WITHIN TEMPTATION w/ SMASH INTO PIECES – Metro Areena, Espoo, 20.10.2018

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Within Temptation has been gone from the scene a while now, for good reason it seems, as vocalist Sharon den Adel has recently released a solo album after a creative burnout. With the personal stuff expressed in a gentler medium, it was time to get back to Within Temptation. Their upcoming album, Resist, will be released later this year, but they’re already touring in Europe. Their most recent show came to Metro Areena in Espoo on October 20th, 2018, with Smash into Pieces from Sweden warming up the stage.

I’ve been pretty interested in what’s been going on with Within Temptation for a while. I’m a huge fan of their older material, but haven’t been quite as impressed with their last two albums (though Hydra (2014) was a step up from The Unforgiving (2011). “The Reckoning” was an interesting single, so as well as hoping to see what the band’s energy is like now, I was also really interested in hearing the new material.

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Listen along to the setlist on Spotify here:

Metro Areena hasn’t been a favorite venue of ours largely because of it’s location. However, with the opening of the westbound metro route, coming to this particular venue is much less of a hassle than it once was. Leaving plenty early, we arrived with a few minutes to spare before Smash into Pieces took the stage.

The intro sounded interesting enough, as a LED-logo-masked fellow, The Apocalypse DJ, took the stage on a small raised platform for the electric drumkit, which also had a small screen in front of it. The first song, however, was surprisingly mid-ranged in tempo and didn’t do much to interest me right away. The crowd was already quite big when they started, but they seemed to agree with my half-hearted feelings, as there wasn’t much movement.

The single, “Higher”, was much more engaging, and vocalist Chris Sörbye talked about just being here a few weeks ago with Hardcore Superstar. It soon became clear that the band was having some severe sound issues, as one of the guitarists was on and off the stage constantly. Sörbye was clearly not prepared for this situation, as his speeches during the long breaks between songs were unprepared and, while quite sympathetic, not very engaging. Hopefully this will act as a learning experience for the guys, to have something prepared like a drum or bass solo, for these situations where there is time to kill. Or at least have some tour stories or anecdotes to share with the crowd? Wandering around and half-heartedly trying to keep people interested with the sympathy card worked, but… let’s say that the situation was not handly badly per se, but it was also not handled well.

The little screen was a nice touch, with some equalizers and cool visuals, as well as lyric videos. The music itself wasn’t bad either, and obviously suffered from missing the guitar half the time. Sörbye’s childhood friend, Victor [sorry, I didn’t catch the last name], was a guest, filling in on this night, and he had a lot of stage charisma. The Apocalypse DJ certainly had fun filling the gaps between songs as they tried to sort out the issues, but he kept up rhythms, as opposed to doing a solo.

Once the guitarist was able to get some sound, he really let off some steam in his performance, which was great. However, the band had so much energy that it, in a way, emphasized how dull Sörbye was. His voice is nice but a bit generic-sounding, or flat, and he had, by far, the least presence on stage of them all, which isn’t good for a frontman. Clearly some more experience is needed on the crowd-engagement front. They finished their set with “Disaster Highway” (appropriate considering their problems of the day, no?), and promised to be at the merch stand after Within Temptation’s set was over to say hello.

The stage changeover took a while, and for good reason, as Within Temptation has had quite the setup in recent years, and this time was no different. The band rushed out quite quickly after Sharon den Adel’s first notes opened up the show with “Raise Your Banner.” She took the stage in a a very different outfit from last time – a white cloak and almost fantasy-style dress, carrying a flag. “Mitä kuuluu suomi?” she shouted mid-song. It was a nice change, that the band just exploded on stage without an intro track; no teasers or delay. The guitars also felt a bit more mature than on the last couple albums, and the growls by one of the guitarists were vicious and fantastic.

They greeted the crowd properly in English afterwards, saying they were glad to be back in Finland after such a long while before playing the new single, “The Reckoning.” The band didn’t have a backdrop, but rather a large screen, as well as a few smaller screens (the one Smash into Pieces had been using was obviously one of these), and what initially looked like an ugly rocky stage prop front-and-center turned out to be a screen as well.

It was nice to see the band looking happy, energetic, and like they were having fun, especially if one or more of them have recently overcome a creative burnout. Den Adel’s voice was put to the test throughout the night and she nailed it every single time. “Stand My Ground” was introduced as a song about being strong and being yourself, and was clearly an old crowd favorite with a nice nostalgic feel. They entered full ballad territory with “All I Need”, and played a surprisingly large number of slower songs overall. This didn’t interfere with the flow of the set though, as they played a lot of their best slower tracks, and Within Temptation has always been good with beautiful ballad-y songs.

In fact, the set was quite interesting overall. They played a good selection of old songs, including “The Promise” and the title track from Mother Earth (2000), though they did skip “Ice Queen” this time, which was a shame. Along with the opening song, “Raise Your Banners” and “The Reckoning”, they also included a few other new tracks, like “Supernova”, which I have yet to form an opinion on, and “Mercy Mirror”, which I immediately liked and was my favorite unknown song of the night. I was a bit surprised that The Unforgiving was given a lot more showtime than Hydra, but was also pleased to hear “The Heart of Everything”, which is an old favorite of mine. Unfortunately, they are still relying on backing tracks for their guests, like Jacoby Shaddix (“The Reckoning”) and Tarja Turunen (“Paradise (What About Us)”). We had secretly hoped that Turunen might show up as a surprise guest, but no such luck. I don’t think she lives in Finland anymore though, which could explain it.

“Mother Earth” finished off the main set and was amazing, plain and simple. We had moved to the back of the venue to get a full view of the stage, and were very impressed with all the visuals and props once we could see them all in full context. When the song ended, the crowd kept screaming, not wanting them to leave. They returned with “What Have You Done”, with Mina (formerly Keith) Caputo’s vocals and visuals on the screens. They ended the show with a surprising choice, “Stairway to the Skies”, and we headed out of the venue feeling rather elated and quite satisfied.

 

I had been pretty worried about this show and how it would feel, but the band really showed that a little creative cramp can’t hold them back when they get going, and they’ve still got something to offer the music world. It’s rare to see bands before their albums are out, and I’m both snobbish towards some of Within Temptation’s recent work, as well as hard to convince in a live setting, so the fact that some of their new material worked really well live means that I’m actually quite excited to see what Resist is going to sound like.

Setlist:
1. Raise Your Banner
2. The Reckoning
3. Endless War
4. In the Middle of the Night
5. Stand My Ground
6. All I Need
7. Supernova
8. Shot in the Dark
9. The Promise
10. Faster
11. Mercy Mirror
12. Paradise (What About Us?)
13. The Heart of Everything
14. Forgiven
15. Mother Earth

Encore:
16. What Have You Done
17. Stairway to the Skies

Photos: Janne Puronen

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