Dutch Metal veterans Within Temptation are often unfairly compared to the likes of Nightwish and Epica, just because all these acts have a leaning towards Symphonic Metal with a strong female lead vocal. They are, of course, very different bands indeed.
Still, it’s been interesting watching them all grapple with approaching a live stream performance as a substitute for the touring, which was such a staple of all their approaches to promoting their music pre-COVID-19.
Within Temptation – The Aftermath – A Show In Virtual Reality
Performance: 15 July 2021
Words: Ian Sutherland
Epica went for an enhanced stage show kind of style in their show but Within Temptation echoed the Nightwish approach of having the band play songs live with a landscape created around them. The Aftermath turned out to be a completely different beast, though, in both style and content.
The look from the start was of the band playing on a big stage in the middle of some dystopian future world. Think Blade Runner but with much better lighting! The show was separated into sections with a talking robot head giving little speeches between them.
I’ll be honest and say on my first watch, I wasn’t able to link the songs to the concept being staged very easily, but I decided to enjoy the music and the visuals and let the band expand on that stuff after the event.
WT have changed in style quite a bit since their early gothic Metal leaning days and now sound very modern, with the electronic side of things being almost equally balanced against the crunching guitars. I thought the set for this special show would heavily reflect their more recent material, and it did.
However, the opening salvo of Forsaken from The Silent Force and Our Solemn Hour from The Heart Of Everything took me by surprise. Although these versions definitely had the modern WT polish, it was great to hear them look to their glorious past too.
The majority of the set, though, featured very recent material like The Purge and Raise Your Banner, which suited the setting and the constantly changing lighting and videos. The sound was correspondingly huge, but with those all-important vocals from Sharon den Adel appropriately highlighted in the mix.
Live these days, I think it’s the natural charisma of their now-iconic singer who carries the band through, and it was not unexpected that the pre-show intro was just her sitting at a table and answering online questions. Everyone knew she would charm her way through it.
In the actual show, I missed that connection, though. Her vocals were terrific as always, and she looked fabulous in a succession of outfits but separated from the rest of the band and with the director’s choices to show almost as many shots of drummer Mike Coolen as Sharon herself, this wasn’t a normal view of a band performance at all.
In the last few years, a staple of this band’s shows has been including virtual duets, and I wonder how exciting dueting with a video is. Here we got four duets presented to us, and given how virtual reality everything was, I’m not sure if the likes of Jacoby Shaddix were actually in the same room during The Reckoning.
It looked like he was, though, which is better than, for example, the standard film of Xzibit on And We Run.
This performance was fascinating and has received a hugely positive response from the band’s fan base. As a one-off, it worked, but I don’t see this as the future of Metal.
The sooner these guys get back out on the road, the happier we’ll all be.