Sharon Den Adel

Review: Within Temptation – Let Us Burn (Elements and Hydra)

If anyone knows me well they know my love for the Dutch symphonic metal/rock band Within Temptation, and when they release something new I never hesitate to buy, especially when it comes to their live DVD’s/CD’s.

Let Us Burn is Within Temptation’s fourth live DVD and like their predecessors it certainly doesn’t disappoint when it comes to the varied content of this special package. Not only does the DVD contain the last European concert from their latest tour and album Hydra but it includes the high anticipated Elements concert the band performed in 2012 in honour of their 15 years of success. Alongside this the band included a double CD of both concerts which to me is the true highlight of any Within Temptation DVD because this is what the band do best, perform live and bring another side to their enchanting and powerful music.

Elements
This was the first of the two concerts I watched as I had always wanted to see how this special event had played out live and I was pleased to hear Within Temptation were finally going to let the rest of the world see it. Like their concert The Black Symphony, the band used a live orchestra to really bring all the elements (no pun intended) of their music to life. But upon watching the concert I can see why Within Temptation were initially against releasing this as a solo DVD and why they felt it didn’t work as well as hoped. The cut between shots is choppy and quick at best with cameras placed in odd places that made it feel amateur in terms of direction. It’s clear that the band have tried their best to conceal elements of the concert that just fell flat on it’s face (the dancers) along with the largely negative feedback from the fans. Personally I feel The Unforgiving is the weakest album in Within Temptation’s discography and I don’t think it translates as well when it comes to being played live. The one thing I did find beautiful about Elements was how well the band worked together, everything seemed incredibly equal. Sharon den Adel may have been the star of the show with her flawless vocals and theatrical costumes that made her look gorgeous, the rest of the band weren’t forgotten about either. Both Ruud, Stefan and even Robert had their moments in the spotlight along with Martijn exchanging his keyboards for a beautiful white grand piano for the tearjerking ballads Within Temptation are so good at producing. All in all, the ‘Elements’ the band tried to bring together as a 15 year celebration were there, it just sadly didn’t translate well when it came to the finished project.

Hydra
The second concert on the DVD gave the fans a reminder that Within Temptation can still put on an amazing show without all the glitz and the glamour of Elements. This concert was the last of the European ‘Hydra’ tour and to me it’s the best out of the two. The show starts off with a powerful force that just keeps going right up until the end and throughout it just doesn’t disappoint. You can tell this concert was well thought out in terms of camera angles that include one from on top of the stage showing the pyrotechnics and the crowds reactions in unison. You instantly feel like you’re a part of the show, as the camera pans across all six band members and brings back the special slow motion effect that times in perfectly with the music. Unlike The Unforgiving, Hydra is one of Within Temptation’s strongest albums and it works superbly well live and the songs chosen really do show you the various sides of this ever expanding band. Once again Sharon’s vocals are magical, effortlessly she can switch between being a powerhouse to angelic without a second thought. The setlist (although cut for the live CD) takes you on a nostalgic ride between albums that shows you all the varying sides of Within Temptation and reminds you why they are still as popular as ever today. To me this concert was perfect, not only for the fans who went to see the band live this year on their Hydra tour, but for those who sadly couldn’t. Like I said before you really do feel like you’re a part of this concert as you watch it and hearing Hydra live brings another sparkle to their latest album that makes you fall in love with their music all over again.

Lastly, I have to mention the double live CD that accompanies this DVD, Within Temptation have always been the best when it comes to recording their live music. Everything is crisp and clear in terms of the music, Sharon’s vocals and when and when not use to the live audience. Listening to both CD’s through my headphones yet again brought to life the music of this band and it instantly transports you back to their concerts. My only negative comment to make is that I could’ve done without two versions of a few of the songs. Instead I’d love to have heard live versions of their cover songs that I know were played at both concerts as they both seem to be fan favourites, but you can’t win them all. No matter what you may love or hate about Let Us Burn, this DVD is just as amazing as the others and Within Temptation have again showed us that they are a force to be reckoned with and they’re not going anywhere, any time soon.

LetUsBurn

Within Temptation feat Xzibit – And We Run (Review)

I’m not always one to do reviews, but on the odd occasion something will catch my eye and get my thoughts motivated, whether it’s good or bad today it’s Within Temptation’s latest music video.

