The core fanbase was created through the early gothic symphonic albums, culmulating in the glorious Black Symphony. The band altered course to a more commercial sound with Unforgiving that split some of the old fanbase but attracted even more. Whether that new fan base will stick around would always be down to the next release, so the band took their time to fashion Hydra. To me it seems an attempt to appeal to some of the lost masses, so disillusioned by the Unforgiving, but trying to maintain the momentum caused by the last release. A tricky supposition for any band. So how did they get on?
In the main its a resounding success, but that does come with caveats. The darker more gothic sound is almost abandoned apart from the odd choral or orchestral flourish here and there. Those dissapointed with the commercial poppy sound of the last album will be greatly heartened by some aggressive furious pieces that hark back to the aggression of the first album, complete with growled backing vocals that offset the sweeter smoother voice of Sharon.
At 50 minutes its not the longest album but what it lacks in length it makes up in quality. From the brooding opener Let Us Burn though the experimental And We Run with Xhibit adding his rapping weight to a magestic chorus Either side of those we have the tuneful heavy weights of Dangerous, a duet with Howard Jones and the jewel in the crown of the duets at least, Paradise - where Tarja and Sharon trade lines in the most traditional of the WT songs, a firm fan favourite before release, it appeases both old and young fans, a satisfying blend of chugging hard rock and uplifting vocals from the pair. Glorious stuff.
Away from that we see the band flexing some serious rock muscle, Silver Moonlight and Tell Me Why, toughening up the sound to impressive standards. What the new fans who fell in love with 'Sinead' will make of it, will be interesting to see. Especially in the the live setting. Even the ballads build with menace and power - Edge of the World starts off as a ballad that they seem to be able to churn out at will, not quite by numbers, but the safe ballad that feature on pretty much all the albums, before the beatiful chorus is gate crashed by heavy guitar!
Time will tell where this album fits within their legacy. WT have ridden out trends and times, are happy to explore their own motivations and seem to be pandering only to their will to do as they see fit, without pandering to a fan base. One gets the impression that if you like this album, they are pleased for you, but if you chose to leave them behind, they arnt going to lose sleep. That mindset is reserved for the higher echelon of bands, and WT are moving towards that - a cannon of music that has evolved with them, and with such ease and poise. A truly special band that came from one genre, defied it, and are now happy to exist on their terms. An enviable position indeed.
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