In the wake of EVANESCENCE's massive worldwide success, it is no surprise that virtually every female-fronted guitar-heavy group is being compared to Amy Lee and Co., even when the similarities are marginal, at best (see LACUNA COIL).In WITHIN TEMPTATION's case, red flags were raised earlier thus year when the Dutch band came out with their new single, "Stand My Ground", which displayed some decidedly EVANESCENCE-esque elements while staying largely true to the group's tried-and-tested hard rock sound. Although the song itself wasn't quite as radio-friendly as EVANESCENCE's breakthrough hit, "Bring Me To Life", WITHIN TEMPTATION appeared to have adopted a more streamlined, pop-tinged approach — one that was accentuated with the release of the song's accompanying video, which, like the aforementioned "Bring Me To Life", featured the band performing on top of a tall building. Thankfully, the rest of "The Silent Force" should dispel any notion that WITHIN TEMPTATION have sold their souls in search of commercial success. As has become the group's trademark, there is plenty of epic-like, orchestral instrumentation and soaring vocal work by Sharon den Adel — undoubtedly the group's most potent weapon — who never fails to amaze with her stunning, flawless delivery. The songs themselves are extremely well constructed and are devoid of any truly blatant attempts at a more pop-like approach, with the band focusing on composing long-winded ambitious epics that are as dark-sounding as they are beautiful (just listen to "Pale"). At least some of the credit should also go to producer Daniel Gibson, who co-wrote four songs with the group, including first single "Stand My Ground". Amazingly enough, the thick instrumentation and Sharon's angelic delivery are never at odds with each other — a rare feat when it comes to music as complex and involved as WITHIN TEMPTATION's is. It will be interesting to see if WITHIN TEMPTATION will be able to achieve any level of success in the United States, where they are bound to be dismissed as EVANESCENCE imitators by those who do not take the time to explore the band's music beyond their first commercially released single. For my money, however, "The Silent Force" stands as a masterful collection of songs that should go down as one of the top albums of 2004.
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