Featuring the American rapper Xzibit, the song And We Run has been the marmite of the symphonic metal band’s latest album Hydra. So when it was announced that And We Run would become the fourth the single, fans everywhere pricked their ears up in anticipation. Would it be a success or would it fall flat and make the band rethink a few things when it comes to singles and the music videos? At the moment it’s 50/50 but fans are thankful that it’s not another lyric video which many other bands seem to be doing at the moment. Anyway back to the music video itself, honestly I was more skeptical of it than I was excited because Within Temptation have fallen in to the symphonic metal cycle of cheesy video plot-lines and cheap CGI to make you want to have a sick bucket passed over  just incase it becomes too much. So when I finally sat down to watch the video for And We Run, I was left on the fence.

Starting with the overall tone of the video, it’s clearly a tribute to one of their more infamous video Ice Queen with the similar backgrounds of a futuristic space and the band standing on what looks like an asteroid and Sharon dressed beautifully in a white Jan Boelo custom-made dress. The only difference between this and Ice Queen is of course Xzibit’s part in the video, to which I was thoroughly surprised at because it seems like he was in it more than Within Temptation themselves. I applaud him for actually fully committing himself and going with the idea of him trying to break free from darkness and run in to the light but this is where I feel the video is also a let down. It felt like it was Xzibit featuring Within Temptation, when it should have been the other way around. Maybe it would have worked better if Sharon and Xzibit had swapped roles or even had some more interaction, as by the time the song ends it’s just been cuts between two stories again. To me this is what made Paradise (What About Us) featuring Tarja Turunen an epic video because of the interaction between singers, not only in the performance but in the story telling of two women creating a better world.

This not to say I didn’t enjoy And We Run at all, because that would be a lie, I actually think the quality of the CGI has vastly improved and Xzibit running through the rain in slow motion is visually great. Even the space scenes behind Sharon and the rest of the band is great along with the contrast of dark and light but I don’t always want to see a band just perform in a video, thats what the concerts are for. I like to see them tested a little more in the way of their acting skills, even if it’s just something small, it would have vastly improved the finished product. The plot overall felt like it was climbing to something great but come the end I felt like it never quite got there and finished on an anti-climax. There was no resolution and I felt it was incomplete. This may have something to do with the song itself as it’s the shortest one (running time) from the album and to me if the song had been a minute longer it could have become one of the standouts from Hydra. Either way, if your a fan of this song your going to love the video and if your not, your probably going to despise it. Where the video fails in places however, the live version of And We Run makes up for it. No matter what you’ll be pumping your fist in the air and belting out the chorus with Sharon as the song has something inside of it that you just can’t quite get out of your head. Whether you love or hate it, it’s here to stay and become a part of Within Temptation’s history.

Desktop wallpaper: Hydra

I’m back after a hiatus away from writing (major writers block and laziness) and to kick-start my first post, I’ve got back in to making a brand spanking new desktop wallpaper.

It’s called Hydra as it’s based on Within Temptation’s gorgeous new album cover  along with a high recommendation everyone should listen to the album. I haven’t done too much to it apart from add some major flames behind the beast. Simple and clean was what I was going for as well as reflecting the album itself which is a monster, filled with references to fire, power and fantasy. If you’re a fan and want to download this wallpaper, feel free to by clicking on the picture and you’ll be transported to my DeviantArt account.

Hydra

Sharon den Adel by Paul Harris

Dutch symphonic metal band Within Temptation (you may have heard of them if you read my blog often) are about to release their new album and of course with that comes promotion and photo shoots.

The latest being for Metal Hammer magazine with the lead singer Sharon den Adel gracing the cover with two beautiful and unique outfits that fit perfectly with the bands music. The first being a beautiful long dress with an intricate rose design across one half of the bust that looks like a vine of roses has grown up on to her. What I love about this is if you have listened to the demos and read the track list for Hydra, the mention of roses crops up at least twice and most likely will in other songs. It’s clear to see that this may have been the inspiration for this particular outfit, if not a fantastic coincidence. To soften the look Sharon has a simple white feather boa laced within her hair to give that period feel that still feels relevant and modern. For the second outfit (and my favourite) Sharon has returned to her classic look of a unique corset that this time has a wonderful layout of flowers in shades of yellow and pink to make it stand out from the base of a simple white corset. What really stands out though is the big head piece made from a deer antlers, never before has been so bold for a shoot (to my recollection). Somehow it all comes together and I’d like to say this is most likely designed by Jan Boelo who Sharon has worn many times before, but I could be wrong, either way I think Sharon looks gorgeous and photographer Paul Harris has captured her perfectly. The photos I’m going to post are my Tumblr edits and not the originals but I think they still capture the dress designs really well.

WT2

WT3

WT1

 

Bad music video or high expectations?

This question has riddled my mind since yesterday afternoon when my favourite band, Within Temptation released their second music video, Dangerous from their anticipated new album Hydra.

