Female-fronted, commercially appealing symphonic metal with a visually striking, golden-throated vocalist… Sound familiar? That's because whether you've heard anything from WITHIN TEMPTATION, you've definitely heard the style of music on "The Unforgiving". The specific genre identifier is largely irrelevant here, as the four legs of the "The Unforgiving" table are (1) pop-based melodies; (2) metal in riff only; (3) lush keyboard atmospheric; and (4) the siren song of Sharon den Adel. That's pretty much all that is required to guarantee that "The Unforgiving" sells well and is embraced by the surprising number of North American fans that dig the style.
Can any of that be considered a "bad" thing? That depends on your tastes, but only the most subjective fan would argue that the WITHIN TEMPTATION sound is somehow progressive or creative. In fact, until you've settled into a groove with this album (about the fourth song in) "The Unforgiving" can seem damningly generic. What one soon discovers though is the formula works better than expected and if the first few songs don't grab you, eventually you'll succumb and admit that at least a couple of choruses are difficult to banish from the brain. You'll probably hear the most about "Shot in the Dark", "In the Middle of the Night", and "Where is the Edge", all of which are as single-worthy as they are nearly interchangeable from a formulaic point of view. The ones that you may not hear about initially — "Sinéad" and "Murder" – end up being two of the songs that offer a more gripping listening experience. "Sinéad" may be the best of the bunch for its soaring chorus and "Murder" succeeds for the tragedy and tension conveyed. "Demons' Fate" is rather catchy as well.
If you care enough about the WITHIN TEMPTATION approach, then you'll appreciate that it is a concept album based on a Steven O'Connell comic book written specifically for it. Each song basically mirrors the comic's narrative. The melodies are well enough written to keep one's interest and the classiness of the recording is hard to ignore. "The Unforgiving" is a better than average album for "metal" of this sort, but the stuff of critical acclaim it is not. Dedicated fans will no doubt find a deep musical well that is difficult for the casual fans to locate. That's par for the course. Overall, it is a good experience. It is also a fleeting one.