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4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
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on 3 February 2014
I've been on a Within Temptation rampage in the first few days. Not least because I've been downloading pretty much everything I own as MP3s. That meant all of Within Temptation's back catalog - it also meant I had the great honour of listening to everything they've ever done from the beginning. The journey has been immense and so has the wait for Hydra.

Hydra is the culmination of a journey that has taken over a decade to realise. We had a glimpse of Hydra back in the fall of 2013 with 'Paradise' - at a time when the album should have been released. The beauty of digital downloads is that when the release date ticks over into being active, you can get it straight away. It's been a long time coming but it's here now and I'm happy, really happy!

It's like the Within Temptation I always thought they we're have finally shown themselves, and they're not afraid to do exactly what is right for them. Whereas 'The Forgiving' may have been an album where they flexed their concept mainstream muscles, 'Hydra' deserves to finally propel them fully into the realm of being a household name.

The previous album could be forgiven for sounding a little samey but there's none of that here, instead we find a diverse mix of songs that should satisfy most fans and probably gain a few million more.

'Edge of the World' is a sweeping piece of music that makes you wanna raise your hands and shout out to the heavens - truly magnificent. The aforementioned 'Paradise' is a powerhouse of metal and operatic vocals with a chorus that sounds evidently plucked from the eighties, and there's nothing wrong with that!

'And We Run' is sure to divide fans and critics alike but I'm all for experimentation within music and let's face it - rock and rap have been hand in hand since Run DMC and Aerosmith and more recently JayZ with Linkin Park. Is it any surprise that Within Temptation, on their rise to superstardom, had enlisted the vocals of American rapper Xzibit? It's no surprise at all and although not the strongest song on the album, it is worthy of note for moving to break down barriers. It also will most likely gain them a new legion of fans from other genres.

'Covered By Roses' is a return to the days gone by, a power metal anthem that showcases their talent for creating catchy riffs with extremely mature vocals, a testament to the growth and desire of an amazing group.

If you've never heard Within Temptation before or you're a hardened fan like me, them you'll easily find something here to enjoy and take away from it. Far from forgetting their roots on their way to reaching a mainstream audience, they have created an album that feels like a showcase for everything they are good at.

One minor annoyance is the length, at less than 50mins it doesn't push the boat out, but then again, when every song is this good I can live with that. Now the final song, 'Whole World Is Watching' is a superb ending to a great album and it feels like a song in which they leave their calling card for the rest of the world to discover them... to discover and wonder what they've been missing for the past decade.

Hydra is a superb album, it feels like it has been a long time coming and the constant change in release dates didn't help - but it's here now and I'm glad it's as good as I wanted to be. Whatever you think of the group, there is no denying that they continue to push the boat out, to test new boundaries and to really find their place within the music world.

And in the end - they're just brilliant songs!
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on 3 March 2014
There's a lot of comments on this about the sound quality being poor. Whilst I will accept that it isn't perfect - it isn't as bad as some people are making out. I listen to most of my music in the car and in the gym - and this album gets no complaints from me. Maybe if you're listening really loudly on a state of the art system then you might encounter problems, I don't know. For those who may have complained about the sound quality of Metallica's Death Magnetic - this album sounds a lot better than that when the volume is up.

With that rubbish out of the way, I will say that this is the first WT album I have purchased. My opinion, therefore, is not tainted by previous releases and I cannot - and will not - compare it to older albums that may or not be widely regarded as the band's best.

This album has opened the door for me in terms of wanting to hear more from WT, so in my case, I would say that is a success.

At least 7 out of the 10 songs on here are nothing short of fantastic. Melodic, operatic, heavy and beautiful all at the same time.

Let me tell you how this whole thing played out for me. I saw the album advertised and thought I'd give it a listen to see what I thought. I haven't ever been tempted by WT before but for some reason this was different. Perhaps it's because I've recently started listening to similar band (Nightwish), perhaps it was just the cover, maybe it was an accumulation of a lot of things - but when I first heard 'Let Us Burn' I knew that I was going to buy the album. Fantastic from start to finish, this track really grabbed my attention and my imagination.

The addition of Xzibit has got some fans' knickers in a twist - but why? It's one song on one album, and to me, it sounds great. He adds a different dimension to 'And We Run'. This is what makes great albums in some cases - variety without deviating too far from the script. It seems that because of who he is, this song has received some bad reviews. To me, it keeps the album exciting and fresh as you move through the tracks.