Featuring Howard Jones (former singer of Killswitch Engage) and the small teaser trailer earlier on in the week, the song Dangerous was looking to be a knockout. The perfect follow-up to Within Temptation’s first single Paradise (What About Us?) which was a phenomenal hit with fans. When the music video for Dangerous was released yesterday, fans instantly flocked online to see it and I’ll admit I was really looking forward to this, but how wrong I was. At first I thought the beginning of the video was an advert for base jumping (courteous of YouTube’s usual adverts), until the credits started rolling and the music kicked in, I soon realised this was it for the video. Sudden cuts between the adrenaline of base jumping and the band alongside Sharon rocking out in a studio with raw lighting and slow motion action to catch the essence of the fast past and hardcore melody of the song were happening, but where was Howard Jones? When his first verse shows up, the video suddenly cuts to him singing his lines on a pier in a colder climate somewhere completely unrelated to the theme of the video or song for that matter. Surely things are going to make sense soon? Nope. The video pretty much carried on like this right up until the end, still making little sense in the way of a decent story. Other than the fact it’s about base jumping and how dangerous it can be. Is this all the music director or band could come up with for a music video, where as the song has such rich lyrics and could make great storytelling?

My conclusion is, this was rushed at the last-minute to make a deadline. The editing seems poor and somewhat amateurish, to the point where it could pass for a first time media project by a college student. It goes back to earlier Within Temptation videos where the band just perform in a studio with fancy lighting and different camera angles to make it look great. I’m not saying this is a bad thing but I’ve seen this so many times from their other videos; e.g. Faster and Shot in the Dark. The song itself is actually very good, it’s fast paced, heavy and incredibly catchy, it makes a great second single but the video just lacks creativity. Paradise (What About Us?) seemed to break the curse and show that with the right music directer and creative input they can make a fantastic video that really brings the song to life. I know in the past Within Temptation have back tracked on a video and recreated a second and better video (What Have You Done), so a part of me is hoping this maybe the case at some point. Many fans have been deeply disappointed by this video and it’s easy to understand why. This has nothing to do with the song or album itself because I really do love the song and can’t wait to hear it on the album, but the video is just a big disappointment in my eyes. Perhaps my expectations were a little too high, but I know I’m not the only one who is thinking the same. I hope the band are watching the comments fans are making and learn from this unfortunate mistake and give the song itself a little more justice, because it deserves something so much better for a music video.

What are your thoughts on this? Watch the video and let me know.

Artwork: Desktop wallpaper (Within Temptation)

I haven’t made a desktop wallpaper in a while but today I decided to have a play around with a great hi-res photo of Sharon den Adel and Tarja Turunen from their photo shoot.

I love the original photo so playing around with it and trying to find a happy medium was quite hard, I didn’t want to go too over board with it but I still wanted to put my stamp on it. In the end I decided to stick with what I know best when it comes to textures and colours and for a first time playing with it I’m fairly happy. To me it depicts the song and adds a fantasy element to it whilst not over shadowing the gorgeous photo and Tarja and Sharon. I may have a second play around with it another time, but for now here is my first draft of it. If you want to download it, just click on the art work and it will take you to my DeviantArt page.

Paradise

Photoshop Tutorial – Black and White

It’s been a while since I’ve posted a new photoshop tutorial so I thought I’d do a really simple one that I love doing with turning a coloured photo to black and white.

The difference with this tutorial is you don’t just reduce the saturation down to -100 as the image will just look a boring shade of grey. This tutorial will only take you a few minutes with a few minor changes to really make your new black and white image have some depth to it, so lets begin.

Step 1.
With your image open on a new layer and merged together you’re now ready to go, and the first thing to do is click on the monochrome circle and go to Hue/Saturation. Move the Saturation slider backwards until the number reads -100. Your image will now look grey and in all honesty a bit bleak.

Step 2.
Click on the monochrome circle again and go to Levels. If you’ve followed my tutorials before you’ll know a little bit about this. In a box you’ll have a graph and three numbers underneath it. Above the middle number is a slider, you want to move it backwards until the number underneath reads 1.18. Your picture will now look slightly brighter.

Step 3.
Back to the monochrome circle again and go to Brightness/Contrast. On the Contrast line you want to move the slider forward and the number will go higher. Stop when it gets to 60, and once again your image will change and now look like it has depth to it with both the dark and light areas changing. You now have a black and white image that actually looks good and can pass for a true black and white photo.

Tip.
To me this tutorial works best on concert photography, I’ve done it many times and to me it makes the original photo stand out so much more, but it does work on other photography styles. I find photo’s that don’t have much colour to it like the one above works really well as black and white. But the more you play around with images the more it can work in other areas. Once again it’s all about experimenting and seeing what works well for you.