Musically, Within Temptation still plays bombastic and melodic symphonic metal, but add in some retro '80s vibes and other genres on some of the songs. The opener “Shot In The Dark” has a lot of atmosphere along with big hooks and powerful vocals from Sharon den Adel.
“In The Middle Of The Night” is a standout, an arena-ready anthem that's more intense than the usual WT song, but has great riffs and a memorable chorus. One of the strengths of The Unforgiving is the balance between orchestration and riffs. The symphonic elements don't bury the guitars, they both comfortably co-exist.
It wouldn't be a Within Temptation album without a ballad or two. “Fire And Ice” starts with piano and vocals before kicking into power ballad mode. “Lost” is another ballad that nicely alternates acoustic and electric guitars accented by orchestral strings.
The '80s influences really come to the forefront on “Sinead,” which has a danceable beat and plenty of synths. There's no filler on the CD, ending on a strong note with the uptempo “A Demon's Fate” and the dynamic “Stairway To The Skies.”
To move forward, a band must be open to exploration and change, which is exactly what Within Temptation has done on The Unforgiving. The comic book concept and other visual elements are cool, and appear to have infused a new energy into the band. But the bottom line isn't the comic books or short movies, it's the music. And when it comes to the music, The Unforgiving is filled with excellent songs, quality musicianship, great vocals and is arguably the band's strongest release to date.
(released March 29, 2011 on Roadrunner Records)