'Dangerous' and 'Whole World is Watching' are other highlights - as well as 'Paradise' which, ironically for me, features Tarja. I had never been interested in Nightwish (having heard several of their more famous songs) until I heard Imaginaerum, which was fronted by Tarja's replacement, Anette Olzen. Here, Tarja sounds absolutely wonderful. It's funny how these things work out, sometimes.

Again, this album has made me want to hear more of this band. It has also given me new appreciation for Tarja Turunen and even Howard Jones (of Killswitch Engage). I know all of Xzibit's old albums but maybe there's someone out there inspired enough by his performance on 'And We Run' to dig into his back catalogue.

A significant album on this listener's journey through the genres. 4 stars.
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on 16 September 2014
I will do this review in two parts; a part on the album itself and a part on the awful production job.

The album itself is... well it's ok. My main problem is that all the songs seem to blend together because there is a real lack of dynamics on this album. The songs all plod along at the same kind of pace. In addition, despite all the guest vocals, it seems the band haven't tried to use these vocalists very well: Tarja is religated to keeping pace with Sharon and her real operatic range is not used; Howard Jone's impressive voice is used only for a male-female dynamic; they could have done so much more with him as he has a good vocal range.

About the only guest vocalist that seems to add anything is ironically Xzibit. Despite the fact I don't really listen to rap; this was probably my favourite song on the album because it did something different, and as such it's probably the most memorable song on this album. And that is the main problem, theres just nothing of substence here.

The album is just mid-paced pop-rock which is indistinct and doesn't really move me in anyway. The album is so bland im actually struggling to remember much about the songs. It seems like they took the poppier sound of Unforgiven' and refined it by removing all the metallic and symphonic elements and and making all the songs plod along at the same pace. It's not awful or offensive but there's just not a lot of intrest going on. This is the type of album I would put on while doing housework as it doesn't require or demand your attention, it's nice but bland background noise.

But the real problem with this album is the awful production. With better production; this would be a 3 star album, but there is no excuse for this production. How can an album produced with all the high-tech tools we have today sound worse than albums from 40 years ago?

The bass is just an indistinct muddy mess with no definition and almost equates to white noise. The drums sound tinny, and the guitars seem to have just blended into the bass mush. Sharon's voice struggles to cut through this mess of a production. Who listened to this album and decided that this was acceptable to relase, and charge money for? I've heard home recorded demo's that have better production than this. To charge upwards for £10 for this (I paid £15 for the special edition) is almost criminal.

Even if you are a massive fan of this band, and have liked the singles released, I would avoid this album because the production is so bad it makes it almost unlistenable. Hopefully the next time round they will remember to hire a producer who knows what they are doing.
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on 13 February 2014
I give this album three stars as I love the vocals, and the songs are good in general, but the recording/production quality is very poor.

If you play it at medium volume on an average system the album flows on in the background and the tunes are quite catchy, maybe you won't notice any problem. But play it through decent headphones however and it is a fuzzy mess, with hi-hats filling the crunching sound about half a beat out of sync behind the main beat, which sounds really annoying.

Collectively it is such a poor job. Is it over compressed? I have CD's from 25 years ago that were recorded/mixed better than this. I tried some to compare afterwards as I actually thought my system was on its way out, but the old albums are sharp and clear, whereas Hydra is just a mess of sound that is annoying to the ears/brain for some reason; I just cannot play it through, and I skip a lot of tracks half way. So frustrating. There are even some volume changes between the tracks - they don't seem normalised or volume matched properly.

Sharon den Adel's vocal poke through here and there to at least recover some merit, especially on the absolutely beautiful track 'Edge of the World'. But there are too many guest vocals as well. Howard Jones (Killswitch Engage) is passable, but Tarja (ex Nightwish) and Xzibit - Really?

I will be seeing the band on tour shortly in the UK as I am such a big fan and supporter of them, since mother Earth (2000), but as a minimum they need someone else to record/mix/produce their next album. Good songs, lyrics, concepts, and lead vocals ruined by the way it has been thrown together.

Incidentally, I bought the double CD and booklet. It mirrors the album really, as there are some absolutely great photos of the band, but they are reproduced badly. All fuzzy black and white with poor definition. The extra four songs are worth a listen, but the four 'evolution' tracks you will only play once; they are just snippets of how tracks evolved. Strangely enough, the recoding quality/sharpness on these is better in places, which tells me someone got hold of these tracks and turned them into a muddy mess of sound afterwards!

