Welcome to Throwback Thursday! This is the place where we get to indulge in nostalgia and wax poetic about excellent metal of years past. Today marks a very special edition of Throwback Thursday because we have come to article number 50! Yes my friends, over the last year or so we have visited 49 albums that have helped shape and define the landscape of our beloved genre. I hope you've enjoyed the journey as much has I have enjoyed writing it for you. It has been my pleasure and my honor to share my love and passion for this music with you and I thank you for reading each and every time you decide to drop on by. On that note, what better way to mark this occasion than with one of the biggest and most influential bands to have come out of the turn-of-the-century Gothic metal revival. Within Temptation are a band that strikes a chord with millions of fans globally. Leading with their iconic symphonic drama and one of the best clean vocalists in the history of metal, Within Temptation broke through to a whole new audience with…
WITHIN TEMPTATION'S Mother Earth
Release Date: December 2000
Record Label: DSFA, Roadrunner, GUN
The Dutch are really, really good at symphonic metal. Alongside the likes of Epica and Delain, Within Temptation are another stunningly successful group to emerge from the Netherlands. Their second studio album Mother Earth solidified their gothy, dreamy sound by eschewing growls and showing maturity in their overall vision and focus. Within Temptation's lead singer Sharon den Adel said this of Mother Earth in a 2008 interview with FaceCulture.com, " [We're] a little bit older and a little more knowledge about how we wanted to sound… we didn't want to have the growls and didn't want to use them as a gimmick." I have to agree with that sentiment. Sharon den Adel's vocals are the element that most sets the band far and wide apart from their 'like' counterparts such as Nightwish. Her soprano range supports a soft but enigmatic and powerful strength. Check out track "Ice Queen":
If you've been following this series for any amount of time, you'll know that I absolutely adore official music videos. In the metalverse, these videos are often – well, interesting to put it politely. This music video is uncomfortable, and that's reason I love it. It really captures how new the band was, and I think it's charmingly awkward.
Mother Earth was commercially successful for the band, striking gold status in Belgium, Finland, Germany and Spain – and platinum in the Netherlands. The Celtic theme of this album was very much influenced by box-office hit Braveheart. In that same interview from FaceCulture, den Adel says, "All the songs came together in a very natural way. Songs were sometimes written in a day." Check out the title track "Mother Earth":
The fragility and beauty of her voice just echos in your chest. And, this official music video is much better than the last one! If you heard this track and had to guess what the music video would look like, you would have guessed correctly: epic landscapes, sweeping shots of a beautiful girl in a beautiful dress in gorgeous places and fanciful spirit animals. Simply put, the video looks the way the song sounds. I feel like Sharon den Adel helped set the a prescient for what alt escpaist goth girls wanted to look like because of videos like this. I speak from experience. I was a teenager when I heard this album and saw this video. I wanted to own a dress like that so badly!
And that anecdote is exactly the reason why I feel this album was so successful for the band. The strength of the music's imagery and atmosphere is as important as the music itself. Sharon den Adel is stunning and sings so beautifully. Now, I hesitate to bring up looks because as a woman in metal music for over 20 years, I have fought against sweeping generalizations because my appearance and my gender when it comes to talent. Still to this day, I fight against stereotypes and misogyny undermining my abilities as a musician and a writer. Note that I made no mention of the now defunct term "female fronted" metal. It's marginalizing and belittling. If you want to read a really smart discourse on the topic I suggest checking out this article from MetalSucks. With that being said, I want to emphasize that the band has a great image and the way Sharon den Adel styles and presents herself is definitely a part of it. But without her striking and unparalleled vocal talent, that image would be hollow, and den Adel said herself "a gimmick".
Mother Earth offers a special brand of wistful fantasy that I love to indulge with. The whole album has presence and straight-forward unflinching drama. Check out track "Our Farewell":
Within Temptation is not a gimmick. I do feel as though Mother Earth is the last album they had before going even more commercial and 'main-stream' sounding; though, commercial isn't a four-letter word for a band like this. I love how appealing they are and how their music has gotten non-metal fans to cross over to our blackened sands to visit. Their 2011 album The Unforgiving happens to be my other favorite album by them and it is quite polished and 'attainable'. If you're feeling fall like I am and want to listen to something dreamy on a walk through crunchy leaves in a dense forest, try popping on Mother Earth for the perfect soundtrack to your escape.