop Prize for best Dutch pop contribution, and the Dutch Export Prize for best-selling Dutch artists outside the Netherlands, in 2006.
Their next album, The Heart of Everything, was released in 2007, and also debuted at #1 in the Netherlands, and it would reach #2 in Belgium and Finland and the Top 10 in eight countries altogether. It was also the first of their albums to be released in the U.S., by Roadrunner Records, which would reissue Mother Earth and The Silent Force there as well soon thereafter. Five singles would be released from this album, including this one, featuring guest vocalist Keith Caputo of Life of Agony:
This track, however, may be my favorite from the album:
(This is a fan-made video, and uses clips from a number of other Within Temptation videos.)
Soon thereafter, they embarked on their first U.S. tour, supporting another symphonic-metal band, the Italian band Lacuna Coil. They also filmed a live show at the Ahoy accompanied by the Metropole Orchestra, which was released as the live DVD/Blu-ray Black Symphony. Following the extensive tour after this album, the band took a much-needed break, reconvening in 2010 for another tour. Meanwhile, Robert Westerholt hinted that their next album would be "kind of a concept."
This concept started as a film soundtrack (ala Nightwish with Imaginaerum), but evolved into a "lighter-weight" media concept when they met comic book writer Steven O'Connell (BloodRayne, Dark 48). The album, The Unforgiving, was released in 2011 alongside a comic book of the same name, written by O'Connell and illustrated by Romano Molenaar (Witchblade, The Darkness, X-Men). The band also made three short films that tie in with the characters and stories from the album and comic book. This is the second of those two short films:
(Fun fact: The character's name was originally "Maya," and she was South American, but den Adel requested the name and nationality be changed as the music for "Sinéad" had already been completed.)
Prior to the album's recording, van Haestregt had been replaced on the drum throne by Swedish drummer Nicka Hellenberg; later, Mike Coolen would join as full-time drummer for the band's live shows.
The Unforgiving was hailed by some critics, but panned by others, as you would expect from an album with a bit of a stylistic departure from the band's previous sound (again, like Imaginaerum). The album's release was accompanied by, of course, a major tour, including apprearances at a number of music festivals.
Through all of this, Westerholt and den Adel have managed to have three children (a girl and two boys) together. Westerholt has now mostly retired from touring with the band (replaced by Stefan Helleblad) so he can take care of the children and focus primarily on production and songwriting. There's a real example of "family values" for you!
As I've said, Within Temptation makes up one leg of my "trinity" of top symphonic-metal bands. Sharon den Adel's voice is not "operatic" like Tarja Turunen; I would describe it as "ethereal," often floating gently through the accompanying music, but capable of solid power when it's needed. One day, I hope they play Denver live, as I'd like to see them perform, and the reaction they get from Denver metalheads. \m/