Within Temptation - Resist (Review)


Dystopian rock anthems for the revolution

Oh, how polarizing the responds to Resist have been ever since its first single dropped. The opinions ranged from it being a complete miss to it being by far Within Temptation’s best album. The reason for the divided reception of the record is pretty simple to explain: Resist feels much like the successor to The Unforgiving, which was a radical shift from the symphonic fairytale folk of their previous work to an action packed modern thrill ride - which is already indicated by the different styles of the album covers compared to the rest of their discography, replacing the elegant fantasy images with comic book ready motifs.

Resist takes it a few steps further, and fires electronica elements and a focus on easily recognizable melodies at its audience. Genre enthusiasts will criticize the very decision others praise them for: to open up and include modern aesthetics. The artificial brass fanfare heard on The Reckoning or the fast paced trap hi-hats on Endless War, the two songs opening the listening experience, are likely a no-go for those who adore a more traditional musical outfit and dismiss the current day blending of genres. But Within Temptation aren’t Fall Out Boy who completely gave up their rock roots for pop. Resist rocks. And much, much harder than ever before. While the keyboards of songs like Supernova, which also work as its intro, have techno written all over them, and your mind would expect stomping eurodance bass drums to immediately kick in, a storm of heavy as heck electric guitars and fricken loud percussion comes crashing into it. Rock as rock can. Sharon den Adel, blessed with a voice like an angel, let go of her siren singing and instead belts out the words as if holding a speech towards an angry mob lead by the band. Which is exactly the album’s point.

Resist, while never addressing a specific social issue, is designed to be a soundtrack for the revolution. From the associative title to effective, screamed phrases like “Blood For Freedom!”, it is very likely to become a remaining favorite in mad times - times like these days. In several European countries, the record already was a major hit, including a number 1 position in Germany, and while at the moment the world has more than enough political fuel that gets people enraged, the ten anthems, many of which are told from the perspective of a beaten individual, are lyrically timeless.

It’s not the first time the band touches on such territories: already in the year 2000, the masterful epic ballad Deceiver of Fools was about a leader who used fear to gain control over people, and 2005’s Stand My Ground was the blueprint for their hymns of getting back up when kicked down. Only that this time, for the first time in their career, the sound of their music is equally filled with determination. You can dislike the lack of folk melodies, the reduction of symphonic elements and the much more straightforward compositions, but direct structures, heavy musical outfits and singing that’s inviting to scream along at a march will get more people to actually feel the vibe. Raise Your Banner sounds like a mashup of the showdown of a dark epic adventure film, Liebe ist für alle da era Rammstein and a war chant - if that won’t get you to revolt, what does?

And even for the unlikely case that definite peace will occur at one point, the tracks can as well be played during a cyberpunk LARP. The thoroughly dystopian design of the sounds, strengthened by the subtle interpolation of electronic drum kits going hand in hand with the more classic version of the instrument, feels colossal in scope and - despite the absence of the strong symphonic elements of past albums - very, very cinematic and fit for a story based, futuristic video game. While the fantasy genre was always a source of inspiration for the band, this time it’s dark, bleak science fiction - not as much the joyous space adventures of George Lucas, but the nihilistic, action filled metropolis of Dredd. However, there’s still a bit of tenderness in between. On the wonderful, atmospheric ballad Firelight, Sharon den Adel shows that she still has her trademark vocal capabilities within her, including all the high notes, and just held them back for the fire she was about to unleash. And hell, did she and her band set the world on fire.

Resist is both heavier and poppier than the Dutch group’s albums, and in that sense its divided reception between both fans and critics was to be expected. But this change in style wasn’t done without a reason, but in favor of the synchronization of words and music for an overall piece of art. While some may miss the delicate elf-like folklore suites of past days, others may find that the smashing, post-apocalyptic soundscapes of Resist are intriguing in their own right. They both have a right to do so.