Dutch band Within Temptation released their eighth studio album Bleed Out on Friday, October 20, 2023. Since their formation in 1996, Within Temptation has managed to move between genres of the rock and metal scene for 27 years. Entering the scene with goth metal album Enter they grew into the symphonic metal scene with fan favorites Mother Earth, The Silent Force, and The Heart of Everything. Their next evolution brought them into Iron Maiden inspired The Unforgiving and collaboration-filled album Hydra. Their 2019 release Resist saw the band once again take a new approach with their music, blending elements of rock, metal, symphony, pop, and industrial music. It is safe to say that it is difficult to place Within Temptation into a box, and perhaps that is the point.
Their newest release Bleed Out not only takes the best of all of that and brings it together, it is also the first album to openly tackle a myriad of social injustices seen around the world, including the war in Ukraine. Arguably one of their heaviest albums to date, such as the title track “Bleed Out,” this album is meant to hit you in the core, and it succeeds.
One aspect of this release that makes it unique is that most of the songs have been slowly released since 2020 when the band released the single “Entertain You,” which closes the album. Over a three-year period, several songs were released individually which made their way onto this album. Despite the distance and time between releases, this album does a wonderfuljob at making the songs flow together as if they had all been written in one session and intended for this album together.
The opening track, “We Go To War” is one of the new songs debuting on this album and has a traditional Within Temptationformula and sound to it, along with a bombastic opening to the album. The infectious chorus “and when we hear the call we go to war/and when we leave it all now to bring it back again” wants you to sing along and face the realities of war together. This song is followed-up by the title track “Bleed Out” which was written about Iranian woman Masha Amini who was killed in 2022 and sparked months of protest against Iran’s laws and the morality police. The heaviness of the song weighs into the heaviness of the subject.
“Wireless” is another war toned song that was inspired by the War in Ukraine. Vocalist, Sharon den Adel’s vocals soar beautifully and passionately about the bloodiness of war crying out that “you never cared for us, just our halo.” “Worth Dying For” is another new song to the album that has been noted to feel similar to their song “In the Middle of the Night” from their 2011 release The Unforgiving. This is another heavy song with another infectious chorus focused on the trials of war. A stand-out moment on this track is the gorgeous guitar solo.
The next track, “Ritual,” breaks from the theme on war and instead focuses on female sexual empowerment, which is not a usual thematic focus for Within Temptation, except perhaps for the track “Firelight” on their recent release Resist. This song has a sexy undertone, and metal overtone that fits together nicely with Sharon den Adel’s ever mesmerizing vocals. “Cyanide Love” also presents a new sound for the band and brings us back to the war in Ukraine. Heavy guitars and the ever-present German chorus in the background create a very mysterious environment around the subject matter of the song, which is in reference to the Ukrainian women who killed members of Russian occupying forces in 2022 by poisoning pastries with cyanide.
“The Purge” was also released in 2020 and has a similar musical feel to their previous album Resist while combined with some elements of symphonic metal many fans know them for. “Don’t Pray For Me” brings in those symphonic elements and heavy guitar that always beautifully accompanies Sharon den Adel’s vocals. This song is not a war-focused song, but instead focuses on religious freedom, and speaks out against religious oppression. “Shed My Skin” is a collaboration with German band Annisokay. This song was originally released in 2021 and contains rock elements, heavy breakdown, and great union of Sharon den Adel’s voice and the voice of Christoph Wieczorek of Annisoaky.
The next track, “Unbroken” opens with heavy guitar, and Sharon den Adel’s always present voice. With lyrics like “and you’re hating yourself, cause you know that the world’s getting broken/always doubting yourself gotta fight it, you don’t want to show it” this song is going to reach some listeners on a very personal level. The final track on the album, “Entertain You”has a catchy chorus and heavy riffs, with a focus on bullying.
While this was not a traditional release for the band, with many songs being released over a period of time, they still fit together both thematically and musically on this album. It is varied enough to be interesting from beginning to end, and showcases the talents of all members of the band. From the heavy guitars from Ruud Jolie and Stefan Helleblad, to the fantastic bass guitar from Jeroen van Veen that gets some beautiful focus on the title track “Bleed Out.” Mike Coolen gets some great focus on the drums on songs like “Entertain You” and “We Go ToWar.” The only thing that seems to be missing are some stand out moments for keyboardist Martijn Spierenburg, as are seen on many previous albums with centerpiece ballads. Which is probably the only quintessential Within Temptation thing missing from this album. Overall, a solid album from this arena-filling band that retains some of the old while continuing to venture into something new.
Suggested listening: We Go To War, Bleed Out, Don’t Pray For Me, and Cyanide Love.
1. We Go To War
2. Bleed Out
4. Worth Dying For
6. Cyanide Love
7. The Purge
8. Don’t Pray For Me
9. Shed My Skin (Featuring Annisoaky)
11. Entertain You