It is so frustrating as there is a great album here waiting to burst out here, but it turns me off when I play it - It is not a good sound. With better mixing and a few changes here and there it would have been a five star album I am sure, but in this form it just does not hang together very well at all, and the sound quality makes it difficult to listen to. So sorry to say this.

Edit: I listened again tonight after listening to a few other albums first. It gets no better. Songs and vocals five stars - recording quality zero stars. I am actually going to post this back to BMG and ask them to send me a copy when they have re-recorded it properly! As N.A. Davies commented on my post, the album itself is great, but it sounds like it is being played off an old cassette - I couldn't put it better myself! How can this happen in this day and age? So disappointing.
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on 17 May 2014
I'm not usually a big fan of Within Temptation as a rule, but musically this album is utterly brilliant.

Sadly it's been utterly ruined by the most awful sound quality I've ever heard on a studio CD.

The bass is muddy and distorted on every single track, the overall sound is confused and utterly unclear. There's a confusion and muddiness that's unmatched anywhere else in my CD collection.

I'm actually tempted to buy the vinyl in the hope it escaped the hell of compression that is this CD. (I really wish Amazon would keep reviews for different formats distinct).

Was it mixed by Spinal Tap? Everything turned up to 11?
Was the sound engineer stone deaf?
They wanted to make the final shot of the loudness wars?

Whatever, they should have been fired for total incompetence.

If you want to listen to this album on poor quality equipment in really noisy surroundings, you'll probably love it. For everyone else, there's a brilliant album that's been utterly ruined by the production.

It only deserves 1 as I'm disappointed every single time I hear a track from it. Musically though, it's a 5 star album.

It's frustrating as I want to love it, and listen to it a lot, but I end up skipping most tracks. This is an album that deserves a quality remix asap.
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on 18 April 2016
I am a big fan of within temptation and have seen them live before and they are a great live band. I have previously bought their other albums. In my opinion this album isn't as good as the heart of everything or the silent force. To hear them at their majestic best, I would suggest that you listen to The Black Symphony , a live album recorded in 2008 with the Metropole Orchestra. On this album don't think there are many stand out songs . There are also too many 'guests' musicians who appear on the album
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on 6 February 2014
When you have a vocal range that is as powerful and extensive as Sharon's you don't need to use guest vocalists.
They certainly don't add anything to the album, in fact to be honest their inclusion comes across as a bit of a gimmick.

People who liked The Unforgiving will probably like Hydra as well, but anyone hoping for a return to the Mother Earth type material will be disappointed.

Once again I'm having to mark the album down due to the fact that it has been compressed to within an inch of it's life. People who download all their music probably won't care, but try playing the cd on a decent music system and the instruments all converge to produce one headache inducing cacophony.

If I were being unkind I would be inclined to sum up Hydra as The Unforgiving with guest singers and even worse compression.

Which is a great shame, because the actual songs themselves are up to their usual standard of brilliance.

An album that had the potential to be fantastic has, in my opinion, been spoilt by the use of ill-suited guest vocalists and massive compression, and if it wasn't for this I would have given it 5 stars easily.
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on 18 September 2014
I do think this is an amazing album but I have to say that I MUCH preferred the demo versions which were extras on the ' Paradise' single release. I was very disappointed when I heard the album versions as to me they are over produced.Still worth buying though.
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on 23 April 2014
I was really looking forward to this album, but I am sad to say that I was disappointed. I tried it again after waiting a couple of months after my last listen, but I can't escape the conclusion that this is symphonic rock by numbers. It sounds as if it has been made for the American market, in a style that would go down better there, but with a number of unremarkable tracks.

The previous album had great tracks such as Faster, Shot In the Dark and Sinead and The Silent Force was a delight from start to finish. Unfortunately, I doubt if I'll be listening to Hydra again
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on 14 August 2014
Must admit I haven't played this album too much, so I will reserve some judgement. It's okay, it's WT by the numbers. In fact some of the tracks wouldn't be out of place on Eurovision. WT have certainly planted their flag in mainstream rock - so much so that it was a featured album on Radio 2 the other day. Don't get me wrong - it's not a bad album and you have to doff your cap to WT experimenting and finding their own sound in a very congested market place.. Which brings me on to the production - I can see what other reviewers mean - it does seem a little muddy, it's not terrible and does not make it un-listenable, but compared to what else is out there it does not quite cut the mustard. What you do need to do is get out there and see them live I's imagine that's where these tracks will hit the sweet spot, because damn it ...they put on one hell of a show.
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